Thursday Thought — When It Just Couldn’t Be Him

Today I’m writing for women whose partners are held in high esteem in their communities, who are the kind of guy that other people look up to and wish they could be like.  He may have even gotten himself into a respected position such as clergyman, policy officer, head of the Rotary Club or a similar service organization, admired businessperson, college professor, or elected representative.

Who wants to believe that a man could rise so high in public, while in private he calls his partner vile names and humiliates her in front of her children, degrades her sexually, or slams her up against the wall?

Nobody, unfortunately.

Over the years I have spoken with many women who face the loneliness and distress of being torn apart by a man who is a pillar of the community.  When she dares reveal what he is doing to her, she often finds that people are angry at her instead of him, assuming that she must be making it all up.

Thousands of women across the country are living with this same hidden abuse by “great men.”  You will eventually be able to find people who will believe you, and even to talk to women who have lived through similar circumstances.  What is happening is real.  You are not crazy.  The fact that he can fool everybody is no reflection on you.

“I don’t care how admired he is; that doesn’t make what he’s doing right.”

(Entry from Lundy Bancroft’s Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] p399-400)

***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.


32 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — When It Just Couldn’t Be Him”

  1. Thank you so much, Pastor. I’m married to a senior pastor. When we went for counselling last month, the counselor / pastor did not believe me because of my N husband’s lies. I was made to feel like the abuser and he the victim. The undertone of his advice was not to jeopardize our ministry. I feel stuck, but I’m praying. Either God changes his heart or He makes a way for me out of this miserable marriage. I know I deserve to be happy.

    1. Hi Tee3

      Welcome to the blog! Oh, so typical – make the abuser out to be the good guy and you the abuser. ARGH! I encourage you to keep learning about the abuser’s mentality and tactics! And you may want to look at our tag, Couple Counseling. It will direct you to several posts we have which explain why couple counseling is not recommended in abusive relationships. What happens is just what you described – the abuser’s actions are minimized and the victim is told she is at least partially to blame.

      Also, we like to direct new commenters to our New User’s Page. It gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

    2. Tee3 my heart goes out to you.
      I understand what you are feeling. My husband was and is held in high regard by many. In our old church he was a foundation member and one of the Pastor’s right hand men.

      I stayed in the marriage for decades. At the moment I am in a seperate bedroom and coparenting two of our children. I moved out for 4 weeks but was manipulated back (a long story). I do not wear my rings. I have emotionally distanced myself. Baby steps .. it has taken me 3 years to get where I am and I have a long way to go.

      I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I suffer from anxiety and depression. My faith in God is a struggling faith.
      Last year I approached a Domestic Violence organization for support .. this was a very hard step to take. I have been very honest to close friends and family about my experience in my marriage, which I regret as it has caused me more pain abuse and rejection. I have not been believed. […] my family need to think beyond PTSD and listen to what I have said.

      Coming out of the fog is a very hard process. . I go back into it alot. I found this blog and books recommended here so helpful.
      My prayers are with you as you start your journey to freedom.. God is faithful

      [Eds: some details removed or airbrushed to protect victim from being identified.]

  2. Add Registered Nurse to the list of so-called pillars. The ex feigned a concern for healing people in a hospital while all the while injuring the people in his own home. He even admitted to having relations with patients and co-workers. Sick!

    And a friend’s abusive ex is a fire fighter.

    This is a good reason to find a stealth way to video or audio record these so-called pillars of society when they are being abusive. I was too scared to do so (which is probably the case for many victims), but I wish I had. The admissions of guilt. The death threats against me and others. The ranting, screaming, and yelling. The hatred he spewed toward everyone we knew (including those who now support him). Recordings would have helped me so much in court.

    1. Readers, we have a page on our Resources for Legal Issues. If you got to that page you will find some links that give info about whether or not it is legal to record a person’s words or actions without that person’s consent. The laws vary from place to place, so it is wise to check out what the law is in your own country or state.

      1. Just a note on recording and legalities:

        I learned long ago (from a female lawyer – her first piece of advice to me, given as emphatically as she could deliver it) to record everything, either on paper or tape. With respect to the increased workload on top of everything else you must manage, I cannot stress how valuable an administrative assistant is.

        As if.

        So, even though I no longer have to deal with the court, thank God, having escaped out from under such a relationship decades ago, the habit remains and still serves me well, as it helps me keep myself right turned up, i.e. standing upright, when others say they said things they hadn’t or that I had said or agreed to something I hadn’t.

        Each time this happens (rarely if ever with people who love truth and are brave enough to live and speak it), it throws me off balance (though less frequently as I grow stronger in the “grace & truth” of our Lord Jesus Christ) from the decades of being in my family of origin then marriage and having to (in order to survive, not having other means) not subsume (take under) but bear the crushing weight placed on me of the lie the family denied and thus propagated (and still continues to propagate).

