Thursday Thought — My abuser is not as bad as others are, so is it really abuse?


My husband is abusive, but he isn’t nearly as bad as what some others have experienced. For example, he has never hit me.  So, would he still be considered an abuser?


All abusers are characterized by certain fundamental attitudes which are the elemental building blocks of what we define as abuse.  Without these, a person is not an abuser as we have defined the term:  entitlement/superiority, power, control, and justification.

. . . We must also emphasize that not all abusers operate at the same level of intensity. Abuse functions along a scale or range (“spectrum,” as Bancroft labels it), from lesser to greater.  This is vital for us to understand [because] it will enable us to recognize abuse for what it really is, even in what appears to be the “less serious” cases.  We need not find the most severe abusive tactics before we can conclude that a man is an abuser.  (While some abusers physically beat their victim, others are passive abusers — refusing to work or take responsibility for example).

Jesus said that the man who actually commits murder and the man who hates someone in his heart are both murderers (Matthew 5:21-22).  While we would all rather be murdered by the second man than the first, the reality is that the essential heart of murder is present in both men.  And so it is with abuse.

(From Ps Jeff Crippen’s book, A Cry for Justice [Affiliate link] pp.93-94)


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.

55 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — My abuser is not as bad as others are, so is it really abuse?”

  1. This type of thinking is what kept me in an abusive marriage for 26 years.
    I would often say “there are no marks, so he must not be so bad”.
    I am infinitely grateful to a host of people, pastors, friends, blogs, counselor who said Yes, he is an abuser & you have no biblical duty to stay.

    It’s been 5 1/2 months since I told him to leave. Not only was he an abuser he also has NPD. The two make terrible partners.

    I am slowly starting to come out of the fog. One thing is certain …. While existing in the fog I didn’t know how dense it was. I didn’t know how the vapor saturated every fiber of my being & my children’s. It seeps in an around speech, posture, words, sleep, appetite etc. In short it overcomes a persons soul & slowly destroys it.

    My husband, one might say, is such a nice guy. He is warm & friendly, giving & kind. True- that was his public persona. Behind closed doors he yelled, raged, broke doors, dishes, remotes, computers (3), iPhones (11), iPad, windows, furniture etc.
    He swore constantly, called me & anyone else in his way horrid degrading names, he lied, didn’t pay bills ( money was no object), he viewed pornography in secret for years, drank consistently, belittled me & the children, was an absentee father & husband unless he wanted physical intimacy (which was all the time) .
    He controlled everything that we did- he didn’t want to travel, partake in normal activities, take the kids ANYWHERE, oh but he always made it to church.
    He would be sweetly singing my praises one moment & calling me F…..g c …t, the next if I did not act or do what he thought I should.
    He did not want me to have a voice in any decision, he was a hyper patriarchy believer also (another bad combo).

    He believed he was entitled to reign & rule over everyone in his path. He believed if he wanted something it was his right to take it. He believed he was above all rules & authority except his own.

    I could say so much more but the idea is that though he was never physical the marks are there, the trauma left bleeding souls.

    The sun is out today & slowly burning the fog away.

    1. [Edited to disidentify] Your story is so much like my own, and I’m sure countless others who are reading your comment. My heart goes out to you. I am married to someone with NPD as well who did many of the same things to me and my children as yours did to you and your children. The only difference is when I asked mine to leave he said NO WAY. He was not leaving. So I had to.

      I am always surprised to hear that pretty much all the women in my shoes could get their husband to leave the house but not mine. Mine is the only abusive NPD out there that would make his wife, who worked from home and took care of the children, and his children completely uproot their lives and move out because he would not. His selfishness never ceases to amaze me.

      So, I said I’d leave, which was a huge inconvenience for me as well as heartbreaking because I loved our home we shared together. So did our kids. But, freedom is worth more than things and convenience. I had to relocate all my office equipment, office phone line, take time off from work, and move children while my abusive husband still, even with this wake up call, would not budge in his insistence he had done nothing wrong and I was imagining everything.

      He emailed me the other day in fact, after I’ve been gone for several months, said that I should be feeling really badly about losing him and treating him so badly. He still sees nothing close to the truth and refuses to hear God’s wake up call to him. By the way, he started a relationship with someone else as soon as I said I was moving out. Before I was out the door. He blamed that on me as well. An NPD will never take responsibility for any wrong doing, not ever. There’s no limit to what they will pin on you that they themselves cause.

      I’ve never felt more peace since I left him and though I am devastated actually that our marriage is over (he filed for divorce soon after I left), it was right to leave. To stay enabled him to continue to sin against me. That was neither right for him or for me.

      The unfortunate thing is our young children still have to see him a couple of days a week and they hate it. They do not trust him and fear his temper. I wish God could make him completely go away sometimes and that they could be with me 100% of the time, but I have to trust He has this and is going to bring glory from it someday. For them to not be with their dad and witness his abuse towards me several days less each week is better than what we had before. And I was half a mother to them when I was with him. I was so emotionally spent and empty, I didn’t have much to offer those poor babies. I’m a much better mommy now that I’m not with my husband anymore. So, things are not ideal, but at least they are better than they were. I think I would be dead from a stroke or heart attack, seriously, if I had stayed with him. My health was suffering from all the anxiety I felt when I was around him.

      I pray daily for him to be saved and for Jesus to forgive him through me. Forgiving is for me, to be free of what he did to me, and for our children so they won’t inherit bitterness and tolerance of abuse from me. Forgiveness is not for him.

      I hope someday he will be set free from his blindness and sin. I know he’s not happy living that way when all is said and done. It will cost him more than just me if it continues because God is after his heart. I see it, and I know that He will pursue him until he finally comes to the end of himself and is set free.

      1. I am always surprised to hear that pretty much all the women in my shoes could get their husband to leave the house but not mine. Mine is the only abusive NPD out there that would make his wife, who worked from home and took care of the children, and his children completely uproot their lives and move out because he would not.

