Patrick’s Story of being abused by his wife
[September 30, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Potential Trigger Warning
The abuse I suffered was a product of dominance, but the gender roles were switched.
My wife was older, had a dominant personality and was used to getting her own way. I was a quiet and sensitive person from a loud, working-class area and used to being bullied.
Our relationship had sprung out of that power imbalance.
Initially, I was shocked by her sudden, disproportionate rages. They developed into violence within months of marriage, with knives thrown and a lot of hitting.
Her violence pushed all of my buttons from a childhood of being bullied, and I sometimes felt an impulse to hit back, but my strong belief against hitting a woman prevented me.
I never told my pastor about the violence at the time because it felt weak, and I figured I could defend myself. I did, however, tell him about the rages, and he backed her up consistently.
I discovered over the years that this was fairly typical, that the role of pastor often attracts people who don’t like conflict and deal with it by encouraging the more reasonable party to give in.
There was a subset of Christians, largely from Pentecostal circles, who saw a problem. They talked about “Spirit of Jezebel”, by which they meant a woman who doesn’t know her place.
I was told by several people that my wife was not submissive enough, and that I needed to “take headship”.
This deeply disturbed me, because I felt they were encouraging me to violence while deliberately avoiding the words.
They may not have been, but I think that if you give such vague advice to a young man struggling to survive, that will too often be his interpretation.
None of these Christians knew what was actually going on. The verbal abuse was crushing to start with — she used to scream with such intensity what a useless failure I was.
But this often escalated, and it was the worst if I was subdued because I had done something wrong.
She would make me stand still so that she could punch me in the face. I remember sitting with our two-year-old on my lap, while she held a knife to my throat.
Several times she swung a poker at my head with all of her force.
After one particular attack, I went around to the local Baptist pastor’s house, not realising I still had glass in my neck. He was comforting, and suggested we come around for counselling.
We did, the next night. But when I told him about her violence, he corrected me. “Our violence. You need to own it as your violence too,” he said.
I explained that I had never been violent, but it was beside the point. I shouldn’t point fingers; who among us is without sin?
I received a similar response from other Christian counsellors I sought help from. They were often caring people who wanted to avoid conflict and do something good, but they seemed to lack answers.
Their unique field was Christianity, and the only guidance they had from the Bible was:
1) Wives obey your husbands.
2) Husbands love your wives.
3) Don’t get divorced unless there’s an affair.
Everything had to be answered with those three tools.
Unfortunately, I was just as bound by them. One Baptist pastor stood out from the others, because in the first few years of marriage, he saw my wife in a rage, then told me privately afterward that I needed to leave.
I was genuinely shocked. Divorce was a sin.
The only answer I could come up with was that I needed to love more. Surely, then whatever was keeping her prisoner to this would eventually drop away and she could be free to become a whole person.
I had to lay down my life, prefer to be wronged, forgive no matter what, and absorb her hatred like Jesus absorbed hatred on our behalf.
My wife quit work because she knew I would forgive her and would never force her to do anything.
She continued to abandon friendships, slept most of each day, left all of the housework to me, and although her anger was less frequent and mostly she was grateful and pleasant, it still came unannounced — sometimes with fists, other times with threats of self-harm.
I still occasionally wake from dreams that she has snuck into the room with a knife.
Eventually I accepted that I had no answers. That was the point where I think my faith went completely.
If even love Himself had no way to bring her freedom in His holy institute of marriage that symbolises His love for the church, then what was the point?
I could see clearly that the kindest thing to do was to leave, and eventually I did.
Losing my God was like a second divorce to me, and I still grieve for it. [Emphasis original.]
Patrick is not his real name; we want to thank him for allowing us to repost his story here.
After ABC News recently published a series of articles on domestic violence and the church, hundreds of Australians, including Patrick, emailed ABC News to tell them about their own experiences of abuse. The other stories can be found at Shattering the silence: Australians tell their stories of surviving domestic violence in the church
[September 30, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to September 30, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 30, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 30, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 30, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Male Survivors — ACFJ Tag for other stories from male survivors of domestic abuse.
