A Cry For Justice

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

Thursday Thought — “Am I the One Mistreating Him?”

Life with a controlling partner can become a twisted world where bad is good, down is up, and wrong is right.  Many women over the years have said to me, “My partner tells me that I’m the one abusing him.  How do I know if it’s him or me?”

Read the following concepts, taking a deep breath after each one so that you can absorb it.

One:  You are not responsible for his behavior.  You do not make him do things.  His actions are his own choice.


Two:  You deserve to be treated well even when you make mistakes, and even if you make them a lot.


Three:  Setting firm, clear limits for how your partner is allowed to treat you is not the same thing as controlling him, and should not be called control.


Four:  Choosing to not always put your partner’s needs ahead of your own does not constitute hurting him, wronging him, or being selfish.  You have the right to give substantial priority to your own needs and desires.


Five:  If you scream and yell once in a while, that does not mean that you are crazy or abusive.  It depends on whether you are yelling degrading things, whether your partner has reason to be intimidated by you, and whether you are yelling to control him (versus helping to resist his control).


These five concepts will cover most of the situations where your partner tries to turn the tables on you.  Digest each point and your partner will stop being able to convince you that you are the one with the problem.

“I am not responsible for my partner’s behavior.  I am responsible for my own.”

(entry from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [*Affiliate link] pp 293-4)

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.

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


  1. Begin Healing

    Number 4…… It got to such a point after 20 years that when my husband left and a counselor asked me what my needs were…..I had no response. None. I couldn’t even recognize what my needs were anymore. I am happy to say that after almost 2 years I am in better touch with myself. I can better recognize what my needs are and no longer feel as guilty (still a work in progress) expressing them.

    Healing from abuse is not like turning a light switch on or off…. It is a process with gradual improvements. It is challenging and but it is so worth it!

    • healingInHim

      One counselor in particular kept asking me, “____, what do you want for your future?” I just stared at her. She smiled and repeated the question. My response centered on glorifying the Lord with my life and except for all the turmoil felt great satisfaction in serving my family. Each session she kept asking. I finally had to admit that I was so used to making decisions with the spouse. Now, it’s very difficult to make decisions for myself.
      This is a slow process; more difficult than I ever imagined especially with pangs of guilt that perhaps I’m making too much of the abuse, however, reality hits and I soon realize that I wouldn’t be on the doorstep of divorce if it weren’t for lack of repentance and some form of remorse for the past.
      Thank you posting these concepts … now, I must live them.

      • freeatlast8

        I, too, have no “dream,” “goal,” or “vision” for my future. My counselor I used to see asked me stuff like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I honestly don’t have any idea. And others say I need to think about the future and not dwell on the past. I do get caught up on the past every morning when I awake. It rolls through my head like a rerun, or like the repetition of events Bill Murray suffered through in the movie Ground Hog Day.

        The Lord is taking me one day at a time into the future. I was so wrapped up in being the “best” wife / mother for soooooo many years that now that I am not a wife anymore, I find myself sort of lost in what I am supposed to do with myself. Most of my days over the past two decades were centered around making my (ex)husband happy. My days were planned with him in mind–his schedule, his desires, his duties, his days off. I worked around him–even though he would tell you that I consistently failed at putting him first and failed to honor him appropriately. He made most of the decisions for the family because if I gave input that differed from his ideas, goals, or desires he would become upset with me for being a ball and chain, being rebellious, or being unsubmissive. I love how one woman here said something to the effect that if she simply disagreed with her husband he saw it as a challenge to his authority. That is etched in my brain now because it states perfectly the way me ex would size up anything I said that was different from what he thought or wanted. He would get angry and make me feel like a bad guy for “opposing” him.

        So as far as decision making, planning for the future, etc, I will just have to wait on the Lord and see what HIS plans are for me. I feel ill-equipped to make a plan, and I really don’t have any goals or dreams except immediate things like work, pay the bills, and take care of my kids. The Lord sweetly reminds me that He knows the plans HE has for me. They are HIS plans, not mine. I am still a mom, so I know I can at least continue parenting, but even that is different now.

        But I don’t have a plan for my future. I have homeschooled and wanted to continue doing that, but I believe I will even lay that down soon. The things that were so important to me previously are now being dismantled. I would have had many more years of being wife and homeschool mom had the marriage not dissolved. That is what my future was geared around. Now I honestly can’t say what I will be doing five years from now, or even one year. Life is different.

        At church recently there was a message based on the story of two of Jesus’ followers lamenting his death in Luke 24:21 when they said, “But we had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” The message talked about the disappointment factor when the things we had hoped for don’t come to pass. I cried through the last part of it as I realized I have been stuck in this “but I had hoped” phase for years, and I am still grieving my losses and the fact that my story did not end the way I “had hoped.”

        Even so, I have become much closer with Jesus in spite of it all. I am grateful for that one redeeming thing. Knowing Him in a greater way far surpasses the losses of the past. For to love Christ and know Him is always gain.

        I have been considering the verse lately…

        Phil 3:7-8 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

      • freeatlast8

        HealinginHim, you touched on several things that resonate within me. You said:

        This is a slow process; more difficult than I ever imagined especially with pangs of guilt that perhaps I’m making too much of the abuse, however, reality hits and I soon realize that I wouldn’t be on the doorstep of divorce if it weren’t for lack of repentance and some form of remorse for the past.

        I, too, have those pangs of guilt. I do wonder almost daily if the abuse was really as bad as I make it. Being away from it for over a year does make it sort of distant now. I know there was deep hurt and pain living in it, and I wanted out so desperately for YEARS, so why do I even question whether I was or am making too much of it? I know it was bad, but on the other side of it now, I find myself questioning myself. And as you said, there was no remorse AT ALL on his part, never an “I’m sorry”, never a “how can we work this out together?”, never any reaching over to my side and acknowledging the wounds, for as he sees it, he did nothing wrong.