        Dear Jesus’ Beloved, I don’t know what forums and books you have been reading, but with most cases of domestic abuse that I’ve heard of, if the victim asks the abuser to leave, he refuses. So your case is not unusual; it is a common one from where I sit.

        Not all victims ask their abuser to leave. Some victims just know that if they asked him to leave, he would refuse and would escalate his abuse and put her in even more danger, so they don’t even consider asking him to leave. They just leave themselves. Or sometimes they apply to the courts for a protection order which can get the abuser put out of the home and forbids him from coming within so many metres of the home. (That option may not be available, it depends on the domestic violence laws in your local area.)

        But some abusers don’t give a fig about obeying court orders, so an order is not a safe way to go, and the victim’s only option is to leave herself, often to a hidden refuge or shelter where the abuser cannot track her down. That is one reason why Safety Planning is so vital. These things can be thought through and planned carefully, if you have the time, and a Safety Plan can be made in conjunction with domestic violence professionals who are expert at doing that. But you can also work out a Safety Plan on your own, using resources like we have on our Resources page (see top of the blog). But in high risk cases, I would advise doing a Safety Plan with the help of a professional if you can.

        A woman’s Safety Plan should also be reviewed on a regular basis, as her circumstances can change and new elements may be needed in the Safety Plan.

      2. Another thing I’ve heard of is this scenario:
        Victim asks abuser to leave.
        Abuser says he will leave.
        Abuser then shilly shallies for months, saying he is gettting round to leaving but has endless excuses and reasons why he can’t leave yet. — e.g. he can’t find a place to rent. He can’t move yet because he has to do x or y or has to wait for x or y to happen before he can leave.

        This scenario is naturally very stressful (not to say dangerous) for the victim. And it gives the abuser lots of time to win the kids to himself by making them see that poor daddy is being kicked out by nasty mummy, and how sad it is that he has to go and live in a shoebox. . . .

      3. I did at one point ask the X to leave, but he laughed at me and the misery after that lasted for a while. The first time I tried to leave, I made the mistake of telling him. For 3 weeks he begged and cried relentlessly repeating the same things over and over and over again until I caved. My daughter moved out, she had had enough and kept telling him to leave me alone. He blames her for my move out 3 years later. By that time she had moved out of state and had nothing to do with my decision. I moved out without saying a word so that there wouldn’t be any turning back.

        Although I didn’t want the house, it was much too big for me to take care of and in need of repairs that I could not do on my own or afford to have someone else do, I do from time to time wish I could afford a larger apartment without carpet. That probably sounds silly, but I had personally ripped out all of the carpet in the house a few years before. I had cats and plain floors are so much easier to take care of when you have pets. Then I am reminded of all the Lord has provided for me since I left and get back to being content with what I have. A roof over my with water and heat included in the rent. A car that is paid for and a job that sustains my needs. I am making friends who are my choosing, not his, which was not allowed for many years. Then there is Buffy Kitty who wants to stand on my laptop and must clean up the carpet after, but I wouldn’t do without her.

        Ladies, if your abuser won’t leave you, you are far better off leaving the abuse than staying in it. Don’t let your bodies, souls and minds deteriorate. Don’t let your children live without the best mother they can have. Don’t allow an abusive man destroy your life. Don’t allow other people who may judge you harshly to get the best of you. Their opinions don’t matter, only God’s does. Go back to all of the stories where women are with Jesus in the Bible. Reflect on how He treated them and see His goodness.

      4. Dear Jesus’ Beloved,
        Lest you think you are alone my NPD spouse refused to leave for two years prior to him finally exiting. I would tell him to leave & his response was always “you leave, you’re the one that’s not happy”.
        Because I had [many] children at home the task seemed daunting. We too both worked from home, I was also homeschooling [number redacted] of those children.
        He finally left after he had a huge blow up about something I said about our business. I had to threaten police involvement & he actually left.

        The thing I want to tell you also is that his leaving took him to the comfort & security of our newly leased or corporate office.
        He was able to go there as it had full bath & kitchen facilities. He was going to a cushy, safe, comfortable spot where all his precious things were.
        He knew I would have to move as he had not paid our mortgage in [number redacted] & our home was going to the bank. This left me being the one who had to find new housing, pack, unpack etc.

        So his moving was really just a move to make sure he & his stuff were safe and secure.

        We also have been apart now for almost [number redacted] months. While part of me can’t believe it another part of me questions it all as well. I go through the feelings of….if I had tried harder, if I was better, if I had been more forgiving, if I had thicker skin….

        All those thoughts flood my mind daily. I pray for clear answers. I pray that when God gives me them I will know it is truth.

        Yesterday – I had a horrible confrontation with him. I had to pick something up from him and he just went off about how I was the one who had broken our vows.
        He asked me to tell him what I had vowed (which I didn’t do) & he said our vows said “for better or worse”, etc. etc. I know this is what I vowed.
        He yelled called me names, told me me I was horrible & I left feeling so confused.
        He told me how I was terribly wrong in this whole separation & I was just being spoiled because as he said “you poor high maintenance b*****- Your love tank didn’t get full”, blah , blah, blah!”

        That was a common accusation so I have felt for many years maybe it was me?

        He had many other things to say that I did that I shouldn’t be doing as a Christian wife.
        He said – there is no place in the Bible that it talks about a wife leaving or of not having sex, or making her own decisions , etc, etc.
        He said that I was now a feminist humanist & our church should be embarrassed that I go there & call myself a Christian & a Christian wife.

        Did I break vows, am I this person he says. After listening to that stuff for [almost three decades] it’s hard to walk in freedom from his voice.

        It has only been [number redacted] (almost) months but I do see differences.
        I feel peace most of the time (I can get stressed in situations where he used to yell & be angry for things I did, such as my choices at grocery store or what I chose to spend my time on.).

        I see my children laughing more & not running for cover like they would do….(he would play their video games & lose then throw controllers, swear & put his fist through doors, I would go in their rooms after hearing commotion & they would be hiding behind chairs etc.).
        There are many examples of this type of behavior (yet I question if I did the right thing).

