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.
The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Timothy 5:24)
There is a young lady, 19 years old, a Christian, raised in a conservative church, wants to serve the Lord…and she is engaged to be married. She has great plans for a Godly, Christian home. Her fiance, well, she met him in church. Everyone thinks the world of him and so does she. No doubt the Lord is really going to use this fellow for His Kingdom. Maybe as a pastor or a missionary even. Even the pastor thinks so.
But none of this dream life is going to happen. Why? Because this young lady is about to marry a sociopath, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Oh, we could try, but no one would believe our warnings, including the bride to be. If we were members of the same church as her, we might well find ourselves under heavy fire for daring to say such horrid things about this young man.
I wish this scenario were fiction, but it isn’t. It happens over and over again to young ladies who just knew that the best place to find a husband was in church.
More than once abuse survivors have written to us here at ACFJ and said something like this: “My Christian upbringing in both my parents’ home and in my church home totally set me up as a target for an abuser. I was taught to be quiet and submissive, especially when I got married. I was taught that God hates divorce. I was taught that forgiveness always means reconciliation of relationships. I was taught that by my behavior and attitude I could change and “fix” my future husband when he sinned. And though I heard a lot about sin, I was taught that pretty much everyone who attended our church and said they believe in Jesus was to be considered a real Christian, no questions asked. These things and more set me up and put me on the abuser’s radar.”
The fault is not with the Bible. It isn’t with Christ. It is with our failure to be wise as Christ calls us to be.
I can see it playing itself out. There is this young lady. She is going to marry this guy who she thinks is the cat’s meow. And she is pumped. The attention he has shown her is…exhilarating. Takes her breath away. She looks down at her finger and there it is, the ring! Camelot, here we come. Oh, there have been a couple of times when she was rather taken aback at how stone cold his eyes were when she annoyed him, or that time he got soooo angry with her. But she dismisses these red-flag abuser warning signs as “human frailties” we all wrestle with. She will be able to help him overcome. She’s sure of it.
But what is going to happen? And it is going to happen. She is going to marry this guy. There is nothing anyone can do now to stop it. She is going to marry him and possibly even as soon as the honeymoon, she is going to find a stranger staring back at her. Who is this man? Now he has her. The mask comes off. God hates divorce — there is no getting out of this! Not for ten years, not for twenty years, not for thirty years. Most typically it will take decades of abuse before she begins to reach some clarity about what has truly been happening to her. It isn’t her fault. I am not blaming her by any means. We’ve all been duped by these serpents.
But how we wish she would just listen to us now, before it is too late.
Churches, Christians, pastors, elders!! We must STOP closing our eyes to evil among us in our churches! We must be done with this foolish naivete about wickedness. We must learn about sociopaths and psychopaths and narcissists and abusers and we must become expert — wise as serpents the Bible calls it — in discerning the tactics of these vermin. They are oppressing the sheep that the Lord has charged us with protecting. And even worse, if that sheep ever calls out to us for help, she most typically doesn’t receive any.
What if? What if this young lady, about to give herself to an emissary of the devil… what if she had been raised in a church that regularly taught her and everyone else about evil? What if she had been told about the traits and typical tactics of the abuser? What if she had been warned to be on watch for “Mr. Charming”? What if the pre-marriage counseling in her church included assigned reading about abuse, and what if in that counseling the pastor talked about abuse and how an abuse victim has every right before God to divorce her abuser?
Especially if you are an Australian, you might like to sign the petition which Rosie Batty has started at Never Alone. The petition is calling for compulsory respectful relationships programs in schools.
SIGN THE PETITION TO STOP FAMILY VIOLENCE BEFORE IT HAPPENS [Internet Archive link].
107 thoughts on “She’s marrying a sociopath and there is nothing anyone can do about it”
When I was in high school, I watched a friend of mine get into an abusive marriage. During dating the guy was as good as gold… Except he always turned her attention (and sometimes physically turned her body) away from me when I entered the room. He was extremely possessive and I was a threat. Beats me how I was a threat… (I get it now, but I didn’t understand at all at the time.). He looked so good on the outside, but something was creeping me out. Later I found out how abusive he had been to her after they got married. No amount of warning sufficed.
The standard of what’s acceptable should be high!
How I wish I’d said to my boyfriend (now husband) what you said / did was unacceptable and moved on. I wish I’d been comfortable accepting the red flags for what they were and not thinking I was a mean person for moving on.
Unfortunately, I think most women have no idea what’s acceptable! I didn’t. My mom gave me no guidance. Still doesn’t. I haven’t told her much but she knows my husband “is difficult”. She alternates between telling me to dress better and wear more makeup and telling me what I should say to my husband “to make him listen”. LOL Not once has she ever said I don’t deserve to be treated bad.
The church needs to STOP living in the Middle Ages thinking that if someone is kicked out of the church and community / town, other communities / towns don’t admit strangers so they have no way to survive. [Eds: this sentence edited for clarity.]
We live in the 21st century. Just because we kick someone out of the church for being a sociopath, does not mean that we have condemned them to death. It’s a big world out there. They can be accepted in multiple communities or parts of the community they already live in.
Paul does NOT say keep him in church so we can show him mercy and love and forgiveness and his sinful nature will be destroyed.
If the church (pastors, leaders, elders, etc) will not remove these people from the church, God himself will remove them. This is a reflection on God. The church is not a group of sinful people that has a really nice leader, but God wants the world to know that His followers are not pansies when it comes to evil because we serve a God of justice and know right from wrong!
Ok. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Bingo. Spot on.
My ex and I went through almost a year of pre-marital counseling. No one mentioned anything to us about wolves in sheep’s clothing. We took tests and read books (“saving your marriage before it starts!”) and counseled with several couples. Nope, no red flags.
Makes me sick. Now he is in a new church and pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes there. My stomach is sick. I am glad I’m no longer in that daily (as I HAVE started to see some healing, but he is quick to pull me back into the drama…..) but I ache for my kids, who see evil parading around in front of them every time they are with him. They see bad choices and hear twisted lies. Please pray God would protect them and help them be discerning and are truth.
joining you in prayer on that, Microgal.
I am a survivor of a living nightmare by a man that led men’s ministries, street-preached, and was raised in a Christian home, with his dad as a pastor. I was a new Christian and told by my pastor that Christian wives have to show themselves to be worthy, no matter what the husband does. When he left fist marks on my 14 month old daughter, I fled into safe homes, taking the condemnation and shame placed on me for years by “Christians”. My daughter is now 18, and although that was the only time she was abused, she has post-trauma symptoms to this day, simply from all of the rage-ful incidents that happened even after we moved into our own home. Sad to say, she is attracted by abusers, and it is a battle to get her to listen to the truth. Pastor after pastor was fooled by this man, and I seen as the non-submissive wife – even after broken bones, black eyes and bruises. I cannot tell you how thankful I am to see this sight, these comments and prayerfully, see these abusers exposed for just what you say they are.. serpents. The devil seeks to whom he can devour, and sadly, lurks subtly within the Christian communities, waiting for the right prey.
If there are words that could reach the heart and mind, heeding the warning, please send them along.
I am joining you all in prayer.
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Pastor Jeff, once again you hit it out of the park with this article. I loved the whole thing but especially this last sentence:
What if the pre-marriage counseling in her church included assigned reading about abuse, and what if in that counseling the pastor talked about abuse and how an abuse victim has every right before God to divorce her abuser?
That should be in premarital counseling sessions across all denominations. Of course, but I am living a dream here, like we live in the new heavens and the new earth. Oh how I long for righteousness to prevail. This is what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
I think the best hope is to educate Christians about the warning signs of an abuser so that they are better equipped to not get involved with these sociopaths in the first place. I once talked to a group at a family camp about what happened to me and about the warning signs. I was amazed at how many young people came up to me after wards and thanked me. Many said they had a “bad feeling” about someone but that the guy looked great on the outside, their parents loved him, he was raised in the church, etc. I have a dream of going around to high schools, and churches and teaching young people to recognize the signs of relationship fraud and abuse and run for the hills before they get involved with these creeps. When I met my ex I had had absolutely nothing in my life experience that would have prepared me for the fact that relationship fraud even existed. People need to know that it exists, and how to spot it early on. We, the survivors, truly are the best hope in preventing it. Let’s get the word out as often as we can!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for this article!! And fiftyandfree for your dreams of education to coming generations and your sharing of no life experience that could have prepared you for that level of fraud & evil masquerading as love. Oh…amen to it all!!!!