        Something I read lately made me wonder (as I often do) if it was just me being overly sensitive. The article spoke of a character weakness in which some people are not able to take / accept criticism or corrective advice. Then I read a commentary on 2 Cor 6:11-13 that spoke of how poorly the Corinthians initially received Paul’s rebuke for their bad behavior. It said it’s easy to react negatively to people God has placed in leadership over us rather than to accept their rebukes as a sign of their love for us. It says we need an open heart toward those bringing God’s message to us. Further on it states how it’s difficult to accept criticism, rebuke, or correction with grace. It’s easier for most people to react in self-defense and go on the counter attack. Or we can wallow in self-pity, anger, and resentment. But a mature Christian will accept the criticism and learn/grow from it. I must say I rarely received my ex’s correction with an open heart. I was usually wounded to the core and felt like a failure. Imagine how silly it would be for army soldiers in basic training to react this way when their sergeants yell in their faces and order them around. It is part of their training, toughening up, and learning to submit to authority. They have to suck it up, learn to accept it, or they are out.

        When I read the things mentioned above, I think I have been at fault for not receiving, processing, and learning from my husband’s rebukes about the myriad things he complained about. In his mind, he was telling me what his expectations were and I honestly didn’t always live up to his expectations. That is definitely my fault. His method of rebuke was never sugar coated. It was generally harsh, profanity laced, loud, and unkind, but it was often true…the house was often a mess (we have a LARGE family), the kids were not always managed well, we slept too late, etc. I can understand his frustration and upset over these things more clearly now. I hear Debi Pearl in the back of my mind saying it’s my fault for not doing my wifely duties well. I had a mean, angry husband because I was failing at being the woman both he and God wanted me to be.

        So how do I come to terms with whether it was “abuse” or whether it was just a frustrated man who wanted strict order and a certain standard of living in his home as he watched his wife not live up to his expectations. I get frustrated myself when my kids don’t meet my expectations, so I can understand how my ex felt.

        Can anyone else relate to this?

        Thanks for reading.

    • colormered3

      I can relate

      • healingInHim

        freeatlast8 – My spouse’s frustration level grew only because he felt I should forgive and forget even though the sin continued; he just changed the dynamics of the sin – it still originated from the same controlling heart and his will to keep me silent and yet meet his desires.
        I also home schooled and was considered to be balanced and organized. Even though I thought my house was not tidy others commented on how clean it was considering the children were home all day. Years ago, even my H commended me on keeping life in order. That compliment has long been burned.
        The cold-hearted disinterest and accusation that I was abusive and that I should just get over it after so many years of trying and trying and trying has worn me down. I was considered abusive during moments of confrontation; it became emotional as I realized I had been taken advantage of for so many years.
        freeatlast8 …. your previous comment quoted Phil 3:7-8. AMEN and I must agree that my love for the Lord has grown so much more to the point of anticipating and wanting to be with Him. The Lord is the true Lover of my soul; my Protector; my Comforter.
        I am grateful for the encouragement from ACFJ and a few other select ministries who ‘get it’.

      • Hope

        freeatlast8, you asked: “So how do I come to terms with whether it was “abuse” or whether it was just a frustrated man who wanted strict order and a certain standard of living in his home as he watched his wife not live up to his expectations.”

        I’m not sure I have any answers, but I have asked this same question – what if it’s me? I asked for 29 years, what am I doing wrong? Why is this marriage sooo difficult and why am I so unhappy, so alone, so neglected and why do I feel so abandoned?

        Well, after 28.5 years, my health has broken down. That isn’t me, that’s the result of abuse. The body does whatever it needs to in order to get our attention, and in my case it is telling me to deal with the problem and get on with my life. I had to have a therapist tell me this, by the way, because I couldn’t even figure it out for myself.

        Your kids are his kids too, if he doesn’t want the mess he needs to pitch in and help. Does he? Or is he expecting you to do it all like my non-husband does? That’s abuse, demanding that you BE everything and DO everything. Mine does that and I broke my health trying desperately to comply. Don’t be like me, and don’t take the misplaced blame for your husband’s abuse. Don’t allow it to break your health, it’s not so easy to recover.

  2. Anthea

    Okay, maybe somebody can explain this, that my husband has told me more than once: If you take a tiger, and lock him in a cage, and don’t feed him, and then you take a sharp stick and poke him repeatedly, then don’t be surprised when you let him out that he’s MEAN! At least it does show that he thinks some of his actions are mean, but I can never explain away the rest.

    • Hi Anthea, I changed your screen name for your safety. Welcome to the blog. 🙂 If you don’t like the screen name I gave you, email TWBTC twbtc.acfj@gmail.com and ask her to change it. And I strongly encourage you to read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on this blog.

    • beckylovesthelight

      Hi Anthea, interesting that your husband relates to the idea of being a predator. An real tiger would be mated with another tiger. And his prey would not be her or the cubs. Nor is his mate the enemy locking him in a cage.

    • debby

      He is using the “I’m the victim here and its your fault” abuser’s tool. Typical abuser tactic. Not worthy of you even “trying to explain away the rest” so don’t bother. The analogy I use that, ironically has a tiger in it as well, is I am locked in a cage with a tiger. I spend all my time feeding, petting and making the tiger happy so he will not scratch and bite. I keep myself in between the tiger and my children as much as possible. Idesperately reach out through the bars to passers-by (I call them PCAAs, Persons Clueless About Abuse, which include a lot of church folk) and they slap my fingers reaching through the bars and say “Get back in there and keep that tiger happy! No you cant get out of the cage. You made a promise.” Well, I’m pretty sure the “tiger” made promise, too; to love, honor and cherish me. Nobody seemed concerned that he was not doing what he promised, only that I was “having some trouble” keeping mine in the face of his abuse. Ridiculous. I got out of the cage and shut the door. I still care ABOUT him, but not FOR him, and always from a distance.