- Posted in: Victims
- Tagged: abuser's tactics, church response to abuse, disclosing abuse, male survivors, survivors' stories
My heart feels heavy for this man, especially after reading the last few paragraphs about how he gave up finding answers, and that he feels he lost his God. That makes my stomach sick for him…
I think for the Christian who is trying to process (and eventually leave) an abusive relationship one of the hardest parts of the healing process is untwisting the way evil has distorted our understanding of God and Scripture. Abusers are great at using the parts of Scriptures that strengthen their control, and many churches are ill-equipped to understand the devastation of truly abusive situations. Too often not only the church but people in general want to believe that everyone is at fault and a compromise can be found. …When you are in relationship with someone who is this abusive, nothing you do will ever fix it or make it better. In fact, efforts to help or be good enough only cement and deepen the abuse.
Hi Paula, welcome to the blog. Seek Justice…Even When the Church Loses Face : Reflections on Christians’ Response to Andy Savage [Internet Archive link]
We 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.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.
Thank you for sharing your very difficult and heart breaking story. Hopefully, other men will be able to learn that they could be in abusive relationships. You also bring awareness of the incorrect teachings of many ministers, allowing for abuse to continue and at times, escalate.
I am sorry for all that you have experienced, all that will be required to rebuild your self-esteem and rediscover God and risk trusting again.
Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog [Internet Archive link].
This is so true about Christians and the church. After waking up, realizing and admitting being neglected, manipulated and covertly abused in a 25 year marriage, all I heard and hear is the same guidance with the same “three tools”. No matter if you are a man or a woman like myself…
The marriage institution is locked in legalism and twisted Biblical interpetation. Only understanding marriage with the Spirit of the Law will start bringing freedom and mercy for the abused. The Law kills but the Spirit gives life. Paul killed Christians in the name of the Law but Jesus had the Spirit of the Law, He said: “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!” Matthew 12:11-12.
The institution of marriage can not be preserved in an abusive relationship. It goes against its own essence that is to love, protect and provide.
Welcome to the blog, El. 🙂 I’m very glad you found this post helpful.
If you haven’t already done so, you might like to check out our FAQs.
I want to tell him that the god he lost isn’t the God; it was a false god. Our real heavenly Father loves him enough to have wanted him free, but people are broken until they come to Him. We can’t fix others nor lead them to Christ. He hasn’t lost God, God wants to hold him and love him and heal the broken places.
Patrick, I grew up in a patriarchal church where husbands were taught to lay down their lives for their wives. I’m thankful that God led me to marry a truly godly woman, because I grew up setting those sorts of beautiful, confident women on pedestals. Even then, I was stuffing myself in a box because I would never say no when my wife wanted to hang out with friends, and at the same time, I let my wife prevent me from having much of a social calendar because she wanted me to be home when she was.
To shorten the long story, at some point I realized I was dying inside. I had to stand up for myself, and her response was going to lead either to divorce or a happier marriage for me. Thankfully, it was the latter.
The same thing repeated itself in the church I attended. In that case, the church remained abusive and I left.
The thing that is interesting is that I found the antithesis of an abusive church. In fact, I might say that they are perhaps gracious to a fault. But…I learned a lot about God that my former church would probably have considered heretical.
1) When I approach God, I approach a loving Father, not a high king. My God wants me to tell Him when I’m angry, when I’m frustrated, when I’m sad. I don’t need to put on a mask and a smile when I approach Him.
2) God wants earth to be a place without suffering. I’m not a Christian so that God can show others how much of a beating I can take in His name. God is not glorified by my staying in a dead-end job. God is not glorified by my staying in an abusive church or marriage. God is not waiting for me to get a promotion so that He can burn my house, put my children in the hospital and have my car break down on the side of the road.
I grew up with a broken record of God speaking through my parents. Every bad circumstance in my life was God trying to punish me for this or for that sin. Every good circumstance was was God testing me, and ultimately I would fail and God would punish me. I grew up completely jaded and skeptical of everyone who did anything nice or good for me – there was always some sort of ulterior motive. Of course, with my family that was mainly true – many nice things had some hidden hook or trap.