That is a great term!!
Once I was a young lady and…well, you wrote the rest of my story, especially the part about how I was perfectly prepared to become an abuser’s target and how I stayed in a twenty-year marriage that was abusive in every relational aspect because “God hates divorce.” This can happen to anyone, regardless of background, education level, socioeconomic status, etc. I am a trained educator, have a professional career, and I hold degrees at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctor levels. Nothing in my upbringing or years of formal education prepared me for the battleground I would face in my marriage. I use the word “battleground” with intention. That is an accurate depiction. War was waged, whether or not I cowered in the corner or fought back in defense of myself and my child.
Over the duration of the marriage, I sought guidance and advice from several pastors, a lay couple who offered marital counseling, trusted friends, family members, and two therapists. I received the whole gamut of input from some who were well-meaning and others who were not so well-meaning. I was dazed and confused in the marriage, and even more so after having received so much conflicting counsel.
In retrospect, I believe that, at least in my individual circumstances and geographic location, the “church” and the “church people” who knew me and my family were clueless as to how to deal with me and my marital situation. With the three-year divorce behind me, as well as 4.5 years of individual therapy with a faith-based psychologist who “gets it,” I would challenge any of those church people to discuss my decisions with me. Some may try. However, I will never be convinced again to believe the lie that the commission of an assaultive act of one spouse upon the other behind the closed door of the marital abode is acceptable and no one else’s business when the commission of the very same act in a public place, whether by one spouse upon the other or by one spouse upon a third party, would be, without question, an arrestable offense. Anyone wishing to test the veracity of my immediately preceding sentence may consider rising from the table and hurling a brimming tumbler of ice and cold tea from one wall to the other of the dining room in a crowded restaurant.
Biblical Abigail became my hero. I prayed for my now ex-husband’s death, but felt guilty about that. I then began praying for my own death. All of this praying for death was due to the idea ingrained in me that death was the only way to be released from the bonds of my marriage. My next statement is very strong and potentially offensive; however, in my circumstances, it became an all-consuming quandary. If my marriage, having been ordained by God as I had been told repeatedly, is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church, then what woman, in her right mind, would want anything to do with marriage, Christ, or God? Logic told me that she of right mind would be running fast and far in the opposite direction. And yet, what I knew and believed then, and know and believe now, about God and His character assured me that the truth of my marriage was not in reconciliation with God’s view of marriage. Nor was my marriage in accordance with fundamental principles of humane treatment of and respect for fellow human beings.
I am not that young lady anymore. More than once I have longed for a second chance to go back and start over, under the condition of knowing what I know now. I am raising sons, not daughters. Even so, I talk frankly with them about disordered personalities, truth-telling, discernment and wisdom, and the practical application of and real meaning behind scriptures such as the unequal yoke reference in 2 Cor. 6:14. Sociopaths and narcissists are not limited to the male gender.
Thank you for your work in this area. I wish that I had known of your resource when I was in the thick of my struggles. I have never ever posted a comment on the internet and am not a social media user. However, I follow your posts and today’s included some “triggers” for me, but also struck some chords. I felt compelled to share just a small part of my story. Thank you for the opportunity.
Your question is spot-on–“what if?”
K.A. – This is a tremendous testimony of the Lord keeping one of His own through a maze of fog and confusion and cruel bondage. So VERY glad you are free, and strong! The statement you made that you prefaced as being very strong an potentially offensive — I just made a very similar statement in my sermon this last Sunday. I told our people (and they fully understand) that some years back when as a pastor I had been subjected to years and years of attacks by wicked abusers in sheeps’ wool, I told my wife that I thought I was going to resign from the pastorate and then I said “and I don’t think that I will every go to church again.” As I explained to the congregation last week, “why would I? If that really is Christianity, then why would anyone want anything to do with it or with such a place as the church?” But of course that is not Christ, it is not His true Bride. It is a counterfeit and a fraud. I am happy to say today that those wicked people have departed, having been exposed for what they are, and we have peace and unity in our small remaining body. Thank you again for telling us some of your story. You are a real encouragement to us all.
Your words K.A. resonate with me and are so true. I have come to this conclusion too.
Last year I came to the decision that I don’t want to be married. It has always been a dream of mine, but NO more. I am skeptical of the “institution”. No man has ever wanted me (nor have I actively looked for a man), so I have been spared some of the heartache many of you have experienced. I have my own struggles and abusive experiences apart from having a boyfriend, husband or “marriage”.
I thank God for ACFJ and your ministry. You have created a safe place to come when I am feeling down, abandoned and neglected. Thank you.
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Saved by Grace, there is one wedding even all those in Christ will enjoy: the marriage supper of the Lamb. That is a marriage which will be unalloyed by the slightest fear or doubt or regrets!
And K. A., welcome! 🙂
K.A., please do write us again. You have great things to say, and much of what you wrote resonates within me. I am sure others feel the same way based on how many people liked your post. Please do join in and share your insight and wisdom with us again. I was never a commenter on the internet either, but I participate fully here.
A marriage “Ordained by God”…..that is the burning question. I was told (after I realized the trouble I was in for, about 3 weeks in from the altar)….That the marriage would have not taken place, like a hurricane, or sickness, or Christ’s second coming?….any of these things could of stopped it, therefore it was officially “Ordained by God”….I was essentially raped by my abuser, he told everyone I was pregnant, therefore the little church fellowship of oh? about 150,000 people needed this to be a quickie….So they “ordained on God’s behalf” so they would not have to look at me showing my pregnancy.
The same pastor that counseled us was the first person I went to when I was pushed down our stairs, and punched in the head….Needless to say he would not open his door….in his mind I was the trouble coming to his house, talking about, and in his words “Exposing” my spouse behind his back… I was just trash to him…But my marriage? Yea, It was “Ordained by God”….If I could of somehow proved it was NOT Ordained by God? Would that have given me a way out? In their sick minds probably not, they themselves were God, authorities over my body, my mind, my soul.
What a clear example of spiritual abuse!
I agree, “battleground” is an accurate depiction. This is right out of the playbook of my ‘marriage’ as well. If I dared stand up to him he would bellow, “You want a battle? I’ll give you a WAR!!”
And if I backed down to keep the peace, he saw me as weak, and a target for further trampling. My soul started to die and I didn’t know who I was anymore.
This is a great ‘what if’ scenario. If more women were enlightened and empowered in this way, a lot of needless suffering would be alleviated.
I too was that young lady… It took me over 20 years to find out the truth: that he was an abuser, and nothing I could do was ever going to change that. (I had tried and tried and tried…) I was never going to get back the man I thought I had married, as I had married an illusion. I had never been taught about red flags, warning signs, evil within the church (after all, he said he was a Christian)…
Yes. Yes. Yes, and yes. And K A., thank you for that testimony. I also feel that way. Along with that is the idea of ‘God is in control’. Suggesting that He ordained this and willed all that is happening in the world including your marriage, so suck it up. He did not. He gave us control, and we can give that back to Him or to the other guy.
Years ago we were in a small church. There was a large family there, the oldest girl went to a very well-known very strict Bible School. She graduated with a ‘very godly’ man, voted the most likely to succeed in Christian ministry, and off they went as missionaries to Africa. On their honeymoon, the groom announced that his ‘boyfriend’ was going to be living with them. I still shudder at the awfulness of that whole thing, in a time when divorce was still never done. The shame when she did finally divorce him, after years of ‘trying to change it’.
I would like to add an observation (in hindsight) from my experiences. About 20 years into my marriage I cried out to God, “Where is this coming from?”, and immediately I saw in my mind’s eye, two ‘movies’. One, of my husband as a child, constantly tormenting his younger sister, and the other, of my brother tormenting me. My brother, at 14, gave his heart to the Lord, and overnight, we became best friends. My husband however, did not change. While dating, I was angry with him for treating his sister so badly, and that got better, but it seems he just transferred that attitude to me. That ‘rush’ of bullying someone to make them cry. I wonder if that would be useful on a list of red flags, or in counseling a bride. I don’t think that siblings treating each other badly is ‘normal’. Teaching them to be kind to each other was one of my most important goals in raising the family.
what a great testimony, Sunflower! Especially the part about the two movies.