        I see that I am starting to make more decisions without questioning myself. This is huge as he controlled everything – he denies this as well.
        I am choosing what to eat, clean, wear, & spend time on based on what my preferences are & what is good for my children.
        I am finding joy where there was none. I am much calmer & stress free.
        What I couldn’t see while in the fog was how his outbursts & control of me directly impacted how I was to the children – now I am enjoying them without teaching them to walk on eggshells.

        Fortunately I have older children who can testify to all this as they were raised by this man also. They know the depth & scope of his awfulness & while I know they love their dad they see this needed to happen.
        We have no formal agreement so he could see his children whenever except that he rarely pursues them. So sad in a sense as the three youngest still want that relationship.

        He now is refusing any counseling, any help & is going off newly prescribed meds. Says God will change him if He wants him to change.
        He says why should I change & pursue you when you kicked me out?

        So this is where we are. Honestly – I do have faith that God can do anything but I have little hope that spouse will submit to the redeeming work of a Savior. He seems to be above all authority, rules etc.

        So while I have agreed with my counselor not to do anything for a year, I continue to walk this new journey with good friends, supportive church & my God who is showing me what real love looks like.

        Jesus’ Beloved, you are not alone & I will pray for you.

      5. Outofthefog, Wow! What a terrible abuser you had to (and still have to) deal with. That guy is awful. After having seven beautiful children, and being a helpful, faithful, godly wife, he treats you with such contempt. All I can say is that I am sorry for what you have been through and thankful that you have a positive support group. Things are bound to continue to improve for you now that you have broken free from such a wicked man. My children have thrived away from their abusive father and I am sure that yours will too. Now they are free to follow your godly influence without the confusion of abuse. Outofthefog, I will be praying for you and your children, too.

      6. Was your husband professionally diagnosed with NPD?. I highly suspect my husband has covert NPD.

  2. While we would all rather be murdered by the second man than the first, the reality is that the essential heart of murder is present in both men.

    The problem is the second man produces a much slower death.

  3. “My husband is a bank robber, car thief, embezzler, etc but he is not nearly as bad as some others who do the same…”

  4. You know, I realized, recently, this is still something I struggle with, to some extent…even after all these years.

    It’s not that I have trouble identifying what I experienced as abuse…it definitely was.

    But I still find myself sometimes feeling the need to qualify it…because I know people who experienced much worse than I did. As though mine…as bad as it was…somehow doesn’t really count as real abuse, because it wasn’t nearly as bad as some others.

    Not sure what to make of that realization…still processing the realization…

    1. Joe,
      Thank you for these words. It hasn’t been many years for me, only a few. And yet sometimes I still struggle with labeling my marriage as abusive: What if he wasn’t abusive? Maybe he just wasn’t nice. What I endured wasn’t nearly as bad as other victims I hear about.

      But on the other hand, I and others who know my situation can identify what I experienced as abuse. His mentality, his behavior are all that of a classic abuser.

      Where I struggle sometimes? He never hit me. Sometimes I just wish he had hit me.

      Yes, the processing continues. . .sigh

      1. Lately, I’ve wondered if in minimizing my own abuse experiences I may unintentionally cause someone else to minimize theirs. I’ve been thnking about the recent post on this blog about the need to steer away from talking of extremes.

        So, I’m wondering, when I say things like, “I was in an abusive marriage for 17 years…not nearly as bad as some people’s situations, but abuse, nonetheless…” does that lead someone still in an abusive marriage to say, “Yeah, I guess mine’s not so bad, either. Maybe I should just stick it out and try to be thankful it’s not as bad as some others…”

        I don’t know…still puzzling this one. It’s such a hard thing to talk about the abuse in a sentence or two…it takes so much more to really explain…

        Thank you, twbtc, for sharing your experiences.

      2. I agree. There was a video Kiera Knightley did recently to advocate for women who are being abused. But I couldn’t link to it on our FB page because it was so very violent and I didn’t want targets of abuse to compare their situation with that and think they mist be ok because “at least he doesn’t…” I will be more sensitive to this now. I don’t want to be a fog machine (to myself or anyone else) by comparing my own experiences with others’ experiences.

      3. Ellie,
        The final X used to tell me that he never hit me like my other H did just to keep me in the fog. When I first started hearing other peoples stories I would tell myself the same thing. “I’m definately not in as bad a situation as this person or like it was in the past”. Then I started putting my lifetime of experiences all together. There was one type of abuse after another. When that one didn’t work anymore another one started. I got out of the frying pan and jumped right into the fire.

        The only reason that I am alive after a couple of incidents in my early 20’s is because God wasn’t done with me yet. There is more that he has for me to do is my only explanation. The problem is, over time I tend to not think about those events all that often. I survived, now move on. The moving on without keeping those events at the front part of my brain got me into another abusive relationship without looking for the warning signs and never really thinking about the fact that your H trying to push you from a speeding car was abuse. When I allow myself to think back on it now and know what I do now I have to ask myself, “why wasn’t 911 called to have this man arrested for attempted murder?” I managed to hurdle myself to the back seat, so what he did made it all better?

        Bur you and Joe are right. We tend to minimize what happened to us after a while and allow others to minimize the abuse they are going through because of the worse case scenarios. No matter what, abuse needs to all be put in the same category.

    2. Perhaps those residual thoughts come when your memories run down the worn path in your brain that the abuser created. It’s the subtle form of mental abuse. In year one of my marriage, I stated to my ex, ‘It’s (life) so hard’. His reply was the same, each time, ‘Everybody’s life is hard, get used to it’. After [over three decades] of that same retort from him, the rut is very deep. I didn’t need him to say it after the first few years, I’d simply say it to myself, even though it didn’t make sense. Success for the abuser is when we transpose our voice over theirs and then they are doubly effective. This idea is difficult to describe in a few sentences. I hope it will make a little bit of sense and perhaps help you identify the source of your struggle.

