He Wants a List and He’s Checking it Twice: But it Won’t do Any Good!

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


[September 5, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

Here are some great insights from one of our readers. She is in an abuse survivor’s group and shares with us from one of the recent sessions. It will sound very familiar to many of you. Here she is:

I have been thinking about lists. Every single one of us in our abuse survivors’ group has been asked by our abuser to give a list so the abuser can show us he cares. Everyone that has done so has had it backfire, which of course you know would be the result.

But there was a really wise response by one of the ladies about a list and here it is:

Any one of these men, who has a job, knows EXACTLY what’s expected of him at work. They don’t walk around with a list in their pocket, continually referring to it in order to know what to do or say, what not to do or say. After years or even decades on the job, can you imagine what their boss would think if they went to them and asked for a list!? And yet they ask us, after all these years of marriage, to make them a list.

There is a standard of law referred to as the Reasonable Person Standard [Internet Archive link]1 to denote a hypothetical person in society who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct and who serves as a comparative standard for determining liability.

The reasonable person standard [Internet Archive link] embodies this behavior and is used to determine whether a defendant has acted negligently. This is achieved through comparing the defendant’s actions with that of the reasonable person. Simply put, a jury or judge will ask, “Would the reasonable person act the same way as the defendant did under the circumstances?” If the answer is “no”, then the defendant is guilty of negligence. All of us are expected to know what a is reasonably expected from a reasonable person.

This is the kind of ‘renewing of our minds’ that abused wives NEED so that we can stop the “automatic” ways in which we’ve learned to respond or react, and to step back and put our husbands behaviors in the context of everyday life outside our marriages and homes, and more clearly SEE just how ridiculous, inappropriate, and unreasonable much of their behavior truly is!  [Emphasis original.]

Now (Jeff C here again), consider the case in which the abuser claims to be a Christian. Scripture says that ALL Christians have been taught by Christ:

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  (Ephesians 4:20-24  ESV)

See it? So much, if not all, of this business of “needing to learn how to treat my spouse” and “needing to understand things that boy, I just didn’t know” is so much hooey. Human beings know right from wrong. And Christians are taught by Christ, led by His Spirit, have His Law written on their hearts, and love the brethren. This is why when a person contacts me and says they have abused their spouse for years, but they just didn’t see it and now they want me to help them change….that I am very, very reluctant to expend my efforts and time on them. ESPECIALLY if they are still insisting upon reconciliation with the spouse they abused, though they state this desire in even the most self-sacrificing and divine ways. Why do they need help? Why should I give them some kind of list — “ok, do this, do that, stop doing this” and so on? Because, Mr. Abuser, if you don’t already know, chances are extremely high that you never will know and that you don’t really want to.

Abusers are never more satanic than when they are pretending to be angelic.

1[September 5, 2022: We added the link to Wikipedia’s page on the Reasonable Person, which provides a more complete explanation of the hypothetical person mentioned in the quote by the ACFJ reader that Jeff quoted. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

[September 5, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 5, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

100 thoughts on “He Wants a List and He’s Checking it Twice: But it Won’t do Any Good!”

  1. And then there are those “Christian” men who have the deeply held/learned entitlement mentality, usually reinforced over decades of preaching / teaching / modeling from the pulpit to leadership to their own fathers, etc. It’s a setup for abuse in many cases and always a license to sin. I think they swear they don’t know how to treat their spouse because from their earliest life they have been “groomed” to abuse. It is what is expected of them, plus it has its own (sick) rewards and benefits.

  2. Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir [This link is broken and we were unable to find a copy in the Internet Archive. Editors.] and commented:
    “Abusers are never more satanic than when they are pretending to be angelic.”

    1. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
      (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

  3. Thank you for this article. I think this is such wisdom, especially the last couple of paragraphs.

    “Abusers are never more satanic than when they are pretending to be angelic”

    I remember that angelic side…it was pretty convincing, especially to other’s outside our home but for me it had become repulsive because there was nothing genuine about it.

  4. Abusers are never more satanic than when they are pretending to be angelic.

    The X is still trying to say things in a nice way, but when he doesn’t get his way the evil tongue comes right back. He still wants to know what he needs to do for us to reconcile. My answer now is, Leave me alone, there will be no reconciliation. Living alone for the remainder of this life sounds like Heaven to me.

    Yes, indeed. The X knew what he needed to do at work. He didn’t need instruction, yet still didn’t know to speak in a respectful way to his superior and lost a very good job because of it. He expected them to do things his way. He didn’t want to be supervisor of his department any longer, there was too much expected of him and wanted a voluntary demotion. He was so suprised when he was fired and couldn’t figure out why I was upset. It certainly wasn’t his fault!!

    Being a small world, the original employer was bought out by another company. A year later he found another job at half of the pay and having someone else as supervisor. That company was bought out by the same company as the original employer. He is once again working for the ones who now own both businesses and remains making half the pay. But none of this is his fault!!!

    1. When you talk about your X’s employment failure it made me think you were talking about my daughter’s X. Can a narcissistic person hold a long term job? You are right that they know what is required, how to “sell themselves”, but I would imagine the same failure in the home relationship will manifest itself in the work environment. My daughter’s X always exaggerated his knowledge and experience when sending out his resume, knew how to put on the right kind of appearance. Later when his employment was terminated, it was always someone else’s fault.

      1. Jaime,
        The X had to have me write a resume. It is very difficult to follow anything he writes. It is one long continual sentence with no punctuation and the wording is such that it must be deciphered. It was difficult for him to apply for jobs with most employers wanting applications on line. I was working full time and spending my home time doing the applications for him, while he stood over me making sure I did it right. Grrrrr
        The X can stay employed because, for the most part, he works alone. It is when he has to deal with other people that problems arise. My kids say that he could get along with anyone that he didn’t have to see very often an they are right. He can be very nice to people who he sees for a couple of hours and they leave. It is the people in the home that don’t leave that have to watch out. Fortunately, none of us live there anymore.

      2. The X had to have me write a resume. It is very difficult to follow anything he writes. It is one long continual sentence with no punctuation and the wording is such that it must be deciphered. It was difficult for him to apply for jobs with most employers wanting applications on line. I was working full time and spending my home time doing the applications for him, while he stood over me making sure I did it right.

        Oh BINGO! I have never written about this on the blog yet, but I believe this is a sign of an abuser. I’m not saying that all people who have bad spelling are abusers, because of course that isn’t true. But if other abuser signs are present, bad spelling and illogical syntax are confirmation of the fact that you are dealing with an abuser. Some abusers, of course, have excellent spelling and can craft splendid letters and written communication. But there are many, I have noticed, who have pretty reasonable intelligence and education but who use dodgy spelling and weird syntax. Some abusers hate writing and filling out forms, and they pressure their partner to do it all for them. Not hard to coerce the partner, because she usually wants to help him get the job, get his tax return in, etcetera. But it ends up becoming her doing all the hard work and the abuser coasting, and criticizing her for not doing it the way he thinks she should be doing it. . .

        I have seen letters and notes written by abusers where the syntax was downright strange. You could fairly easily work out what they were meaning, it wasn’t all that hard to join the dots and make sense of their written words. . . but there was this weird lack of connectivity in their thought processes that you could see, that bled through subtly in the way they had put their words together.