And the bit about your brother – it shows how genuine conversion produces genuine and steadfast heart-change.
Our pastor called it my hard providence.
sheisovercoming – See, there is a perfect example of man-made tradition parading as God’s Word. Nowhere in all of Scripture do we have the phrase “hard providence” laid upon those who suffer. Meaning, “it’s hard, even tortuous, but hey, it’s providence so what ya’ gonna do?” How much different is that than the Pharisee who goes up to the temple to pray along with the publican and says “Boy, Lord, in your providence I’m sure glad you didn’t make me like that loser over there.”
Yes! My h had hard feelings toward his siblings & his mother. I became his “unfinished” business with them. Then he began vacillating between them being the villain then me. Now that he is considering divorce he is all chummy, chummy with them. I believe they are even hiding assets for him.
This made me weep as you described my life and my story up there . . . and so many of the stories we hear at Give Her Wings. Sharing on our FB wall today.
This is pretty similar to my story too. What if? If I had been warned, I would have listened. I was cautious, I did seek people’s opinions before I got too involved but all that I heard seemed positive. The worst thing is that there were indeed people who knew of the warning signs. They chose to remain silent. Was it because they thought they should mind their own business or did they have contempt for me?. Their silence is something I find hard to understand or forgive.
I agree KayE! I was having a conversation with my bridesmaid the other day who shared that she was feeling anxious and worried about who the best man would be in case he was going to be like my fiance(!) whoah…. “what if” she would have shared her concerns with me???
I think as a culture we are sucked into the Disney Dream and there is a whole fairytale wedding scenario happening in the minds of our young girls.. it is like a crime if we dare question the fairytale (especially Prince Charming!) or burst their bubble in any way….
That’s quite a revelation from your bridesmaid! It’s so true, the fairytale wedding idea is widespread, and not just with young girls.It’s as if people believe a wedding is going to magically turn a bad person into a good one.
Are you still going to marry your fiance?
I struggle with pangs of guilt when I read this because my ex is recently engaged and the woman has no clue what she is getting herself into. I want to call her or write her and warn her but I fear the most certain retaliation and consequences. I still have minor children and I must protect them. My children have told her that he lies on a number of occasions and she just got mad and accused them of being liars. He made it clear to them that they better shut up so they’ve stopped talking. If I personally revealed the truth to her, there would certainly be reprisals on his behalf.
Would you have taken it seriously if an ex had told you about him? I don’t think she would believe me anyway. She doesn’t believe my children which is utterly foolish.
My parents used to lament that his parents did not tell me the truth about him. I guess I never blamed them because I don’t think they know the “real” him. They know he’s selfish and that he lies, but they don’t know the depths of his sociopathic behaviors.
Perhaps these people who did not warn you were afraid of him themselves. Or perhaps they were deceived and believed him to be a good person. I don’t know…. but what I do know is that I too wished that I had been warned and I wish that I had the courage to warn this new victim in this nightmare. God help her and forgive me.
Fiftyandfree- I’ve thought about this one too.My ex remarried within hours of the divorce being finalized. Neither I nor my children were told about this, by anyone at all, until a week or so beforehand. Other people,including extended family,did know, and went to lengths to keep it a secret from both me and the children.I guess they’ve bought the lie that I’m a wicked crazy person who can’t be trusted. Had I known earlier, I might have tried to get some discreet warnings out through safe people, in spite of the potential danger to myself. It’s not worth the risk now.
I don’t feel at all guilty. It’s not a victim’s job to warn people. That responsibility lies with the people standing safely on the sidelines.I don’t think you should feel guilty either, you are doing the right thing by protecting yourself and your children.
Yes, if an ex had told me about him, I would have listened. In hindsight, I think the family of one ex girl friend had been very concerned. But I never got to talk to that family, or the ex girl friend or her friends, even though I tried.There is a pattern here of someone who makes great efforts to keep the truth hidden.
I don’t blame any ex victims for being silent. The people who have no excuse are the ones who saw what was happening, but have no direct involvement and could speak out with little or no risk to themselves. I don’t think people like this stay silent because they are deceived or in actual personal danger, but because they are cowards.
It’s not safe for me to warn the victims of someone who is focused on destroying me. But I can, and I will, warn potential victims of other abusers.
Thanks KayE. It’s reassuring that someone understands the impossible dilemma of having to protect yourself and your children while wishing you could help the next victim. I have warned others though and at least two people I know who were getting involved with an abuser got away after I talked to them, so that’s encouraging.
I have often wondered if it was just me, or my personality type, that did not mesh well with my ex husband. Is it possible there are other women out there who would be compatible with his temperament and personality type? Maybe it was just a clash of our personalities, wills, and sin natures? Maybe the next woman would suit him perfectly and not bring out the worst in him? Has anyone else wondered this or seen this played out when your ex remarried or successfully walked out a new relationship after yours?
freeatlast8 – If your ex is an abuser, then the definite answer to your first 3 questions is a resounding “No.” NOTHING will bring out the best in him because there is no best. Only worst. As you read and study and learn more about the mentality and nature of the abuser, you will grow stronger in the realization that you were married to one if in fact that is the case. So much of the nonsense laid upon victims in the church by the traditions invented by man include this business of communication problems and incompatible personality types, etc. Those have no application at all in the arena of abuse. If your ex has what appears to be a “successful” relationship with a woman now, and if he is an abuser, then that success is only a facade. He will be successful only to the degree that his victim goes on being a victim. I suspect that what is happening to you (and it is very understandable) is that you still are coming out of the confusion and fog of abuse and still being weighed down by false guilt and self-doubt. So press on and grow stronger and let the truth set you free.
Freeatlast8, while I confirm all the things others have replied to you here, I want to add another angle.
There might be one type of personality who would suit (sarcasm) your husband: a woman who was just as evil hearted as him. With a woman who relished the earthly ‘delights’ of sin and wickedness, she would be trying to control him by lies and abuse and he would be trying to control her by lies and abuse, and if they shared some other sins in common, such as substance abuse, or being partners in crimes like burglary, they could get on pretty well. . . ‘ill God brought them to a halt.
Mind you, I don’t think that most abusers go for such women; they usually target generous women with tender consciences. But it has happened on occasion that two pretty equally evil people have ‘stable’ relationships.
I also wish if premarital counseling talked about abuse that they would also discuss victim/savior mentality which can look very different from the great guy that then flips after marriage and is all of a sudden abusive like is described here. I think the 17 part series on self centered marriages by Brad H (I forget his last name off the top of my head) does a great job profiling two types of abusers. There is also the abusive man who has everyone, his wife included, feeling terrible for him and pretends to be completely unable to take care of himself or his family and they all walk on eggshells around him so as not to set him off. He threatens to commit suicide. Says he can’t live without her. Treats her terribly and has the same cold expression but can turn on the tears and pain anytime she goes to leave. When she does leave, his relatives and loved ones tell her that she is putting too much on him and expecting too much of him in his “delicate state”. And even though in her moments of stregth she knows better, she goes back continually or finds herself wondering, “but what if he really does need me? I don’t want my children’s father to kill himself.” I wish women knew that this is an extreme form of mind control and that churches were wise enough to identify it instead of just refer the men to counselors for “depression”.
This is precisely why I keep having conversations now with my daughter (a pre-teen) about the importance of boundaries, recognizing red flags, and how bullies aren’t just in school. She “gets it” (perhaps from having witnessed it in the home), although because cognitive assent is no match for emotional resistance, we will keep having these conversations until – Lord willing – she marries. Even then, I’m braced for being there if need be should the marriage goes south due to abuse. No matter what, we all need to be preparing young generations to be wise as serpents in the ways of evil while innocent as doves in practicing same.
