A Cry For Justice

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

Differences Between an Abusive Marriage and a Healthy One — a reblog from Give Her Wings

Many thanks to Megan C for giving us permission to reblog her article.

So many times, women who have left abusive relationships hop right out of the frying pan and into the fire because a man comes along who is a tiny bit “better” than the former abuser. It is so difficult to see that this new man might not be that great because (1) a former victim of abuse does not necessarily believe that she deserves, or can do, better and (2) that “tiny bit better” seems monumental. She needs someone outside of her world and paradigm to say, “He is not that great, friend. You deserve better.” One of the most difficult and painful parts of being in this ministry is watching women leave an abusive relationship to return to another one. And we believe it is because former victims of abuse NEED to understand that healing takes time . . . detoxing . . . a new perspective that is truly Christian.

So often, I say to my wonderful husband (David), “No one has ever done that for me before . . . ” And he looks at me with love mixed with mercy mixed with pity. He says something like, “No one has ever filled up your gas tank?” I remember my Daddy doing that a few times but it had been years. David fills up my tank on a regular basis and acts like that is normal. In fact, he delights in it. He is always surprised when I over-thank him for normal acts of kindness that should be part of the every day Christian marriage. It has made me think about how little I knew of “normal” for such a long time. My “normal” was skewed and painful. I found myself in the center of swirling selfishness, inconsistency, blame and (near) hatred. For many other women who are struggling to understand how marriage can actually be wonderful, I have compiled a short-list of what is normal and not normal for a Christian marriage. It is imperative that “our” mamas know some of these things or they will find themselves back in another relationship where “normal” is actually not normal — but abusive. These are only some of the truths I have learned in the past three years of marriage:

  1. It is normal for a Christian husband to treat his wife with dignity, as an equal heir to the throne of God and a partner in this life here on earth. She has her own thoughts, ideas and passions. Sometimes these passions join together and other times, they do not. It is NOT normal nor biblical for a wife to simply be an extension of her husband. It is not normal for her to not have her own opinions or ideas or goals.
  2. It is normal for a Christian husband to be kind to his wife, to acknowledge her hurts and her tears and to apologize if he harms her. It is not normal for a husband to tell his wife that she is being oversensitive or ridiculous. It is not normal for a woman to wonder if she is crazy or defective because her pain means nothing to her husband.
  3. It is normal for a Christian husband to treat his wife as a fragile and beautiful vessel. He gives her extra sleep and cares for and warms her body and soul. He is strong for her and able to handle her deepest struggles. It is not normal for a man to ridicule a woman for her weakness . . . or make her hate herself for being a woman. A Christian man is forever in awe and wonder over his wife because he is captivated by her.
  4. It is normal for a Christian husband and wife to talk about things together and make decisions together. It is not normal for a husband to make decisions without the valuable input of his wife.
  5. It is normal for a Christian  husband to encourage his wife in her dreams and desires. He upholds her with his strength — a safety net. It is not normal for a husband to dump all of his problems onto his wife to bring her down. It is not normal for him to vie for her pity and create an atmosphere of insecurity for her in her home.
  6. It is normal for a husband to provide a home that is safe. The one thing I asked my husband before we married is that our home is “always safe”. It is not normal to walk on eggshells or uncertainty around your spouse because you are not sure of what mood he is in. It is not normal to feel unsafe. Furthermore, it is not normal for YOUR NORMAL to be insecurity in your home.
  7. It is normal to feel like the apple of your Christian husband’s eye. A Christian husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church. She completes him. He readily admits that he needs her and adores her. He is not ashamed of that. It is not normal for a man to act like his wife (and kids) are his afterthought.
  8. It is normal for a Christian husband to keep his wife aware of where he is and what is happening. They are ONE. Out of respect and honor for each other, a husband and wife keep each other abreast. It is, in fact, joy to do so and to feel that connection. It is not normal for a husband to show up whenever and wherever and not stay connected to his wife. It is not normal for days of silence to ensue and then a great expectation for intimacy in the bedroom. That is not normal.
  9. It is normal for a Christian husband to listen to his wife and understand her point of view. It is not normal for a husband to blow his wife off and make her feel like a nothing. It is not normal for a husband to make her feel crazy.
  10. It is normal for a Christian husband to nurture his wife, to protect her and to cherish her and her body. It is not normal for a husband to work his wife to death, not offering any help with the children or around the house.
  11. It is normal for a Christian husband to love his wife because she is . . . not because of what she can do for him. I love my children because they are. They do not have to earn my love. Likewise, a Christian husband simply loves his wife because of her beauty and loveliness. It is not normal for a wife to have to earn her husband’s love by hard-work, extra-biblical “godliness” or anything that involves striving.