      1. Seeing Clearly,
        That makes total sense. You already know what they are going to say. This way you are saying it to yourself as they are repeating the same phrase for the umpteenth time. It sinks down deep in your brain twice as fast. They are not only abusing you, they have got you to do it for them.

      2. Such truth Seeing Clearly! Yes, this does happen over time (transposing of his voice). I still hear my abuser’s voice over my shoulder at times mocking me or discrediting me. Its a kind of brainwashing as I see it.

  5. I haven’t been to visit for a while.. I have had some huge stuff going on and couldn’t handle reading or having to face the abuse stuff.
    I often think my husband is not all bad and there is a lot worse around, so I diminish my experience.
    We have been having marriage counseling. It has been helpful in I have been honest at the sessions and felt safe enough to do so. I have alluded to the word ABUSE a few times but the counselor has not once said anything direct about my husband being abusive.
    I have felt like my husband is the victim and I’m the ‘evil’ one..especially after our last session. He was talking about how I’m numb and walled off I am and he loves me so much and just cannot get through to me.
    I feel like me husband has a ‘screw lose’ in his mind…He seems to have some sort of blockage. It’s like he sees himself as the martyr and the ‘strong’ man and gets impatient and rageful towards anyone who is inept or addicted to anything., sex, woman, porn, drugs etc He sees me as an addictive type person. It’s like it all revolves around him being so right and everyone else is wrong.
    We have been having a long period of ‘honeymoon’ where he is being loving kind and caring. BUT there are things going on that are triggering him, especially in recent days.
    I am so vulnerable right now he could literally break me in pieces with one horrendous outburst.
    I feel like I’m actually dealing with a toddler that could throw a tantrum at any moment.

    1. Love6, I so relate to your experience and your pain. I just wanted to reach out to you and confirm what others have said to you, that couples counselling is not safe or advisable for abusive marriages. Read Leslie Vernick’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” sometime if you can and you will see she says the same thing.

      As you have already experienced, an abuser will manipulate the sessions as well as the therapist time and time again to make it look like he is completely innocent and you are the one that has issues. I didn’t really understand how this could happen when I first read about this until it happened to me.

      I watched my husband behave like a sweet, gentle, mild mannered, wronged man in front of a licensed therapist who had been in practice for over 20 years. As I sat there looking at him and thinking, my gosh, who is THIS person, I thought at the same time, well, this therapist has seen this type of man before. Surely she’ll figure him out real quick. WRONG. She believed him.

      When she met with me separately I very rationally told her about what had been going in our marriage for years and how I tried so hard to make it work, but I finally had to leave because I was having health issues from the stress of living with a person like my husband. I told her I truly believed he was abusive, gave endless examples of what I had endured. I told her he was abusive to our children as well. I gave her details of the things he had done to them. She even wrote down these events as I described them.

      She met with him separately as well. Again, I thought she’d see through him and understand why I had left him.

      Well, when she met with us together and gave us her evaluation of our family, it was clear she didn’t listen to a word I had said. She saw him as the victim and everything she suggested that we do was centered around his rights and his feelings. He totally highjacked our therapy. I could not believe what was happening. She said she believed he was an overall good buy that occasionally said the wrong thing, but that was all that was going on in our marriage, and with our children as well. What in the world?!!!! I wanted to vomit as I sat there and listened to this. So, he was just a guy that had trouble articulating his feelings when he beat our four year old son and knocked the wind out of him? He was just misunderstood when he laughed my face any time I told him what he was doing to me hurt and had to stop?

      He had managed to get her to think I was a delusional, overly sensitive person with no concept of reality and I was the one abusing him. It was even more fun to sit next to him in that session and listen to him flat out lie about himself, me, and deny things I was saying, saying they never happened. After that, I told that therapist I was going to find someone else and I refused to be in therapy with him again.

      So, the moral of the story is, do not do couple’s counselling with an abuser. He’ll turn it against you and use it to abuse you further. And if you think you’re confused now about what is really going on in your marriage, see how you feel when a licensed professional takes your abuser’s side and confirms all the lies he’s told you about yourself for years. It took me a week to get past that happening to me. In fact, I need therapy after that therapy session!

      I’ll pray for you, that God will lead you where you need to be and give you wisdom as you go through this. If it weren’t for Him, I would have not seen what was happening to me, despite what others’ opinions were, and would not have had the strength to leave.

      1. couples counselling is not safe or advisable for abusive marriages. Read Leslie Vernick’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” sometime if you can and you will see she says the same thing.

        It is true that Leslie Vernick says in her book that couples counseling is not safe for emotionally destructive marriages.
        It puzzles me, therefore, that she sometimes talks about herself doing couples counseling in marriages that I (but maybe not she?) would consider to be destructive marriages. I am confused by that. She says one thing, but then seems to sometimes do the opposite.
        In the recent video she did with Ps Chris Moles, she described cases where she did couple counseling. And in her book The Emotionally Desctructive Marriage, she describes / alludes to a case (cases?) as well.

        I would like to understand why say says couples counseling is not safe, but sometimes does it herself.

      2. Hi Barbara,

        I think she ONLY does couples counselling once the abuser has done his own counselling, is on a plan with his therapist and accountability partners to recognize, work on and change his pattern of behavior, and is fully committed to restoring his marriage. In other words, she’s willing to do couples counselling only when he’s at a point where he’s owned his behavior and is not blaming his spouse for it or making therapy about what she has to work on. That is what I got from her book, which I’ve read numerous times, and used to help me get out of my abusive marriage.

      3. I have both of Leslie’s books. I have read them and found them helpful. I have not read any of my books for a few months because the abuse was so bad and I was under so much stress.
        I’m now ready to pick up the challenge again, I think. .. even though this week I’ve been deeply depressed.
        I just wish my husband would see himself and pull his head in abused be a man.
        My little girl said to him today “if you’re the king of this house you shouldn’t treat me like that” … He was standing up in an intimidating manner nutting off about something trivial saying see was a princess….. she is quite quick thinking for a little girl.
        I contacted my counselor a few days ago pleading for her to be my advocate with our marriage counselor….they work together. She never replied to me.
        I guess for me to cope with my husband I diminish the abuse. He is verbally and emotionally abusive. He crushes me with his words.