Btw, we often have conversations about this not with respect to male-female relationships, but wherever her head is at in life. For example, “If someone insists on playing with this prized plushie of yours, but you know that person may not be trusted with protecting it, you don’t have to lend it or let so-and-so play with it just because you’re a Christian. Jesus said not to throw your pearls before swine. That means that you need to take care of things – from your plushies to your most valued items. Of course we want to share, but that doesn’t mean we just give all things to all people at all times. We need to exercise discernment.”
We have the same conversations with respect to whether or not God forgives all people at all times for all things. I hope this is training her to recognize evil when she senses it. And I keep telling her that if she senses something is “off,” it likely is. I keep reminding her of the term “red flags” and “boundaries,” in the hopes of protecting her – and also cluing her in to the likelihood that some day, if not herself, she may meet someone in similar circumstances as we have lived and she can recognize it and help that other person.
I’m past 50 and I am very weak with boundaries. I have read the boundaries books but still don’t feel strong. How does one learn to have boundaries when you’ve lived most of your life without them? Or when you had them, they were trampled and bull dozed over repeatedly. I am very weak with enforcement for fear of disapproval or anger from others.
When we stop fearing and realize we are valuable then we can establish and stick to our boundaries.
I was without boundaries for a long time too and got a lot of pushback when mine were put in place. I had to stand firm and weather the disapproval, not cave into it which is what the opposition is wanting us to do.
Boundaries are a game changer—abusers only want their rules in place. Boundaries upset the apple cart of our predictable ways of interacting. Abusers see it as rebellion, the truth is it is freedom for the victims.
As another blogger words it, “time to bring your mighty”.
I hear you. I think it’s very hard to establish boundaries when we’ve been raised, particularly as Christians, to allow a lot of harm or hardship to come our way and to just accept it politely or with grace and “turn the other cheek.”
I think our boundaries are twofold. First, there’s the partner (or other relationship) and setting boundaries there, especially if he’s an abuser. Then there’s the rest of the world.
For me, with my abusive (now ex-) husband, there was a pivotal event that caused me to set boundaries that he didn’t know about. That is, I moved all of my communications (such as here, my emails, anything I’d written even if not private or about him) to a laptop. I then backed up that laptop in case anything “happened” to me. I also carried that laptop with me and moved it to the bedroom, so it never ever left me. He could never get to it alone.
But even before then, and perhaps since I don’t know you or the particulars of your situation and danger level, it’s best to start small. For example, I began to realize that his actions didn’t line up with his words. He might say that “we’re a team,” but he’d malign me behind my back to our child. So I started my own “boundaries” by just not sharing everything with him. Little details of the day, things I or child had done, just anything. I gradually decreased the sharing of information because I began to get a clue about his lack of trustworthiness. That’s a boundary and one you can practice without his even knowing.
Look at it this way – do you share your credit card information with a total stranger? No, because you don’t know if that person can be trusted with it. Likewise, when I began to realize that my now ex- is untrustworthy, I stopped sharing information with him. I considered all of it on a “need-to-know” basis. If he really needed to know it, I told him. Otherwise, the flow of information went to a trickle. Of course, then so did any feeling of normalcy in the regular banter or chatter of a relationship, but… really, there was never good communication anyway. So while it felt uncomfortable for me to slowly just dry up at home, it was a boundary that protected me. And it’s far less uncomfortable than giving information to someone who will use it against you in some way. It’s not a sin and in fact is wisdom.
You might start small like that. Just do something that YOU and you alone know is a boundary, and therefore you won’t jeopardize anything. Stop sharing information or as much as you used to. Or maybe say “no” to something that you don’t want to do or participate in that normally you might have done – only if safe, of course. And “no” can be stated nicely and you can even use an excuse if need be. (“No, I don’t think I’ll do that today because I had already planned or promised x to do this other thing.Thanks though.”) That kind of thing.
Outside of the home, since my divorce, I’ve had to learn to set boundaries with many new people I’m meeting. I’ve had to contract work to take care of things outside the house and I’ve learned the hard way – but much more quickly than in the past – that when people say they’re going to do something and then they don’t do it when or as they said, I’m done with them. That’s not to say that when a genuine error is made, that I just cut them off. If there’s real sorrow or an apology, I can tell. But now, when someone says he’ll show up at 9 to fix something and doesn’t show until 11:30 and even then all dressed up and brings his young child and says, “Oh, well, Johnny got an award today at school so I had to go to that, but don’t worry, I brought him with me to help,” it’s goodbye. (That did really happen, and in fact he was a worker under a contractor who could have worked years on my place for general yardwork. Nope. Sorry. I’ll learn to cut my own grass and weeds and make burn piles. Bought myself a lawnmower, weed whacker, Round-Up, and even a scythe and sickle instead. I got a big place. Lots of work to do. I’d have been happy to pay someone, but have gone through several someones and learned how to interview contractors and get competitive bids for roofwork, shed repair, etc.)
Sorry – I said all that to say this: Try starting small. Set a small personal boundary. Stick to it. It will become more comfortable as you practice doing it. Just try one. Don’t listen to any internal voice that it’s wrong. It’s not, and in fact, I think like anything new, it just takes time and practice. And assurance that you’re doing the right thing. You are. You wouldn’t even be thinking about boundary setting were it not needed. Trust yourself in this. You know you’re more trustworthy than whomever you’re needing the boundary set against. You can do this. You’re not alone. I’ll pray for you this day for wisdom to know which boundaries to set and how, comfort in the doing, and safety in the process. 🙂 (((hugs)))
I feel the church helps enable the abuser. Teaches girls to accept your boyfriends faults, don’t ever criticize him. Then after married, Nothing is worse than divorce.
Growing up I lived in small town on a small street. There were 4 families with teenage girls. 7 girls in all. I lost touch with 2 of the girls. The 5 other girls all had Catholic wedding with the mandatory 6 month pre-marital counciling. I’m sad to say 2 of them suffer severe physical abuse, and I have had all kinds of abuse except physical for decades. My husband had most of the red flags, but I was counciled to forgive and forget. Keep small things small. The things I brought up did sound small but they grew worse after I was told not to be bothered by them. If I had seen this website back then it would have saved my decades stuck I horrible marriage and then I’ll have years of abuse when we divorce because my children will be required to be abused by him. I wish all girls were taught the red flags, instead of taught to ignore them.
That’s part of the very real evil behind the deception and manipulation, methinks. The “things sound small” part. I can probably come up with a dozen or more “small things” that precisely because they seemed small even to me, I would let go – his “forgetfulness” (which finally lead to my asking him to write something down – or I would do it for him, but then, I’m not his mother, so I would ask him to write it down, which in turn lead to an explosion in anger on his part, spinning the car around with child and me both in it), his negligence, his saying one thing but in fact it turned out to be something else, his twisting of words in oh-so-subtle ways that changed meaning (remember the serpent questioning Eve in the garden of Eden? “Did God really say…. ? insert subtle twist of God’s Word here…”), “little” criticisms of me (“You’re a dripping faucet, nagging wife, so judgmental, condemning, unforgiving,” Always Biblical words, and by the time he left us, my attorneys only cared if he used “swear words” or called me “names,” not Biblical descriptors. The world doesn’t care about the twisting of God’s word or having it used as a sword against wives – Sadly enough, neither does the church, as it appears – or if they care, it’s to support the abusive use of the Word by the husband), and on and on…
I think this is one of the greatest dangers and steepest slippery slopes – the “subtlety” of abuse that allows it to continue unnoticed – perhaps unwittingly by the world, but the church has no excuse. None whatsoever.
Ironically I sat in my former church’s adult class which was taught on what topic? Wisdom. And when I approached the teacher (who turned out to be a staunch ally of my now ex-husband) to say that Solomon gave both prostitutes a fair hearing before making his decision, he snubbed me saying he wouldn’t take sides in my situation, walked away from me, then unabashedly ate dinner with my ex-h each night.
I was 19 and that girl your describe in my first marriage, truly groomed for abuse and kept there by religious indoctrination. Like A.J. I even prayed for death, at one point believing it the only biblical escape. Unfortunately, after the end of that first marriage, I plunged right into a second one. I met my first husband in church, my second was a therapist and psychology professor that I thought was the opposite of my abuser. He was in fact, much worse.