      • standsfortruth

        So true Debbie, regarding the tiger in the cage analogy.
        My heart too had been scarred repeatedly by the “tiger in my cage”, back in the days of confusion as to why it was happening, and why I could not seem to establish stability in our family.
        In hindsight now to the decades of phychological / verbal / emotional abuse that my children and I had to endure from all the misguided council, I would have preferred the proof of physical abuse, to help me escape early on.

  3. Remedy

    Beautiful & insightful post for all who have experienced these twisted reversals. Under #3, I would add setting firm & clear limits for how someone is to treat you is not to be called controlling…….or manipulative. This is the charge against me! Manipulating him to get him to stop his many manifestations of cruelty toward me. So sick & distorted.

  4. KayE

    [Note from Barb: I have added things in italics, to make it clear that what KayeE is relating is the claims her ex made.]

    According to him —
    I am so abusive and controlling that my ex was forced to leave.

    According to him —
    I don’t have a sense of reality.

    According to him —
    By telling him that he was hurting me and the children, I was abusing him.

    According to him —
    It wasn’t that he refused to communicate with me, I refused to negotiate.

    According to him —
    I forced him to file court proceedings against me.

    According to him —
    I made him divorce me.

    According to him —
    I was so bad he had to have me sign a legal agreement to stop controlling him and leave him to enjoy his “new life”.

    According to him —
    It wasn’t that he prevented me from working, he had been unselfishly supporting the family on his own and therefore should be entitled to financial recompense as part of the property settlement.

    Apparently that’s all true.

  5. debby

    freeatlast8, I don’t even know where to start. You ask if “anyone can relate?” It’s more like, “Hey, Debby! I’m writing your story!” I can also relate to the “doubts” about “whether the abuse was as bad as I made it.” I noticed you followed that immediately with “I am at fault for not receiving his rebukes” etc. IMO there is no connection there. The WAY he “rebuked” you, was it Christ-like? Did he “sandwich it” with good comments? Was he usually supportive and appreciative or constantly pointing out what he perceived as faults? How often did YOU watch what he was doing and “rebuke” him or his way of doing it (I’m guessing NEVER, just like me because I felt subservient to him and fearful of his reaction, but I don’t think I would have “rebuked” him for the way he cut the grass because I assumed he was doing the best he could. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. That’s what mature spouses and Christians do, yes? Did he do that for you? So, his “rebuking” was ugly and continuous. That is CLEARLY abuse. He is 100% responsible for talking to you in a degrading, spirit-crushing way. You were not MAKING him do it because you “had a messy house.”

    Now for “how you responded.” If you were watching another woman being talked to like that over and over for years and you saw her react in a hurt way (maybe being ugly back) would your first thought be “My, she is really not responding well.” or would your first thought be, “He is so abusive to her. I don’t blame her for feeling so angry.” Only you can answer that but by your description, you seem to be connecting his “rebuke” with your “lack of appropriate response.” That is a lie. Don’t believe it for a second. What you are saying is “If I had responded better, he would not have been abusive.” Well, maybe his ACTIONS would have been better but what is his MOTIVE? If he wants his way (control) and he can get it without being abusive, then he gets his way so what would he have to be abusvie about? But in his heart of hearts there is still an abuser there! He is simply taking the road of least effort to get what he wants. If he resorts to abuse because “you are not cooperating with his desires” then it is still about control, which is abuse and has no place in a healthy marriage. Making the other person happy is not the ultimate goal in a marriage. It only keeps the peace until the NEXT “crisis” of what he wants comes up (for some, this can be 10 minutes later, or an hour or a day or a week or a month, but it WILL come up.) The goal should be to communicate in a loving way your needs, wants, desires and have the other person CARE about your needs wants and desires as much as you care about his. If you are the only one caring and giving and he is the one doing all the receiving, then he is saying you don’t matter. That is the mark of a toxic person! You are feeling “better” because you are not ingesting the poison any longer. Now you are looking at the bottle of poison (which is getting out of your system) and you are saying, “Was it really that bad?” Yes. It was. That’s why you got away from it. A person ingesting poison isn’t going to respond well! In the topsy-turvy world of abuse, though, the idea is that a wife should ingest the poison but never be sick and if we are sick, then somehow we are not “Christ-like.” Rubbish.

    Look at the Army analogy. (I was in the Army for 4 years so it made me smile looking back on it). Would you equate that with a healthy marriage? My drill was “toughening me up” so I could SURVIVE IN A WAR ZONE! HIs methods were necessary to instill in me IMMEDIATE AND UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE because my life and others’ would be at stake. I knew he had my best interests at heart (surviving battle) and so even though I grumbled, I didn’t harbor resentment and actually LIKED the guy because I knew what his goal was: my safety. If your husband acts like that, his goal is: YOUR IMMEDIATE AND UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE so his needs are fulfilled. It has nothing to do with caring about YOU.

    I was also a pleaser for 50 years because of abuse I suffered growing up. I lived with the idea that if people are unhappy with you, bad things will happen, so I spent my life trying to keep everyone (including my h) happy. As I have healed and grown in my knowledge of who GOD says I am, I have put the “pleaser” behind me. I am learning to be kind and loving to others not to protect myself but to honor God. But along with that, I have learned to discern others’ motives and choose to distance myself from those who continuously harm me (my h). It has helped me to take others’ criticisms and discern what part of it can HELP me and what part is THEIR spirit of perfectionism and control.

    I kept a journal over the years so whenever I have those “Gee, was it really as bad as I thought it was?” thoughts, I read through the pain and agony and hopelessness of not being heard, not being cared about, not having a voice or any freedom of thought or action. Then I read my favorite scriptures about what love really looks like and and how God sees me, and it makes all those doubts flee.

