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The One Sure Sign You are in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

by | Feb 18, 2016 | Emotional Abuse, Learning, Popular Posts, Waking Up | 166 comments

Physical abuse is easily definable and recognizable. Sane people soundly condemn it. If a woman comes forward with physical evidence of abuse, she will usually find support in the church. (She won’t always find support in the church. There are some people who think a wife needs to suffer for Christ even if it means physical beatings. Christ’s suffering wasn’t enough for her. She’s got to complete it for Him. Total rubbish, of course.)

But emotional abuse? Is that even a thing? It is absolutely a thing. It is the most common type of abuse, and it is rampant in our churches. Why? Because it is the most hidden, unrecognizable, and untraceable of all the abuse tactics. Often, the victim is completely unaware that she is in an abusive relationship, and the abuser is in such complete denial that he is unable to see how destructive his behaviors are to his partner. Emotional abuse in a marriage can go on for years before anything is done to stop it, and even then, getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship can be a long, dangerous, and painful road. (For help navigating that road, consider joining the Flying Free membership group.)

Leslie Vernick wrote a book called The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Chapter one has a test you can take to help you discover if you may be in a destructive marriage. There is a PDF of this test HERE if you are interested. (If you think your spouse may be emotionally abusive, don’t show this test to him. A common tactic of abusers is to take whatever you say and turn it back on you. He’ll take the test and call you the abuser.)

So take the test, but I would like to point out, for simplification, that there is one key component of every single emotionally destructive relationship. If this one thing is present in your relationship, you are being emotionally abused. Period.

The One Common Denominator of All Destructive Relationships

Your spouse doesn’t take responsibility for his behavior.

Ever.

That’s it. You can have an infinite number of variants as far as specific behaviors and abuse tactics, but boil it all down, and you get this at the bottom of the pan every. single. time.

This means you can’t ever resolve anything. If you go to an emotionally abusive spouse with a bit of feedback about anything, you will get nowhere. He doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Here are some examples of how this might play out:

Wife: “When you did/said such and such, it hurt.”

Husband: “That’s ridiculous. I didn’t do that. You misunderstood. Why do you always have to jump to the worst conclusions? Can’t you even trust your husband? What kind of person does that? You’re always on my case about everything.”

(Wife feels unloved, unheard, stupid, and can even question her sanity. Did she misinterpret his tone? Did she make it up in her head? Is she being unfair and mean? When this kind of thing goes on for years and years, she can start to question her reality and even her sanity.)

Wife: “While I’m gone, can you change the baby’s diaper before he goes to bed? You forgot the last three times, and he woke up soaked.”

Husband: “What? Are you crazy? I’ve never done that. I think I know how to take care of a baby for crying out loud. Why do you always have to nag about everything? You treat me like a child. It’s so disrespectful.”

(Wife feels caught. She feels bad for her baby, and she feels like she can’t remind her husband of anything without being accused herself. She doesn’t want to treat him like a child. She wants to respect and honor him, like a good wife should. So she feels bad that no matter how hard she tries to show him respect, he only views her as the opposite. She also wonders if she is crazy. She could have sworn the baby was soaked the last few times her husband put him to bed. But he seems so sure…maybe she was wrong? Maybe the baby just peed a lot during the night!)

Wife: “Can I go out with a friend next week end?”

Husband: “I suppose. I never go out with my friends.”

Wife: “But you can go out any time you want to!”

Husband: “Mmmmm. It’s your day. Do whatever you want.” (Deep sigh.)

(Wife feels guilty. Uneasy. Like she is taking advantage of her husband and displeasing him. If she is in a sub-culture that says wives must please their husbands at all times and put their interests first, she may even choose to stay home knowing that would make her husband “happy.”)

Wife: “You committed to such and such over a year ago, but I’ve noticed that you haven’t followed through. When will you keep that commitment?”

Husband: “Don’t you have something better to do with your life other than get on my back all the time? What is your problem? Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything? I’ve been busy. Can’t you see that?”

(Wife feels guilty even though she hadn’t mentioned the commitment for a year. She feels like she can’t remind him, yet she will suffer the consequences of his lack of keeping the commitment.)

Other typical responses to the wife’s input or feedback:

  • “You are goofy/silly/crazy/a @$#%&.”
  • “Why are you always on my back? What a nag/shrew/#$%$%”
  • “Everyone knows you think you’re so great. What a judgmental Debbie Downer. Just back off, why don’t you?”

They are critical, deceitful, and lack empathy. They are not convicted of sin, and they don’t repent. To have peace with them, the wife must take responsibility for her sin as well as his (everything is her fault, after all). She has to sweep all issues under the rug and ignore them, because to bring anything up invites an attack on her personhood. All issues remain unresolved, and her feelings, interests, opinions, and desires are worth nothing.

One Sure Sign You are in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship - Emotional Abuse Survivor

She becomes a non-person in the marriage. If she tells someone in the secular world who is familiar with abuse, she will get help. If she tells someone in her church, she may be rebuked for slandering her husband. She’ll be told to submit more, make better meals, give better sex, quit nagging, stop trying to be his personal holy spirit, and other choice rebukes with accusations and assumptions embedded in them. All things she hears from her husband regularly. This is how churches align themselves with the abuser and enable him to dig into deeper denial. It’s not only unloving, but it’s destructive to the entire family as well as to the body of Christ. Lies always are.

The ironic (satanic?) thing is that the church’s desire is to keep the marriage together at all costs to the victims within the marriage (wife and children) – for the purpose of “reflecting Christ and the church.” The only trouble is, this kind of marriage isn’t a reflection of that relationship in the least. It’s more accurately a reflection of Satan, the accuser, and his attempts to thwart God’s purposes on earth through His people.

What we are called to as Christians is TRUTH. To walk in Truth. And that means calling a spade, a spade. Even if it means being vilified for it. The most loving thing a church can do is to hold the abusive spouse accountable for his sin. If God grants him conviction of sin and repentance, a marriage can be saved. But clocking the wife over the head just because she is an easy target (she is just a female after all), and the “head of the house” is a slippery devil disguised like a angel—doesn’t save anything. It just aids in the destruction of several human lives. The husband, the wife, and any kids they have. And no, contrary to pious opinion, this doesn’t glorify God or reflect anything of Christ to the world around us.

So what if you just read this and your mind is spinning. You’re thinking, “I think this is me. I think this is my life. What am I going to do?” Keep reading other posts on this blog. Consider signing up for the Flying Free support group to get the help and clarity you’re craving.

Several years ago I sat in a coffee shop after spending a night in a quiet hotel room contemplating suicide. I literally spent the entire night wracked with sobs. Every inch of my body was burning with pain inside and out, and I had never been hit. I was bleeding out, emotionally. I wanted to go Home to be with Christ. To be done. I didn’t think I could survive another day of insanity. I felt stuck in a perpetual torturous existence with no end in sight. The only thing that anchored me to this earth was the baby inside my belly, whose birthday was just a few days away. I sat in that coffee shop the next morning Googling stuff related to what I had been experiencing for 20 years up to that point in time. And what I found shocked me to my core. I discovered (was forced to face) the Truth about my marriage. And the truth was horrifying. But it ultimately set me free.

One Sure Sign You are in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship - Emotional Abuse Survivor

166 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    God always knows what you need ! And this article is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Rebecca

      My husband could always acknowledge how I felt and admit it was his fault. He would say, “I’m sorry I can’t be the man you want me to be.” But NOTHING EVER CHANGED. It would be as if conversations never happened. We would agree to a resolution of some problem but he wouldn’t follow through. I would pour out my heart and days later he couldn’t remember what we talked about. The worst part? I didn’t even know it was abuse. My family, friends and church would have supported me but I just kept giving my rights to God and praying for him.

      Reply
  2. Tibet Lyn Love

    I am finally emerging from 1 year ago. I will never be the same girl, but I have grown in other ways from my past experience that I am thankful for. Your blog, articles and website, helped and are still helping me so much. I still have a lot of work to do, but I have come so far and I’m so proud of myself. I owe gratitude to you. Your podcasts are a blessing to me. I’m sorry that you had to go through what you did in order to create this blog. God is good! People that have never been with or lived in a verbally/emotionally abusive home don’t always understand how you could have stayed and\or look at you as weak or trying to be a victim. It’s nice to have a community that truly understands without judgement. I want to shout at the roof tops, I left, I finally did it and that makes me feel proud, but if you have never been in that situation….It’s not understood by others, the weight lifted, even though some things will be harder. Joy, calmness, peace, is my thought and that is something money can never buy and something he can never take from me. As far as those that do not understand, I pray they never do.
    Thank you for all you do!!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you for standing up and using your voice to share your victory story here. You are brave to keep going even when it hurts like crazy. Keep going – you SHOULD be proud of yourself! God certainly is!