I was warned the second time around! A woman in the church took me aside, she said “look’ I know your fiancés ex-girlfriend, I’d like to implore you to wait”. She didn’t give me details. the man I was marrying was powerful, he got wind of this and made things difficult for my church friend, a counselor. She paid for her honesty.
Years later I realized, lots of people knew that something was up with the sicko I married. Their well wishes pleased my monster abuser though and they courted his favor, but they knew that women involved with him did not do well. The woman that hosted the reception at her house told me after it all fell apart, “I knew about him” but she never said a word when offering to hold the reception for her boss (the man I married)
I went to the woman that tried to warn me many years later. I sought her advice and told her “you were my only friend, you were the only one that loved me enough to tell me the truth no matter what it would cost you”. I trusted her with my life because she was willing to lay hers down for mine.
People know, they remain silent because they aren’t going to lay down their life for Jesus or anyone else.
Still Reforming, this is a great nugget of wisdom … it really resonates with me. Thank you.
And K.A., I’ve done both as well … prayed for husband’s or my own death as I saw no other escape from a situation that was intolerable, since as a “good Christian girl”, I knew divorce was out unless I wished to spend eternity in hell.
I still do sometimes pray for my own release as I have not yet had the courage to walk away from decades of a bad marriage. Sometimes death seems easier.
I, too, considered death. Divorce was not the way I wanted to go, but it is what I was forced to choose.
I have life now. I don’t wish to die anymore. It is still difficult processing everything and I wonder if I’ll ever arrive at a place of real strength. But I have life and a hope that wasn’t there when I was married. Leaving was not easy, it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there is life on the other side and room to work on yourself and grow with God.
Anne, you are in my prayers at this moment and I’m glad in this forum that honesty with out sanction or judgment is the standard. I’ve worked with suicidal people since that time when it became more and more prominent a thought in my own life as a way to escape. The problem is that, like a train on a track, the thought can become a rut, or it least it did for me. Once it did so, I didn’t realize it was only a mirage and it become a sort of entity on its own in my life paralyzing me to get stuck in inaction. After all I was taking a mental break from the agony momentarily imaging I didn’t exist in it anymore.
Since that time I’ve lost some friends to suicide and spoke to people hanging on ledges. They had this in common
1) They were very tired. Exhausted, weary
2) The situation clouded all creative thinking of over options than a permanent one
3) The message our souls give us that our life is intolerable doesn’t mean we need to die, it means the situation needs to die. It is that non-working, life robbing situation that is begging to be ended not our lives.
I keep that in mind now by the grace of God, if I get that overwhelmed or sad that something needs to die and it is NOT me. The relationship, the impossible dream that torments me, a situation no human should endure, those things are what needs to die.
The passage comes to mind, in Matthew 11:39, come to me, find rest, I know you are weak and heavy burdened.” And Psalms 23 he leads me besides still waters and restores my soul. Jesus never meant us to wreck our ship on the rocks of marital abuse and sink beneath the waves of sorrow. Life abundant awaits.
Yes, a prodigal daughter, yes! It’s the “thing” that needs to die; Not us. I confess that my thoughts have never been suicidal BUT that I used to think (and occasionally still do) that I’ll greet death as a friend – someone to take me from all this pain and misery. That it won’t be something I’ll shun, but embrace – that I’ll think, “Yes, take me over to the other side. I don’t want to be here anymore.
And yet, God’s Word says, “Choose life.” I think we’re created to want to live. Death is not seen as a “good thing” (being the wages of sin), even though as Christians we have no need to fear death. In fact, we can look forward to it in a certain sense – in the sense of moving on to be with Christ in eternity, but that is a different kind of view of death than the sense of “gotta get away from here.”
Coming from an unhealthy view of marriage in my upbringing (which many of us have had) and then entering into an abusive relationship, it’s enough to make one just despair and say “Okay, I’m done.” It’s not a bad thing to want to be done with a world of sin, but not in a way that removes oneself from the picture. I’m not chastising anyone for feeling that way; I’m just trying to reaffirm what you stated as being a healthier view.
The person who has been tangibly helpful to me is not a professing Christian.
FAL, yes life, at last. And hope. Its priceless and it grows in time.
I appreciate reading your comment. While there are smatterings of ‘defiance’, as long as the “word” returns to The Word, everyone, especially women, are at risk. One finds this site, not seeking a religious viewpoint, and it is important that it is here because it seems to me to be offering sanction for getting away from abuse of any sort. No need to quote scripture. … [it seems to me that] the most valuable statement made in this forum [is] “Something needs to die, but it is not me,” — as those faced with overwhelming odds need the inner strength to change what needs to be changed. In the matter of sociopathic relationships where loved ones are involved,, it is not within the power of an outside individual to alter the chosen, unfortunate path. Again, thank you for making your comment.
Hi Jewel, welcome to the blog. 🙂
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Hello Jewel and welcome! I’m not sure what you meant by your first sentence but to the following stances,
Lots of good stuff here. For me, I researched for years ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that seemed to speak THE TRUTH about what I was dealing with. I did this while concurrently reading God’s word, which I found to be infallible and chock full of the same truths I had witnessed and was still experiencing in the many psychopathic relationships I’ve had throughout my lifetime.
I had to do what most of us here have done — I had to actually read / study the Bible and to pray to God for His help and understanding, in order to actually see the TRUTH through His word. Like most of us here, I’d been fed lies about the Bible through scripturally-twisted mechanisms that were used to control and enslave those of us who truly belong to Him.
And although truth CAN be found here without quoting scripture, scripture is not an “aside” for people like me. I used to keep God “on the side,” like an accruement, and I mixed in a little psychology, worldly wisdom and a dash of philosophy — only to find that it equated to hopelessness for me.
This verse describes my life, except that I didn’t even realize that I needed help or was BEGGING for mercy, because according to the world’s standards, I had a pretty good life with a pretty darn good husband and children. Except that I was deeply depressed (blamed it on myself), self-medicating (which made me hate and blame myself even more deeply), and had accomplished NONE of the desires of my heart (thought I was selfish for even HAVING desires in my heart).
Enter GOD. He emptied me and my life COMPLETELY of all the lies. He stripped away EVERYTHING that I had formally [formerly?] believed to be true but was actually a lie, and left me WITH ONLY HIM. When I write here it is simply what I have experienced because that is my testimony — my life — and for people like me, I KNOW it is 100% God — His word simply backs it up and confirms it and also helps me to see clearly and to more deeply trust in Him. The Bible is actually authentication of the truth that I see all around me, even though it was written long ago. It is a beautiful love letter that God had ready for me — centuries before my birth — as proof of His love for me. And it is meant to be this way for each of us. Even though billions of people over the centuries have read this book, God has this way of ensuring that it is “just” for each of us — by giving each of us our own unique life and walk with Him. It is intimacy on steroids…tailored to meet each of us individually and lovingly.
God wrote it all down for us so that when we finally woke up to the truth about the types of evil people that would be here during these end times, we would find that HE — through His word — had plainly stated it and also plainly states that He will love and protect us.
If you do start to search some of the referenced scripture here you may see that the descriptions that are given describing evil people like those called psychopaths in this generation, are perfectly described in God’s word. And as you probably already know, there is nothing that can be done to change them and the Bible tells us to have nothing to do with such people and to save those who are in their grips but not to let it singe us.
Again, welcome Jewel and although there IS great insight here without quoting scripture, I believe that it is only through scripture and God’s working in my life through His word, that I have ANY depth of understanding or ANY worthwhile knowledge — and because it is HIM working in my life and heart — I also know that I will never lose or forget this wisdom, as it is a gift He has given me, meant to bless me and those who belong to Him……and to those He is calling that He desires to come to Him. Hebrews 3:7, “”Today, if you hear his voice……..”
ProdigalDaughter, the more I hear about your story, the more I bristle at the complicity of so many ‘mental health professionals’.
You probably know this already, but in case you don’t, Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link] has a chapter on the different types of abusers, and one of them is the “sensitive guy” abuser who has acquired the language of therapy, counseling and self-help, in order to make his targets seem like he is a kind and emotionally sensitive person.
Thanks Barbara I will read that book. And thanks for caring!
It’s my story.
I married the man I thought I could live with and serve the Lord with for the rest of my life, but gradually he turned my life to a hell. It took me 22 years to set free.