      4. The last time I tried Christian marriage counseling with my to-be-ex-husband, I deliberately chose a young woman with experience dealing with abuse. She came recommended by another therapist I loved, who had divorced an abusive man herself, and was supposedly very familiar with Abuse Recovery Ministry.

        It was a joke.

        The gal was well meaning, but very naive. In one session I was actually forced to “communicate” what I specifically required/wanted from my husband regarding his driving drunk with our kids (and minimizing & expecting me to just get over it). Because it’s apparently NOT OBVIOUS that a huge apology and some measure of brokenness is called for when you deliberately put your childrens’ lives at risk.

        Another time I met with her one-on-one and spelled out the extent of the controlling behavior. She then put me on the spot at the next couples session, coercing me to share with him what I’d told her. She obviously had NO understanding of the dynamics of abuse.

        Thankfully, my husband decided not to go back after she explained that if the drunk driving with the kids happened again she’d have to report him.

        She wasn’t supporting him over me in our sessions, but she shouldn’t have been counseling us to begin with, knowing he had alcohol abuse and control issues. She should have been calling him out, not practicing reflective listening with him, and trying to “help us communicate.”

        My current counselor, also a Christian, told me in our first phone conversation that she would not do marriage counseling where there is any active addiction. This was the first time I’d heard of such a thing, and I was taken aback and a little frustrated. At that point, I was thoroughly indoctrinated in the belief that divorce would never be “allowed” in my situation. So i needed someone to help me patch my marriage up enough for me to survive it.

        Working with her has been life-changing. He goal has been to help me heal, not slap yet another band-aid on dead covenant, along with a healthy helping of “if you submit well enough he will be able to love you sacrificially.”

        Over weeks and months, I slowly began to notice that I was enshrouded in the fog we all know so well. In retrospect, it reminds me of the Steven King story called “The Fog.” A dense mist rolls in, traps several people in a small grocery store, and hides terrifying monsters that tear to shreds anyone who tries to escape. The end of the story is very grim, with some of the survivors apparently escaping only die needlessly in the end. Ugh.

        But praise God, that’s not the end of my story. The monsters in my fog have turned out to be mostly toothless, decrepit things. They have the appearance of terror, but their power has existed only through my fear. When I have stepped out into the fog to face them, they mostly vanish. And the ones that don’t…Jesus can deal with. I don’t have to defeat them myself; I just have to keep walking through the fog, holding tight to his robe, trusting.

  6. Loves6, an abuser will often transfer his negative, abusive behavior toward his target. Meaning whatever is true of him he says is true of you. Abusers confuse their targets by this kind of crazy making.

    In my confusion (which my husband created and enforced) I had to come to a point where I developed a litmus test. Is this really what I think it is? My bottom line test was when I was hurting or vulnerable, a loving non-abusive spouse would be SENSITIVE to this, while an abusive husband exploits this. Your spouse should extend the comfort of an ultra soft microfiber throw, not that of a porcupine.

    To me it sounds like you know the truth when you feel you could “break to pieces” and when you see him as a toddler. Joint counseling is never recommended for abusive marriages. I fear for you when there is signs it is already being used against you. Counseling is supposed to be a place of support but it won’t be if your husband does not have the same goal as you- unity in the marriage. An abuser doesn’t want unity or understanding, they want power over.

    A lack of hostile, mean spirited behavior is not a lack of abuse. The absence of this behavior is not a healthy marriage, but a tolerable one. When the lion seems uninterested in harming the antelope its only because he’s looking for a better vantage point from which to attack. Lions don’t have a change of heart, only varying degrees of appetites they live to satisfy.

    I pray God will continue to minister to your heart as you are in the midst of this pain.

    1. Loves6, I second what Valerie has said. Joint marriage counseling was not the way to go. The crazy making probably started during the very first session and your H has convinced the counselor and you that you are the problem. I know from reading your previous posts that the problem was not you. You were getting it. Taking a hiatus from the abuse stuff may have sunk you deeper into its reality. I urge you not to go to any more marriage counseling and take a step back and look at what is really happening. Your body is telling you that something is wrong. Please listen to it.

      I am praying that God will speak to your heart and open you eyes and ears to what the truth is and ease your pain at this time. As Valerie said the lion is just waiting to devour the antelope. That is a very good analogy of yours and others situation.

    2. Barbara, from what I know of Leslie after working with her, I’d like to offer my take on what I believe might be the case with the joint sessions. Just like many of us here, I was unaware of the harmfulness of joint counseling when we were just learning about abuse. I went to several counselors with my husband and thought they could get through to him. It is possible that the couples she has counseled have been largely wives desperate for marriage counseling and therefore pushing to continue counseling. Leslie is not quick to jump to conclusions IMO and therefore would want adequate time to assess if abuse is occurring and if so what she can do to help the target of the abuse by understanding the abuser’s specific tactics further. She perhaps has had continued sessions with someone she knows to be abusive in order to be an advocate for the target in sessions. The abuser can never go back then and say the target refused counseling and rather the target would have ample evidence that counseling would not help in their case. Totally speculating here but just offering some possible insight since I’ve worked with her.