        If you have seen this, you will know what I mean. It’s a bit like a word salad. Or a concept salad — that might be the better term for it. And if it’s a concept salad, that shows how the abuser actually has some form of ‘list’ in his head already — a ‘do this and you will look and sound like a Christian nice guy’ list. But out of the heart the mouth speaks. And I am quite sure that in our hearts we don’t have lists; we have truth and affections for God and His ways. Not lists.

      3. Oh yes, Barb, I wrote the resumes, cover letters and sent them in if they were to be mailed. Filled out the online applications or the paper copies that he brought home. I filed the taxes, paid all of the bills, Christmas cards, anything that needed to be written, calculated or thought through, I did it. About a month ago, he called me to find out when his house and vehicle insurance would be due and how much I thought they would be. I told him I didn’t remember. I don’t pay those bills any longer, I have my own. I still have examples of his writing. When I was seeing a counselor, I took a couple into her. They made no sense to her and wanted to know how I deciphered them. Years of practice.

        You should have no worries if you spell words differently than I do. I am very good at figuring out what others are trying to say!! : )

      4. That’s a good question! My (to-be-ex) husband finally started his own company. Wherever he worked, he was surrounded by idiots who didn’t see his AMAZINGNESS. He was continually frustrated by his self-proclaimed ability to see the big picture clearly where everyone else had varying degrees of tunnel vision. No one ever appreciated his visionary qualities.

        And the thing is…he actually is quite talented. He made his business work on a level that has gotten him international recognition as the “guru” in his field. Since he works on his own terms and timetable, he can keep up the “I’m so awesome, you’re so awesome” schtick with clients, admirers, and sycophants. The only person he consistently had a problem with was his part-time office helper. He had to interact with her on a regular basis, on all the non-glamorous bite of running a business, and so wasn’t able to keep up the facade. He has laid off and rehired her several times.

      5. Jaime, I know an abuser who was on disability pension. He did volunteer work at a good will store — Op Shops they are called in Australia — but he got fired by the Op Shop manager for being too argumentative.


      6. Reading Brenda Roberts’ comment below…

        My husband is actually quite intelligent, just lazy and self-centered as all get out. He has never had me write a resume or anything, but has frequently asked me to help him word something he is writing inside a card to someone. I will throw out various ways of saying ehat he wants, but he always nixes my suggestions, writes what he wants, and then scoffs at my efforts. This is a good example I just remembered:

        His sister (so much like him) was getting remarried after she abused her first husband and he left. (He has since own full custody of their son.) She asked to have my older 2 children in the wedding. My husband wants nothing to do with her, so he had ME (despite my pushing back and saying No) write an email to her, telling her that we would not be attending and our children would not be involved. She flew into a rage!!! Oh, it was ugly. She wrote a terrible email about me and sent it to all the extended family. But again, her behavior drove her then-fiancé away, and their was no wedding, so the point was moot. But my husband saved face by having me do his dirty work.

    2. Brenda, it’s really interesting you mentioned your ex at work. A place they spend a good amount of time as well as home. I definitely can relate when you talk about things never being his fault or how his actions contribute. Mine is one of those that wants to have his hands in everything at work, offering advice on other people’s projects, telling me he could do a better job than they are, bragged that he was able to fix something nobody else could or that someone else messed up. He wonders why a few people including his boss are “off” or not considerate of him. I have to wonder if they see what I do, especially for time off to take solo vacations. I’m with you, when I can leave him, living alone (with my children) sounds wonderful

      1. Happy,
        I was told many of those things, as well. He could do it better, no one else could do it, he had to give instructions…..blah, blah, blah. I still think there is a special school that we aren’t aware of that teaches all of these things. Maybe it’s a telepathic thing during their sleep. My children are all grown and I have no family near by, but it doesn’t matter. I feel less alone now than I did while I was married to the X.

      2. “I still think there is a special school that we aren’t aware of that teaches all of these things.”

        Why yes, there is…my 5yr old son was given the primer for his birthday – from my h’s family. It’s called “How to Rule the World: 119 Shortcuts to Total World Domination.” I photographed nearly every page before I had a Safe Friend toss it in the dumpster. I didn’t know whether to puke or burn the book. I sent the images to Barbara – but I don’t think she got them. Some of the stuff this book had was just…wow! I couldn’t believe it!

      3. Charis,

        “How to Rule the World: 119 Shortcuts to Total World Domination.”
        I thought I was being cynical, but apparently not. Why in the world would anyone give such a thing to a child? It is very disturbing to me that a book like that exists. I am glad the book is gone and hope that no one else gets there hands on it. That is a book that needs to be burned.
        Blessings, Brenda

      4. Charis, I do recall that email from you, I think, but oh deary deary me. . . my inbox!

        Please accept my apologies for not reading it in full and getting back to you.

        And that goes for anyone else who has sent me an email and I haven’t answered or answered sauying “I’ll get back to you” but never have. It is not because I lack willingness, it’s just because I am a bottleneck and will never have time to read all the messages I get, or respond to them properly. Please pray for me, I can’t be superwoman. And I need to prioritize all the time, and that is very hard. The things that I should be giving highest priority to, I rarely rarely get down to. The blog takes over. . . and so it goes. And I generally prioritise writing on the blog (posts and comments) over emails. I have to, as I feel that is the way of helping most people — the blog audience being wider than one emailer.
        I hope everyone understands this and does not take offense.

        And if I mis-spell offence it’s because I’m an Aussie and I will never make sense of your offence and licence and all those other of words that you spell differently in yankee land. I’ve almost mastered ‘behavior’ and ‘color’ and stigmatize (-ize not -ise), and I’ve got ‘counseling’ (one l) under my belt, but I can’t be bothered mastering licence and offense and their cousins.

        Charis, maybe you could send the images to another of our team members. I hope they don’t all throw rocks at me for that! If they are suitable for our Pinterest board, maybe TWBTC could put them up there. We don’t want to give fuel to abusers, but if the images would be useful for educating people to prevent abuse, they might be worth disseminating in some way. . . I’ll leave that to you or TWBTC to decide. And don’t expect a quick answer from TWBTC either, as I know she has other stuff on her plate at the moment.

      5. Barb,
        It has to get overwhelming to you and all behind the scenes. I wish I could help.
        ((((Huge Hugs))))

      6. Barbara, you are wonderful and do way too much!! It is totally okay that you miss things!! You do so very very much!

  5. Wow! This is the first time that I have heard that someone else’s abusive ex made a list. I had no idea it was so common! With me, the “list” was used to make me feel high-maintenance and demanding and to “prove” to others that he was a good husband who really wanted to try to appease his crazy wife. It did the very opposite of what it was intended to do until I just gave up. So insightful! And, yes, yes YES to this: “Because, Mr. Abuser, if you don’t already know, chances are extremely high that you never will know and that you don’t really want to.”

  6. So much, if not all, of this business of “needing to learn how to treat my spouse” and “needing to understand things that boy, I just didn’t know” is so much hooey. Human beings know right from wrong. And Christians are taught by Christ, led by His Spirit, have His Law written on their hearts, and love the brethren. This is why when a person contacts me and says they have abused their spouse for years, but they just didn’t see it and now they want me to help them change…that I am very, very reluctant to expend my efforts and time in them. ESPECIALLY if they are still insisting upon reconciliation with the spouse they abused, though they state this desire in even the most self-sacrificing and divine ways. Why do they need help? Why should I give them some kind of list – “ok, do this, do that, stop doing this” and so on? Because, Mr. Abuser, if you don’t already know, chances are extremely high that you never will know and that you don’t really want to.