Now I’m standing on my own, working on my recovery.
I feel a big responsibility to teach my daughter to be strong and not to make the same mistakes as I did.
Hi Lyckliga Lisa,
Welcome to the blog! And thank you for your comment. Great to hear you are now standing on your own and getting stronger!
There once was a young lady whose mother was singled from an abuser and her male sibbling/s had left her to follow after the abuser. Their church leaders told the young lady since there was no male in her family, she needed to put herself completely under the male leadership of the church and do whatever they say. They want to orchestrate a courtship that she is not comfortable with so now she is unsubmissive and may face church censure. The end.
These church leaders have never gotten out of the Old Testament and aren’t even doing a good job obeying that Law! These actions properly belong to a religious cult. It is never a bad thing to get censured by and kicked out of a cult.
Listen to the “uncomfortable” feeling, not those wanting to control you.
The sequel: The young lady recognized the heavy hand of those who tried to lord it over her and said, “No thank you. I choose Life,” and she went on to greener pastures, hearing her true Lord’s voice, because she is one of His flock. Her newly chosen path was much happier because she left behind those who misused the Word of God and those who are the accuser of the brethren. She continues to this day to recognize the voice of her true Lord as one Who loves her and would never call her to submit in a way that felt wrong and burdensome and uncomfortable. She knows her master’s voice, and He wasn’t in that church.
This daughter is now having to learn to separate God from the men who tried to act as god in her life. She got out but not without great cost. Hopefully soon, she will be hearing God’s voice again instead of their voices in her head. She is very glad to be freed of that cult like group.
Paragraphs 6 & 7— that’s me.
Now i find out he is reading a Christian book on examining oneself and seeing where one needs to grow as a Christian.
Is there ever a time when you the victim just say “No more examining myself trying to figure out what i did wrong and if he is serious about his Christian walk.” He’s been to all kinds of Mens’ & Marriage conferences in the past and abuse still occurred. I just plain old don’t trust him anymore. I don’t even know if this book reading is for real or it’s so he can go to court one day and say he did XY&Z to be a better man and she refused my efforts. He has been saying he is seriously considering divorce.
I predict he will use that book reading only for wicked ends. He could use it to claim that he worked on changing but you refused his efforts. And/or he could use it to pick up tips about what he can criticise you for next and to issue you more orders, as in: “This book says a Christian should do x. You need to do x.”
Whoa! Thank you Barbara! I just asked myself, “Why didn’t see that latter angle you wrote about?” Then I realized if I was reading it I would do so with the intention it was meant for—examining myself.
Regarding using a book for wicked ends, for over a year, my ex still uses snippets from books I bought and read, and from Scripture to criticize, antagonize, and harass me.
Yes, Barbara. Indeed. Interesting how unbelievers (seen by their walk or lack of and talk or lack of) always seem to be able to point at believers to say, “YOU should be doing this or not doing that.” Never pointing at themselves, humbling themselves, or asking God to change themselves. I think that may be one of the many ways targets of abusers can recognize the wolf – the unsolicited counsel of how the TARGETS need to change.
Yes, there is. I think many of us have done that. It is one of the vital keys for getting free.
There are two sides to the coin of this realisation.
One side is realising that what did I do wrong? is the wrong question, the wrong focus for our minds to go down.
The other side is realising that the abuser is choosing to abuse and all his Christian walk and his ‘changing for the better’ are just part of his multifarious abuse tactics, designed to keep me unsure so I give him more chances to abuse me.
I don’t know your husband, but I know my ex-h, and he had read several books on examining himself (including one recommended by a counselor called “The Man in the Mirror”; Another one suggested by a church we used to attend was titled “Dying to Self” or something similar). The books were kept in various places, like his bedside (along with a Bible that I had given him and he had highlighted passages in it and scribbled a verse or two in a sticky note or notebook, all things that back then I took as encouraging). Other books would be either in his bathroom or perhaps by his place at the kitchen table. If bookmarked, often the bookmark would stay in the same place for months. Whenever I would peer into a book to see what he was reading, I would see passages highlighted that suggested he might be thinking seriously about himself, but…. never a word from his own mouth about his reading and the behavior never, ever changed. That doesn’t mean there weren’t periods of “nice,” but I’m wary of “nice.” “Nice” doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can make pleasantries. Anyone. All to say that a man can read a lot of books and learn how to play nice or look the Christian role, but… if the inside of the cup isn’t clean, nothing has changed.
With my H I never know what he is thinking in regards to what he is reading. He never underlines or highlights; he loves books, has quite the collection, so I’ve thought maybe he sees writing in them as defacing them. He doesn’t write notes & only occasionally fills in the workbook blanks, but never anything pertaining to his shortcomings. Maybe he puts the answers on paper hidden so I can’t see them. He never discusses the books or the Bible. The one time he spoke of advice given by a church counselor, he twisted the counselor’s advice against me and relayed his twisted version to others. It was so outlandish!!! that I approached the counselor at church; I knew this man well and couldn’t believe he would say such things! He didn’t. He told me the actual conversation and it had been in favor of me! What H said & did with his twisted version smashed my heart to bits.
You wrote: “…the actual conversation and it had been in favor of me! What H said & did with his twisted version smashed my heart to bits.”
When you learned the truth about what the conversation truly was between your husband and that counselor, you learned that your anti-husband is a liar and cannot be trusted. So no matter what he reads or says to you and / or others, in his heart he is a liar. Therefore anything he says cannot be trusted.
At a certain stage it dawned on me with respect to my anti-husband that while not everything he says is a lie, anything could be. At that point, everything he said was suspect – like the boy who cried “wolf.”
Knowing he is a liar, you could approach the fact that no matter what he is reading, it doesn’t matter. Even if he’s reading the Bible, it doesn’t matter. Even the demons know God’s Word and tremble. That’s more than some men do.
A prodigal daughter, thank you for your prayers.
I would never actually DO anything to leave this world intentionally. I too know people who have and the terrible pain they’ve left their families left behind in, well, I couldn’t do that to my wonderful kids.
But the idea of eternal peace and rest and joy with my Father in heaven just sometimes seems … irresistable. And then I pray for that peace.
But I am going to try and look at it as a sign that the situation in my life needs to die. I like that. It’s true. And there is still so much in this world I long to see, do and be a part of.
But you have really isolated the reason I even think those dark thoughts. Tiredness. Not healthy, “I’ve worked hard all day, I’m tired.” But exhaustion from fighting to keep my head above water for decades against the things that are not right or fair in the way he treats me, trying to keep the excuses for his behavior coming, create a somewhat normal home for my children, trying not to let the guilt that it must be my fault bury me. Just soul-sucking, joy killing exhaustion. Wondering how I can hang on one more minute, much less the rest of my life.
I’ve been putting it off, but a friend (who survived many years of horrifying physical and verbal abuse) gave me the name of her divorce lawyer and already talked to her about my situation, giving her a heads up I may be calling. The friend and I are meeting soon and she’s going to help me formulate the questions I need to talk to the lawyer about. My friend is a good number of years free of her abuser (who was one of MY husband’s very good friends … go figure, huh?!) so will be a big help to me as my thinking is still “foggy”.
As the wife of a Pastor who was an abuser I am so grateful that finally people are waking up and those of us who are trapped aren’t just told that if we submit enough all will be well. My husband never changed but he became very skilled at turning the blame on the children and I as well as putting on a charming face to others who would not believe what was going on in our home. He learned not to hit where it would show and to abuse in other ways. Finally after 25 years I was told if he hit me one more time I would die. I had to put him out. He has gone on to abuse others and I have gone on to live a wonderful peaceful life where my physical damage is slowly being treated.
Welcome to the blog! Thank you for your comment. So glad to hear that you are able to experience peace. Praying for your full recovery.
There are also:
1) Brides like my friend (Target) who was not at all swept up in a Camelot fantasy.
2) Quiet (to the outside world) abusers / sociopaths like her ex.
The quiet sociopaths are probably the most dangerous because they easily go undetected. Her ex’s facade / masquerade is to come across as a normal / quiet / affable Christian guy, nothing special. (I admit, I very much enjoy referring to him as nothing special because indeed he is nothing special at all, but in his own eyes he sees himself as extraordinary and the rest of the world as dumb because he can fool people / play them so easily. He thoroughly enjoys the sport of manipulating people to do his evil bidding. Anyway, I digress.)