So, perhaps, the God you lost was never the true God to begin with. The God I grew up with was a horrible caricature of the true God, and in many ways I’m still dealing with the brokenness in my heart brought by that caricature as I bring that to the true God.
Thank you so much MarkQ for your comment. I will be telling Hayley Gleeson, an ABC journalist who was involved in this story, to let Patrick know we have republished his story today. I hope he will come here and read the comments, especially the comments from you and Joe Pote.
Although the abuse I suffered was not physical violence, I too was in an abusive marriage. Like yourself, I struggled to reconcile pastoral admonitions that “divorce is not an option for a Christian” and felt it was somehow up to me to love more sacrificially, pray more fervently, and believe more completely.
I have learned that God, my Redeemer, loves me enough to redeem and deliver me from bondage.
And He loves you, too!
Here is a blog post in which I share a little of my story: Why I Speak Out [Internet Archive link]
May God richly bless you, comfort you, and draw you close to Himself!
It is sad that the Christian culture people that Patrick tried getting help from, only saw this from a “traditional sex roles” or “Nouthetic Bible counseling” viewpoint and was completely blind to seeing the truth of the whole picture. Likely the wife in this story has textbook NPD or BPD (personality disorders) or something else.
This man (and the child) needed compassion, safety and help quick. Instead he got victim shaming and messages that he was obligated to “accept” her behavior and forever remain in the position of physically battered and emotionally abused spouse. These “rules” about marriage and divorce in certain camps of Christianity are literally made up (using eisegesis) and create a rather cruel manmade subculture that looks nothing like the compassion of a God who cares about people.
Thank you, thank you, Patrick, for expressing this idea so clearly and succinctly. I’ve often noticed the same thing (not just with pastors, either), but I couldn’t find the right words to explain why I always seemed to come away so frustrated by the very people I had turned to for help. You’ve given me a lot of food for thought with this insight.
I’m so very sorry for everything you’ve been through, not the least of which was your loss of faith.
Thank you, Patrick, for sharing your story. So glad to hear that you managed to get away but only after years of confusion, hopelessness, and abuse.
Thank you for allowing your story to be published. I hope the writing of it and the avalanche of support brings some measure of healing for you. As a Christian counsellor who trains new counsellors in the Post Graduate space, I want you to know that I am passionately in the business of making sure no one who comes through our school treats anyone living in domestic violence in the way you have been treated.
I humbly apologise to you and many others for the damage done by those who would call themselves Christian counsellors. There is a huge difference between clinically trained counsellors who are Christians and pastoral counsellors.
I am sad that your experience of counselling has been so poor. With your permission I’d like to use your story to help educate the class I will be teaching in the near future.
Hi Julie Nixon, welcome as a commenter on our blog! 🙂
Since Patrick gave his permission for his story to be published at ABC News, and then republished at our blog, I don’t think you need to ask Patrick for permission to use his story to help train counseling students. He is happy for his story to be in the public domain. That implies that he’s happy for you, Julie, to use his story in training would-be counselors.
Wow, thanks so much for posting this. It was eye opening for me. I have been a domestic advocate for years, and mostly write for and help female victims. I know most females are told by their pastors to submit, and “be a better wife.” I always wondered how a male victim would be treated if he went to the church for help. I love Patrick’s insight that pastors hate conflict and will pressure the more reasonable person to give in. Makes so much sense!
Great to hear you found this post helpful, Caroline!
Did you notice that at the bottom of the post we gave a link our Male Survivors tag? If you click on that link you will find quite a few other stories from male survivors.
One day, I hope and pray to be married. I am going to tell my future husband that if he’ll ever begin to throw things at me, or scream and shout, or – treat me with contempt, I am going to leave. Marriage is a covenant, not a carte blanche for cruel behavior.
In the same way, I’m going to tell him that if I’ll ever do the same to him – throw stuff at him, or behave violently or dangerously, he better leave and find someone who will treat him better. That’s the kind of pre-nuptial agreement I want to have.