A Christian wife can rest in her husband. And he delights in her. In this context, a Christian marriage can have a Garden of Eden-like experience where there is no shame, no lording over, no superiority, no entitlement. Of course, we all slip and hurt one another (so painful), but, in a Christian marriage, we know that the other does not want to hurt us. We know that the motivation of the heart is to love and bless. This is what we wish for all of our hurting mamas and all of those, in the world, who have been mistreated and abused. Dear one . . . . wait for that man who will adore you. You are worthy of being loved and cherished because of all that God has done for you. He died for you . . . He wanted you . . . He covers you with His love. You are like a bride adorned with jewels (Isaiah 61:10). Please, dear-heart . . . . do not accept anything less from a man on this earth. They are out there. Just pray . . . and wait . . . and worship, in the meantime, a God who is so much more worthy of worship than any human being in your life ever was or ever will be.



This article (Differences Between an Abusive Marriage and a Healthy One [Internet Archive link]) originates from Give Her Wings website.



  1. sheisovercoming

    For many women in the church, they turn not to another man but to the church. The church begins by treating them a little better than the abuser and so they look to them for comfort and guidance – hands and feet of Jesus. But in the end, they are abusive, support the abuser, and value holding the victim to her abusive marriage by the threat of discipline. This is what happened to me and my children.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Sheisovercoming, sadly you are right that many churches embrace the abuser and threaten church discipline on the target(s) of abuse for various reasons. Nothing new under the sun…Jesus had the hardest time with “the teachers of the law.” It is rare to find good shepherds of the flock who teach congregants by example to support and guide the target(s) of abuse to freedom from marital bondage…and so when we do find these faithful ones like ACFJ, Give her Wings, pastors, their wives, friends, and family who came alongside the brokenhearted, we know their reward will be great since they are truly doing God’s work and being Jesus’ hands and feet! We join this faithful “band of true brothers and sisters” to overcome evil with good.

  2. Came Alongside

    I have walked with my best friend for over 5 years, before and after the divorce, as she continues to emancipate herself from her continually abusive ex and fellow parent. In a different manner, my husband has also walked beside her (as have other friends husbands serving to demonstrate “normal” for her).

    If you are a truly Godly man wanting to help a sister in the Lord this is how my husband did it. Whenever she was here or we were with her he would afford her the same loving courtesy as he did me. “Suzie (not her real name), can I take your plate for you?” Or asked her if she wanted second helpings from the kitchen, or a soda, would spontaneously bring us both glasses of water during a crying jag, carry boxes for her, etc. She was stunned and almost confused with these actions because ex had NEVER in 3+decades done these things for her! My hubby? He says he feels it is his job before the Lord to show her with action the kind of care and treatment she should receive from a husband so with God’s help she can know how a future suitor should (loving, positive) treat her, not just how he should not (abusive, negative) treat her…and not settle for less or settle for a man marginally better than ex.

    Godly husbands, if the Lord brings an abused woman into your wife’s life, there can be a field of ministry open to you when your wife blesses and invites your participation as an example of a healthy husband/marriage. Be only a brother to this woman, but exhibit the kindness of the Lord that will guide her expectations of companionship in her healed-up future.

    • Came Alongside

      My hubby had an addenda to my comment. His kind actions were done in my presence and for me, too. He reminded other husbands “This does not mean go over to the friend’s house for several hours and hang out as this can cause mixed signals for a woman who has never had kindness given to her.”

      One doesn’t want the enemy to gain any foothold. I thought his comments were very wise.

      • Stronger Now

        Yes, I actually read that into your comments but I appreciate him stepping in and making that point directly.