      Reply
  3. Betty

    Almost 40 years and only getting the worst it’s ever been. I am not working for medical issues so I have none of my own money. He says I should be happy cause he feeds me I have a car to drive (he picked out his favorite) I have a roof over my head ( he’s been remodeling for 20 years) He works 12 to 18 hours a day comes home sits on couch waits for his dinner eats goes to bed! 6 days a week.
    We have 4 grown children 3 boys 1 girl. The boys disrespect me call me names just like their dad did for years.
    Everything I do around the house he makes fun of me. He makes very good money and puts it all in his wallet. Will not let me make a budget or let me control any of the money. He says it’s his he made it. I too have thought about taking a hand full of pills. This 1 day off this week he had he probably only said 50 words to me.
    I don’t know if I love him or just scared to leave him. I 14 when I met him we used to have fun and do things. We have quit celebrating any holidays. I have given up begging him to do anything so now we do nothing.
    We both need dental work our house is far from being completed and we literally have nothing. But yet it’s all my fault. He won’t even wipe his feet when he comes in the house but yet the truck he drives (not his) he blows his feet off every time he gets in it. We don’t ever go to town together because he leaves me home says I spend too much money at the store. The grocery store! But yet he stops at stores all day long. Buying crap to eat or drink.
    I don’t ever go to town anymore maybe once a month. I am so lonely and question myself in everything I do

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m so sorry, Betty. I hope you’ll stick around and read these articles and listen to the podcast. I’ve got a private group as well where you would find and connect with women exactly like yourself. You’d also have access to the education you need to get strong. Check it out here: https://membership.flyingfreenow.com/sign-up

      Reply
    • Mrs T van den Broek

      Betty, I’m so sorry to hear your story – I’ve just clocked up 38 years – so identify with you. My situation isn’t as bad as yours – though most of my 11 children have been ‘taken in’ by their father (for now). I’ve been SO blessed by the flying-free membership group – especially by having been prompted to take up my journal again and having directed journalling activities. That we begin to see ourselves as a human being, precious in the sight of God, is the starting place – I’ve made progress in this – and you could to. Would love to be able to dialogue with you if that were possible? The fact that you have found this blog is part of God’s rescue plan for you!!!
      Every blessing

      Reply
  4. DOUG

    I am getting rather tired of the people just saying about women’s abused. I am a man and was emotionally abused for over 10 years and didn’t know it. My family didn’t care, my sister thinks I am weak, law enforcement made it worse, etc. This is a HUMAN ISSUE, NOT A GENDER ISSUE.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      You’re absolutely right, and I am so sorry for all the pain you’ve experienced. This is a website for female victims. If this is a trigger for you, you might benefit from a website for male victims. Like this one: shrink4men.com

      Reply
  5. Ellen Hall

    I’ve been in an extremely emotionally abusive marriage going on 24 years now. There has been physical violence in the form of shooving and scratching rarely thruout the years but mostly what I like to call plain meanness. We have 4 kids, 2 of whom are still little. I suppose my excuse to stay so long was the age old excuse “for the kids”. A lot of good this has done me so far. I’ve always had the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that we would divorce because surely there will come a day when I finally get tired enough to leave. That’s the issue now. I’m certain I want to leave. Every day I feel more compelled to go. He keeps giving me plenty of reasons, withholding money for simple household items and things the kids require. It’s M to have to beg for money for gas to get the kids to school. If I question why he isn’t making enough money because often his pay is sub par. He’s a talented carpenter but lacks the motivation to get a real “career” and instead has worked alongside his extremely alcoholic brother doing minor carpentry jobs that never seem to add up to much at all. Definitely not enough to live on. I was left a decent sized inheritance or we’d have been in trouble ages ago. That’s about to run out also. It seems now that we’ve both reached aged 40 things have gotten markedly worse in terms of frequency and tones of the arguments we have. I feel my patience has dwindled for what behavior I feel comfortable allowing. I think I also has a lot to do with the kids being old enough to hear and understand everything and it has started to affect some of them negatively. I’ve become depressed and have an extreme lack of motivation for things I used to do well such as clean the house. My house isn’t filthy but I definitely don’t have that zest for an immaculate home anymore and haven’t for over a year. This in turn causes my husband to call me lazy, worthless, fat, useless, etc. instead of hearing me when I say I feel beat down by his treatment and would feel more apt to clean the house as he wishes and he happy to do so if he was kind more often. There is a huge amount of resentment there I think. I honestly don’t have much hope for our marriage. I’ve prayed incessantly for so many years and I feel like the only way to peace is divorce. I really don’t believe my husband has the capabilities to love me as I am required so that I flourish in Motherhood and in being a wife. My major road block is financial stability. I’m lucky my home and cars are paid for. But I’ve been a stay at home mom for 15 years while he worked. The prospect of finding a job that will support myself and my 4 kids is daunting if not terrifying. I wondered if you could offer advice on where I might start. I probably left out several bits of pertinent information so feel free to ask questions as needed. Thank you for listening. -Ellen

    Reply
    • Ellen Hall

      Sorry for typos guys! What I meant to say is it’s humiliating at best begging for money for the necessary items we need to survive such as gas and groceries and etc. definitely not the type to require multiple trips to the salon or local mall l. I’m a pretty simple person who just wants peace and stability in her life.

      Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      You might benefit from being part of the Flying Free group. It’s a private group that offers ongoing education and peer support as women extract themselves from emotional abuse. Many of those women have walked in your shoes and gotten out eventually. It’s not easy, and there are many roadblocks to hurdle, but it is possible.

      Reply
  6. Kase

    This type of behavior/emotional abuse exists in friendships, & family relationships, too.

    I was close friends with a male friend for several years. We were friends. We respected each other, so I thought. We shared conversations about life, the dreams each of us had for marriage, etc. Eventually, he started to send out mixed signals, and leading me on. When I confronted him about it he responded, “What? Naw, I think you’re seeing things.” However, I knew what I had experienced wasn’t imagined. He started hanging out with two other females after brushing me to the side, and I witnessed him treating one of them in the same “special” way that he had been treating me for so long. It was very painful. I never expected that level of betrayal from him, because of all the good, nice, kind thing he had said to me and the way he had been treating me (with respect and affection) prior to my questioning his behavior toward me.

    I spent days and nights agonizing about my own sanity. “*Did I only imagine what I saw and heard? *Did I make things up? But if I made it up, why is he doing the same things to this other girl? What’s wrong with me? I must be a horrible woman since he flirted with me, and then left our friendship just because I confronted him on something *he was doing. Was I wrong to confront him?”

    Something else that he did was accuse me of treating him like a child whenever I held him accountable for something he did do. (This is not accurate. I understand the need men have to feel respected, and I took great efforts to confront him respectfully and only when absolutely necessary. I didn’t confront him over petty, insignificant issues.) Yet, on another occasion he accused me of being an “ass kisser” because of how generous I am with people, himself included. This messed with my mind, deeply, given the later accusation of “making things up” when I noticed his tendency to trifle with a woman’s heart.

    I later learned that the other woman’s friend confronted him on the same issue that I had – leading her friend on. God knew that I needed to know that for the sake of my own sanity, and my own healing. It’s been three very painful years of learning how to trust myself, and God, again. This man was a divinity student at the time, and an elder at my church. When I tried talking to the pastor about it, I left his office feeling worse about myself for having done so. I left that church for a year, & transferred somewhere else. I didn’t feel safe at that church. It hurt to have my own pain and emotional injuries minimized and dismissed just because my friend was a “leader” in church. The betrayal – first by him, and then by my own pastor, was too much. I had nowhere to go (I didn’t feel safe at the other church, either.) It severely impacted my relationship with God because at the time this happened I was in deep conversation with God and trying to find my way back to Him (a sepatate, but dual, reality at the time of this betrayal).

    God has since given me multiple victories over this situation, but the damage done went very deep. There is still more healing left to do.