    I’m sorry, I am writing a book here but your pain and doubts and self-blaming made me cry. I will never forget the day I finally googled “domestic abuse” (after 27 years!) and began my journey out of the fog. To read that so many others were dealing with the same issues was like a light went on in a pitch black cave. It has taken me 2 years of reading, reading, reading to get a firm grasp on what was happening to me, how to get myself healthy, and how to deal with the abuser in an empowered way.

    I have gotten a LOT out of your posts these past few months and wanted to say thank you! I have learned a lot from you and from ACFJ and thank God every day for this site!

    (and Jeff or Barbara, feel free to edit anything that isn’t worded in a helpful way. I don’t want to cause ANYONE any more pain!)

    • Dear Debby
      thank you so much for your reply to freeatlast. I am so buried under the deadline of trying to write a eulogy for my father’s memorial service, I haven’t been able to comment much on the blog, and when freeatlast put out her question, I just didn’t have the time to answer it, so I put out a prayer that someone else would. And your comment is the answer to my prayer! Bless you.

      • debby

        I’m sorry for your loss, Barbara. That needs to be your priority right now and we are a community so we will help each other as best we can. Everything I have learned has been articulated so well by you and Jeff and Cindy Burrell. Being able to put into words what has happened has been invaluable. I am glad I was able to be of help in any way. You are such a blessing to all of us!

      • healingInHim

        Praying for you Barbara at your loss of a loved one. You have such a servant’s heart as even amidst your grieving you still have taken time to respond to comments. Take care. ((hugs))

    • HisBannerOverMeIsLove

      Debby, you wrote “The goal should be to communicate in a loving way your needs, wants, desires and have the other person CARE about your needs wants and desires as much as you care about his. If you are the only one caring and giving and he is the one doing all the receiving, then he is saying you don’t matter.”

      I realized my h didn’t care about my wants, desires etc. It’s been over a year now that I’ve understood this. It’s changed the way I operate. I’m not focused on what makes him happy, keeping his world awesome and letting mine pass by. The meals I prepare are not centered around him. I wonder though…I think I’ve swung the other way. I have almost no concern for his feelings about certain things. I don’t worry about his day at work having been a hard one. Oh you left your lunch and couldn’t get away to get one. I don’t feel that bad. I’ve had more days like that than I can count. There wasn’t a shred of concern or care for me. I’m not talking revenge here. I really don’t worry about it. I no longer make his lunches or breakfast. He can do it and I won’t be treated badly first thing in the morning. If there isn’t anything to make a lunch….well, that was the case when you went to bed. Not a surprise. Now I do shop and keep things in the house. He doesn’t want to make [food x] or use the [food y] now. Oh well, there was food he just doesn’t want it that day. Not my problem any more.

      He was very rude in the way he said he wanted to do some ironing himself. So, I don’t iron the clothes. He can. I will if he asks but he doesn’t ask and I really don’t bother to kill myself to do it any more. Other helpful tasks I can do for him, I offer, telling him when I can and he always…10 out of 10 times says not now. But when I’m elbow deep in work he asks for me to do that task. In the past I’d dropped it all and did it. Not anymore. He should have taken me up when I offered; it’s not like he had other things to do at that time… he was just sitting in the couch on the computer.

      I seem hardened but I had to put up some boundaries and protect my health that was failing and mentally I was about gone.

      I’m extremely sad about all of this. It doesn’t feel Christian to not care about him like I did. I care but I don’t. I feel guilty knowing I’m not concerned about his desires anymore. They seemed in the past a way to keep me in anxious toil toward a goal that meant nothing and yet everything to him. I’m done with all that. Even now he is “doing” around the house like I always knew he could. But his heart isn’t warm and thoughtful. It’s reporting back to a pastor that will and is expecting him to step up. Maybe he will have a heart change and love serving but for now he is doing it to keep us off his back.

      I guess I got a bit triggered by the not being loved and cared for thought. Ugh. It’s a process. 😦

      [some details edited to protect commenter’s identity]

      • freeatlast8

        I got this way, too, HisBanner. When I would at times try to find something that would make my ex happy, he’d say things like, “I don’t want anything.” “Don’t buy me any gifts, I don’t need anything.” It got to the point I didn’t go out of my way for him because it didn’t seem to matter to him. Once I did a several day clean up / organization of the garage when he was out of town. I was so excited to see his reaction when he got home and it’s as if he didn’t even notice it. I got no feedback at all, not that I asked for it. I really thought he’d see it and say SOMETHING!

        He didn’t like praise or recognition, so I had a hard time complementing him. If he had on a new shirt and I’d say it looked good, he’d say something like, “Do you always have to draw attention to everything?” Yet then he would scold me for not ever complementing him about his looks.

        If he played a lovely piece on the piano, and I said I liked it, he didn’t accept the complement. If I sang along, he’d wanted me to stop. If I started whistling the tune later, it irritated him. He didn’t want me participating in / commenting on / complementing on what he was doing.

        If I offered him a beer while he worked on the car, he’d tell me to set it down near him, but not to talk to him.

        It came down to the only things I could do for him specifically were to pour him his wine and coffee and keep his laundry done. Then he’d be angry with me for not showing him honor. I honestly did not know what or how to do that since the other honoring things I wanted to do for him he rejected. I read the five love languages book and took all that to heart, but it just seemed we were usually not on the same page and were always speaking the wrong language with each other.

      • freeatlast8

        HisBanner, your comment below is so rich in truth. I totally get it.

        I feel guilty knowing I’m not concerned about his desires anymore. They seemed in the past a way to keep me in anxious toil toward a goal that meant nothing and yet everything to him.

      • hopeful

        I struggle daily about how I should treat my husband. Should I treat him like a Christian wife and the way that would honor God, or set firm boundaries and treat him the way he treats me, which is just enough to get by for the kids sake. I am so confused on how to continue to live with a man like this and maintain.my dignity. I am not in a place to leave my home. My husband told.me this past week that he was going to file for a divorce in June 2016 or maybe now. What am I..someone who can be easily discarded because I am not perfect?