    • Tracy

      What you are your husband is so needed. As a woman that grew up without a father and few healthy male role models and then married a man that didn’t treat me well I can honestly say I don’t really know what it looks like to be treated well by a man. That lack of understanding makes it so much harder to trust that I can choose a different type of man.
      My experience was all within the home, he was fine in public. So I honestly thought maybe all marriages are like mine when they are at home.
      Sadly I find married Christian men steer clear of me and my children. I’ve come to the realisation that it would be very easy to remarry an abuser just for practical reasons and lack of support as a single Mum, and that’s very sad.

      • Came Alongside

        I understand how married Christian men stay clear. I grew up in an era where the thinking of the day was that the divorcee was trolling for another woman’s husband. I actually saw the breakup of a marriage because a woman did exactly that with another’s weak-spined husband. Thus my admonition that men, like my husband, be an example with his wife’s blessing and invitation and do so wisely.

        Unlike many shameful expressions of God’s family, our incredible church has many men of the same caliber as my husband though I am sure that is hard for some to believe. My friend is not the only woman our church has gathered around to help in her healing.

        I know so many abuse survivors don’t think there are any churches or men out there that are good, righteous and healthy, but that thinking is a despair tool of the enemy. Elijah, in his despair, felt all alone thinking there were no more prophets serving the living God. But God assured him that He had reserved 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. You can be assured that there ARE real Godly men and churches still left. Not all is lost even though the Enemy wants that idea to be the foremost thought to discourage those he already wounded via his earthly assistants!

      • Hi Came Alongside,
        We removed the final paragraph of your comment; we will check out the site you recommended and if we think it’s okay we’ll let readers know about it. Thanks for informing us about it. 🙂

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Came Alongside, you and your husband are doing “true religion” – by your love and actions of kindness, you are helping to heal the brokenhearted. Isn’t this what Jesus did?

  3. Lisa

    Thank you.

  4. Joy

    I’m the first comment? Wow, I’m impressed! Thank you for posting this very informative article, it lets those of us who have been abused by our husbands and fathers know what kind of Christian man we should marry in the future and what to look for as we get to know him.

  5. Heather Black (formerly H)

    Beautifully written and explained. So touched by your description of what’s not normal, as it all sounds so familiar. I can remember not long ago having been treated this way consistently and then being mocked and shamed by him for feeling that something was wrong. It was confusing and also caused me to doubt my very self and assume there was something wrong with me to cause all this treatment.

    I’m so thankful that you were brought a wonderful “normal” godly man to marry and display to you the beautiful nature of marriage between two redeemed Christians. The small snatches of your story that you tell are far more romantic and more true than any of the crappy selfish stuff that passes for romance in our culture today.

    In my separation that is stretching on, and as divorce seems more and more inevitable, I am caught up with insecurity and fear. I notice my heart desperately wanting someone to rescue me out of this situation, as I fear being alone. But there is a lot of danger in that, as I don’t want to make the same mistake again! It is far better to be free and lonely than to be with another person who seeks my destruction.

  6. MeganC

    Thank you so much for re-posting, friends! I hope it is a blessing to many! xo

  7. LH

    Thank you!! This is what I want, It has taken a long time to detox and heal, and it’s worth it.

  8. Anotheranon

    This brought tears to my eyes….to think that someone might love me like that someday… with the love that God meant for husbands and wives to feel for each other.

  9. Stina

    Beautifully written but after over 40 years of abuse by the men in my life, I think I prefer to remain single.

    • JJ

      Same here.

  10. His banner over me is love

    Things came to a head for me when I accidentally bumped into someone in a book shop, and i anxiously over-apologised. A man’s voice said ‘its alright’ with such kindness it shook me; it made me want to cry.
    The realisation that a stranger, which I never even saw, would treat me with more kindness than my husband, was profound. That was the nail in the coffin.
    That man will never know the impact of his kind tone.

    • Misti

      It’s those little kindnesses from strangers—especially when they’re things that those others just see as basic politeness / respect—that can really bring home how cruelly we’re being treated.

  11. Stronger Now

    This post is making me weep.

    I was never treated like that by my husband unless there was someone there to see it, so he could “look like” what he “should be.” At home, when he didn’t have an audience, no, never. Oddly enough, the show he put on for others actually tells me without a doubt that he DID know what he should have been doing. That line “just tell me what to do, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong?” Lies – all lies.