    I understand the purpose of addressing spousal abuse, and I believe it is 100% necessary to address – especially in church. For those of us who are single who have experienced emotional abuse, gaslighting, mental abuse, etc. the conversation needs to include us, too. Please. As a single woman having experienced similar abuse in a friendship with a man, I was blessed by reading this article. We need more like it, and that includes singles. We also need the conversation to include abusive familial relationships.

    Again, I appreciated reading this article. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      You’re absolutely right. Thank you for bringing this to my attention from the perspective of a single woman. I will try to use more inclusive language in my future articles.

      Reply
  7. Eric

    What if a lot of this is true but its her that seems to be the abuser. Are the signs etc. the same?

    Eric

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Yes. An abusive person puts the responsibility for their own behavior on their partner so the partner is responsible for keeping the marriage intact. When a survivor finally acknowledges the broken vows, sets boundaries, and eventually leaves the relationship, the abuser tries to hoover their victim back. Abusive folks want power and control over their partner. They cannot tolerate healthy boundaries or the fact that the other person is a PERSON with their own perspective, personhood, rights, and autonomy. A healthy relationship is made up of two people who have healthy boundaries and respect the healthy boundaries of others.

      Reply
  8. pamela

    For several years I have been “trying to figure out” what was wrong in my “marriage”. No marriage is the answer. Accepting reality and the reality of “sleeping with the enemy” is painful.

    I am in the process of following through with a relief from abuse order. I still am hesitating. Why? I am afraid… I keep putting it off thinking there must be hope for this marriage, after all, God is a God of miracles.

    He is. I am a miracle, I am valuable, I am his child. I am royalty.

    I need to start believing and follow through.

    A master manipulator for sure.

    He threatened to leave this morning. He will not. Everything is “good” for him, except for my constant “nagging”.

    The spiritual abuse is the worst I have been told to stay unless he is “beating” me physically, the emotional beating is not valid. Submit, have a meek and quiet spirit, etc., and on and on and on.

    A friend sent me this link. God is good. He loves me. I need to find the person I once was and start living again.

    Reply
    • Marian

      Wow Pamela…so this is so good

      Reply
    • Tracy van den broek

      Pamela, I have remained hopeful for many years – now 38 years – and I wish this whole movement had happened 28 years ago when I first recognised this wasn’t what a Christian marriage should look like. Join the flying free membership group – it’s the best thing I did, I’m still here but I’ve found out that, after all, I am a human being – and I have FRIENDS. You could too!

      Reply
  9. Emily Honey

    Thanks so much for posting this Natalie, it’s a really insightful and thought provoking piece. It took me a long time to realise I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and even when I did the break up was so hard and horrible. Luckily a few years have passed now and I am much happier, I hope other women can find the strength to break out as I did.

    Reply
  10. Brenda

    Thank you Natalie, I only figured this out after 18 years of marriage. I mistakenly thought abuse was physical or verbal only. I had no education about emotional abuse…until I began to dig for it. All of the stories, words, phrases left me speechless. And the church? Yes, this blog is right on about what the church is doing to victims of emotional abuse. Every example given. I kept giving my abusive husband the benefit of the doubt and until I woke up one day and realized it – the marriage – was destroying me and my mind. I am in the process of recovery and healing my wounds that took 18 years away from a once: confident, successful, highly educated women who is now starting over at age 57. My church is supportive. His church is swallowing his entire story(s) about me. He’s doing what all emotional abusers do – twisting the truth and making me look like I’m crazy and to blame. He’s the poor innocent victim. Thankfully God is my judge and that’s all I care about looking forward toward my new life – free from the abuse and the abuser. Thank you again! Keep up this great work and blog!!

    Reply
  11. Kristina

    Thank you for posting this. A few years ago I came to the same realization about my now 26 year long marriage. I’ve since become determined to help other women living in crisis and have recently finished my Life Coaching certification. I’m excited that people like you are bringing this matter to the forefront!

    Reply
  12. Melissa

    I have been married for 24 years with 3 kids under the age of 15. Before we got married my husband would make hurtful comments to me in front of others and I brushed it off because they were sporadic. Over the years the comments have continued, sometimes in private and at other times in front of others. I’d tell him it needed to stop and he’d ignore me. Finally I had a wake up call that I didn’t deserve to live like this any longer, walking on eggshells and not knowing what I’d get fussed at for next so I went to see a lawyer and had separation papers drawn up. Since giving him theses he’s decided he can change and told me that most of what he’d said in the past he didn’t mean and that I’d misunderstood. While he’s been a whole lot better and has suggested counseling, I’m too scared to get sucked back in again. I don’t think I’m strong enough. I have found a new house to move into with my kids and have it furnished- just haven’t told them or made the move yet. He keeps trying to suck me back in by reminding me of all the good times we shared…..

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      That’s just another abuse tactic – the hook and bait tactic. You are right to trust your gut on this. I pray you will get free.

      Reply
  13. Cathy Rollinson Claude

    is there a number you can call to talk with some one

    Reply
  14. Ann O'Brien

    Thank you for this article. My abusive former husband just died of aggressive cancer. He was a minister. In our marriage, he never admitted or owned his sin of abuse, both physical and emotional. After a separation for a year, a restraining order and time are given for him to get counseling, he instead told all in the church and family that I abandoned him. He then five months later after the year of space, divorced me. Five months later he married a woman in the church he had been counseling in her marriage problems. She divorced her husband and married mine. within two years they divorced. I never remarried.
    I prayed for my husband for years to come to repentance. Never did he own his sin. Never did he tell the truth. He continued to pursue pastoring and became an assistant pastor for a Life Recovery Ministry. Just yesterday, a mutual friend of ours for many years contacted me concerning his death and made the comment that she noticed that my husband never married after our divorce. she point blank asked me what happened to me? She like most everybody was told I had abandoned my husband. He never told a soul he ran me out of our home with a gun. Nor did he ever confess to pushing me out of a driving car where I landed in the street and he drove away and left me there. Another person in a car in front of us picked me up off the pavement and she happened to be a ministers wife! She offered to be a witness to the scene. All these memories have come flooding back into my mind since getting news of his death. He played the part of the victim. Made himself a new position in the church, and the most shocking part to me is that he was so very good at working with others outside himself in recovery ministry. I appreciate the place here on your web site I happened to come upon by accident. I needed to just vent. I have worked through many hurts, wounds, and situations over the years since my divorce. I never remarried. I have helped others I abusive relationships get out. I know this might sound strange, but I feel completely free now since I got the news. I know God saw everything I suffered. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, God Bless your ministry to others.

    Reply
  15. Sophia

    I thought he was the one and fell in Love way too soon that I was blind to ignore all the red flags even though I knew he was hurting me emotionally. I thought having a child would make him change for the good; we both planned on having a baby and so we did but things got worst as soon as he found out I was pregnant. He got angry one night and that’s when he got physical, I was four months pregnant. I was lucky I didn’t go through a miscarriage and fear grew with him me. I was so angry at him I knew I would leave him but he convinced me too soon that it was alcohol and that he would never do it again. He still continued to emotionally abuse me and he always found a way to make me forgive him and soon it was normal but I still knew it was wrong and felt as if I was always disappointing him. When our daughter was a year we left because he had been physical again and the emotional abuse continued. After 3 months he told me that I didn’t work things out with him he’d try and work things out with his ex whom he had a son with. I didn’t want to lose him because I thought he’d change one day so I decided to make things work and as soon as my daughter and I went back to live with him the verbal abuse and emotional abuse continued. I felt stupid for taking him back, I lasted 3 months and one night he got verbal and somewhat physical so we left again and that was the last time we went back to live with him. He begged me to go back and I told him he had to change and take the right steps to do so but as much as he said he would the drinking continued and we’d still argue and he was still verbal and emotionally abusive. Well fast forward almost two years after I left he decided to give his ex a chance and they are now back. This is the woman who always has me second guess him and who told me was sleeping with my bf even though him and I were together the woman who did things out of malice so he would hurt me. She was the one who got him arrested because supposedly he had been abusive with her and why they split. So my question has always been, why did she hate me so much? Didn’t I save her from this abusive man? She could have moved on during those 4 years and now she’s back with him. Why did he take her back after he swore he’d never take her back because she hurt him and threw him in jail? Did God want me to pray more to him so he could have saved my relationship with this man? Is it all my fault? And will they be happy?

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      He’s an abuser. I’m glad you are free of him, and I hope one day his current victim will also find her way to freedom, both physically and emotionally.