    You took the words right out my h’s mouth! Seriously. I’ve heard him say “I just didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to…” or “I didn’t understand that marriage meant…” or “I didn’t know that sex was NOT supposed to…” and then followed that up with “Now I’m SO much wiser…SO much.”

    And anytime I pointed out behaviors I thought were abusive/manipulative: “I never saw it that way; thank you.” Though the behavior didn’t change. Sometimes it escalated. And if I dared to point out how our 4yr old son might be mimicking his behavior…BOOM! Anger and denial.

    Actions speak louder than words (although his words do plenty harm right now). He is STILL lying. Still deceptive. Still abusive. Still manipulative. Still fighting. All the while proclaiming his love for me, his desire to begin couple’s counseling and deepest wish to see the marriage restored.

    No. Never. The covenant is dead…and he killed it. I doubt he takes that well, either.

    Thank you, for this, Jeff. I was part of the original discussion with the survivor’s group and it was great. I find your final paragraph affirming. Thank you!

  7. One of the hardest things for me before I separated from my husband was being “gray rock” and NOT making a list of “what it would take to reconcile.” Included on my list would have been what needed to be “put off” and what needed to be “put on.” But, if we are in Christ, we will earnestly seek to find these things out! (As Ephesians 4:20-24 says).

    Sadly, in my case, not only for the children’s and my protection, but also for him, I believe the best way to “win him over” in hopes that husband would turn to God is truly by doing it “without a word.” For me, it meant to leave/separate. The steps of faith to believe and trust that God is my Shepherd and can take care of my children and me as we are “out” and that He can, if God wants to, work repentance in my husband apart from me is painful, yet freeing.

    And my faith and trust is this Good Shepherd is growing.

  8. The hair on the back of my neck stood up a little bit and I find myself quite anxious.

    Next week marks 2 years since my husband confessed to horrendous marital sin against me – infidelity and porn. In the aftermath, as he was claiming to be a new believer, he said I should make a list of what changes I needed to see in him, what changes he needed to make. List or not, he either has not done or followed through on any of them. Stupid me for believing he would try to change and be a man of God.

    1. Micro – No, not stupid – just trying to be gracious to a guy who deserves nothing, hoping things would work out – but now you are wise enough to see that he is faking repentance. Don’t beat yourself up on this one. No, he hasn’t changed.

      1. Brenda R ^^ above -oh my, my husband works alone (sales) and I doubt he could work in an office. He can barely get along with the co-workers he deals with via phone and email. He is always saying how he could do this job better and arrange marketing differently and increase sales. Hmm…

      2. MicroGal,
        A new believer shouldn’t need a list, there should be a visible heart change, although not perfect, a definite difference in attitude. X says he has found God, but I’ve seen no change in over a year of his saying this.
        X works in apartment maintenance. He is good at his job and knows what he’s doing, but doesn’t get along with tenants or management. He is down right rude to tenants like they are beneath him. If they were not renting apartments, he wouldn’t have a job. Makes sense to me to be nice to them. You’d think it would be the other way around. The tenants looking down on the maintenance guy. Go figure. I guess those that are judgmental are going to be no matter their status.

  9. One surefire way to “test” whether it not the abuser really wants a list (supposedly to ‘change’) is to tell them “No”. Most abusers are self-absorbed narcissists who must have their own way, so asking for a list is mere pretense, a gimmick. What they really want is a weapon, & saying “No” is powerful b/c you have taken away their weapon…their deceptive, manipulative, secret weapon. Say “No” as a test, but be prepared to exit before they rage. They are pretending to be angelic.

  10. It really is wild that there are so many common behaviors. I wish more pastors would be reluctant to help abusers change (unknowingly helping them to manipulate better). When we went to counseling awhile back, I was told to write down what bothers me that he does so I’m not all over the place, and then hopefully we could reach an agreement on change. Ok, it sounded reasonable but looking back he did work on those things, temporarily, so we could quit counseling. I wasn’t entirely convinced, and the counselor treated me as demanding, never satisfied because he has worked on what I’ve asked so what else do I want?! Although the change was temporary, his excuse is that he changed and I still wasn’t happy so the issues are solely with me and he doesn’t need to do anything different. If there is something I’m doing that hurts his feelings or anybody really, I would hope to change that after the first conversation, not a list or third party. He’s also made lists of things he’s bought or done for me or children to get me to comply with whatever because I seem to always owe him.

  11. I found that pastors and counselors seemed to want me, as the wife, to bend the reasonable person standard for my husband. I appealed that I only had reasonable expectations (sexual relationship, communication, problem solving), and I was told that there is no normal and I had to accept the husband I had married. My husband was a covert/avoidant so that left me doing everything in the marriage, but because he just seemed a little “timid” to them, I was supposed to appreciate “who he is” and not complain when he was not taking any responsibility for anything. Because he was “gentle” and nice and that made him a “good” husband. After 5 years of exhaustion and the circular arguments, I was angry, so the counselors and pastors assumed I was the bad guy. Things are much better now because I used my own coaching skills and training to do what $200 an hour marriage counselors could not. But the lack of support I got from my pastor was the last straw. I have been a Christian for over 20 years, and I even started out and left an abusive SGM church years ago, and nothing has turned me off to church more than this much milder mishandling of a situation by our pastor. I pretty much never go to church anymore and don’t know when I ever will, because none of the “help” we got made any sense. I had to ask myself, what answers do these people have? They certainly don’t use any logic or support a woman who just wants normalcy.

    1. Lisa, after the way our church handled me (not the actual issue) I also felt very turned off by the church and wondered if I would ever care to attend corporate style worship again. However I found that church is like people in the sense that there are those you want to stay away from that are unhealthy but there are others who will give you support and will encourage growth. Not all people are “bad”, not all churches are “bad”. But I must admit I am now on high alert when I enter a church to see what they truly are about. I recently went into the bookstore of a larger church and purposely made a beeline for the marriage section. Nothing in there about abuse but only the ones “How YOU can Make your Marriage Better by Friday or in 10 Easy Steps”.

      Jeff and Barbara (along with Leslie Vernick) have inspired me to consider whether I should take bold steps as they have to speak out against abuse for the sake of other Christian women suffering in silence.

      1. Thank you, Valerie. I will be considering ways to bring awareness and speak out. I have wanted to address the issue with that pastor and possibly get some closure for myself. I spent a number of months wondering when the right thing to say would come. So I prayed about it and the immediate answer was, “Lisa, you know of two women in that church who are being emotionally abused, one who came to you directly. What to say is a no-brainer. Tell him you know about those women in the church who are abused, show him the statistics, and challenge him to educate himself and not to keep using ‘I am not a counselor’ as an excuse.” So now I am looking for a few moments to contemplate about how to best proceed and what resources I will bring. I will definitely direct him to this blog.

      2. Good thinking, Lisa! And here’s another tip: if when you tell this to the pastor he asks who those two women are, tell him that they disclosed to you in confidence and unless you have their permission to pass on their disclosure, you are not at liberty to do so.