    We have been separated for over a decade now, and headed for a divorce before too much longer. He has changed some behaviors and knows the right things to say, but I know it’s still all a show, a sham, a disguise. He reveals his true heart and motives in subtle ways. I choose not to point it out to him because I don’t want him to be more careful. I need those glimpses to keep me grounded in reality.

    I believe now, to my very core, that I will never experience being loved. I do not want to risk ever being shamed and belittled and raped and abused again, so I will not be looking for a man to rescue me. Ever.

    • Anonymous

      I choose not to point it out to him because I don’t want him to be more careful. I need those glimpses to keep me grounded in reality.

      When I finally realized what my husband was and told him that I knew, he kept asking me how I could tell. I told him that it was everything that he did and said, and that if Dr. Robert Hare met him for even five minutes he would be able to see it. He would ask me again and again (initially) how I knew and I now realize it was so that he could try to hide it better NOT because he wanted to change. It’s his very essence, his every action and thought process and it’s revealed over and over everyday.

      • … where is my sheep-suit slipping? Where are the holes in it? Tell me! Tell me! I demand you tell me!

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Stronger Now, THIS:

      I was never treated like that by my husband unless there was someone there to see it, so he could “look like” what he “should be.” At home, when he didn’t have an audience, no, never. Oddly enough, the show he put on for others actually tells me without a doubt that he DID know what he should have been doing.

  12. Tan

    After my divorce I began to be filled with hope about having a healthy respectful relationship, then I met the “Christian” psychopath, spent 5 years with this diabolical “man”.
    I find it dangerous for me to entertain hope / desire for a loving relationship. I feel unless there is a major shift in society this is not possible, not in my lifetime anyway. Its the times we live in.

  13. Tan

    I think women need be aware of the mindset in society, it seems to be especially so in “churches”. Its the reality we live in. We cant stick our heads in the sand and live in la la land. There are consequences to the current mindset in society and of course people will suffer, there will be victims. This is a natural law and God will not override this, its a wakeup call on a large scale. Yes there are rare men out there but they’re rare.

  14. Onlymyopinion

    I’ve been lurking here for a long time but it was THIS post which finally made me want to comment.

    Soon I will be married to someone for forty years who never, ever gave me one ounce of concern, respect or care. It was only two years ago after a particularly violent incident that I finally realized I have been abused by him all this time.

    Fill the gas tank? My husband lets it go to the point where the light comes on as a warning because it frightens me that we will run out. I’m with Stina and Stronger Now. No more for me. No more fear, no more feeling stupid, no more being controlled by his anger. I’m done.

    • twbtc

      Hi Onlymyopinion,

      Even though you have been ‘lurking here for a long time’ we want to say, Welcome! Thank you for commenting.

      As you have probably noticed we like to encourage new commenters to visit our New Users Information page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting.

      Again, Welcome!

  15. Show Me the Way

    I have just discovered this blog and this is my first comment. This post had me in tears. I had no idea there were people out there experiencing this kind of relationship. I always felt like the outcast because I didn’t want to pretend, and I always thought that my fellow sisters in Christ were just faking it to look spiritual, but maybe I will have to rethink that. You have given me hope where I had none. I have never NOT been in some form of abusive relationship, and if I actually make it out this time, I don’t ever want to be married again. But, maybe I can make some good godly female friendships. That would be so awesome.

    I read this to my daughter. She said she already knew this stuff. Smart girl. Maybe she won’t do to herself what I’ve done to myself and her.

    Is there a place on this blog to ask a question of the readers?

    Thanks for this community. It may be my only support.

    • twbtc

      Hi Show Me the Way,

      Welcome to the blog and I love your screen name!

      We like to encourage new commenters to visit our New Users’ Information page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      You asked if there is a place to ask a question – you can leave comments / questions on any post (both current and old posts). Comments / questions are moderated first (we check mainly for safety issues) then approve. Approved comments can be seen by all the readers as well as the ACFJ team. Also, there is a list of the ACFJ team members names, their bios, and their emails found on the About us tab at the top of the page should you have a question that you don’t want to make public.

      I also encourage you to dig around the blog. We have an extensive Resource pages found on the top menu bar, and there is a search bar on the right side that you can use to search for specific topics. Also on the top menu bar is a place to leave a Prayer Request.