She wanted nothing more than to do God’s will and marry a Christian man who loves God. She expected marriage to be work, but thought both would work on it together. There were no red flags to speak of. She did not know what to look for before and during the marriage because marital counseling, “christian” books and “christian” radio did not / do not address abuse. She would have believed a pastor had one told her about abuse.
But as Pastor Crippen points out, rather than educate for abuse, virtually all the “christian” counsel there is, grooms women to be targets. None of it considers the possibility of a spouse being a dangerous depraved sociopath, and to the extent that it acknowledges evil at all, it puts the burden on the woman for his salvation / improved behavior based on her submission / being Christlike which in fact leads to even worse oppression.
One last point, “It happens over and over again to young ladies who just knew that the best place to find a husband was in church.” I would submit that they did not just know it. They have been taught it over and over again by their parents and everyone in church. And if the best place is not in church, then where is it? I scratch my head to come up with an answer to that one as the favorite place for wolves/predators to hang out is where the sheep are.
What is your advice on what to teach kids about sociopaths/narcissists and how to recognize such a person?
This is not a definitive answer to your question, but you could read Chapter 5 of Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link]
The chapter is called ‘how abuse begins’.
A lot of how you teach kids about sociopaths and narcisssts depends on the children themselves, what they’re able to handle, and what they’ve seen in the home, as well as your own relationship with them. What they’re able to handle really boils down to each as an individual. Minimally, it may be good to teach them about bullying and appropriate responses (which can vary – if they’re safely able to stand up, that’s good, if not, then they shouldn’t; I’ve told my child it’s best to leave a situation where there’s bullying and tell someone she trusts – an adult or older teen if available – what’s going on, for example).
I think truly the wisest course is to teach children the truth about God, His righteousness, His justice, and His heart. I don’t think one can ever go wrong teaching children about God (presuming it’s not learned from someone just twisting God’s Word). It’s kind of like recognizing counterfeit money; I’ve heard that banks do not teach tellers how to recognize each counterfeit, but how to recognize a real dollar (or other bill of currency). Once one knows the true article, it’s easier to spot a fake. Of course, we’ve all been duped here by the fakes, but …. we’ve also been brought here because we’ve all been awakened to the truth about the narcs and sociopaths, and Lord willing, it gets easier over time to spot them.
There’s likely no “right answer” about how to teach children about sociopaths and narcs, but it’s good you’re asking the question. Barbara cited Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He DO That?,” which is an excellent resource. Lundy has written another book as well titled “When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse.” There may be counsel in that book as well that could prove useful to you.
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. It took me 10 years to get the courage to leave and I only left when the kids became the target and he began cheating and bringing home diseases that could cause me my life. I knew the church would turn their back on me and it has taken 20+ years to heal. Lives have been lost because of such abuse. The only way to prevent these missteps is education.
Welcome to the blog!
Healing does take time, doesn’t it. Glad healing has come to you.
To ACFJ staff… Would it be possible to include in this thread the precise definition of a sociopath to bring clarity? I feel most people think of sociopaths as Ted Bundy & Axe murderer types and may feel an oversensationalization appeal going here. Not understanding the true nature of what is being described here and they can be anyone walking in our midst.
I don’t think it’s over sensationalizing to talk about sociopaths. Most abusers are not sociopaths or psychopaths, even though they might share some of those traits. It’s not a label that people should use carelessly or out of spite. But a few abusers really are psychopaths. They only become diagnosed after they have murdered their victim, and that is one possible outcome of this story.
I’m not staff, but from Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door, a sociopath is one who lacks real emotion (though they are good at faking it), is exceptionally charming, deceitful, thinks very highly of him/herself, is reckless/impulsive, and has no remorse for any of their actions that hurt others. She also call it having no conscience. Not a precise definition, but you can see how it can be someone in your life or a headline-creating murderer. They don’t all get to that extreme, but I think most of us have seen the abuse ramp up through the years when things don’t go their way. I know I have seen it in action for years, and he is Mr. Wonderful to those who don’t want to know the truth, but get in his way, and the heartlessness comes through very quickly.
Thanks Moving Forward, I’d been meaning to respond to Remedy’s question but have been busy with other stuff.
To add to what you wrote above, here is a quote from Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door [Affiliate link] (pp 6-7).
She goes on to add other characteristics: greater than normal need for stimulation which results in risk-taking. . . lying and conning, parasitic relationships with “friends,” shallowness of emotion, breathtaking callousness, loveless one-sided marriages.
Four percent of the population — one in twenty-five people — lacking conscience. How many pastors consider this when pastoring their flocks? And how many pastors are in that four percent themselves?
Thank you Moving Forward & Barbara….. ‘breathtaking callousness’…..what a profoundly descriptive characteristic of these types. Many countless episodes that left me in stunned silence as I reeled in shock at things that were said & done. And then sleep like a baby, while I toss & turn the night away in agony. It’s really twisted.
Thanks again for your input.
I filed for divorce from my perfect abuser a few wks ago, I haven been able to step foot into our church out of fear…But He is there everytime the doors are open, lurking with his dazzling smile.
Hi nona, welcome to the blog 🙂 We understand that fear. Abusers often lurk in churches with dazzling smiles. The smile is like the big bad wolf’s smile in Red Riding Hood. Churches need to pull their heads out of the sand and start believing the parts of scripture they have ignored — all the parts about how wicked people sharpen their tongues like swords and worm their way into the flock, having depraved minds and intent only on greed, lust and all kinds of wickedness, which is aimed at the true Church, those who are truly in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You will notice I changed your screen name. I chose nona because it is ‘anon’ spelled backwards amd we have so many ‘anons’ at the blog already I thought I’d create something different. But if you don’t like the name I’ve given you, contact twbtc and she can change it for you. You’ll find her details on our About tab. And I suggest you read our New Users Info page for tips about how to guard your safety while commenting at the blog.
The sociopath thing is real. As far as I know he hasn’t killed anyone, but my ex shares remarkable similarities with the serial killers. Particularly in his ability to present a flawless, apparently normal, but false persona that fools just about everyone. Also in his ability to fake empathy, to tell convincing lies with complete confidence, and in his total absence of remorse. I first realized this when I was watching a TV interview of a guy called Bernard Giles. I found myself thinking “I like him, he’s just like my ex”. Then “Wait a minute, this is a serial killer”. It was a shocking moment of insight. I wonder if this is why my children would sit riveted to programs like “Married to a Murderer”. Yes, these people do attend churches, and they can be in leadership positions. Like my ex was. There needs to be a huge change in the whole church culture regarding abuse. Maybe educating women is a great way to start.
KayE – I think this is why we read so many headlines about “what a great guy” the killer was from neighbors and co-workers after someone has just gone and murdered a co-worker or his family. “But he was such a great guy!”
My life exactly. And still he can pull the wool over the eyes of those who thought he should be a pastor and missionary. My dreams of serving God and others became totally lost in his perversion and emotional abuse. Premarital counseling served only as a means to put me under his thumb and provide me with no way out until he finally left. I recently became overjoyed to find his latest mistress. As it means I have genuine “Biblical” reason to divorce…as if the 21 years leading up to this point were not enough.
What the sociopath wishes he could say during his marriage vows:
Oh yes. That happened to me. I met my now ex doing children’s ministry at church. He was so devoted, loving and kind to those kids, but in real life he was a monster. I now know that he church hopped often because once his facade is blown he has to find a new group of people to dupe. All the signs were there, I just didn’t know what to look for until it was too late.
It is incredible how often abuse victims tell us that they met their abuser at church. But I suppose if we are wise we realize that this is the very arena we should expect the wicked ones to creep into. What we should be aghast at is how often the supposed shepherds are incapable of or unwilling to call a wolf a wolf.
This is exactly what happened to me and now I am trapped married to someone (living seperately for my safety and sanity) for the rest of my life it would seem. I married in my early 20s and from then onwards slowly began to realise something wasn’t right. Because of my faith and commitment, I felt I had to put up with the way I was being treated and that it was my duty to try to help and fix him. I worked so hard at this for years until I broke down and could take it no longer. That was more than a year ago.