        And even if theose women give you permission to pass it on to the pastor, you can make a judgement call yourself about whether you think that is a good idea. Many victims of abuse are so naive in how their pastors may mistreat them. . . You, Lisa, have your own gut feeling about how well equipped the pastor is to respond to those two women, and you are not obliged to pass on sensitive info to him if you think he is only going to botch it and put them in worse danger by his lack of education and lack of appreciation of the risks.

        So, trust your gut feelings, and by all means, seek to persuade your pastor to educate himself, but at the same time put those two women’s safety as a high priority. And refer them to our blog if you like. Let us hope that the pastor’s interest is piqued and he gets motivated to become better equipped at this stuff.

        It’s not easy approaching many pastors: they tend to think that they know how to deal with abuse, so they don’t need further education. Sometimes they take offense at any suggestion that they need further training. It can be like walking on eggshells trying to find the chink, the crack in their armour, the thing to say to them that that won’t put them into high-resistance mode and will galvanize them to take a little bit of action, even if it’s just putting a toe in the water like checking out our blog or our Resources pages.

        Asking pointed and pertinent questions to the pastor can often be a good way to arouse him without overly offending him. . . . but each situation and each pastor is different. And some pastors are just so resistant that they will not listen or engage. . . so don’t blame yourself if you strike a brick wall.

        And in all this, as victims we can so easily be triggered by the foolish (uneducated) remarks of pastors. . . so when we try to educate a pastor or provoke him to educate himself, we are always at risk of being triggered by how he responds to us. And that makes it all very scary. We do it with trepidation, but with courage, because we know how much it is needed.

  12. Thank you for putting into print what I have been attempting and pleading with my spouse to understand … it’s not a matter of “can not change”; whether you are a Christian or not; it’s a matter of “do you sincerely want to change?” This of course is a work for both of us and any family members who have been allowed to interfere in the relationship 😦

    1. That reminds me of what Chris Moles said recently on the video he and Leslie Vernick made together. I may not be quoting with full accuracy, but it was something like this:

      Can abusers change? Yes!
      Will they change????————

      1. Barbara, You asked for prayer as you and other ACFJ contributors receive many personal emails. There is such a need for sound Biblical counsel and you were right that you reach a wider audience via the blog.
        I am learning much but still find myself doubting whether I am dealing with a narcissist? The self-focus description is a sure thing and it’s been going on for years. So from what I have learned, someone like me almost accepts it as “the way life is” until you realize Scripture just doesn’t condone it. ACFJ opened my eyes to the fact that the reason I was doubting myself is because the local churches were not “getting it.”
        Thank you ACFJ for your concern and prayers as you painstakingly reach out and educate us 🙂

  13. I was asked for a list as well, cant remember if it was a ‘what you want me to do in this marriage’ list, or a ‘not to do’ list, either way i knew it was nonsense.
    I remember pointing out to him, that he had no problem with communication when it came to his political involvement, and that he was very sensitive in how to handle certain situations. He also had no problem in remembering lots of different things about the people he was dealing with – but for some reason he could not remember the simplest things about me – things that i had told him again and again. Strange.

  14. Boy does this bring up a lot of stuff.

    You are right Jeff. Christians do not need lists. Even most non-Christians do not need lists. But oddly, abusers and even some churches seem to think lists conform to the Reasonable Person standard and when the victim does not see the sense in complying, why suddenly she is the one being unreasonable.

    I had better go do something else in order to keep my blood pressure in check because this really did bring up a lot of stuff. 😦

  15. A friend made me aware of this site. Ladies, I’m praying God’s hand on each of you tonight as you walk incredibly tough roads.

    A sister in Christ who cares

  16. Thank you Cindy. This part of your article really spoke to me:
    “At first, his commitment seems admirable, even believable. And you may optimistically give him more credit than he is due. Not only that, but many of your checklist demands are subjective and can be molded and twisted in a manner that can be accepted as a good effort …. Perhaps you’re overreacting again or expecting too much in too short of a time period. In no time, he will have found a way to document some measure of success in every area you asked.”

  17. Thank you for sharing this, Cindy. It is just what I needed to read.

    As I come out of the fog, I find I have such a thirst for truth, for naming what he is ( a narcissist) and what he has done to me (emotional and verbal abuse, as well as repeatedly breaking our marriage vows ….no wonder married life has always seemed so difficult). I read every article ACFJ posts and re-read them again when I have quiet moments. The comments are especially helpful, too.

    1. MicroGal, and all others too, Re the label ‘narcissist’.

      I know that abusers are narcissists. But I think we might do better to call them malignant narcissists, a term that Dr George Simon uses. Simon differentiates narcissists into various subtypes, and he says the malignant narcissists are the worst. A narcissist is simply focused on himself and his self-focus means he is pretty oblivious to your needs and feelings. A malignant narcissist is focused on himself and is aggressive as well.

      Malignant narcissists are more than just self focused, they seek power and control over their target… either by being overtly aggressive or covertly aggressive. Or using both types of aggression, alternately. Most abusers that we at this blog have encountered specialize in varieties of covert aggression. They seem nice people to the outside world, and they usually seem nice to us when we are first getting to know them. Gradually, insidiously, they show their malignant side to us, but often so covertly that it’s really hard for us to see it for what it is. The gaslighting techniques are the exquisite / excruciating acme of the covert aggressive’s style.

  18. I made a list, but it was not of things he could just do. I had time to think; time away from him and his pressure and I made a list of what it would take to feel safe and loved. On the safe and loved list were such things as: seeks God’s will first, no complaining, is open to suggestions and ideas, doesn’t just assume that he’s rational/logical, no making straw man arguments (gaslighting), shows me that he understands and cares about my thoughts and ideas, no violence/threats/punishment, no tantrums. doesn’t dismiss my ideas because I am a stay at home mom and he earns money, no pouting, no assuming ANYTHING is obvious (I HATE THAT WORD), no acting superior to anyone ever, no mocking me for being tired or anything else for that matter…

    I wrote this list, took a picture, and emailed it to myself. I am so so glad I did. This isn’t a “what he has to do to get me back list” but a “how I’ll know he’s changed list.” If he were repentant, he’d do all of these things naturally. He’d have a new heart. He’d be moved to follow God’s decrees and be careful to keep His laws (Ez 36:26, 27). It wouldn’t be hard. He’d want to do it. I never gave him the list. It is a useful list if he’s ever nice to me for more than 2 days. I can look at this list and remember what repentance would look like in X.

    I have a friend who used to be a hard core addict. She has been clean for ages. She doesn’t consider herself an addict like they suggest that folks do in those 12 step programs. She says that she doesn’t use drugs in the same way she doesn’t swim. She’s not a swimmer, doesn’t like swimming, DOES NOT SWIM. In the same way that she doesn’t swim, she doesn’t use drugs. I am a vegetarian. I don’t need a list of what is or isn’t meat. I know what meat is and I don’t eat it. Because I don’t eat meat. I am not a meat eater. You see? There’s no need for a list. Either they have repented (to repent is to be sorry for sin and to hate and forsake it because it displeases God) and they live life to give glory and honor to Christ (and not themselves) or they don’t.