    3. Valerie thank you for your comment.

      The thought of a soft ultra microfiber throw sounds like what I deeply need. I do not have that. I have a man that thinks he is likes this, admits he is sometimes rageful and abusive but has the care of me foremost in his mind. He wants what best for me etc. He says.
      He was very sick recently in hospital. My kids commented on how happy I was when he was in there and how well I coped. I was very tired but I was happy. He is now well and starting to get back to his old tricks….much of this being triggered by me setting boundaries and saying I have had enough.
      We have a crisis going on that has happened because of him. I have told him over and over again and warned him about this particular situation. He has ignored me, dismissed me and now we have this crisis because he chose to put his head in the sand.
      I’m having separate counseling. He is also having separate counseling and we are having marriage. My reason for marriage counseling is so I can be seen by all around me that I have tried to save this marriage. If it doesn’t work, I cannot be accused of not trying.
      After our session this week I was exhausted and severely depressed. I have been sleepy all week, unable to get out of bed but force myself to and feeling like all is hopeless. As bad as this sounds thoughts of suicide have been going through my head but I honestly couldn’t go through with it. The counselor was drawn in when my husband was talking strongly about his heart of love toward me. I said I’ve heard this all before. ..The counselor turned to me and said I haven’t heard it and this is significant what your husband is saying. I felt rebuked, angry, embarrassed. My husband was feeling so good after this session….He had a voice and was listened to and I was put in my place. This just spiraled me out as well as all of what is going on just now.
      He had an outburst last night…intimidating behavior and saying things about me that we untrue….This happened because I told him I didn’t appreciate him watching over what I ate, what I drank… A piece of candy gets noticed… anything he thinks I shouldn’t have he mentions. I didn’t appreciate it and he got furious…. He hates it when I challenge him on anything like this. He gets very angry. So the cycle starts again….
      Valerie I have read a lot of books on abuse and have been visiting this blog for about 9 months. I know a lot , I see the signs, I just need strength to face a very very difficult battle.

      1. Love6, I strongly agree with what Barbara has said here. I have felt exactly what you’re describing here, from the compulsive need to make sure I’m doing it all “right,” to feeling suicidal (yet sure I’d never actually go through with it)

        You deserve better.

        God says you deserve better. He also says that there are wolves among us, that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. And, most importantly, he proclaims his perfect affection, care, and compassion for you, and he will be your strength.

        Is there anyone safe in your life? I’ve had one close friend, a sister, and a counselor…and have built from there. It feels like nothing sometimes, like not enough a lot of the time, and like exactly what I need occasionally. But God hasn’t let me down yet. I’m praying for you to experience your own walk with him through this wilderness.

      2. I’m having separate counseling. He is also having separate counseling and we are having marriage. My reason for marriage counseling is so I can be seen by all around me that I have tried to save this marriage. If it doesn’t work, I cannot be accused of not trying.

        Loves6, it sounds like you are letting your fear of what people think about you be the determining factor in all this.

        I think you know from all your reading at this blog and other good resources that marriage counseling or marriage intensives are NOT recommended for domestic abuse, and that they often if not always makes things WORSE for the victim, not better. So why let your fear of what people may think, rule your choices?

        Frankly, I can see that if you keep doing this marriage counseling, all that is likely to happen is that you will feel more and more down, depressed, exhausted, stressed and suicidal. Why risk all your health and safety just for the sake of what other people may think?

        In the end, many other people will judge you whatever you do and however you chose to deal with your situation. And even if you persevere with this marriage counseling torture, and the marriage falls apart in the end, the judgmental people will still judge you and they won’t give you much favour or leeway just because you persevered with marriage counseling. They will still judge you as wrong because the marriage ended. Can’t you hear them muttering “But she didn’t give the marriage counseling long enough.” “She didn’t give it a good enough try. She didn’t do what the marriage counselor told her to do. . . ” And you can bet you bottom dollar that your abuser will feed them all those lies, so they really believe they are seeing the truth.

        That is their mindset; and they won’t be shifted from it because it is so entrenched.

        And if you decide to call it quits on the marriage, do you really want those people as your friends and acquaintances anyway? Would you want to be still networked closely with them in five years time? I doubt it. Maybe one or two, kind of, IF they wake up and start to get it. But in my experience, even those who partly woke up later, and apologized to me for their foolish and hurtful remarks, they still never became my bosom buddies or people I wanted to go to for support. They remained partly on the fence. I never really felt they were fully supportive. They were like limp handshakes, and who wants a limp handshake?

        These people whose opinions you are afraid of: they are not safe! Their thinking on marriage is so stuck in the traditional play-book that they are not going to be kind or supportive to you no matter HOW this whole thing ends up. Why be afraid of them? Why let your fear of them shape your decisions?

        I am worried for you. Having suicidal thoughts means you are at high risk. High risk of a lethal outcome, either for you or for someone else. Oh I know you said you wouldn’t carry it out, but it still indicates how unhappy you are and how much you are either at or very near the end of your tether.

      3. Loves6, I agree with Barbara that in the end, people will judge the victim wrongly because they are ignorant of the core of the problem.

        But boy, reading your words just reminds me of what it was like. I, too, did everything I could just so I could be seen to be saving the marriage. I even decided to try a last-minute strategy I read about, which a pastor told me wouldn’t work, but he conceded that I could try it just to put my mind at rest that at least I had tried. Guess what, it didn’t work. :S

        And now I am so glad I have a different group of people to call friends. You might not think it possible, but one day, you will find people who are fully validating, who won’t blame you for divorcing, who won’t treat you like a poor victim or an unforgiving offended wife.

      4. Yes, I am high risk as far as feeling so low that suicide has been in my thoughts. I’m seeing my councellor in two days.
        I guess in recent months it all got too much and leaving was a huge mountain that I could not conquer. My husband would not leave. He is so obsessive about having utopia on this earth with his family he would stay put to make me look bad.
        I am aghast at the way he thinks, the way he sees things….his thoughts are so fix about things that I cannot see him moving from them.
        He is one of the most stubborn, defensive men I’ve ever meet and it’s all subtle. So Jekyle and Hyde behaviour.
        My fear is that I will loose my older kids and many others in my life. I have no support network. I would be alone. I guess also I’m ticking things off the list… Done the councelling, applied for a job, told certain people about what has been going on ( not many believe me). Im biding time to see what will happen with our current situation… A healthy marriage would be strained with what we are going through, our marriage is is crisis
        I have applied for a part time job…this is a step in the right direction.