I am so lonely already and only have the bad memories and bad nightmares to keep me company. I am trying to do the right thing.. I cannot be with the sociopath I married but I am still married and do not believe in divorce and remarriage. What you say is so right and I only wish people were more aware of these dangerous people in disguise.
Dear Anon, the Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse. Please click on link — I think you will find it helpful and encouraging.
And welcome to the blog! 🙂 I think you will find cyber-friends and support here. We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
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I also encourage you to have a look at our page What About Divorce? It has links to the most important posts we have about divorce.
Again, welcome! And please keep coming back. Every survivor’s voice is important!
“I can’t let them win” probably had about as much to do with my refusal to suicide as my faith did, growing up.
If not for the grace of God… I don’t think it would’ve been hard to kill myself. I was certainly given multiple opportunities to do so, and there were plenty of presumed accidents that could’ve caused serious harm. Or I could stop all the ways I’d developed to sneak food, like going for the items nobody else wanted so they wouldn’t watch how much I was eating. I was already skipping meals when a certain someone was in a good mood.
Sometimes I wonder if my memory exaggerates how bad things were, but then I look at the effects and know it was probably even worse than I can remember.
I do remember that others always reacted to my admissions about what things really were as if I was necessarily exaggerating or joking, showing a childish lack of appreciation for my parents. “Funny” how I was only considered childish when saying things that others didn’t want to hear. Otherwise, I got a lot of comments on how eloquent and intelligent I was.
Assumptions are blind people. I can say outright on Facebook that a prayer request is about my biological parent, not the stepparent that most people in my feed know, and a disturbing number of people will assume I’m referring to that stepparent that I explicitly said was not being referred to.
It leaves us grappling with identity issues and normal desires that have been trampled by Satan. Our true identity is not the abuse we’ve endured but the reality that we are daughters of God being trampled by men full of the carnal nature, domination (part of the fallen nature) and men so ill with sin they are not fit for the role they occupy. I am a survivor. And I am seperate from it and FREE. It’s amazing to walk free. God has done miracles for me in many ways. My story is one of complete horror and the utter power of a rescuing and Almighty Warrior, Jesus Christ.
Hi Rachel, welcome to the blog. 🙂 I modified your screen name as a precaution. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) —email@example.com — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
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When my 21-year old daughter married a man I thought was a drug addict four years ago, I couldn’t find any support for the terror and loss I experienced. It wasn’t until the last year that I realized he is a sociopath, and thankfully (after four years of intense mind control, rehabs, financial insanity, physical abuse and, more recently, felony charges for arson of a place of worship) my daughter and baby grandson are living safely with us while we await the finalized divorce. We raised our daughters in the church and, although we begged our daughter to not marry this man, as did many others in our family, she would not listen. One of her ex’s first orders of business was to isolate her from all of her support systems, convincing her that her relationship with us was unhealthy and “codependent” (he knew all the lingo).
Our daughter fits the exact description you all speak of – merciful, kind, compassionate and naive about abuse. That part I take responsibility for – I also was taught loads of bad theology about marriage and forgiveness, etc., and I am only now realizing the wake of destruction unleashed in families due to the lack of wisdom exercised by the church. My daughter’s ex knew the Bible by heart, was being “groomed” to be a pastor by his hyper-religious Pentecostal family, and sometimes when he would smoke weed, he would get up in my daughter’s face, wag his finger and yell, “What are YOU doing to change the world?”
Honestly, I think I may have just found my life calling – to educate young people in churches and around the community about the dangers of relationship fraud. If I can spare even one family the horror we have endured for these past four years, it would be worth it.
Thank you a million times over for this blog, for every voice of every person who has had the courage to speak out here in this loving forum. If you would please pray for our family, as our court date is in April, and we are hoping the judge will make our protective order permanent for the sake of our daughter and infant grandson. We want complete freedom from this wicked man who has caused nothing but chaos and destruction in our family!
Praying for your family:
Dear TruthTellingMama – well done to your daughter for escaping from that man. And well done you for supporting her!
I’m so glad you are finding this website helpful.
You may have scoured a lot of the site already, but in case you have missed it, here is a video about how to gather and document evidence if your Protection Order is breached. This five minute video is by Women’s Health West and Victoria Police of Victoria, Australia. It features local women demonstrating simple and practical ways of gathering evidence. Note: This video is from Victoria, Australia, where “protection orders” are called “intervention orders” and the emergency phone number is 000, not 911 as in the USA. How to collect evidence if your intervention order is breached That item is one of the many items we have on our Safety Planning page. 🙂
And since this appears to be your first comment on the blog, allow me to encourage you and your daughter to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
After reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
This was also my mother’s story. 20 years married to a sociopath, my father. And when we did leave, it was truly only because us children left and didn’t want to go back, otherwise she would have, because she believed in her vows and truly loved him. Only after some time being separated did she realize that it wasn’t a normal relationship. And then we were ignored, rejected, and censored and stalked and harassed by the church and his friends, as they all listened to him and believed him. Even my mother’s parents and family believed him and cut her off. It was a full year before some in the church realized that he was not truthful. Some even believe he is possessed because of the things they have witnessed.
He completely has his own twisted version of what happened that he fully believes, despite all the overwhelming evidence pointing to the contrary. And all that he accuses my mum and sometimes me of, is exactly what he has done.
I remember the first time I realized that our family life wasn’t normal or healthy – and I’m so sad that I had to see it in a non-Christian family. But I’m so thankful that God allowed me to see it, so that I could choose to not perpetuate the cycle of abuse. He never physically abused us, but there was verbal and emotional abuse and multiple infidelities on his side (and both he and the church told my mum to forgive and forget, because “it is ok he still comes home at night”).
It’s been more than 10 years. It’s taken us a long time to understand who he really is. A few years ago I got in contact with him (before understanding that he is a sociopath). I got in contact because I truly have forgiven him and was concerned for his salvation, and his well-being. He has no remorse, he still manipulates everyone around him. And now I find if I talk to him too much he can even make me doubt what I know is truth. It makes me so sad to see him so unreachable. It will take a miracle to save him. It is also sad, because it has affected my siblings greatly too, and one of them is so similar to him in personality (sociopathic tendencies) although she hates him and would be angered to be compared to him in such a way. She’s getting married soon, and while she and her fiance appear to have a good relationship now, I know that sooner or later, if he doesn’t do something her way she will turn on him.
Sometimes I’m afraid that maybe I have the same traits as him, maybe I’m crazy. I used to suffer from rage, but praise God, He set me free from that a year ago.
Thank you for this post; it has helped me today.
Hi Nyanne, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry it sat in moderation for a while.
Would you like to tell us more about the situation you saw in a non-Christian family which made you realise your family life wasn’t normal or healthy?
Welcome to the blog!
Hi, thanks for your reply. The first time I saw a different type of family was at a friend’s place. They have two daughters. The older one was in a relationship with a guy who was not good to her, and one night he snuck into the family home and held a knife to his girlfriend’s throat. Apparently he was jealous and reacting to perceived unfaithfulness on her part.
And this family, the parents and sister, instead of telling her that she’d made a bad choice and that they’d warned her, came around and surrounded her with support and love and I saw that it really helped turn her onto a better life path. It doesn’t seem like much, but I hadn’t seen that kind of love and support in my family. What I saw was so attractive, and I realized that I could have a different type of family when I finally have my own one day.
Thanks, Nyanne. That family which responded to their daughter / sister who had made a bad choice of boyfriend….how they responded to her with love and gentle support, and how they guided her (without browbeating or coercing her) to turn her life onto a better path….what a moving story!
I am so glad you saw love-in-action. I’m so glad that you not only saw it with your eyes and heard it with your ears but you grabbed hold of it as a nugget, a gem, a diamond, a lodestone, a compass point direction that helped you find your own path out of the fog of abuse.
Thank you so much for responding to my comment. God bless you.
I don’t know if you’ve checked out our Frequently Asked Questions, but if you haven’t you might like to look at it….and you might like to share it with your mother and anyone else who is a victim of abuse. 🙂 🙂