    1. A pastor once told me, “You can’t give [ex] a list, because he’ll just try to do it, and think that he has done what was necessary.” I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. I haven’t given any lists, but some well-meaning friends may have tried to counsel him, and he can indeed try to do what’s on the list, but it doesn’t last long. What he has been able to do well is regurgitate what he should do, so it sounds great, along the lines of “I have a new heart now…I now seek God’s will …I take responsibility for the hurt I have caused…”

      I like your friend’s point. It reminds me of a sign I once read in a waiting room: “We don’t train our staff to be nice. We hire nice people.”

      1. Its so sad, Barbara, I have been stripped down to such nothingness, I don’t even know what to put on the “email to myself” list. After 28 yrs of emotional abuse, I don’t even know who I am anymore. I used to be creative and joyful and sweet, always giving people the benny, but now I see a person smile and I am CAUTIOUS! We are at the point in the cycle where he is making the promises and seems sincere so this blog and Cindy Burrell’s site have really helped me see CLEARLY what I never would have seen before. Thank you so much. I will be back here often!

      2. Debby, I so relate. For me it is 25 years and counting, and I flinch so easily, struggle to trust anyone, definitely so very cautious. I don’t smile near as much. Also, trying to wade though the promises and apologies to see that they mean nothing is hard. However, today there is a separation agreement book sitting in his room. He has threatened to leave many, many times. Is peace around the corner? Whatever happens on the rough road ahead, I, too, will be here often, learning and reaching out as I can.

      3. I am confused by so many blogs that talk about “he threatened to leave many times.” That seems to be a common thread. However, in my experience, I WANTED him to leave, ASKED him to leave many times just for my own and my kids respite, to no avail. He never thought he was doing anything wrong and so he would not concede to be “inconvenienced” by leaving and having to find somewhere to live, even temporarily. It was like to leave would have been an admission of guilt to him.

        How is it that these men can “threaten” to leave? Why would a wife be intimidated by that? Would she not be happy to see him go? I am just trying to figure that part out because I have seen it in several blogs on several sites. I saw you also mentioned this in your reply so I thought I would just ask YOU for some insight.

      4. Debby, I think abusers figure out what will intimidate their victims and then do it. Some victims are very attached to the idea that their marriage must work out, or are dependent in a trauma-bonding way on their abusers for those droplets of affection and approval that the abuser doles out on occasion to keep his target hopefully believing that ‘he loves her’. Other victims are financially dependent on their abusers, and so if the abuser leaves, they will be thrown into poverty. Other victims have been wounded by the abuser’s sexual infidelities, so when he threatens to leave he implicitly is reminding her that he can wound her that way again. These are probably only some of the reasons why a victim might be hurt by an abuser’s threat to leave.

        I’m like you; my first abuser never threatened to leave, but I would have been relieved if he did. With my second abuser, he did not actually threaten to leave, but sometimes out of the blue he would say “If we ever split up I won’t go after your money.” That used to really rattle me! I’d married him for life. We had both said those marriage vows in church less a year before, and we were relatively (I thought) happy in the marriage together. So why was he talking about the possibility of us ever splitting up? It made no sense to me. But in retrospect . . .

      5. Thank you, Barbara, that makes a lot of sense. So they sort of use the “coercion technique du jour” depending on their knowledge of what makes you tick. I get it. Mine used yelling (to take advantage of my fear) and criticizing (to take advantage of my pleaser personality) and the Bible (to take advantage of my desire to please God, so picked out the verses he needed to guilt me into submission.) Yikes! So clear now. I have a whole new understanding of Jesus’ healing the “blind.” I know He healed their eyes physically, but I venture to guess He also opened up a few that were “blind” like I was as well. And Ps-none of the 3 work anymore 🙂 It has been interesting to see him flounder around, trying to grab the greased pig! He has always sort of “prided himself” on the fact that he has “never hit me” (like that’s the only kind of abuse there is) and that I have hit him (4 times in 28 years, out of desperation when he cornered me) so I am the bad one. God is going to have to bring this one to his knees. It will be interesting to see what happens. Even so, even after all the pain, I still will rejoice to see him healed, for his own sake. It just doesn’t depend on ME any longer. As far as “the list” goes, I just realized in the 4 heart-wrenching, begging letters I wrote over the last 7 years, they essentially WERE a list (this is what you are doing that hurts, this is what I need you to do or stop doing, please get some help, I cant live like this any more, etc) and obviously none of it was done because here I am, on your blog…Blessings to you!

      6. My response, if you are still wondering, is that it was a ploy to get me to beg him to stay. It worked for a while, but no more. When I did so, every word stuck in my throat and I wondered why I was doing it even as I said the words. At the time, I also didn’t understand that I was abused; I was just confused by everything and wondering if it would ever change. Last winter he came with a file, said he had looked into divorce, and threw it into the fire. Now the separation agreement just sitting there. I do want him to leave, but, wow, the things I will have to deal with look overwhelming. The dynamics in each situation do vary. He fits a lot of the profile, but his responses don’t always make sense. From what little I can figure out and what he has said to others, he figures he is the one that has it hard, and I am the cold one who is making his life so difficult, not wanting to read books or go to counselling or even just “talk”. But at the same time, he is deaf to anything I say about the pain his words and e-mails cause or his using the Bible as a weapon, and twists a lot of what I say or throws it back at me that I do the same thing to him. Since his control techniques don’t work as well as they used to, he is maybe just giving up, or maybe in his mind he is separating from his cold “abusive” wife, but what kind of fight he will give in the process, I have no idea. There is absolutely no physical abuse, all very subtle emotional and spiritual, so I still feel a lot of confusion.

      7. Thank you so much for replying! I understand what you are saying about him threatening to leave. I, too, did not understand that i was dealing with ABUSE. I always knew something wasn’t “right” but abuse just seemed so…ugly? judgemental? Insurmountable? But it is what it is and NOT calling it what it is doesn’t deny its truth, it just kept me from taking the right steps. Your story sounds SO much like mine, where he didnt fit EVERY bit of the profile, but 90% of it, so I kept doubting (like if he’s not an axe-murderer, maybe I’m being too hard on him!) But that just shows that I didnt see myself as God sees me, worthy of respect and decent treatment. As far as what he tells others, I had to get to the point where I simply didnt care what anyone else thought. I had to be willing to live with others thinking wrongly about me and be ok with it. (THAT WAS SUPER HARD because I always needed people to like me and approve of me.) But I am there now and I can tell you its a great place to be! God is the ONLY one you have to be accountable to and if you know in your heart, you are doing what you can, God certainly knows it, even if mere humans don’t. I think it has gotten me to a place where “trust God” no longer means “just stay in the abuse and wait until God makes him stop” (which is what most people are thinking when they give out that advice, spoken only by people who have never been married to an abuser I can assure you!) but “take steps to remove myself from this abusive, toxic person until he gets the help he needs and shows true repentance over a long period of time, and trust God will show me the way in the meantime! I am sorry we have so much in common, but I am so happy to get to know you. Blessings to you. You are loved and precious to God and to me and to those you are helping by reaching out with your story.

  19. Thanks Cindy 🙂 Either I missed that post, or I read it a long time ago but have forgotten about it. You aren’t stealing thunder here — we appreciate you sharing it. I shall read it again.