        Oppression is nowhere near the freedom and life Jesus died to give us, no matter how proper it has been painted by whatever painter, however much esteemed by others (who don’t live with him, by the way). My – your – first responsibility is to my life and the One who gave it to me (for a very good reason – and it wasn’t to save anyone else – that was Jesus’ responsibility).

        Recording is the evidence I can see and hear that demonstrates clearly that I am not imagining things or making things up or being malicious or any other accusation the Slanderer-Liar wants to throw at me (we war not against flesh and blood …).

        The Word of God (i.e. Jesus the Christ) is the only thing that can be relied upon to save. The truth DOES set you free: we are the beloved of the Lord (THE Lord above ALL lords, THE King above ALL kings – the one who conquered death and the grave and now sits at the right hand of the Father – OUR Father in heaven …); in Christ, we are born again, a new creature, led by His Holy Spirit of power and love (not delusion or fantasy – keep it real) and a sound mind.

        ASK Him for wisdom, for knowledge and understanding, for discernment of intentions and the spirit behind them, believing He hears you and that you will receive what you ask Him for – He is a good Father who will not give His own a stone when they ask for a fish – then REST in that.

        He is faithful. He will never leave us.

  3. Because my husband is such a sweet guy and all the ladies like him and he’s a “saint” for being his elderly parents’ caregiver, it must be all my fault that he left me.

  4. A couple of years ago the pastor’s wife said from the pulpit that my husband is a saint. It made me feel even worse and doubt myself more.

    1. Irene, that doubt is normal, especially early on, and especially if you were married to a sociopath who tried to convince you and everyone else that you were the abuser or you were the crazy one. As time passes and the “fog” lifts, those doubts will subside.

  5. Even worse when he’s fooled the children. I do, however, have a theory on why that happens easily. I think every child wants a relationship with their father badly, especially if they don’t know their heavenly Father really well. They want a relationship with both parents, but deep down they know that dad will shame and manipulate, even reject them if they admit the truth, but mom will always love them, even if they throw her under the bus. So to take dad’s side is sort of a win-win for them. Just my thoughts.

    Now that I’m writing it out, maybe some of our friends, relatives, church people subconsciously think the same way?

  6. When the newspapers report a story where the husband killed his wife and / or their kids, often the family’s neighbours and friends are reported as saying “But he was such a nice man. I would never have thought him capable of that. They seemed like a normal family!”

    And each time, the public seems to go through this “I can’t believe it!” routine. . . . never putting two and two together and saying to themselves “Ha, Men who abuse their wives usually look just like other men. So we can’t assume that because a man looks like a nice average guy, he is not an abuser.”

    Why don’t they join the dots? Because if they did, it would require a major rethink of their whole worldview and approach to civic responsibility and duty.

    1. But he was such a nice man. I would never have thought him capable of that. They seemed like a normal family!

      Barb – you nailed it!

  7. I just want to scream when I hear “what a wonderful Christian man” he is, or “what a caring father” he is. I don’t bother trying to defend my reasons for divorcing him anymore because those who really know me understand, and those who don’t never will. I used to need the validation because I was coming out of the “fog” but thank God those days are over. And as far as his soon-to-be fiance goes, God help her. She has my deepest sympathies.

  8. Several months ago I went alone to the funeral of a friend I’d only known a year. It was heartwarming to hear family and friends speak so highly of this person. Someone who loved family dearly but always had time for others too. And deeply loved God. Then a wave of dread came over me as I thought of enduring the same thing for my husband. I thought to myself I don’t know that I could bear listening to a eulogy of one person after another talk about how “nice” my husband was. I’ve it heard it many, many times. If they only knew I always think.

    After I arrived home that day I looked up “nice” and realized it’s different than “kind”.
    A nice person is focused on himself doing nice things so as to be thought of as a nice person. A kind person acts from the heart focusing on the other’s needs.

    So now when someone says to me that my husband is nice I think to myself why, yes, he is because he only thinks of himself and he wants you to think highly of him. And I hope that someday they too learn the difference between nice and kind and maybe reflect upon those times they thought my husband was nice.

    So when someone announces that my husband is nice they are telling the whole world he’s self-centered. They might not know what they just said but anyone who knows the difference will know.

    I think instinctively people say someone is “nice” because they know the word kind doesn’t apply. When someone is kind your heart knows it, responds to it. It is genuine and it leaves you in awe.

    When someone is nice people want to acknowledge that the behavior benefited them in some way but there’s not the sense of that selflessness that comes from being kind. So people will call it nice.

    So now when I heard my husband called nice I think that’s because he can’t be described as kind.