The first time someone acts out dangerously, it is over. I don’t expect anyone to stay in a relationship where they cannot feel safe.
I’m hoping you don’t have to find out after you are married. We try so hard to be nice beforehand that we often give in to everything and miss the clues. Decide to say “no” to him when you are dating. I think that’s the best test.
So far, there is no candidate in sight, so no worries. That is just a general principle I have decided on years ago – the man will know well beforehand that I won’t tolerate abuse. Neither should he, or anyone.
NG, the man I married as my second husband knew full well that I wouldn’t tolerate abuse and he had read and told me that he greatly appreciated my book. He also told me that he wanted to support all my victim-advocacy work.
After one good year of marriage, he started to show his true colours. I came to the conclusion, just before our second anniversary, that he was an abuser. And had him put out of the house by means of a protection order from the police.
…and most definitely I won’t try to be overly nice while getting to know a man. It is essential to share early on what the non-negotiables and no-goes would be: I am going to be fair, but he’ll know I will stick to what I mean. In the same way, he’ll know that I will respect his boundaries too and never purposefully hurt or offend him.
Barbara, it is so true that not everyone shows their colors well in advance. Sometimes people also change after ten – fifteen years.
Then it is essential to stick to one’s gut feeling. Good for you that you did not try to continue in a harmful situation but reacted quickly!
I’m so happy that Patrick found the courage to leave. I hope he now knows that God didn’t abandon him.
I had the same experience. My ex would fly into rages, constantly criticized me (“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” was one of her favorite responses to my suggestions), and always demanded that I never make any purchase decisions while she constantly bought whatever she wanted whenever she liked. Her greatest tactic was to constantly gaslight me, and she was so effective at it that I actually went to therapy because I thought I was being verbally abusive toward her. My therapist had us record our conversations and listened to some of them and she told me, “I agree there is verbal abusive going on, but you’re the victim of it, not the one causing it.”
Despite all that, I still never would have divorced her. God took it out of my hands though, since she eventually left. I’ve gone through years of questioning Him and trying to sort it all out. Still don’t understand it all, to be honest, but I at least recognize now that if she hadn’t left me I probably would have killed myself by now.
The biggest thing I still struggle with is the fact that I can’t trust anyone so can’t form any new relationships. She was the image of the perfect Christian woman, and fooled me and a bunch of our friends for a long time. I think she even fooled herself, given that she had no problem with us recording our conversations for the therapist since she really believed that I was being abusive to her and not the other way around. I can’t risk going through any of this again, and so I have chosen the pain of being alone.
Hi Some1, thank you for sharing this, and welcome to the blog. 🙂
You might find this page helpful. It is one of our FAQs. What are red flags that someone might potentially be an abuser?
And by the way, you may find you sometimes have to reverse the genders of the pronouns at this blog. We know that some men are abused by their wives. But because in most cases the abuser is male and the victim female, we quite often use ‘she’ for the victim and ‘he’ for the perpetrator. I encourage you when reading this blog to reverse the genders in our posts as necessary, so that they fit your situation.
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.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
Lastly, just out of curiosity, how did you find our blog?
My heart is so heavy as I have gone though similar except that it was enduring bouts of continual verbal, financial and certainly mental abuse. Mind games and verbal abuse can’t be seen but it’s so debilitating and kills you very quickly inside. I lost my self-esteem – I’m still struggling with that one to regain it back. I feel I’m a shadow of my former self inside, but I dare not show it or I’ll be walked over and laughed to scorn by work colleagues. I put on a good front most of the time.
On a few occasions my wife came so close to physical abuse, but thankfully my wife never crossed over to that. She knew I’d be gone in an instant. I still have flashbacks though of extreme ‘in your face’ rage with threats and violent behaviour, that thoroughly frightened me. I was even told when I moved out, “Just remember I know where you live!”
At my work one day I had a flashback of that and her in my face over me while in bed, threatening me (like I’d had one night at home). My legs gave way under me immediately such was the strength of it and I cried like a baby clinging [to] the machine I operate. Thankfully no one spotted it otherwise I would have had work abuse too. I get this regularly and don’t need it added to. I’m a laughing-stock and made fun of often ridiculed in work, with sometimes very scathing words about my separation. Some people have no heart.