      Reply
  16. Mark McRae

    Natalie,
    My daughter has been married for for seven years and her husband has only had sex with her (5) times in (7) years. He never has time for her and has no interest in spending intimate time with her. I’ve told my daughter that his neglect of her is psychologically abusive. There is nothing wrong with her husband physically, he just doesn’t care enough to go to therapy or anything. He thinks his behavior is normal and that she just makes something out of nothing.

    Am I wrong in my thinking? Should I not tell her to leave him if he doesn’t seek help with his problem?

    Worried Daddy

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      If she was my daughter, I’d tell her to leave him as soon as she possibly could, knowing that she, ultimately, gets to make the choice. This is a clear case of gross neglect and abuse. You are not wrong in your thinking. The only thing I’d give you a heads up on is that people only experience lasting change when they are motivated from within themselves. Outward pressure/motivation isn’t real change. It may bring about a temporary change, but it won’t be lasting. The past is the best predictor of the future. If he has not shown motivation or taken responsibility after seven years, there is a high probability that he never will. Your daughter deserves a chance at life with a healthy life partner who will cherish her as a person. The sooner she gets away from her destructive spouse, the better.

      Reply
  17. Trish

    Hi,

    I don’t know how to even explain what I currently am going through, and this is probably the first time I am speaking out but hopefully someone can tell me how to handle the situation or what to do. I met my husband about 2-3 years ago and I was so in love with him literally blindly in love. he was just so perfect and charming and gentle I thought I hit the jackpot and finally I am getting the man I prayed for. we got married quite quickly not even a year after we met. I worked so hard to be the perfect wife to this perfect husband and would have done anything for him. partly this is my fault as I had red flags but chose to ignore them. it all started with simple acts like cutting me off from my family making me believe they are terrible people and off course so I did. I ended up quitting my job since he hated the idea of me working with other men and it caused so much issues that I agreed to do so just to keep him happy and have no more issues. the worst is I have 2 children a son of 13 and a daughter of 5 and he promised them that he will look after them and myself and teach my son how to look after a woman…… what a mistake! not long after our marriage and me cutting off from everyone I know he started with the emotional abuse. my kids have to hear how they are constantly a problem for him, simple things like my daughter cant play then he gets upset because she makes a noise, she cant do anything or he will find a way to yell at her and complain. when se does ask him for something he just ignores her, so she tries in a good soft voice with all the please and thank you and love you’s and he still ignores her flat out. my kids refuses to listen to him and I understand from a child point of view, you cant demand respect you need to earn it and kids like to have a balance in life. love and discipline. he doesn’t love my kids at all. he made it clear. my son on the other hand is going into his teenage years and as we all know that alone is scary for a young child, their world just got bigger over night and they trying to deal with it all. he constantly has to listen to my husband calling me names accusing me of all sorts in front of my son. no matter how nicely I ask or even if I keep quite he just keeps on doing it. and the best part, 5 min later im the love of his life again…… this is so confusing and im not allowed to be upset about his treatment or im the bad person. im told I better change. I don’t even know who I am anymore I have changed so much for this man and he is still not happy. he used to blame his ex wife for drugging him and making him take loads of depression tablets. I believed him and helped him get off it to have a life. just to find out he has severe depression, bipolar, and needs schycotic tablets….. there is so much more I can tell, but my point is I am cut off from everyone I used to have in my life as support, no job or financial income two kids to look out for and I cant go anywhere. how does one person get out of this situation? where do I start? how the heck did I even get here so quick? did my own husband manipulate me and played me so well without even realizing it before it was too late? is there woman out there going through the same thing?

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Sadly, you are not alone in your experience. You’re experiencing marital abuse. I recommend contacting a local DV shelter and finding out what your options are. They will give you resources and advice – often free counseling – to help you get out of your abusive marriage. For the sake of you and your children, begin to take steps to get out. Hundreds of thousands of women with children have done it. You can too! It’s not easy, but it is possible.

      Reply
      • Trish

        Hi Natalie,

        I apologise for the late reply, but I can happily say that I am finally getting out! As scary as this is I am doing it for my kids sake and mine. I did go to the Church for help and a lot of people are reaching out, even people that I dont know or dont even know me…. God always looks out for his children.

        Thank you all for the advice and it is amazing to be able to talk to someone about this. There is still a long and tough road ahead of me and I will have to go to a lot of counseling to finally find the true me again, but I am willing to walk this road.

        Ladies as scary as it seems and trust me it is extremely scary especially if you have not support, finances or are completely cut off from the world and dont know where to go….. to leave that dark place is the best thing you can ever do for yourself.

        All my love Trish!

        Reply
    • Heidi

      7 children still at home. How do I get out of this? IDK, but I have to.

      Reply
  18. Jen

    This is my whole life the last six years

    Reply
  19. Marilyn

    Florence,
    I don’t know how long ago this comment was posted. If it wasn’t too long ago, and you are still in this situation, my best advice for you would be to leave. Please don’t mistakes my answer as insensitivity… I know all too well. You’ve been together for so long, to stay would cause grief, to leave would cause grief too.. in my case, I made some terrible mistakes I deeply regret against my spouse. So it’s hard for me to not think how he sees and treats me is all my fault… To read these comments from some of the dear ladies that have posted on here, it baffles me that I think they don’t deserve that, but I can’t think that way about myself…
    I would love to be a person to vent to if you need me.
    Hang in there.

    Reply
  20. Florence Billett

    Hello to whomever reads this comment. I’ve been looking for affirmation that what I have lived through 40 years of marriage to my husband has been a very real and abusive relationship from day one of our marriage. Before the honeymoon was over, I knew that I made a very bad mistake by saying “IDo”. I so wanted to walk away, run away from the monster I saw, my husband. It’s been a very hard life…so many thoughts and emotions are racing through the memories of my mind! Oh yes, it was always my fault, my responsibility to clean up his messes no matter what they were. Because the negative results were never his fault or responsibility. Am I synical, am I angry? YES, I know that I am. Does anyone really care how I feel. Am I really a person who is worthy of being listen to, cared for, honored, and respected? I’ve been through 20 years of counseling and I now know for a fact that what I feel is real, that I’ve been abused emotionally and physically by my husband who professes to be a born again Christian. My 5 adult children were abused emotionally and physically by there (loving) Father.
    My question is where do I go from here; I don’t want to go back to live in that Hell! I need emotional support and positive encouragement that I’m ok. Can anyone out there help me??

    Reply
    • Veronica

      Same here. Over 40 years of abuse both emotional and verbal. I believe I can leave without guilt. Prayed for years and did all I knew how to make him happy. I was diagnosed with chronic depression and then I had major depression. I got better, but now I am diagnosed with blood cancer. He said, “well if that’s your fate since life on earth is all you know. ” Even though he knows I’m sick, he still has explosive rages. I left a paper towel on the counter and he went into a rage for over an hour. That’s nothing new. He will be really nice for awhile, but anything can trigger his rage. I can’t heal in this environment. I’m going to live with our grown daughter asap. I pray for him and our families. Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

      Reply
    • Debby

      Get educated as quickly as you can. 25 years in, I finally sat down and typed in “emotional domestic abuse” and wow, spent the next 2 years learning, learning, learning. It has taken several separations and lots of information and lots of healing (in the midst of the abuse continuing!) but at 32 years, I have finally filed, with no regrets, freedom is almost here! but educating myself was the first step toward that freedom. This website has been a Godsend!

      Reply
  21. Kristine

    WOW Natalie! What an incredible and amazing article. I can barely imagine the impact you are having on the internet, as these articles are discovered by more and more. You are doing an amazing job. I applaud you and am humbled by your “calling”. I Love you girl!

    Reply
  22. T

    This describes how I’m currently living, its hard, thank you for this.

    Reply
  23. Dorothy

    I’m currently in. An emotional abusive marriage. We seperated by I lost my job during surgery came back to live with him and he belittles me,every chance he gets he tells me I’m nothing he don’t love me he don’t want to be with me. He really talks to me bad I don’t understand how a person can be married for 9 years together 13 and get treated this way. I am an emotional wreck and trying to find my self its so hard I cant explain it. Counseling does not help I need help someone to help me family members on say things like forget him or something similar its,not that easy I’m trying but I have good and bad days this has been going on for almost a year now when will it end

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m so sorry, Dorothy. As long as you are with an abusive person, it won’t end. That’s what they do. They dehumanize the ones they are closest to. It’s like a poison. The only way out is to get away from the one who is hurting you. Contact http://www.thehotline.org/ to get some ideas about specific steps you can take to get out. They work with women who are living with emotional abuse – not just physical abuse.