  9. One of the cruelest things that happens when no one believes you is that you stop believing in yourself, and maybe even stop seeing the reality of your situation. I was once told bluntly by a mental health professional, who should have known better, “In my opinion it’s NOT abuse”, subject closed and no reply allowed. If I’d been younger, that would have been devastating, not to mention dangerous.

    When that sort of thing happens you need to have heard those voices saying “We believe you”, “What is happening is real. You are not crazy.”

  10. Thank you everyone. So many of these comments reflect my situation. I am so afraid — afraid to stay or go — afraid that I will displease God.

    1. Irene, that fear you speak of — I had a somewhat similar fear for a long time.

      I’m not sure how much you have read here on this blog, or whether you have read the books we have written. But I think if you continue to read and learn you will find yourself becoming more and more assured that God gives you liberty to leave your abuser (and to divorce, if you so choose) and you would not be displeasing God if you left.

      Of course, you may have realistic fears about leaving due to the likelihood that your abuser might try to escalate his abuse to pressure you to come back to him and to malign your reputation with friends and family so that you are more isolated. Post-separation abuse is quite common especially when the abuser is male.

      It’s like running the gauntlet, leaving an abuser — which is why safety planning and getting help from DV professionals, women’s centers, etc., is something we recommend to all victims / survivors. And we recommend safety planning also to victims who for whatever reason are still living with an abuser. (see our page on Safety Planning in our Resources section, for more info).

      But be assured, God will not be displeased if you decide to leave. 🙂

      My book [Affiliate link] sets out in detail the scriptural grounds for a victim of domestic abuse to separate and divorce the abuser. If you want a gift copy of my book, email me at

    2. Irene, I was in an abusive marriage for almost three and a half decades, when I began to think of ‘me’ and not ‘us’, everything changed – I knew I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I had been all that time. It wasn’t going to change. I moved forward for me and my sanity, clarity, safety and peace. I was still in the marriage, but focusing on me. It was scarry, but I could almost taste my freedom and God lead me out of my marriage as I prayed for answers and sought His guidance. He will show you things, have faith in Him. Easy to say, I know, but don’t fear – TRUST. God is displeased in him – very displeased – not you.

    3. Irene, I remember that fear so vividly. It kept me captive for 13 years. I was afraid of what he’d do if I left (he threatened to sue for full custody and paint me as an unstable psycho in the court), and I was afraid of sinning against God by leaving a man who had not committed adultery.

      It wasn’t until I read some good books on the subject of biblical grounds for divorce (Barbara’s book – Not Under Bondage, and David Instone-Brewster’s book – Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible…) that I finally understood that adultery is NOT the only biblically acceptable grounds for divorce. I finally understood that emotional, financial and verbal abuse are grounds for divorce, and finally I felt free to divorce the abuser.

      The fear of what he’d do still tormented me but I laid it all at the Lord’s feet and trusted Him and thanks to God my children are with me full time. It was a nasty ordeal (the divorce) but the Lord protected me and my children. Instilling fear is one of the abusers favorite tactics to keep you under his control. I pray that the Lord helps you find the courage to make decisions that will be in your best interest. I know how hard it is and I am sorry that you are going through this.

  11. Lundy’s quote:

    I don’t care how admired he is; that doesn’t make what he’s doing right.

    At least here, in the ACFJ community, no one knows my family of origin, my anti-x, or co-workers from various workplaces. There is no frame of reference in which to say, “It just couldn’t be him (them).”

    The more I re-integrate memory fragments, the more I write, the more I think “It just couldn’t be him (them).”

    Survivor commented on the importance of recording, whether by tape or the written word. (And I have read similar ACFJ comments on keeping a journal.)

    I have no written record of my memories. I wish I did.

    I am at war within myself, knowing my memories are real, yet pinning my “image” against theirs, my life appears surreal.

    Before my walls crumbled, I was aware of some of the abuse in my life, though not the extent. I lacked the emotional connections.

    Now, I am bewildered by this new person I am discovering. I feel like two people…like the before and after pictures of an extreme makeover project.

    I don’t know how to reconcile the two…..

    Perhaps I’m painting the image too black-and-white, too either / or. Maybe I need to blend my palette.

      1. Barb commented:

        It doesn’t sound to me like you are painting the image too black-and-white.


        I commented:

        Now, I am bewildered by this new person I am discovering. I feel like two people….like the before and after pictures of an extreme makeover project.


        I also commented:

        I don’t know how to reconcile the two….

        Now I understand the pictures of the extreme makeover project. I am ridding myself of the detritus left by the shoddy workmanship of the abusers in my pre-makeover picture. I don’t need to reconcile the two pictures, I am reconciled to God.

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