When I approached the church for help I gained nothing. I too had a lot of the same responses from my pastor as well as my immediate family. My dad was the only one who saw things as they were and encouraged me to get out. However he stays out of it as much he can. He has the old-school view, let man and wife sort it out and don’t get involved. But I needed him.
I have given a little of my story in other posts.
My heart is heavy as I know what it’s like to lose your church family, the ministries you had sacrificially and tirelessly worked at to bring others God’s word and healing etc.
I’m totally lost and two years on, despite a measure of healing, I’m still feeling spiritually and mentally numb. It is just as this man has said like a second divorce, probably worse. It’s not just a person gone but your life. I was involved in other fellowships and groups too and just feel my world is gone overnight. No one seems to care – not a phone call no one asking about how you are. I just disappeared overnight. Put away. Like a sudden death in a family I’m still devastated although thankfully free from that initial abuse. I still bear the scars and I’ve a lot to get over and work out. I’m grieving but I feel I’ve lost God too in some measure, but I do know for sure I have not – it’s just my feeling.
I read somewhere yesterday here that He still has me in the palm of His hand. It encouraged me but I’ve a lot to get through in my journey. I hold on to the knowledge that my God will get me through and one day I hope I will feel the same as I once did. But for now I struggle with spiritual stuff and church and sermons etc. It may come across I’m not interested to family especially but it’s just I’m hurting. Slowly I’m getting there thanks to this site. Just at the weekend I listened to a sermon (by Jeff), the first in over two years. I’ve lost the joy of my salvation and the song in my heart – it’s there it’s just hiding at the moment. I just can’t bring myself to sing or play the guitar and worship etc. There’s so much hurt associated with it all. The same as I felt dead when under abuse and I felt the real me was very much gone – but I was still there – I was alive just hidden / suppressed.
We (the victims) will with time and God’s healing be one day where we would like to be. I cling to that belief!!! For now I just want people around me to be patient and understand. Sadly they all think I should just get over it and move on. Is it just me but it’s not that easy and I often think ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ so why are you expecting me to be the Christian I was before overnight. Maybe I’m wrong I don’t know, but I am just a bit bewildered and lost in my new struggle to be fully free.
Sorry for commenting I’m just going through difficult patch of inner healing and a lot happening this last few weeks for good. However I have had the devil this week try and give me his hell fiery darts too but he is definitely not going to win!!! He’s already on the losing side!
Thanks NF, and no need to apologise for commenting. The healing process involves talking — talking to people who are safe and who do not judge or ridicule, people who understand trauma and flashbacks and grieving.
You are indeed grieving. And so-called Christians who expect you to just get over it and be happy are naive and foolish.
You do have songs to sing: and at the moment they are songs of lament and songs that are akin to the imprecatory psalms.
Thanks Barbara for your comments. Wow I never thought of the lament songs and yes psalms is full of them. As you know I do write a lot of songs and poems. I still write down everything which I find very therapeutic. Interesting proverb and I agree. We are very much learning every day. There’s so much I’ve still to learn about all I’m going through but glad I’m not back where I used to be. Thank you again – something more to ponder from this site. 🙂
I wrote this today as I often write my feelings in song or verse (it’s very therapeutic and also eye opening).
30th August 2018
I thought I would delve a little deeper into what you said to me, Barbara, yesterday. This is what I’ve found via Google (I’m not going to go into all the scientific equations etc).
The acid in the vinegar reacts with the base of the baking soda to produce carbon dioxide (CO2). This creates a fizzing effect, and a foam, as the generated gas forms bubbles in the liquid of the vinegar, and it foams up over the lip of whatever container you’ve put it in.
What is left is mainly water, sodium acetate and gives off carbon dioxide gas. The reaction needs heat to make it happen, so it takes heat from its surroundings, leaving the bottle feeling cold. Baking soda and vinegar react with each other because of an acid-base reaction. You can make your own vinegar and baking soda bottle rocket!