  20. Whether in the form of a will, organizational by-laws, a contract, or whatever, if a lawyer is reducing their client’s wishes to writing, they are attempting to enable that client to impose their will on others, or at least gain and advantage over another person or persons. If a lawyer requests a list of another lawyer’s client’s demands, they are engaged in a negotiation, the purpose of which is always to gain an advantage for the first lawyer’s own client. I propose that if an abuser is asking for lists, they are not attempting to restore relationship. They are attempting to enter into a negotiation, the purpose of which is to gain an advantage. Even if it were possible for a target of abuse to produce an effective list, the best they could hope for would be to gain an advantage in a negotiation. They could not hope to thereby achieve true love-based relationship. Or so this thread causes me to suppose.

    One can play a narcissist’s games, or one can set boundaries. It would appear that, in cases in which an abuser is asking for lists, the appropriate boundary is set by the word “no.”

    1. Gary W,
      Love your answers. “They are attempting to enter into a negotiation”. That is exactly what is going on. There is no love, I doubt that is even possible for most or all abusers. No one wins in these games. The target still is unloved, the abuser continues to abuse and probably with more ammo than they had before.

      1. Brenda R,

        Thank you for the positive feedback. To tell you the truth, I enter the discussions here with a good deal of trepidation. My focus has been on spiritual abuse. It is noteworthy how much crossover there is between spiritual abuse and domestic abuse. Often they are one and the same. It’s just that it seems that the consequences of a wrong thing said here has the potential to be so much more devastating than if I get something wrong over at spiritualsoundingboard.com where the topic is spiritual abuse. I dare say that if my wife were interested in following my blog comments, she would say I should be more sober in my comments at SSB.

        All of which gives me an opportunity to issue a plea to the moderators here. If I should ever submit a comment that might be ill advised, please, please decline it. I know you would decline such a comment without my inviting you to do so, but I want you to be totally free of concern regarding my feelings.

        Along the same lines, anybody and everybody is invited to take issue with anything in any of my posted comments. While I have something of a stake, both personal and professional, in understand narcissistic and sociopathic behaviors, I come here as a student, as something of a Socratic student who is learning by responding to questions and issues raised by those of you who have by hard experience become master teachers. It is unlikely that I will always get everything right.

      2. Gary, I’ve read your posts here and SSB and never thought anything you have said is inappropriate and always worth the read. : )

      3. Gary W, be assured — your comments on this blog have always been spot on, and ne’er a hint of anything in them that might offend or mis-guide those who have suffered domestic abuse and the associated spiritual abuse from church or from The Abuser and his allies and the fools he has recruited to his cause.

        But I promise you that if your ever submit a comment that might hurt or mis-guide the abused, we will moderate it as we do with all other comments. My feeling, from what I know of you so far, is that that will not happen, and if you do write anything that is faintly “off” it will be only marginally off, that we will most likely publish it as-is, and then engage with you in on-blog discussion about it. So please feel very welcome and free to comment here. And we will hold up the safety net for all our readers and all our commenters (including you!) so that such discussion will be educational, warm, fruitful and edifying for us all in the long run.

        I enter the discussions here with a good deal of trepidation. . . . I come here as a student, as something of a Socratic student who is learning by responding to questions and issues raised by those of you who have by hard experience become master teachers. It is unlikely that I will always get everything right.

        That attitude of trepidation, combined with your willingness to learn, makes us feel pretty (I might say very) safe with you. For we sensed already, before you told us, that if you ever said something that might trigger or hurt victims, you would be open to a conversation and gentle correction if we felt it was needed. Bless you brother, and I’m glad you wife is watching out for you too! Give her a wave from us!

    2. That’s a really good point, Gary. That is exactly what they are doing. For them it is nothing more than getting the victim to give them something by / with which to (re)gain dominance / advantage. Then, ASAP, they will turn right around and use those very terms against their victim, who, before she can blink twice, will find herself guilty of NOT doing the things she “demands” he do. It is a tool of entrapment, just like everything else the abuser does. 😦

      And this, I think, is what that Love Dare thing did. It was a list and thus a negotiation….

      1. Amen, BIT,
        The Love Dare went in with my pile of books that no one should ever get their eyes on.

      2. Ironically, I was reading/following the Love Dare when my husband confessed to years and years of infidelity. So much for “follow these simple steps to win over your spouse!!”

      3. MicroGal,
        I’m sorry to hear that. We all want to do everything we can to make our marriages work, but can’t do it alone. The Love Dare and The Respect Dare, for me needed the nearest shredder.

      4. The Love Dare and The Respect Dare, for me needed the nearest shredder.

        The ShredDare! 😀


        Levity. 🙂

      5. I think The Love Dare has value, however, those of us on this blog site aren’t dealing with a marriage or relationship that needs tweaking or shoring up. We are all dealing with a CONTROL issue. No amount of “Love Dare” will take care of that. We have all come to realize that any typical marriage book, article, advice we are given will only further the “one-sidedness” where WE are the only ones who are willing to DO what it says. If by chance, the abuser is willing, it will be used as a tool for control, not a tool for building a better relationship. I just am adding my 2 cents because I don’t ever want to forget that there are a LOT of wonderful men who DO treat their wives as Christ loved the church. I don’t want to become so jaded that I think the whole world is made up of controllers out to take advantage of pleasers.

  21. This really struck a cord with me. My stbx would start to use the excuse that he just didn’t know what I wanted and then put more of the blame on me by following it up with saying that I kept changing my mind on what I wanted so how could he know? He kept trying to bait me by saying he just didn’t know what I wanted (with the implication that I should make a list) but I always refused. I used the following points:
    1) God never asks us to do something he doesn’t equip us to do. I’m not going to believe God just made you emotionally handicapped to the point of not being able to have a relationship.
    2) When you love someone you WANT to know what pleases them so you make it a priority to find out what this is. I would tell him that part of loving me meant he would love me enough to find out what this is. I certainly wasn’t keeping it a secret!
    3) I pointed out to him that with the livestock he worked with they didn’t tell him what was wrong so he knew what shot to give, he had to figure it out in order to help them. He always managed to be able to do that!

    One of the counselors actually forced me to make him a list in one counseling session! I was appalled and gave her the reasons listed above but she said I was setting him up for failure if I was unwilling to do this. So I gave him a list of some things he could do and at the next session she asked how he did and he admitted that he never even took the list out to look at. She gave him a finger wagging but then continued to treat him as though his problem was being emotionally handicapped. This was a professed Christian counselor who said she had much experience with abuse cases- specifically narcissism- and actually told me she had been married to a narcissist herself. I thank my Lord I am done with that trauma she inflicted.

  22. I read that as well and I have linked that on my facebook account. You are right. So many women have been so isolated they didn’t know it was a common war tactic of the abuser. Get the target to give the location of their deepest desires and vulnerabilities what better way to attack while pretending you care. No more, no more, no more. I love your work.

  23. I would be astounded over and over in my marriage by an accidental discovery with my abuser. If I wouldn’t enable him for a very very long time, he would switch and start doing things that he knew I wanted him to do for years. It would not last long but the message I got from him was that he knew all along what to do, he just chose not to do it.