      Reply
  24. Tina

    I was in an emotionally abuse relation ship for over 20 yrs it’s been around 7 yrs since I lost my home my husband went to prison . his family treated me like it was my fault . anyway I’m starting to believe my son may be victim of aduse I’m seeing life long friends alianated as well as myself now she’s got him moving clear aross the country to where she’s from where all her family is .. I’m afraid for my son and grand sons … Any advice ?

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do in that situation. The adult victim needs to get to a place where they are willing to get out and get help. Is he ready to do that?

      Reply
  25. EB

    I took the quiz by Vernick and I’m going to counseling today. I’ve been seeing a counselor for stress in my life, only to realize that I’m probably in a destructive marriage. I haven’t really spilled the beans about it to my counselor, but have mentioned things here and there. As I was taking the quiz, I realized that I play a part in the destructiveness of our marriage. I can sometimes be abusive towards him. I keep hearing him say in my head “You always blame me”. I probably do. Is it possible that I am the reason he’s withdrawn, avoiding, and neglectful? I know I shouldn’t own what he does. But my part in it is abusive too. I feel dejected.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      When you lash out in anger and frustration over his abuse, that isn’t abuse. Abuse is the chronic mistreatment of someone and a refusal to take responsibility. The fact that you are wondering if you are to blame is a healthy sign that you are not the abuser. An abuser never wonders that. They are never willing to take the blame. They have to blame-shift, deny, minimize, and so forth.

      The role you play is in enabling him to mistreat you and losing your self-respect when you lash out in return. You are trying to control him and his behavior, but you can’t. You can only control yours. He is who he is. Now you get to decide what YOU are going to do with that information. Living in denial equals dysfunction. Living in truth equals emotional health. But it is a painful road to truth, especially when denial has been what you’re used to for many years. I recommend reading the Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. It helps women living with covert emotional abuse get a clear picture of what that kind of abuse looks like. It’s not just swearing or name calling. My ex husband would never swear at me or call me names in an overt way. Verbal abuse is far more subtle than that.

      Consider joining the Flying Free membership group as well. It’s open now through January 31 and then closes again until June. It will be a game changer for you.

      Hugs,
      Natalie

      Reply
  26. A concerned Christian Dad

    A friend of mine sent me a link to this article as I believe she is in an abusive relationship.

    I do see good information but I am concerned as most, if not all, of the information speaks about men being emotionally abusive to women. In today’s society, there are many women who do the same to men and when it is true, the man is made to feel worse by society. Was this article specifically geared to address women? I ask because it did not say this and, based on the writings, makes it appear as if men and church are the abusers when we can in fact be the abused.

    I speak from personal experience…yet this article pointed to me as being the villain for trying to stand up for myself in an abusive relationship.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      This website is written for women of faith, so the articles will address the abuse of women. I hope you’ll be able to find some resources for male victims of abuse, but I’m afraid this is probably not a good option for you since you are not the target audience of this website.

      Reply
  27. Crazy Is Catching

    Hi Natalie,

    I’m happy to have found your blog! Thank you for sharing your journey.

    I’ve been praying for years about leaving my EA marriage, but I feel like I’m not getting any answers. I feel like I’ve waited too long as he’s stopped most of the abusive comments. (However, he is still harsh with the kids when I’m not around. ) Yet, he’s never apologized or even admitted to the things that he’s done.

    My 15 year old son has asked me to leave several times. My oldest son told me that his dad told him once that he’d wished he’d never been born. When I confronted my husband, he said that he’d never said that.

    I don’t know what to do. I wish he’d hit me and then I’d know. I wish God would expose his true heart towards us.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  28. Bonnie

    I believe my daughter is a victim og emotional abuse by her husband. He has caused her to cut off most if not all relationships, including church and God. She will not read anything Christ related. (They are former followers and leaders in their church) I was hoping to find a “secular”book , preferably in the form of a novel that would lead her to acknowledgemention of her situation.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Why does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft is an excellent secular source.

      Reply
  29. Tearsinheaven

    I am sitting here crying reading this. After 16 years of marriage. and just a few moments ago protecting my 17 yr old step daughter, as my life has been spent protecting the kids from his angry outbursts. She just accused me of starting up “again” while she was gone and no one was here for her little sister. Because dad spoke to her first and Im the one at fault. Nothing I do is right. I am always the one causing the problems I am always the one who freaks out because Im going insane thinking im crazy. IM wrong I must be stupid but i stay cause Im suppose too. Because I tried to get out and he made it hell on earth for me I spent 3 days in a mental hospital because he won’t leave me alone about how horrible I am..I try to put my foot down and it just comes back at me for not understanding how hard he works and Im increasing his blood pressure after my cardiologist told me just 2 days ago, im headed for a stroke and he’s healthy as a horse Im only 47.. I feel like he’s killing me and no one cares. When hes not yelling at the kids they all take his side. When he is they come to me for protection. I don’t understand, and I don’t have the strength to even leave anymore. I just don’t know how to survive this marriage in one piece …

    Reply
    • Natalie

      I am so sorry. I can hear the deep anguish in your words. I recommend calling an abuse hotline to discuss your options at this point. They are equipped to deal with mental abuse as well as physical abuse. Just Google “Abuse hotline” and the name of the nearest large city. I hope you can get on my mailing list via the sign up at the top of this website. Praying for you now.

      Reply
  30. Yvonne Seaman

    I am in an abusive relationship,I want out,but what is my first step? I don’t have a solid career to support myself.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      I’m so sorry, Yvonne. Here is an article to describe the healing process. Sometimes it takes a while to plan out an exit strategy. If you are in danger, Google your local city and “Domestic abuse hotline” to get the nearest help.

      Reply
  31. Laurie Kosma

    I praise God for stumbling on this site. I have been in a emotionally abusive relationship for almost five years. I was losing my mind. I have cut off all contact but this person is still showing up at my home. I may be getting my THIRD restraining order soon . I have installed a security system. I need to deprogram my mind from this person. As they use “God” to draw me in. Please help.

    Reply
      • Megan

        I found your site too late to become part of this group. Will it or one like it be opened in the future or is there a waiting list? I am soon filing for divorce and alone.

        Reply
        • Natalie

          The group is opening up again at the end of this month. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll get an announcement about that! I’d love to have you join us!

          Reply
  32. Kristi Suber

    Natalie Ann- I am so thankful to be reading this! I know I am not alone! God bless you!

    Reply
  33. betsy

    There’s another response that is indicative to emotional abuse. It is a blank, emotionless stare. No vocalization. No emotion. As if the other person’s concern, question, need, etc were never spoken. As if that person does not exist.

    Reply
    • Cheryl

      Wow. This was my marriage. I even found a copy of an email my ex wrote stating I had more compassion in one finger than he did his whole body. Even if I had found that when he first wrote it I still wouldn’t have understood who he was and what he was capable of.

      Reply
  34. Katie

    If I may ask…

    I know that physical abuse is more often committed by men, who are almost always physically stronger than their wives (there are exceptions, and those need to be taken seriously).

    But this emotional abuse described seems to be leveled against men by their wives as well. Is there a reason that that is not addressed here?

    I hope this comment doesn’t sound like “Abuse is not abuse.” I actually am concerned for 2 relatives of mine (both wives) in situations with selfish if not borderline abusive husbands.

    But I’ve heard things from wives said to their husbands, wives I am not sure were ever good at apologizing, and I’ve cringed on behalf of those men too. Know what I mean?

    Thank you. I’ll be writing you an email later.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      This is definitely an issue that affects men as well; no doubt about it. This particular blog is for women, so the focus is on helping women; however, if you do a Google search, there are many resources out there focused on men in abusive relationships. While men can certainly take the principles written here and simply change the gender, they may feel more comfortable reading on sites that specifically focus on male abuse. Likewise, this site is geared toward helping women feel safe, and women in abusive relationships are often told they are the abuser. This is a common abusive tactic. If I changed the focus to both men and women, many female abuse victims, especially those who are working through PTSD symptoms, would be confused and potentially harmed. I hope that makes sense! 🙂

      Reply
  35. Kate

    Thank you for writing this insightful article! Sadly, I’m in an emotionally abusive marriage. Shortly before reading this I was doing dishes and thinking how wonderful it would be to just die. You gave me the courage to live another day. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Oh Kate, hang in there. I’ve wished to be dead more times than I could ever count. I think it is a common experience for women in our situation. Sometimes it seems to be the only way of escape from a maddening, insane life. Please know that you are not alone, and there is hope and help. I am praying for you tonight.