      • Hopeful, it sounds like you have been taught a formulaic version of how a ‘Christian wife’ should treat her husband. The problem with that formula is that it typically ignores the situation where the husband is abusing the wife.
        The formula says ‘Pray, submit, suffer, be silent, show him the love of Christ by being a doormat to however he chooses to treat you, and whatever you do, don’t express your grievances or resist him in an way.’ That formula is NOT actually biblical. It has been arrived at by cherry picking some scriptures and ignoring or downplaying others.

        I encourage you to keep reading here and listening to Jeff’s sermons on domestic abuse. As you do, I think you will find a new understanding opening up and that will help you work out how you wish to treat your husband and respond to him.

        A lot of what the evangelical church has taught about marriage and roles within marriage needs to be scrutinised and much of it needs to have caveats added. The sterotypical formula does not apply in cases of domestic abuse. To apply it in a case of domestic abuse actually makes the situation worse.

    • freeatlast8

      Debby, I am finally getting around to processing all you wrote. It is taking me a long time to get all this new info stuffed in my brain. I have so much junk to get rid of to make room for the new way of thinking. I need to reread your words about being a pleaser. I had a dad who drank every night and I never knew “who” he would be each evening. Sometimes he was funny / silly, sometimes critical, sometimes angry, sometimes quiet / non-communicative, sometimes lecturing, always racially prejudiced. I avoided bringing people over because I was ashamed / embarrassed of how he might be.

      I sort of learned how to deal with him and seemed to have a way to get around him when he was upset. So I know about the “pleasing” thing. He is now deceased, but if he were still living I believe I would talk to him about this now.

      I was bullied by my brother when I was little. He and I did not ever get along (although we do get along now as adults).

      I was bullied in junior high by a girl and her friends who didn’t like me. I did not communicate with them or egg them on. They just didn’t like me and let me know it with jabbing remarks, threats, etc. I was afraid of them. My ex does this to me, too. I don’t communicate with him unless I have to so as not to provoke him or give him any reason to come at me. If I have to email him I measure my words and make sure they are respectful and very neutral. His responses to me are always hateful, cutting, dripping with sarcasm and disdain, and acidic.

      After high school, I dated a guy for about four years who was a tyrant. He would love me and hate me all in the same day. All I remember is I cried a lot and was very confused about whether I should stay with him. I didn’t tell my family how he was because he was such a great guy when he was in their presence. He made me confess all my past intimacies and he would throw them in my face when he was angry with vulgar name calling and accusations…he was very jealous. He would pull my hair and yell at me in a rage. Then he’d call me after he dropped me off at home and tell me he was sorry. So he was the classic abuser, only I didn’t know it then. I finally got away from him.

      About two years later I met my now (ex) husband. He was not like the other boyfriend. He seemed very different. I didn’t see the flags until later on.

      So I have had some sort of abusive dysfunction in my midst most of my life. So this crap is going to take a while to clear out of my psyche. Feeling guilt, shame, fault, fear for so long…it’s comes naturally for me. Feeling like I am to blame, that I caused the problem, it must be ME. I am the common thread in all of the aforementioned things, so I must be the problem??????????? But I have never been the aggressor. I am pretty passive mostly, until you push me past the point of more than I can bear.

      Now then, I don’t have these kinds of problems with most other people. I have many, many friends and am on good terms with my biological family (even my brother!), my kids, my (ex) in-laws and family, etc. So how do I process this? It seems most people are okay with me. Can I judge that because there are more people who like me than dislike me that I am okay? Does it even matter if anyone likes me, as long as I know God loves me? Can I possibly have a huge blind spot that I don’t see that my 4-year boyfriend saw as well as my long-term husband? I know I have grown in my walk with God over the past 25 years, so I know that I am not who I was all those years ago. Certainly I am a better person now than then? Yet, maybe there is something in me that brings out the beast in the men in my life (not that there have been that many).

      Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many questions. I need Jesus to speak truth to me.

    • freeatlast8

      Debby said:

      …the idea is that a wife should ingest the poison but never be sick and if we are sick, then somehow we are not “Christ-like.” Rubbish.

      Yes, so true. When I would get upset with him over something and voice it (always carefully so as not to set him off), he would tell me I was disrespecting and dishonoring him. He could yell at me and cuss all he wanted. I was not allowed to even raise my eyebrows at him. I felt so trapped inside the emotions inside of me wanting to get out…I honestly felt like exploding but had to keep the lid on. Not easy to do. Inside I would tell myself to be like Jesus, and know that was the right thing to respond/react, but I also felt there would never be justice served, which made me even more upset. I always felt the imbalance of power and saw he was holding me to a standard he did not keep for himself.

    • freeatlast8

      Debby said:

      I lived with the idea that if people are unhappy with you, bad things will happen, so I spent my life trying to keep everyone (including my h) happy.

      I still live in this realm. I am reading a book about approval addiction that is helping some. But I need freedom from worrying about what others think of me and whether they are happy with me or not. I have had some severe cases (as mentioned in a previous post above) of people not liking / being happy with me. It gets me off course to know someone is upset with me, even if I didn’t do anything to make them upset.

      My neighbor has been upset with me since I moved in a year ago because she thinks my family is responsible for her dog getting out and not returning. We were not involved, but she is sure we were. She is HATEFUL toward us in the most dramatic ways, even though I have tried to talk to her and understand her feelings. She is a wall and has her mind made up. It bothers me still because she calls my kids names, shoots the bird at my house as she drives by, makes snide remarks to visitors at my house, etc. I did nothing to provoke her and she behaves this way toward us.

      If I can shake off this “need” to be liked and on good terms with others, I believe I can have more peace. Any suggestions? I am sure many at ACFJ suffer from this as fallout from living in the place of trying to keep the peace at all costs. I know even Jesus and the apostles had to deal with this in their time, so it’s nothing new.