  24. Hmm, I can’t seem to “reply” to the comment I am referring to… But the whole respect thing. Ugh.

    I had to spend time with my husband’s aunt and uncle this weekend, and they are aware of some of the situation. She asked me how things were going, and when I replied that they were not going well (not giving her much info since I don’t trust her), she starts talking over me and goes into this long spiel about how if she gives her husband the respect he deserves, then he is just so loving to her. She kept up this conversation all through the long week we were with them. 😦 Even if I did respect my husband (which I do not), he is incapable of loving me.

    1. MicroGal,
      Her husband and your’s are two different people and she should have probably kept her opinions and what works for her to herself rather than going on making you out to not doing your part..

      The X didn’t earn respect, I did not respect him, but was respectful. I believe there is a huge difference. I always thought that my behavior was a reflection on me and not allowing myself to act disrespectfully of others was my responsibility. It was his choice to treat me badly. Eventually, the consequences was that I left and made the decision not to go back. The Respect Dare only works on those that are loving and caring people. It is the, “You get more flies with honey”, scenario. In a good marriage, doing the little extra things may get you a result you are looking for. In a destructive marriage, you may as well beat your head against a wall. It will work just as well. Either way you won’t feel good and probably have an ongoing headache and the physical ailments will eventually take a toll on you.

      There are so many of those “feel good” books out there, but not nearly enough on the abusive, “I’m not going to change no matter what you do or say.” kind of books. There are too many using a couple of scriptures and making them into this “one size fits all” kind of a thing. For true Christians I think they do, but still take a lifetime of work from both spouses. For those who are unbelieving abusers or those who claim to be Christians, but clearly aren’t, there is nothing you are going to do to make it all better. Only God can do that.

      1. Yep. So many feel good books. It’s difficult for me to imagine who these books are actually written for. Since there are so many, it’s a nice thought to think that there are actually marriages out there that just need a pick me up or fine tuning every once in awhile. That would be so wonderful. Also, on what you said the other day about feeling less alone now than when married, I’m really glad to hear life is better for you now. I’m the same without good family support and your words were encouraging while I’m still muddling through this.

      2. Happy,
        I went to a business meeting at my church last night, which involves dinner, fellowship and the Lord’s Table, as well. Great time. When I looked around the room I see so many apparently happy couples. I sit there thinking to myself, “Is this a mirage? Is it really true?. No one seems to be showing any signs that something may be wrong.” I know one who is a regular attender who began coming after leaving the church she attended before the legal separation. She was shunned and he still remains in teaching positions. She saw the pastor’s wife while we were shopping a few weeks ago. The woman couldn’t get away fast enough. I find it so sad.

        At first I was muddling through. For almost a year it seemed the battle was raging on worse than it had before, but as time goes on there is nothing left that must be talked about. I have blocked most every means of communication that he has without him showing up unexpectedly. If he calls, it goes to voice mail. Saturday there was a bag with zuccini in it hanging on my door with no note. The people in my apartment building would have left a note letting me know who left it. We do things like that for one another on a regular basis. No note to me means X is making his presence known and since I didn’t know where they came from for sure the dumpster got a good taste. It was a brief interruption of my day, but then I moved on. I no longer let these things go to my heart.

        I pray for peace in your life and your heart filled with Jesus love and Spirit.

        Blessings, Brenda

  25. Yes, about the “feel good” books…it reminds me of the philosophy “name it and claim it” type thinking. God can heal your disease, God wants to make you wealthy…all you need to do is just believe.

    Perhaps that isn’t a totally fair view because there truly ARE marriages in which some common respect and thoughtfulness (along with omitting sarcastic comments) would go a long way toward a healthy marriage. I’d rather see a rating system used that Leslie Vernick refers to to differentiate between the kinds of marriages. I see a system using three color codes on the front of the book:
    1) blue is for disappointing marriages
    2) orange is for dealing with difficult marriages
    3) red (stop sign perhaps??!) is used to identify books dealing with destructive marriages.

    I can’t imagine what difference it could have made for me if I had just been aware there were actually options. Up until I actually went LOOKING for alternative information, what I read over and over in every Christian marriage book was that I just needed to try harder, be more tolerant and forgive as Christ forgives.

    1. Valerie, that rating system for marriage books is a great idea! I’ve shared it on our FB page here.

      Let’s all keep repeating and sharing that idea till we get blue in the face.
      [— or should that be red in the face? 🙂 ]

    2. I can’t imagine what difference it could have made for me if I had just been aware there were actually options.

      I knew there were legal options, what I was looking for were options that God would not strike me down dead for. That’s probably what you were looking for, as well. I never did get that God would want me to be treated the way I was, but kept getting told that “he didn’t cheat and he didn’t abandon you”, which I know now was a bunch of hooey. If my daughter came to me in the same situation, I would not hesitate to tell her to leave, so why did it take me so long to allow myself to go? I haven’t been able to come up with an answer to that one.

      I like your idea of color coding the books. I think the one’s marked with the red stop sign are going to be far and few inbetween.

  26. Ahhh….”the list”. Yes, I went around and around with this one with [X]. He tried towards the end to claim that he didn’t know what to do to make me happy in our relationship ( I was asking/begging/pleading for some emotional depth and connection in the relationship and he had a completely blank stare in his eyes and said something to the effect that he just didn’t understand how to connect that way) and I, in a completely facetious manner, asked him, “what do you need, a list?” He replied “yes” in all seriousness. He had told me early on that he needed explicit directions to do anything that was household or chore related. I thought that was nuts and it made me feel that way but I did try to accommodate. I even made VERY detailed descriptions as to what was included in such things as “clean the bathroom”; they were written at a grade school level for a man who claimed to have a “genius IQ” (and liked to brag about it in a sickeningly “humble” manner). Funny thing is, about two years before we broke up, he was laid off once, fired once (I suspect fired both time, but that’s his story) and he was bored at home, so he cleaned the house, beautifully, without me ever telling him what to do!! I never thought about that correlation until this article, but goodness gracious, was he ever a liar.

    One thing I do want to caution some ladies on here about is a trap I fell into: one of our friends (with good intention, since no one could figure out what X’s problem was) had suggested that he might be slightly autistic. I had looked up the characteristics of this and he did match up to some of them so I went on the premise that he probably had “Asperger’s syndrome” and kept letting things slide because I assumed he never would be able to connect with me emotionally. I have later learned from talking with other people that even people with Asperger’s or other Autism Spectrum Disorders can learn routine and what’s expected of them after a while and that they do not understand human emotions well enough to manipulate me to the level that X did. So, please be careful with that possible excuse if someone tries to pull it over on you. Once I had talked about that possibility with [X] he used that for an excuse for a whole lot of things.

  27. It’s one thing for the abuser to ask for a list, what about when friends ask you to give him a list? They have obviously bought into his idea that he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. These “helpers” should be reading this post as much as anyone else.

  28. How about this? I don’t mind if anyone copies off my paper so feel free to save yourself the time and print it off if it applies. Here is our “list”:
    1) Be patient
    2) Be kind
    3) Don’t envy
    4) Don’t brag
    5) Be humble
    6) Don’t be rude
    7) Be selfless
    8) Don’t be hot tempered
    9) Don’t keep score on what I’ve done wrong so you can get even
    10) Always seek the know the truth and live in truth
    11) Protect me
    12) Trust me
    13) Persevere in the relationship

    Oh, come on…NO ONE can do all those things! That’s unrealistic! Hmmmm….Paul, inspired by God, didn’t think so. This “list” is found in 1 Corinthians 13. 🙂

    So yeah, want a list? Here you go!