      Reply
  36. livingfree

    Bless you Natalie for your bravery in writing this. I grew up in a home with an emotionally abusive father. I wanted my mother to leave and protect us but she didn’t. The excuse was, “At least he isn’t hitting you.” Finally, in middle age, I have finally worked up the courage to get professional help. Yes, the scars run deep for the wife AND the children. Staying in these marriages hurts everyone and only enables the abuser to continue abusing and living in denial.

    Reply
  37. Belle

    Before I had ever read anything about abuse, how you boiled down abuse is how I had boiled down my relationship with my husband. When I first read this article it made my eyes pop out since I had determined that the fundamental problem of our relationship was the lack of resolution of issues. Of course admitting I am at fault is a solution. I only do that when it is true. There was never, and still is not, resolution to any hurt. Round and round and back at me it goes. As a new twist, he will admit to small wrongs. But still would not understand my hurt that is long term.

    His criticism of me is another foundational problem I had noted in our relationship.

    Yet, there is some good mixed in there as well. The sorrow floods my soul for the marriage my children are not observing. (I have heard over and over that a strong marriage is one of the best things you can do for your children, and so many bad things happen to your kids if they don’t see that) Yet, they love him and I don’t think they know what they are missing.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      It is a deep loss. My hope is that God can do incredible things in all of our lives – and in the lives of our children – regardless of what others do. God is not limited by our marriages or our income or our skills. He has unlimited resources. We can do our best, pray like crazy, and entrust our children to Him. But yes, we also have to go through that letting go of our dream – and grieve its loss. 🙁

      Reply
  38. jc

    Thank you so much for sharing this article and validating me in my abusive relationship. I wish there was more awareness concerning emotional abuse. So much of the time it’s focused on physical and sexual. Women like me seem to fall through the cracks because we’ve never been hit. I didn’t even find much help from my local shelter for abuse victims which really bothers me. My abuser already has another target hooked and it bothers me to think she’ll fall through the cracks just like me if and when she wakes up to who he really is and what he’s doing.

    Reply
  39. Angie

    I admire your courage.

    Reply
  40. Rachel Duart

    Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why does he do that?” HELPED me realize the horrifying reality that I married an angry controlling abuser. I realized it “wasn’t me”. AMERICA needs family law reform. Children are being legally abducted by angry demonic controlling manipulative people. Satan uses the court system to harm families; as if adultery, child pornography and greed weren’t enough. Reform Family Law.
    God never intended children to be viewed as money bags sold to the biggest bully with the most money to buy the lawyers who are in bed with the judges ruling against the impoverished parent. God hates injustice.

    Reply
  41. Becky

    I AM sitting here reading this knowing, yes, this is my life, as in just yesterday I was called an a$$h*** and told to shut up in front of my 4-yr old daughter, who then looked at me when daddy left and said “mama, that was not talking nice to you” ? No, it was not… My husband has not worked in almost 2 1/2 years, because of his back, but is a fully capable and functional man….and it has been a difficult road on top of a marriage that was already filled with disrespect and ugly words, distrust, and yelling.
    Then we who are in this situation, but yet are strong Christian women, married to Christian men, find ourselves at an crossroads in marriage. Ultimately the question is always, what am I supposed to do? What is God wanting me to do? Do I want to tough it out because “marriage isn’t easy” and just live together forever, but yet always move back and forth between good moments and miserable days? Do we go to counseling and get a glimmer of things being a little better enough to get by, but be afraid deep down that still the underlying tones of disrespect will always be there? Oh believe me, I’m not doubting the ultimate healing power that God can bring to people’s lives, but I feel as if my faith is weakening in the hope of a truly different marriage versus being stuck in one that just gets a band-aid put on it to be tolerable. I don’t ever make commitments lightly, especially a covenant made with the Lord, but the weariness is overtaking my life it seems….

    Reply
  42. Sam Herlock

    As someone once told me, if you love someone, you OWE it to them to NOT let them abuse you. It is not good for either of you spiritually. It’s hard, and, as you say, hard to spot and most don’t see it until they find themselves hit and then see the conditioning they suffered through.

    Reply
  43. Terri

    Your story gives me courage to keep growing and facing the reality of abuse in my marriages. Gods grace is sufficient for my happiness and we’ll being. I will not fear what man can do to me. Rather I should fear what I allow to be done, by not choosing healthy boundaries for my life.

    Reply
  44. Elizabeth Johnston

    Wow thank you so much for shedding light on this terrible abuse and its patterns! God bless you work and may it help many get free! My sister has been in one of these for years and still is!

    Reply
  45. Rachel

    Did you divorce your husband ? And do you have any further resources on this topic? I’m in s very similar situation with mild physical and extreme verbal involved.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I am not divorced. We’ve been separated for 1 1/2 years with no hope in sight at this point. I have not made a decision about my future yet. I’m sorry for your own pain in this area, Rachel. If you go to my About page, you’ll find a list of resources. Also, sprinkled throughout this comment section are links to various resources. The Cry for Justice blog is the #1 online resource for Christian women dealing with domestic abuse of all types. Be sure to sign up for their daily articles. They have been a lifeline to me for a couple of years now.

      Reply
  46. Shay

    So, I’m not crazy, stupid, and worthless?? I almost cried reading this because your words are what I have said to people I thought I could trust, only to be told to toughen up and deal with it. I’ve been in this kind of marriage for 5 years and I finally got up the courage to say I’m leaving. Did I pray? Oh yes. I fasted and I prayed, did every 30 day marriage building exercise I could find, and all my husband said is that it was good for me because I needed to work on my issues. True enough, we ALL are works in progress, but as I sit here confident in my decision to live a joyful life, no longer as a wife in strife, I raise my glass of cherry lime-aid and say, here’s to one “issue” that’s about to be removed from my life. No more tears. No more regrets. Here, here!

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      You are not crazy, stupid, and worthless – NO! Be free, Shay! Cheers~!

      Reply
  47. Heather

    Dear Natalie,
    This was you 4 years ago? That is me now. Thank you for sharing your story, but I want to know more about the 4 years since then. Is there hope? I feel alone and there is nowhere to get help. My church believes me but they are at a loss as to what to do. So am I. I am so tired and afraid. I struggle to have any hope that my husband could change. I know theoretically he could, as God can do anything, but I am so confused about why God has not changed him up to this point, for the sake of my tears and pain if for nothing else. I love God, and I trust him with my life. But what do I DO?

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I am so sorry. It’s such a terrifying, hopeless feeling. I often thought of it like a tsunami. Overpowering to the point where I wasn’t sure I could swim to the top and survive. I spent the first year reading everything I could get my hands on regarding the dynamic I was living with. A lot of those books are on my About page. In the past three months I’ve been listening to Patrick Doyle daily. I highly recommend that. The link is: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNd7n0AHeXmAXg7OPWIM2-_PxXJsxnmpG

      Pray, learn, wait on God. Be patient with yourself. You may go through all the stages of grief, and that can get really messy, really fast. God can raise the dead to life, but that doesn’t meant He does that every time someone dies. His plans are more long term than that. Keep that in mind as you walk this road. He CAN restore marriages, but He doesn’t always do that, and right now I believe there is a sifting of wheat and chaff in the Church – and that means lies will be exposed, battles will be waged, and captives will be set free. Know that He sees you, He knows you, He loves you, He is for you, and He has a plan to finish the work He began in you. He will be your husband.

      Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
      I have called you by name, you are mine.
      When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
      and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
      when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
      and the flame shall not consume you.
      For I am the Lord your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….

      Behold, I am doing a new thing;
      now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
      I will make a way in the wilderness
      and rivers in the desert.

      Isaiah 43

      Reply
      • Heather

        Thank you, Natalie. I love those verses. I listened to several of the Patrick Doyle videos you recommended, and I’m working through some of the other resources you suggested.

        Thank God for leading me to your blog. I’ve been buying AVNS for over a year and knew it was a Christian family business, but I had no idea the person behind the products I love was such a sincere and devoted Christian lady.