      • freeatlast8

        One more thing relative to all I have posted today (several comments), I just received in my email something from Leslie Vernick (I believe she is an accepted ally on ACFJ). She included an article titled, “Are You an Abuse Magnet?” Wow, after reading through it, I identified with of 9 the 13 indicators that I might be. Wow. God is answering my questions quickly today. Praise you, Jesus. Now what to do about it. Leslie is offering a free webinar this Thursday night relating to this topic. I have signed up. Excited for more truth.

      • debby

        freeatlast: If you have made attempts to communicate with your neighbor to assert your innocence, and this neighbor is doing these outlandish behaviors that are being directed at your children no less, It may be time for this bully to get some push back. It sounds like this is a power play on her end. Her behaviors are NOT normal or acceptable and it is not necessary for you to get her to “agree with you” that you are innocent (or to get her to “like you” or think you are a good neighbor. It sounds to me like SHE is not a good neighbor! She doesn’t seem too concerned about THAT). The only thing that matters at this point is that she STOP these abusive behaviors.

        I would like to offer you are some options you might like to consider, such as talking with your home owners association (a bad neighbor rep will be bad for property values) talking with the police to see about filing a report of harassment, etc. These steps can be communicated to your neighbor via face to face at her door or via mail and maybe just the threat of it will be enough to let her know you will no longer tolerate her behaviors. It is her BEHAVIORS that are the problem, NOT her belief that you are guilty, which is the angle you are trying to resolve. She will not change her mind. She is a bully. I dont know all the particulars so this is your call but you do NOT have to tolerate such behavior from anyone.

        [Eds: comment emended slightly]

    • hopeful

      I am months late reading this post. I can relate to every thing that has been shared. I have berated and beat myself up repeatedly for not being a good enough wife and mother. According to my husband I have done several wrongs as a mother and spouse, so therefore, divorce is the consequence for my behavior. He blames me…I beg. He belittles me..I agree. He rejects me…I rage. He dismisses me…I boil inside. He plays head games with me….I question my entire existence. He throws cookie crumbs of affection towards me for his sexual gratification…I think loves me again. I spend most of my days in a state of fear and confusion, tip toeing around someone who causes me to think I am a mistake and mess up. When I stand up for myself, he calls me abusive. When I make any attempt to confront him on his action, he blows up at me. This has to end.

      • debby

        Lundy Bancrofts book, Why Does He Do That has been a huge eye-opener for me (it is high on the list of must-reads here at ACFJ) Learning, learning, learning is what helped me see where on the “abuse continuum” (my term) where I fit and where my abuser fit so I can take the necessary actions. I, like you, took a lot of the blame on my own shoulders which did not belong there. Lundy’s book helped me understand that my “less than perfect responses” to my spouse’s abuse were NATURAL and HEALTHY and completely understandable responses and were NOT abuse but were self-defense. But I also understood that my only option was to remove myself from the source of abuse if there was ever going to be [eds: words missing? safety for me?]

        To be able to drink the poison of abuse and never be affected is NOT normal. We ARE affected, we have just been taught that somehow we are NOT supposed to “feel badly” about abuse, that “everyone makes mistakes” that “nobody is perfect” yadayadayada. The truth is “feeling badly” about being treated like we have no value was put there by God to protect us, so we know “hey this isn’t right and I need to do something about it” and that abuse is NOT ” making a mistake” and I may not be perfect but I sure don’t abuse other people! I encourage you to stay on this site, on hurtbylove.com and get as educated as possible. You ARE valuable. You do NOT have to live like that at this person’s selfish whims. Not God’s plan at all.

      • hopeful

        Thank you Debby. I plan on getting the book and I will look at the website you suggested. I follow so many blogs that the messages I recieve get me very confused. That’s part of my stumbling block. I need clarity and focus….yet when I set boundaries and detach from. Y husband [Sometimes? Editors.] I feel like a mean, non Christian wife. How does one detach with love when you feel worthless and made to be a bad wife and mother.

        The crazy part for me is is I continue to pray for reconciliation in my marriage….yet his reality is that he wants no emotional connection with me and plans to file divorce, yet still desires me sexually. My head spins.

      • He is a very typical abuser.

  6. Renewed Spirit

    #5 – what if in case state of exasperation you did say foolish things. I have. And then it was demanded of me I say sorry. I couldn’t choke an apology out if I tried. It’s not right a I hated who I was becoming. Did I become an abuser?

    • Hi Renewed Spirit, I suggest you read this post. It goes into detail about that issue.

      My abuser says I am the abuser!

      And also, please read our new users info page and take note of the tips for how to fill our the comment form and give a screen name that will not endanger you.

      If you don’t like the screen name Erehwon, email twbtc twbtc.acfj@gmail.com or myself and tell us what screen name you prefer. But don’t use a name that is related to your blog’s name or your real name.

    • Hopeful

      I have said foolish things. I have made digs. I have followed my husband around the house demanding that he hear me. The rage inside me spills out after holding it in for over 20 years in this marriage, and probably all the rage I have felt for over 40 years.

      My husband uses the handful of episodes where I lost it against me. How easy he forgets how he has treated me throughout our marriage.. I think he wants an excuse…me…to justify his behavior.

      It is very frustrating to zip my lips to avoid a blow up. I feel like I am not being true to myself. I have to learn how to be effective in my approach to stand up for myself and not fall prey to him making me feel guilty and full of shame.

      My book from Lundy Bancraft came this week. I also joined Leslie Vernicks CONQUER group.

      I am not ready for my marriage to end. I believe God Can restore. Yet there are days I look at my husband and feel repulsion.

      First I must restore me.

      • Hopeful, you say “First I must restore me.”
        That sounds to me like you might be putting too much expectation or responsibility on yourself.
        Now, hear me carefully. If we are aware of things in ourselves that we want to change for the better so we become more mature Christians, it’s fine to have that awareness and to work on our sanctification.
        BUT. . . the dynamics of domestic abuse are such that the perpetrator relentelessly blames the victim and abrogates his own responsibility. And whatever the victim says or does to try to mitigate things or strenthen her boundaries, the abuser still continues to abuse, and usually escalates and tightens the noose around the victim over time, making her choices more and more bound and restricted.