      5. I have no support network.

        all the more reason, I suggest, for you to seek as much support as you can from a Domestic Violence Support Service.

        And good for you for applying for a part time job!

        Maybe the Women’s Support Services can also tell you about govt welfare payments and things you can apply for, to help you if and when you decide that the marriage is over.

        Re your adult kids . . you may not keep them. But they may come back to you in the long run.

      6. Love6, I’m so sorry. We do believe you here. Most of us know exactly what you mean, first-hand. I wish I could reach through and help.

  7. From where I sat in the couple’s counseling room, I now see that the hour of torture for me was and hour of fortification for him. Like a weekly vitamin. Regardless of my positive intentions, in reality, I facilitated his ego boost. Another part of the great deception.

    1. Seeing Clearly… I see this. .. it is his weekly vitamin…it is my weekly torture. I am a person that tends to speak up and I have done this. I tell it how it is… but the last two sessions my husband has sarcastically thrown things at me afterwards about what I’ve said.

      1. I guess we try everything in hopes of having a safe relationship. I did not know that couple’s counseling was advised against. It helps makes sense of how I’d only get sicker by the week, We invested a lot of time in 3 different counselors. The 2nd session into the 4th one, I got the message that this marriage was hopeless and I’m out. Then, along with other events, I actually filed the divorce papers. He did a masterful job of pulling the wool over the professionals’ eyes. I don’t think my divorce attorney had ever even seen anything like him before. He was masterful in deceit.

      2. We went to councelling today… He tried to blame me for all sorts of things. He says that I have plenty of times got angry at him, raised my voice and he listens…but he cannot get angry. In other words it’s ok for me but not for him. I got very annoyed at him today on councelling.
        I sat in that room today and I just thought this is not going to work… He has major issues with me from the past and I have major issues with him and his abuse.
        I seriously look at him and have to say I think he is mentally not right. Something is out of whack and I cannot put my finger on it.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. Within a few hours of reading this I received an email from my husband saying he didn’t abuse me because he never hit me. Well, he actually did, but it was years ago. And more recently, he has shoved me out of his way. He says none of this counts because when he hit me, it was a long time ago, and when he shoved me, it wasn’t that hard. Notice that he is the one that gets to say whether or not he abused me, how bad his behavior was or was not, whether I can think what he’s done is abuse or not. I’m not allowed to have an opinon on any of this. This was a constant in our marriage as well, and still is now that I’ve left. The thing is though, his method was not physical abuse but verbal. His words hit like fists and hurt just as much, and I have to remember quite often — because I too, begin to question myself, was it really abuse? — it happened constantly. It was a repetitive method of behavior that instilled fear, pain, and destruction to our marriage, and that is true abuse.

    Sometimes I fall into really second guessing myself and wondering, did I just overreact to him all those years? If I had tried to be less sensitive about everything and more appreciative of the good, less focused on the bad, could we have stayed together? Could I have avoided uprooting my children’s lives, breaking their hearts, as well as my own? Was he really that bad, or was he just a guy that was misunderstood by me and I left for nothing? That’s what he tells me all the time. Because, you know, he didn’t beat the tar out of me or anything like that. So he, in his mind, is not abusive.

    Just as soon as I think things like this, I end up seeing a post like this one, or hearing something on the radio or in a message about abusive marriages, and I feel God telling me that I was not wrong, and it was abuse. If God says my husband is abusive — and He has confirmed this for me numerous times — then there you have it. God knows the truth.

  9. JB, I am so glad that you have allowed God’s truth to be more powerful than the lies of your abuser. My stomach got tense at the first part of your post because it was reminiscent of the same struggle I had. In my mind I would keep arguing with the logic of his actions “But he SAID…!” Surely if he says this but doesn’t do it the only logical conclusion is he doesn’t know how to do it well. No. I now see the most logical conclusion is that he was intentionally deceitful.

    The kind of word salad arguing you describe is part of what kept me entrenched for so long. He would choose the argument topic- no matter what I initially brought up- and the rest of the time I spent defending the new argument he created. Its quite laughable (not funny) when you stand back and consider the claim of the abuser. The wife they took vows with, the friend and partner they promised to love is saying “ouch, this hurts, please stop” and the response? “Define abuse.” WHAT???? Excuse me but why are you focusing on rescuing an Asian lady beetle from being hit by a moped when your family is tied to the railroad tracks with an oncoming train? Is my belief in your goodness to animals the most important thing in this situation? Its at the heart of every abuse story I’ve ever heard. Let’s argue about what abuse is and ignore the forest fire that’s destroying the home. The real issue Mr. Abuser is that you are not showing that your spouses’ pain affects you.

    It is truly madness when they get us so confused that we feel the need to defend our pain rather than be outraged at their lack of empathy. I simply can not imagine Jesus pulling apart the definition of abuse while His child is crying at His feet.

  10. I wonder if the better way to look at the abuse spectrum isn’t by analyzing or quantifying the actions of the abuser, but by focusing on the harm done to the victims. My father never beat my mother physically, but he beat her nonetheless both emotionally and verbally. Some days it only took one sentence to devastate her. Did that mean he was on a different part of the spectrum that day?

  11. So many questions, so much confusion. I am definitely in a situation at the lesser end of the spectrum, so I am constantly wondering if it is him, or is it me who has the problem, as I am often told. He spends hundreds on marriage books and wants counselling, and I won’t go along, knowing they are just to show me what I am doing wrong. He wants to talk, but it is my fault for not setting a time. And this age of e-mails really gave him freedom to say his mind, and forward all kinds of marriage devotionals, but I don’t answer. I don’t want to respond because I can be just as nasty, and don’t want to go there. Eventually, though, all the accusations hit too many nerves, and I respond to stand up for myself, but it is disregarded, as all my words have been for all the years of our marriage.