      If you have any questions on how to navigate the blog, feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      (the woman behind the curtain)

  16. LearningtoliveFree

    The author mentions how it’s normal for her husband to fill her gas tank. My x would secretly drain mine and blame it on my coworkers, people at church and the Farmer’s Market that I went to all in broad daylight when there are people all around. Or tell me I had a leak. No leak. I had two mechanics look at it. What a trip.

    • twbtc

      Hi LearningtoliveFree,

      Welcome to the blog! It is wonderful to see you commenting here.

      We like to encourage new commenters to visit our New Users’ Information page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      And for the reason of safety you will notice that I changed your screen name. You had given your full name which we don’t encourage. It would be too identifying if your abuser and / or his allies were to see it. (We do have abusers stalking the blog.) If you don’t like the screen name I gave you, just email me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com and I can change it to what you would like.

      Again, Welcome!!

      • LearningtoLiveFree

        Thank you. I love this blog.

  17. BeenThereDoneThatTwice

    Simple, not hard to understand or agree with. SO difficult to imagine though. I wonder if I’ll ever experience being treated like this.

  18. healinginhim

    This post and the commenters are very precious. So many desiring truly healthy relationships but being made to feel guilty for expecting too much.
    Thank you for posting this and glorifying the Lord in doing so.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Well said, Healinginhim.

      Yes, Meg, thank you for your post! The truths and principles you’ve written and expressed with kindness painted a beautiful picture in my mind of what a healthy relationship looks like!

      And the neat thing is, many of these principles can be taught and practiced in the home – now – by single mothers with their children…to see children as fragile and worthy of protection, to help inspire them to dream big dreams, to foster a safe home where love and respect is encouraged as they work through various issues, etc.

      • healinginhim

        I’m now living with regret at not being brave enough to expose the truth sooner and thus leave with my little ones. I was fearful and truly wanted my children to still have a ‘daddy’ and I believed ‘his’ promises that ‘he’ would be a better husband. This was said under the guise of a Christian man who now refutes being truly saved and wants nothing to do with me now that the children are adults and away from us.
        Any act of kindness towards me from ‘him’ was done only or appearances sake.

  19. KayJay

    I’ve been told recently, “I’ve been nice to you for the past few months!” As in, now it’s my turn to shape up and get back to putting him on a pedestal. I tried to get him to understand that kindness to your spouse is what most Christians would call “normal behavior.” There is no reasoning with him.

  20. Anne

    Thank you, Megan C. This brought me to tears. I so need reminders of normal and not normal. I am going to leave anti H, am preparing to leave him at some point in the not too distant future and I would like to think that some day I could have a normal, loving relationship with someone else. But like others have said, it’s been decades of “not normal”, so I don’t know how I’ll ever trust myself to judge what is good or trust another man. I’d rather be alone than in a marginally better or even a worse place than I am now. But that makes me sad too. I want to share life with someone who deserves me. I DO deserve to be treated well in public AND private!!! At least I’m learning that much from this blog and other sources!

  21. Liz

    Thank you for this. It brought tears to my eyes. Throughout my marriage, my normal has been the walking on eggshells, dreading having to tell him anything even remotely negative, being treated as if I don’t matter. He’s wrapped up in his own world and can’t seem to handle us being in it. I really struggle with the idea that I deserve better treatment, but at the same time I’m aware that this is probably a symptom of his emotional abuse. Part of me is saying “Wake up and get out!” but the other part of me is so run down and anxious, and worried about how it will affect the kids (including one special needs child) that I can’t seem to do it.

    This post is such a good summary of my marriage I feel like I should show it to people who doubt what I’m telling them. Not sure if it’s a good idea though.

    • In our experience, when people doubt what the victims are telling them about how the abusers treat their targets in private, the doubting people do not change, they don’t become more open to being told the truth, they actually become more resistant to the truth and more persecuting towards those who are trying to tell them the truth.

      Of course there are exceptions, but they are rare. So I think your gut feeling that it may not be a good idea to share this post with those who doubt your veracity is probably spot on.

      We wish there was a way of waving a magic wand to wake such people up, but there isn’t. Only God can convict them of their hardheartedness.

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