        I would like to suggest to you that — sure, work on yourself if you wish, but be careful not to make ‘restoring yourself’ the first goal you “must” achieve before you allow yourself to think about other options for your wellbeing and safety. Because the likelihood is that as you try to restore yourself, the abuser tries harder to undermine and strip away your self-hood and dignity and limit your choices.

        When victims of abuse eventually leave their abusers, they almost always say “I stayed too long. I wasted too much time trying to work on myself, trying to respond in a ‘better’ way to the situation. But the abuser chose to keep on abusing regardless of what I did, so it was all a waste of time in the end! I wish I hadn’t wasted those years.”

        It’s like trying to stop erosion at a beach. You can keep trucking in sand and boulders and building groynes and all the other strategies that have been tried, but the current keeps dragging the sand away and the edge of solid land keeps getting eroded. The strategies don’t work because the current is too consistent, too relentless.

        Just something you might want to consider. 🙂

      • Further to what I just wrote:
        It’s like this. While the victim may carefully carve out and nurture ways to maintain her dignity, trying to set boundaries or safety zones so the absuer does not eat away her personhood alltogether, the abuser goes on a ‘search and destroy’ mission. He makes it his mission to search out, pick on, isolate, upturn and destroy each one of her little safety zones.

      • freeatlast8

        Oh my. This is all so good and true, Barbara. What a great analogy. Beautifully done.

        Recently, I wrote my ex and said that much has changed in my life and how I wish he could experience the new freedoms I have experienced in Christ that I didn’t know I had before. I am sure he isn’t aware of these freedoms either, or he would not be the way he is. I even sent him links to some of the resources I have been blessed by to peruse if he felt inclined to learn. He responded that it was all blasphemous and continues to ask God to reward me for my evil. He says my family’s blood is on my hands.

        I know my leaving him turned his world upside down. He did not want to divorce, it was my initiative after some crazier than usual behavior developed. I wrote him back then telling him I did not want to divorce, but I did not want live that way anymore either. It was killing me.

        His attempts to get me to stop the divorce never showed me any evidence of change. I understand he is still mad and hurt that his family is now divided. I understand why he blames me because I am the one who got off the crazy-go-round. He was content with things staying the same. I was not.

        I can’t imagine he was truly happy in our marriage. In fact, he was mad at me most of the time. But he would not talk to anyone or seek help and was royally peeved at me if / when I reached out to anyone. He even disallowed me from talking to anyone about him or his business. Even family who came over. It was hard talking to him mom, because I had to measure every word I said. He just wanted all of us to listen to him only and do what he said (Eph 5:24)…that would solve everything.

        So even as I have worked on myself with Jesus in the epilogue of it all, and it hasn’t always been comfortable, my ex still criticizes me and scorns what God is doing in my life. I didn’t really expect any different response to my letter, but I still felt inclined to send it to sort of test the waters…just in case something has changed in him. But as Barbara said, “…the dynamics of domestic abuse are such that the perpetrator relentlessly blames the victim and abrogates his own responsibility. And whatever the victim says or does to try to mitigate things or strengthen her boundaries, the abuser still continues to abuse,”

        I try to put others’ shoes on my feet, so I understand it will / would be hard for him to feel anything kind or merciful toward me because, as he sees it, I (alone) destroyed our home. I don’t think he gets it at all that he was responsible in any way. That’s the part I DON’T understand.

      • hopeful


        My husband says the same thing..I am the one who broke up our home. I alone have caused our circumstances. That is so untrue. I can’t change what he calls truth. That is his not mine.

      • hopeful


        I want to come back to life again. I want clarity, direction, and be free from rage and anxiety. I am full of rage that my husband walks around without a wedding ring and holds divorce over my head. I feel tortured by him. This feeling of being tortured is where I need restoration. My confusion lies in maybe he really is done with the marriage and is just holding out until June of next year. He did say in therapy that he just wants us to be civil together so we can raise the boys. Yet…throws out moments of physical affection stating “because I am human and need touch.” WHAT ABOUT ME?I am human and want my husband to acknowledge me, appreciate me, show me some kind of value. He dismissed me when I asked him for daily signs of affection and respect. Why can’t I come to terms that he wants nothing to do with me. I am in denial. If he wants out of the marriage, just leave.

        My husband will never admit that I am changing. He has to see me through the eyes of hatred and disdain to justify his actions. The blaming from him eats me up. I think I am nuts. This is were I need a heavy dose of restoration.

      • Dear Hopeful, thank you for explaining that. You said you want clarity. . . that sounds like another way of saying you realise that you’ve been living in fog. We talk a lot on this blog about the fog of abuse and how coming out of the fog usually takes time, but it does happen gradually bit by bit as we learn more and more about abuse and get support from others who have been through it.

        I think you will continue to come out of the fog, will gradually get more clarity and direction. However, I don’t want to be a downer but you might find that if the fog lifts and is dispelled by truth and clarity, you may still be feeling rage and anxiety. (Sorry for the bad news!) The reason that rage, anxiety, anger and fear can still remain for quite some time after the fog lifts, is that they are related to safety. If we are unsafe, emotions of anger and fear are healthy warning signs that we may need to take decisions and action to try to become more safe. So, if those emotions don’t fade away as you hope they might, just don’t be too alarmed or blame yourself. 🙂 🙂 🙂 See emotions as your friends, part of your warning-sign system.

        Another thing is, once we get to a safe place, emotions can actually become more intense for a while. This is part of recovery. It’s the way we process the trauma we suffered in the past. But God helps us through that journey too. 🙂

        You say you feel tortured by your husband. I think that’s probably a realistic way of putting it. He has in effect been torturing you in probably multitudes of ways, including his threats to divorce at a certain date … And then flipping over and saying he thinks you should just be civil together to raise the kids. That kind of bait and switch tactic is a tactic designed to give mental torture to the victim.