The reaction between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (dilute acetic acid) generates carbon dioxide gas, which is used in chemical volcanoes and other projects.
Therefore in my simplicity as I am no chemical wizard.
The two together = a lot of Froth and bubble — fizz only on the surface.
An explosive reaction that builds to a point of bubbling over. Affecting its surroundings.
Leaving the container it’s in cold.
This is a parallel proverb of which there are many in psalms and proverbs. Saying similar things but each giving a little more explanation of the other.
Therefore – this type of pretend or “forced” worship by ourselves is not real: it’s all on the surface, a facade, and can leave the person feeling choked up and corroded inside and “cold”. It also has the ability to affect others around us.
Why abuse ourselves further? I don’t believe God wants us to do that with Him. He wants us to come to Him as we are, be open and honest with Him.
I felt guilty a lot over last number of years hiding and trying to be someone I was not inside. I was real with God but felt I had to hide for my sake and others. I only did this for self-protection.
If we continue to feel we must put on a face though in private before God and be joyful sing joyful songs etc., we, as Barbara has pointed out here in this very interesting proverb, do not do ourselves justice.
In fact I think if we feel that way, we are neglecting to remember the true character of God and certainly that of Christ Jesus himself. He understands and He feels what we feel – He’s been there. I do not pretend to know how He does it – it is one if the mysteries to me – but God tells us in His word He has suffered and been tempted in every way as we have. I just accept in childlike faith He is God and I can trust His word.
He knows our frame as the Psalms tell us.
Yet he loves us, keeps us and cares for us despite how we feel or what it might look like.
Who can separate us from the love of God, Paul tells us and then goes on to elaborate further.
I’m beginning to understand more each day, how it’s not only others who place false guilt upon us, but sometimes we can also do that.
We forget the laments of God’s people many times in a strange land. We forget the book of Job.
However, this is not to say we cannot sing and as I’ve found often times we can in midst of adversity find that song of praise as well as lament too. But to think we MUST be always upbeat and be joyful in our praise I’ve now found is based on our wrong thinking of God and His word. I will approach this in my heart and mind and in reaction to others very differently from now on.
I am beginning to understand then, it is best not to pretend but be real both with yourself and God (not that we can hide anything from Him) as well as others.
In some cases I guess we might want to put a face on for the sake of self-protection, but in the end it will destroy us. Pretence will finally eat us up. In saying that I believe God has a time for us to be vocal and no longer pretend, but voice our struggle with being abused to others who may help us. (Again we must be extremely cautious who we reveal that to.)
I believe we all need to break free from this terrible sin that others put us under. I believe it should be sooner rather than later, if not immediate.
However, I know now it’s easier said than done. It took me over 20 years to realise and break free. I asked for help five years before I sought a separation order (in the wrong places) and went through bad counselling many times before that. It took another year of hellish intensified abuse before I finally got all that sorted and out of the marital home. So I understand that breaking free takes a lot of thought, soul-searching, heartache and immense courage etc. In His time we will make the correct decisions. That is not to endorse anyone staying, but I cannot criticise anyone as they continue to struggle to break free. I still receive a lot of hurtful accusations, “If it was that bad why did you stay so long!” They often, to this day, belittle my struggle and how hard it is for anyone undergoing abuse and finally break free.
Lamentations 3 tells us there is a time for everything under the sun.
E.g. A woman trying not to show her true feelings in a service while her abusive husband glaringly watches over her just in case someone just might ask questions and she reveals what has been happening in secret.
My heart goes out to you all. Truly we are in a learning process as we heal. I hope this gives us food for thought and reflection. I am not infallible but just my thoughts today in my delving into this interesting proverb.
Thank you Barbara again for this little interesting and very thought provoking proverb, truly it is a wise saying from the heart of God.
Has anyone else any thoughts or light on this, that might encourage us all?
^That. (Modified with the strike through by me.)
Working toward an answer for a different post / comment. (Battling with this one since yesterday.)
MarkQ also commented
^That. (No modification necessary.)