    And what about the kids? The three oldest are hurt and have pulled away from him, the middle one grows with God and seems to be able to balance things, though I don’t think he really understands (I have seven like another poster), and the youngest three think he is wonderful, not seeing how he undermines me (like late-night videos and chips when they should be in bed). I let it be, not sure if or when I should say anything. What is abuse and what is just not thinking? I don’t want them to go through any more confusion than necessary, as I don’t think I will be leaving yet. He works away 8 days, home 6, so I get a break, and most e-mails have stopped after I said they needed to. And it is hard to up and leave being on an acreage with animals I can’t just abandon. I think, though, he will pull away and stay up north more; he was only home for 48 hours this week.

    I will try to get books, but in Canada things less available, and he just cut my income by one third, which really hurt the grocery budget. That’s a story for another day. I already so appreciate this website, and the help and sense it gives to a confusing situation.

    1. Searching,

      I am one of the team members — twbtc (the woman behind the curtain). Would you email me at I don’t know if it is safe to email you — in case your abuser has access to your email. I would like to discuss having books sent to you.

    2. I had animals on my acreage too, but “found places for them” because it is difficult enough to sort out, and juggle all of what is going on, and the options become fewer with many animals in tow.

      Maybe working things out with “friends that know what is happening” can be helpful until you get your “ducks in a row” to make the decisions that you may need to make.
      I also have to be discreet with my plans, and keep many things close to my vest “except with close and trusted friends”
      My children are also confused about relationships because they grew up in the FOG with me…
      The older children do not respect me like they should, but this is the fruit of what they observed growing up within the abuse, (while I was in the FOG) so although I know it is wrong,- I understand why they hold this different esteem about me.
      Slowly now that my abuser is out of the house, I am trying to reestablish right relationships with my children but it is a slow and difficult process as it is very hard to undo what they have witnessed growing up. .
      I have a job now and have to say it is one of the best things that I have done, to help towards freeing myself someday, and empowers me personally.

      Hoping and praying for Gods wisdom and the best for you,.

  12. Suzanne commented:

    I wonder if the better way to look at the abuse spectrum isn’t by analyzing or quantifying the actions of the abuser, but by focusing on the harm done to the victims….


    From personal experience, the damage done by abusers is often invisible, and the aftereffects may not appear for many years. Or, at least, not in a recognizable or readily identifiable fashion.

    The variables can be complex.

    I am discovering the extent of the long term consequences of a lifetime of personal and professional abuse. So much of the abuse was covert. There were no long tirades or outbursts of anger. None of the things the “average” person commonly associates with abuse.

    I struggle with the idea of saying anything outside the ACFJ community, where the breadcrumbs of my story are spread. I am afraid I will not be believed. If I include the complications added by an infant illness, well….

    After all, “it really wasn’t that bad….”

    1. Finding Answers, it was that bad. As time passes and we allow ourselves to accept that we were swallowed up in abusive relationships, we accept that it was worse than we dared to admit to ourselves. Gradually, little cracks in the present allow us to see the past and moments of admission that only by the protection of God are we present in mind and body today.

      I, too, most of the time feel that ACFJ is the only place where I can share, be heard, be believed, and abide in a wonderful safe community.

      1. Thank you, Seeing Clearly. I needed to hear what you wrote. Accepting IS difficult, especially when the ramifications are all-encompassing.

        I spent the afternoon selling my car, dealing with the resultant details, telling a few people involved I choose not to drive again. There is freedom in not owning a car, the pros greatly outweighing the cons. I am content with the decision.

        Processing acceptance takes time….I am grateful God is patient.

      2. In those times when I take notice of how much I have given up / lost materially, I can start feeling pretty upset. Losses are great. Bottom line for me: I gave up all of this to be alive, literally. I remind myself it is so worth it. Life and freedom definitely come at a great cost.

  13. (Replying to you, Seeing Clearly….no REPLY option to nest under your comment.)

    I don’t miss the material things – I’m not like my family of origin or anti-x in that sense. After my divorce, I got rid of a bunch of stuff….and a bucket load more when I downsized a few years ago.

    Getting rid of the car meant accepting the effects of the permanent damage done by the sexual violation in infancy, the emotional boundary blank spots. And the Holy Spirit led me to understand I could possibly dissociate in certain kinds of (nasty / bad) weather conditions, just as I had in times past. I’m not so fond of re-integrating memory fragments that I want to repeat the process. 🙂

    Once I understand what I need to accept, I can start to process what the change entails. Sometimes I have difficulty grasping all the ramifications in one gulp. The Holy Spirit leads me gently to the conclusion, one building block at a time, until I can say, “Oh. I get it now….”

    There are other areas of acceptance in which I have attained varying levels of completion. Healing is definitely non-linear.

  14. [About one decade] past divorce, I am observing how our adult children have adapted into a comfort, complacency zone with me and their (my ex) father. The truth of his abuse is lying under cement, dirt, plastic flowers. Summers are especially painful with children and dad and his new wife on day vacations, etc.

    I wish now that the abuse would have been physical. I wish that the numerous scars and stitches that my body carries, from the type of surgeries abused women undergo, were from his abusiveness. Scars would attest, scars would give church leaders and my very religious family, permission to release me to divorce. If only the mental beatings would show as shining lights. If only the financial raping would leave me sitting in torn rags when I am with my children. If only…. So much deep longing.

    1. Hi Seeing Clearly, may I encourage you to go ahead and get divorced if that is what you want to do. The Bible does not say that you must get permission from church leaders or your family to get divorced.

      Here are some links you might find helpful:

      What about divorce?

      Church discipline and church permission for divorce – how my mind has changed

      A sure sign of an unsafe church is when it says abuse victims may not separate or divorce without permission from the church leaders

      1. I did divorce. But I so long for family and church to acknowledge that my divorce did not have to wait until I was nearly dead, literally, to be acceptable.

        I long for my children to tell me they know their father was extremely abusive to me. That they are very sorry for all I went through. That they are thankful that I am alive today. That they are not naive about his behaviors today. Just wishing all the things that never seem to be. Perhaps X-rays of broken bones or deep physical wounds or medical reports would speak words that they would hear.

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