        And take heart. You only found this blog recently. In the short time you’ve been here, I’ve seen lots of changes in you. I think you are more out of the fog than you were originally. Not that the fog has completely gone yet, but I get the impression that it’s less dense than it was for you when you first came here 🙂


      • hopeful


        Thank you so much for your input. I am sitting in my kitchen eating a salad while my husband sits in the living room watching tv, which I think has become his distraction. He has been away for the weekend at a family wedding. He hugged me goodbye Friday when he left. Since he has been home, nothing but a weak “hi”. I am crushed.. tears filling my eyes as I write this. I feel so rejected. I am keeping my distance from him. Hurts too much. And yep…I am raging inside.

        Thank you for your hugs and interaction. I don’t feel as alone or as crazy.

      • healinginhim

        Hopeful – one of your comments said, “Why can’t I come to terms that he wants nothing to do with me. I am in denial. If he wants out of the marriage, just leave.”
        It has taken me such a long time to “come to terms”. It was not until connecting with the ACFJ blog that I realized ‘the truth’ of what I was living.
        The father of my children has now countered that perhaps my friends and counselors should be telling me that if living with him is so bad that perhaps I should leave.
        That type of talk dug deep after almost 40 yrs of knowing ‘him’ and covering for his secret sins. I am wanting to move on, however, it takes careful planning as I devoted my life to ‘retiring with him.’
        Keep gleaning Christ-honoring encouragement from ACFJ and others who have been released from bondage.

      • hopeful

        Thank you healinginhim.

        While I continue to pray for restoration in my marriage, I am also contemplating what life would possibly look like on my own. I am pretty much alone now, except for the occasional interactions with my husband and we still sleep in he same bed. I too have lived thinking that we would retire in an RV traveling all over the U.S., needing very little but each other and God. HA!!!

        I have to focus on God and his word, not my husband. This is where I struggle. I have made My husband and what he does or doesn’t do my idol of worship for the last 25 years. I am willing to learn another way….and leave the outcome to God.

        The support from ACFJ team and from others, has been instrumental in my eyes opening up.

        Blessings to you

  7. healinginhim

    Barbara, Your last encouragement to Hopeful brought comfort to me as well. I have been frustrated with myself for still feeling anxious and “not safe” as I maneuver out of the fog and move. I also appreciate the warning about how our emotions will still be “intense” after we are into a place of safety. AND yes, thank God that He is helping us on this journey by equipping people who care to help us along … I am referring to the ACFJ team and others who are brave enough to ‘stand up for righteousness’.

  8. kind of anonymous

    I know FOTF is not at this time considered an effective ally for abuse victims. However I came across this article on their site, which I immediately thought of regarding the story about the nasty neighbor blaming freeatlast8 over the escape of her dog. It’s about false guilt and dealing with card carrying bullies, Here is the link, I think its pretty good, but perhaps the eds may check it out to make sure? Healthy Guilt vs. False and Harmful Guilt [Internet Archive link]
    [Note from Barb: I have looked at the article and think it’s okay, but I haven’t looked at the other articles in that series.]

    I was thinking about the bit about whether or not the husband was frustrated with what was described as poor wife-ing and the question as to was that was the cause of his verbally abusive behaviour. Hmm. I could see a man getting fed up, angry or frustrated with such a scenario where he is not abusive and he is doing his part but she is for whatever reason not doing hers and is lollygagging about on the shopping channel, never any dinner, sink full of dirty dishes, kids unkempt and unsupervised etc. But even then a normal guy is going to handle it in a reasonable adult manner, not an abusive drill sergeant manner. It’s a situation that needs to be addressed for sure and dealt with. Its not an excuse for abuse.

    There’s a difference between “grunt in this man’s army” and “my life partner and friend whom I have pledged to love, honor and cherish”. I can relate to this because I was, frankly a crappy wife in some respects. In other respects, I made admirable efforts at submitting and honoring him tho I didn’t trust him, and at reaching out to people who were hurting me. The situation I was in, coupled with unhealed abuse issues from my growing up years, left me trapped behind a wall I couldn’t even see. I didn’t have any real motivation to be June Cleaver, esp when my ex felt entitled to honor and respect even when he was treating me disrespectfully, much like his abusive father did; he and his family were from a very chauvinistic culture in which women did as they were told and the man was the undisputed head of the home just because he was a man.

    Even if you leave out frilly romantic ideas about what love and cherish mean, honor in itself covers a lot of ground. Honor means speaking even hard truth in love. One can be firm and direct without being cruel and demeaning or abusive. There’s nothing holy about punishing by ripped away someone’s basic human dignity. That is NOT a fruit of the Spirit. It means, as scripture says, saying what is good for edification and building up. For instance, it is not good for me to be undisciplined about what I eat. Perhaps I have an idolatry problem which is masking the root issues. Perhaps I just don’t bother to take responsibility for my temple. Building someone up does involve addressing root and fruit, but the motive has to be to restore someone to full freedom and functionality and / or keep them safe from hurting themselves or someone else further it that applies. Someone tearing down his wife under the guise of helping you be the best is just using right language to justify mean spirited behaviour. A good man can be angry and not sin in his anger. There is never a need for a man to launch a demeaning character assassination attack on his wife. Given that he is a man and she is a woman that’s kind of cowardly I think. A guy who is trying to solve problems with someone he loves uses the language of problem solving, negotiation and drawing someone out, not the language of attack.

  9. kind of anonymous

    Thanks Barb for checking the article out.

    • Renewed Spirit

      This is perfect! Thanks!
      In my mounting bitterness and confusion I’m sure I did not always stay in those guidelines – but knowing that makes it clear for me what I need to ask forgiveness for. Thanks again!

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