        I can identify with so much of your story. I too am struggling not only with the abuse in my marriage, but also with starting an online business that I hope will support me since I have recently separated. So you really encourage me! I’m so grateful to be able to connect with a Christian sister.

        I will be praying for you every time I pray for my own situation, Natalie. I’m so thankful for Jesus and his precious promises!

        Reply
    • Atenea

      God will not change anybody if they do not repent first.
      Any husband here described by the victims is definitely NOT a Bible believing Christian. They are unbelievers. Wolfs disguised as sheep and the Lord will make justice and keep them accountable at the final Jusgement. No Christian man could ever abuse his wife in any way. A Christian man is commanded by Scripture to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. Those “churches” who help and support those abusers aren’t following Christ either and the leaders will be accountable. Everybody talks about the wife submitting to the husband but they never say that the husband should LOVE the wife as Christ loves the church. Those type of love do you think would allow one bit of abuse? Does Christ abuse His Church? Of course not. Only test a man with the Bible before marrying him. The more you know the Bible and you test anyone with it, the more you can know for sure if that person is a true convert and believer or not. This and praying to God to give wisdom and discernment is the way of knowing and avoiding an abusive person. Abusers are not Christ like and they will never be, unless they repent. God will not change someone who does not want to repent, who is self righteous and who thinks everything they do is fine and all the other people are wrong and it’s always other peoples fault. God can and will only restore a marriage if there is repentance first. Without repentance there is nothing to do, since the person is not willing to change and God will not force anyone to change.

      Reply
  48. Columba Smith

    So good you are sharing this. God bless you. I want to add that it is not always the husband who is emotionally abusive. Some wives are adept at this, too. If a man wasn’t approved by his father, he can fall prey to terrible emotional abuse in a marriage, and not have the confidence or boundaries to even realize he should protect himself. I pray this never happens to my sons. I have seen it in my extended family.

    Reply
  49. Anonymous

    This is more of a lifeline than a blog! Thank you for sharing. I’ve been married for 20 years with 9 children. My husband is not physically abusive and has not been unfaithful. I am simply not important to an extreme degree. I feel invisible and it’s awful. I won’t provide the details here, but it ranges from annoying to horrible. If I bring it up, he just walks away, or disagrees (and walks away), or says “you’re right” (and walks away and doesn’t change). Not only do I feel unloved, I feel like being faithful to my marriage means I with never be loved. It’s hard to connect to people, especially at church, because my marriage is a wreck and I think they wouldn’t want to be my friend if they knew. I feel lonely and hopeless. I think separation is inevitable. It will shock many people when if it comes to that! Can I subscribe to this blog through FB to read more of how you made it through this?

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so sorry. I can relate to what you are describing, and there are thousands of us out there. If you go to the Visionary Womanhood Facebook page and “Like” it – you can also then click on that drop down menu and select “See First” – this will put anything I post on that page into your feed. The other option is just to check that Facebook page or this blog a couple of times a week. I only post articles here 1-2 times per week.

      Take it slow here at first. I’d read a bunch of material to get familiar with your dynamic before making any decisions. Wait on God – and He will make it clear when it is time to move on something. It is a very slow process sometimes – so my only advice is not to jump at an easy fix right away. It’s more of a series of jumps that you prepare for. Jumping too fast could backfire on you and set you back unless you are really ready emotionally and spiritually for the next jump. I will try to address this whole process (or at least what it was like for me) over time here.

      Reply
    • Lonely wife

      Yes Anonymous, it does make you feel awful, doesn’t it? My H does that…just walks away, like what I had to say wasn’t important enough for him to listen to….or he’ll say “Thank you for sharing that” and then turns the TV on, or walks away…and nothing ever changes. I feel unimportant and unloved.
      After 5 yrs of this…long story but my H had an emotional affair 5 yrs ago, and it’s been hell every since, no talking about it, mocking me when I was upset over the EA, flirting with other women and then getting angry with me if I got upset, lying to me and promising he’d go to counseling, and then quitting after 3-4 sessions, etc.
      I’ve finally accepted that he’s never going to change, that he likes the way he is, and after working on my CORE (thx Leslie Vernick!) I feel free from most of the emotional abuse, I don’t let it bother me as much, and now I’M the one who walks away!
      I no longer try to “talk” to him, no more begging or pleading for him to work with me…no physical intimacy for almost 2 yrs, again, thanks to Leslie Vernick, for showing me that it’s not my husbands RIGHT to have a loving wife and sexual intimacy, when he has broken the covenant of our marriage because of his infidelity and emotional abuse.
      Anonymous…try to find someone to talk too…it really does help to know that someone cares and will listen to you.
      The Lord has been good to me…4 yrs ago he brought my best friend into my life, and she has experienced infidelity and financial abuse in her marriage, so she understands exactly how I feel, and now I know longer feel lonely and unheard.
      Will be praying for you, Anonymous…you’re not alone.

      Reply
  50. Geri

    My last marriage was just like this, but I recognized it, yet I didn’t divorce him until after he cheated with a stripper!

    Another clue: If he treats you like a Queen without EVER showing you anger &/or dissatisfaction with anything in the relationship while dating; A BRIGHT RED FLAG! Get professional counseling together (if he will, but that’s not likely…if he does, it will likely fail…also; look at his parents’ relationship prior to marrying him…how does his father treat his mother?) or get out! Seek counseling for yourself either way; you have been deeply damaged & need healing to prevent falling for another man just the same! Also VERY IMPORTANT to regain your self respect, self esteem, self pride & faith to believe there is a good man our there for you who will treat you right! Also MANDATORY to regain (or build if you were already lacking) your ability to trust!

    Reply
    • Lonely wife

      YES!!! Look how his father treats his mother! This is HUGE! I married my husband without ever meeting his family…he was in the military and his family lived across the country.
      Once I met his parents I saw things I didn’t like…his father was very cruel and condescending to his mother, VERY passive aggressive…and my husband was the same way…Passive Aggressive, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time.
      His father was a cheater…my husband has cheated twice, and flirted with other women in front of me.
      I wish I would have realized just how emotionally abusive my husband was…30 yrs ago.
      I’ve wasted over 30 years of my life, struggling to understand and work with a man who lacks empathy and has never allowed me to get close to him, now I take comfort in my relationship with God, my children and church ministries.

      Reply
  51. Kaycee

    Natalie,

    You are a precious daughter of the king. I am too. Many years in an emotional abusive marriage, I have come out the other side. I met my husband in seminary and experienced abuse from the honeymoon. Yes, I think not taking responsibility for any of his meanness is a great marker but years ago entrenched in abuse I would not have seen it. I would have used his excuses and beat myself up for not being enough. Yet, I love how you said confronting the abuse and exposing it for Christ to convict the abuser is loving. I confronted the meanness, the pride, the neglect and I paid for it–with more meanness, neglect and cruelty–all so packaged with an apology or “I don’t really understand” or “you never forgive”.
    When finally I woke up to the reality of my story, God told me to give him my anger. I was afraid that if I did, I would go back to sleep. However, a prayer partner encouraged me to do so and the moment I put my anger on God’s altar, he showed me that I was no longer my husband’s. With my children, I was taken under God’s care. I was free to file for divorce. Do I still deal with anger? Yes, but God is helping me get free from all the pain of the past. I still have to surrender it over and over again. I am beginning to have joy. Yes, emotional abuse is painful and suicide can be a thought that goes through one’s head. Yet God is faithful and kind and powerful. I still have to trust for total freedom as abusive men just don’t stop. He still does things to cause confusion and pain. I’ve seen God work in my stead and I know that He will always come through for me but it doesn’t mean that there won’t be more painful confrontations.
    I am looking forward to reading your blog as it is wonderful to see God grant deliverance to his daughters. I believe a great Exodus is beginning in the body of Christ. May your words bring truth and light to many women who are suffering in the darkness of emotional abuse. I also hope that men will recognize and repent of their sinful pride.
    Blessings to you and your kids Natalie.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you, Kaycee. There is a lot of wisdom and healing in your voice. An Exodus? Yes. I believe that is happening. Beautifully put.

      Reply
  52. Doug

    Thank you, Natalie, for raising awareness and educating about this epidemic which is deeply wounding many a woman married to an emotionally abusive man. I am one of those, but considered myself a good husband. No, I was hurting her emotionally repeatedly. My wife, God bless her, left me 7 months ago to be safe, to heal, and pray. This was a courageous and noble act of great love from her. She needed safety from me indeed, but she also wanted me to get help and be happier, be better. I’ve been seeing a good counselor for 6 months, and she agrees he is good. He is helping me very much; I believe she agrees.