    1. Valerie, this is another GEM. Sharing on FB now and putting on our Gems page later.

      Bless you sister! You’ve stated the obvious and it’s so right. It’s like a cold shower! Bracing and galvanizing.

      And the fact that most of us didn’t think to give this list, till you said it — but now you’ve said it we say BRAVO! YES! — shows how much the abusers and their foolish allies in the church have bamboozled us into thinking in pretzels and rabbit burrows so that we have often missed seeing and stating the obvious.

      sighing with relief, here at my kitchen table.

      1. Such a relief to know that I’m not the only one who made a list. My ex made a complete mockery of “the list” by doing things intentionally and watching me react, then asking me to explain to him which “rule” he’d broken. After years of abuse this was actually the final slap I needed to recognize the level of pleasure he was taking in my pain. I had no idea at the time that I was living with an abuser, only that I’d reached bottom. That moment of recognition is one I’ll never forget. Then to my shock (and shame) the list was used as an exhibit in court months later, his attorney presented it as evidence of my unreasonable demands. My attorney’s defense was that it was evidence of being beaten down. Sad but true. So in a way the list set me free. God uses all things for the good, right? Now I’m just thankful for my freedom and for a loving Father who continues to guide me. I so appreciate this blog and all the efforts being made to educate women about abuse, and I pray for strength and protection for all who are still in bondage and haven’t reached their bottom.

      2. My ex made a complete mockery of “the list” by doing things intentionally and watching me react, then asking me to explain to him which “rule” he’d broken. After years of abuse this was actually the final slap I needed to recognize the level of pleasure he was taking in my pain.

        I’m going to quote this on our FB page. It’s so pithy. 🙂

  29. Before leaving my X I made a list of his abusive behaviors. It was never my intention for him to read it – it was simply for my own benefit, to try and put a little objectivity on the situation. Until I read here of others’ experiences with lists, I realized that my “accident” of leaving it open on the computer (where he found it after I went to church, and later confronted me) was the first step in revealing even more than the listed items. Later, in counseling (that he only consented to because “she needs it”), the pastor chose a few items from the list and said that he should stop doing them and begin doing the opposite. I will never forget his response: “And how long do I have to do that?” I can still feel my heart sink into my feet, knowing fully at that point that no amount of lists or counseling was going to change my marriage.

    1. I will never forget his response: “And how long do I have to do that?”

      If that wasn’t so sad, I would be laughing hysterically at the ignorance of that statement. I hope the pastor/counselor got it. I could hear my X saying that very thing. We have been divorced/seperated for over about 15 months and he still wants to know what he has to do. I stopped answering those absurd questions. The answer is, “leave me alone”. Stop calling me. Stop finding ways to send me messages. Stop showing up at my apartment or my job. I can’t get a PPO, they don’t think he is a real threat any longer. He may or may not be a “real threat”, but he is obnoxious.

      I hope by your screen name that you are truly happy.

  30. Thank you, Brenda – I am! I am sorry your X still doesn’t have a clue. After 11 years, mine still doesn’t have one either. The counselor we saw really didn’t grasp the situation, and as time went by I realized that it was probably because he was no different from X. He eventually told me that it was acceptable for X to demand absolutely anything of me/do anything to me as long as he wasn’t telling me to sin. And since his abusive behaviors and requirements were not listed specifically in the Bible, I was required to return to him and subsequently excommunicated for my “unrepentance”. Good riddance!

    I had forgotten that X used to ask me so often what he needed to do. It was such a messy, ugly time. But I remember that I would always beg him to just love me. He refused to grasp the concept of unselfish love and therefore violated a marriage in which he never really had participated.

    I hope that the X in your life will soon give you peace, Brenda.

  31. Wow this is scarily true-it puts a framework around what I intuitively thought was “wrong” when my (separated) husband’s counsellor was seeking to contact me to “find out what I would like my husband to work on in order to be ‘acceptable’ in the marriage again”!
    I thought this was so bizarre- and I was amazed that my husband had successfully manipulated a professional person to find out an answer to a question he wanted to know!
    I declined the “opportunity” and I know it is viewed as “unreasonable ” by some as if I am not doing all I can to “save my marriage”.. in family and church circles I can see it is things like this that can be used to sway public perception as to “who’s really the victim here”. But so be it.
    As for the host of marriage self help books, courses and counselling- I / we have been through so many! and wondered why nothing helped… the answer is that what I am dealing with is not a relationship issue- it is abuse. these books etc only work when it’s a relationship issue, when it’s abuse the playing field is not even and so no amount of relationship tips and interventions will ‘work’ because abuse is not reasonable. Abuse is abuse.

  32. Are all these men born in the same hospital? Like someone else said, I am blown away by the commonality of their words and actions, no matter what the degree of their abusiveness. We, also, have had this conversation, and I told him that since he has no problem writing in a daytimer all of his work commitments and activities, then why doesn’t he schedule us in as well. Even garbage day would have been helpful. It never happened. And the same thing about how to be a good dad or husband. He always blamed his failures on not being raised in a Godly family, so how could he know what to do, but it is all there in the Bible. That’s how I figured it out. I challenged him to get a piece of paper and write out whatever I told him in a conversation about things I would appreciate seeing, but he never did. I don’t think I ever did actually write a list, either. He even asked for a list of what he had done wrong from my daughter, which again, was pointless. I am learning so much from this site. Thank you for sharing of yourselves and what you have learned; it is so much helping me find my way through the fog.

  33. “The List” actually ended up a good thing for me. A few years after I dictated it to him, we separated. People started saying to me, “He has no clue why you left him. He says it’s just that you didn’t want to be married anymore.” My reply,”He has it all written down and tucked into his Bible which he left behind. ” In hospital (yup, psych ward) the doc asked me for another list. I said yes, I had one. It says, Be Kind. He got it, talked to the h, and told me he wouldn’t release me until I’d made arrangements not to live with the guy anymore. At the time (17 years ago) I bawled because I thought I was being sinful, but oh, what a relief! My sister had a similar experience and she told me she lay in bed and prayed, “God, If I’m so bad, why am I so happy?”
    Another list story…….the pastor showed the series of Gary Smalley Marriage videos (after they were done h said he couldn’t remember anything Gary said except that men don’t like being criticized). Pastor then gave the men a list of 100 things that wives like. H looked at it, said, “Well I do 3 of them.” and put it away. The next week he was given a list of 100 things that wives don’t like their husbands to do. H said, “Well, I don’t smoke, drink, or swear.” and put it away. Well then, we have a winner, don’t we?

      1. It was a long time ago, but I think the lists were in the book, “Do Yourself a Favor, Love Your Wife”. He had read the book, bought a stack and handed them out to all the men in the church because it was ‘so good’. I finally sat down and read it, and I remember wishing he would actually do at least one thing it said. It seemed that when he learned something new about the Christian life he would get really agitated for a while, then he would talk about it for a while to me or others,in a tone of really agreeing with it, then he would relax. As if talking about it got it off his chest and now he could forget it. Done. So I eventually figured out that when he was excited about something, let it go, it would never happen anyway. Same with promises. I guess it’s the thought that counts, right? 😦 (can’t stand that saying)

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