Encouragement and Insights for Wives of Pastors Who are Abusers
UPDATE: Monday 1 September 10:00PM US Pacific Time
We have changed the title of this post and modified it so it is not aimed at any particular person, and we have edited out from the comments thread the names and identifying details of the particular persons which the original post named. We have taken this step after receiving feedback from a number of people. We think, on balance, that we made an error of judgement in naming people in our original post and its title. We ask that if you have shared our original post on other sites, you would kindly remove that share and, if you wish to do so, share this updated post — which we believe will be a help to many victims of abuse, particularly wives who are being abused by their pastor-husbands. We know there are many such women out there.
The administrators of this blog, Barbara Roberts and Jeff Crippen, take responsibility for this error of judgement. We would like to make it clear that Deborah is not at fault in any way for the error of judgement, and that we, as Admins, take full responsibility for what is published on this blog. Thank you to all who gave us feedback and we hope that we can continue to be transparent and open to feedback as appropriate.
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Dear Sister in Christ:
I don’t really even know where to start, except to let you know that I am praying for you and your kids.
I know how it feels to be thought of as less important, because I am a woman. I know how it feels to always have to meet a man’s needs and ignore or sideline my own needs, even to the point of condemning myself as selfish for even having needs. I know how bad it hurts to paint on a smile because I had to look perfect for everyone else.
I get the humiliation that comes with being treated like I was defective, and even sinning, if I wasn’t sexually ready when my husband was; and I know what it’s like to bite the pillow to keep from crying as he fulfilled his desires with my body, regardless of how degrading or painful it was for me. I know what it’s like to pretend I was ok with that, to keep him happy, and to keep from feeling like I was a failure, yet again.
I know the numb that came with feeling like I had to prostitute myself to my husband so he didn’t take affection away from me again. I know how it felt to be so desperate for a tiny brief bit of affection from him, that I would do whatever he wanted.
I know what it felt like to not feel emotionally safe in my own home and to never know what I had done wrong this time. I know how it felt to have it preached over and over again that I was a bad wife because I wasn’t submitting enough — when what really he meant was that I wasn’t allowing myself to be subjugated enough.
I know how it hurt to be disregarded as too emotional and feeble, simply because I was female. I know the sting that whipped my heart in having to lie to myself in order to be convinced that everything was actually ok with that. I know what it felt like to believe the lies and even to lash out at myself for ever believing he could have done anything wrong.
I know the humiliation as he made sexist remarks and jokes at the expense of my gender (often right from the pulpit), and then turned around and told me he didn’t mean it towards me. I know how it felt to be torn apart for making any decisions on my own, no matter how small. I know what it meant to live with someone who firmly believed the world of his house needed to revolve around his needs.
I know what it’s like to be emotionally abused and to feel trapped in an abusive marriage because of what I thought were the God-breathed teachings of my faith. I know that I didn’t think “this is abuse” for a long, long time. I know how hard it was for me to even tentatively apply that word “abuse” to my situation. I know how scary it felt when the balance started to tip and I began to own — even just to myself — that “I am being abused by my husband. He is abusing me. I am a victim of abuse!”
(No. Not me! Not that! Not again! Oh God — help me! )
Dear Sister, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you. That kind of marriage, the one I used to be in, is not what God designed marriage to be like. It is a perversion of God’s design, promulgated to satiate men’s desires and subjugate women’s. In this perverse view, women aren’t allowed to have needs, unless those needs are in line with the needs of the men, or are needs that men will agree are “acceptable” for them to fulfill.
But why would a loving God design a union in which one person’s needs are always met and the other’s are only met when they are easy or convenient? Actually, such a framework does exist. It’s called ownership and slavery. But God never designed human beings to be “owned” by anyone. And although Christians belong to Christ, the way He owns us is not like a master controlling and subjugating a slave! Christ’s leadership of his church is power under, not power over. Christ elevates his church, he does not oppress it! He put his church’s needs before his own very life! God never designed women to be trampled, abused, disregarded, diminished, overshadowed, sullied and subjugated. He never designed marriage to feel like a nightmare that won’t end.
You know what evil does? It takes a kernel of truth and then quietly and slowly wraps it in lies, skewing that truth just a little at a time, until you fully buy into the lies. The lie that women are to be treated as secondary to men and that that is what submission looks like, is evil. God has harsh things to say about those who pervert His words like that. Abuse is abuse, even when it’s sugar coated and camouflaged to look like Biblical submission.
I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, and I have learned many of the marks and signs of abusers, now that I have come out of the fog. I am wondering whether you have convinced yourself that your husband is right and you are wrong? It would be completely understandable if you have — and it makes sense to do that, if you feel it helps you survive, and you love him. Is it possible that you have convinced yourself that women are only worthy if they do whatever their husbands tell them to do, even when it hurts them? The thing is, God doesn’t ask us to obey our husbands to the point of defiling ourselves, to the point of going against our faith or to the point of allowing the shriveling death of our own souls, for the sake of our marriage vows.
God will always put the people who make up the institution, above the institution itself. Check that in the Bible. It’s all over the place. Jesus constantly defied the institutions for the sake of the hurting people in them. Why would he not do that with marriage too?
I know this is hard to see and even harder to allow yourself to believe. It was for me too. But I know God is love and I know a loving God would never be okay with his daughters being treated the way you seem to be treated now. You have mentioned that your husband does not permit you to read emails. What else does he forbid you? How else does he isolate you? Does he do it so cleverly that you don’t even realise he is doing it? That was what my husband did to me. Could it be that the words you use to agree with your husband now, are being spoken because you feel captive to them? Are they your survival? Could it be that at this point, it may even be pain you don’t understand any more? Just a dull sense of numb and of giving in, yet it’s there.
Know this. People are praying for you. May God deliver you and your children out of oppression and may He give you the insight to see the truth and the courage to do something about it.
If you ever want support, we are here for you at A Cry For Justice. You can contact us using a pseudonym. We have many resources and links/tips on how to be safe in cyberspace and how to work, step by step, or leap by leap, towards a newer, safer, happier, non-oppressed life, one that is relatively free of the overshadowing of a controller. We know that none of this is easy. And we know that full freedom from a controlling husband is not always possible given how flawed our secular courts and justice system can be. We understand running the gauntlet of trying to disentangle one’s life and the lives of one’s children from a controlling man, but we know that one does not have to do this alone. We are here for you. Whether you stay under the shadow — or whatever you choose to do — we are here for you.
~Deborah ~ with (((hugs))) if you want them
[Note: Deborah initiated and drafted this letter; Barbara Roberts helped polish it.]