    My advice to husbands; listen to your wife, really listen. When she gives any indication that you’re hurting her, believe what she says, be humble, be very sorry, and repent/stop it. Be tenderhearted, gentle, kind and loving to her, admit wrongdoing, and learn to understand her. See 1 Peter 3:7 and ask yourself how much effort have you given to follow God’s wisdom there. Husbands, we need help. We need lots of help. Don’t be sinfully pig-headed in pride; ask for help and get it. Do the work to find good counsel and use it, get good reading material, learn how, and begin to really love your wife. Ask your wife to help you get good counsel, good reading material; she knows, she wants to help. Don’t wait until she has to leave you for her safety because of the deep wounds you’ve inflicted in her.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you for writing this. I had to choke back tears – because this is what I’ve prayed for for my husband for 24 years. Your response is rare, unfortunately. I praise God that He has captured your heart, and I am praying for you and your wife this morning, that you both find the joy of having a healthy, intimate relationship with one another built on mutual love and respect that is rooted in Christ and His Gospel. None of us has to be perfect. This reminds me of the song by Casting Crowns, Broken Together. God bless you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhxELo-uD3c

      Reply
      • Doug

        That’s a very touching music video you linked at the end!! Thanks for your reply, and especially thank you for praying for us.

        These emotional wounds are so terribly devastating. My question and passion now has become; what will it take to end the emotional suffering, when a wife never even considers leaving her husband, when no such rescue is necessary because husbands really love their wives as Christ loves His bride? In part, it will take many essays as you’ve written here, and associated dialogue.

        O God, we pray You will hasten the day when Christian marriages in every place, all the time, will truly image the love Christ has for His bride, the Church.

        Reply
  53. Maureen Lentz

    What did you end up doing?

    Reply
  54. Rosemary Anne

    Thank you for writing Natalie! My heart, soul and mind resonate with everything you have written…. I finally left an emotionally abusive marriage two years ago (after suffering for more than 20 years…) I’d love to read whatever you write… its so encouraging to me:)

    Reply
  55. Monique S.

    thank you. I was kicked out of a church for pre-marital relations. Of course the fact he took advantage while I was medicated made no difference. I think in the real world they call that rape. When confronted he said with a shaming tone “you knew what you were doing”, but I didn’t. I was on prescription drugs that literally made me feel stoned and pass out almost immediately. He knew this. but that only came to light after I told the “pastor” that I had him arrested because he pulled me out of the car by my head and choked me. though my best friend was in the back seat and witnessed it all, even though the police believed it all they (the pastor’s wife) dismissed it. they said they did not know what the truth was because I had not admitted that I had sinned sexually. the “church” was actually recognized as a cult world-wide, no surprise there. He ended up getting married and having a child. I pray for them often. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. I’m glad you got out!

      Reply
  56. Tired

    How he treats me is not okay. Definitely emotional abuse. When is okay to separate? I fear that he’ll be done once he’s out of the house. When is it okay to initiate a sepration? I want to feel obedient to Christ in that step as well.

    Reply
  57. Janet

    I would love to read any follow ups.

    Reply
  58. Melissa

    Natalie,

    Did you get out?? Oh how I wish I could sit down with you. This completely took my breath away.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m still married, but we have been separated for 1 1/2 years now. I live with eight of our children. We do relatively fine as long as we keep everything transactional and I have zero expectations. When he says little things that are covert aggressive to me or the kids, I try really hard to ignore them. Then everything is “fine.” So much better than when we lived in the same house and stuff was happening almost daily. I do not know “the end of the story” yet. But I plan to tell my part (not his) of my journey in extracting myself and finding some peace of mind and healing. I had a lot of my own garbage to work through. I’m still working, and I’ll talk about that! But as I’ve gradually changed, the relationship has changed. Sadly, it has not been restored, and I’m not sure it ever will be. But I’ve faced the truth, grieved deeply, fought a hard fight, and finally let go.

      Reply
      • Melissa

        I am expecting our 10th baby in the next few weeks. I have spent the last 2 months in agony, crying myself sick, even having to be admitted for IV fluids because I just cannot keep food and liquids down. We’ve nkw been to two marriage counselors. The first one secular and she indeed, encouraged me to get out. She saw abuse. The secind, a Christian, I felt more crazy as he sat there all calm and “changed” while I bawled and looked crazy. Despite the fact that I’ve been the calm, quiet spouse for 18 years. Now that I see it, I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m horrified as I look back to the reality of the situation and how I truly believed it was my doing. His needs were my goal, my Santification even and if I felt in my gut something was off, well, that was obviously Satan trying to destroy my marriage right?? He’s been making some strides in admission of very wrong behaviors. It’s calm now, but im preparing myself to let go completely. It’s been absolutely shattering to lose what I thought I had. The mourning is very real.

        Reply
        • Natalie Klejwa

          Oh, yes. It is real, deep, and raw. And it takes time. So much time, because you’ve invested everything and you’ve been led to believe so many lies about what marriage is and what your responsibilities are as a wife. I am praying for you this morning. I hope you’ll check out the resources on my About page. There is so much help out there online that is totally free. I’m loving the Patrick Doyle videos lately. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNd7n0AHeXmAXg7OPWIM2-_PxXJsxnmpG

          Reply
  59. Alexsa

    “If she tells someone in the secular world who is familiar with abuse, she will get help. If she tells someone in her church, she may be rebuked for slandering her husband. She’ll be told to submit more, make better meals, give better sex, quit nagging, stop trying to be his personal holy spirit, and other choice rebukes with accusations and assumptions embedded in them. ”

    I happened upon this article by accident on FB. I wish I could share your words with my friends who are Christian. I have seen this time and again in their lives. Husbands may do horrible things, but they attend Promise Keepers, their prayer groups, or whatever enablers reside within their lives. The husband is forgiven…after all, we are all flawed, broken people, right? Yet, wives are held to a far different and impossible standard and rarely receive the forgiveness that the men are given so easily.

    Unfortunately, I can’t share this article with the people in my life who need it most. They see me as an unbeliever, and I am happy to remain so. What I see in these women’s lives is sadness and regret. Hearing their stories makes me realize how lucky I am in my secular, supportive marriage.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you for your well articulated comment. I understand why you’d be turned off by Christianity. I’m a Christian, and I’m turned off by the distorted version of it that has done so much harm in so many lives. I recently heard that the divorce rate in Christian marriages is slightly higher than the rate in secular marriages.

      I do want to say that in spite of what some might say, the Bible doesn’t teach patriarchy. The death and resurrection of Christ set us free from all that. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) And God is a God of TRUTH and JUSTICE. He sees what is going on, and He promises to make everything right one day. Christians who turn a blind eye to abuse are not following in the footsteps of Christ. They are most likely afraid – and/or have pride issues, thinking they can be good enough on their own by following a bunch of rules and imposing those rules on other people. Misogyny is alive and well in the church.

      That is not the Gospel. It is a total tragedy that the Church’s blindness to this issue is causing many people to turn away from Jesus, Himself. And yet, I know that Christ is beautiful and precious enough to draw people to Himself without our help – or in spite of us. I hope He will reveal Himself to you in that real way. I tell my own kids, “I am not God. I am not even like God. He is so much more amazing and wonderful and patient and powerful. I am just a mom trying to do my best, and I will fail you. Jesus will never fail you. Look to Him.”

      Maybe someday one of your Christian friends will come to you at the end of their rope. You can help them at that point in time – when they are ready. Sometimes we just need to hit rock bottom before we can see things as they really are.

      I appreciate your comment!

      Reply
  60. Julie

    Thank you for sharing your experience and these words of wisdom and actually comfort…because now I know, “it’s not all in my mind and I’m not alone in my struggle.” Good luck to you. Peace, julie

    Reply
  61. Samantha

    THANK YOU for having the courage to speak out!! We need more women with the boldness to confront the issue of abuse and the church’s disappointing response to it.

    Reply
  62. ImThereToo

    Thank you for your post. I have been here for 20+ years as well. I was raised that you didn’t speak badly of your spouse because when things got resolved, the tarnishing of their reputation would remain. So I kept it to myself. Finally last month, I dared to speak to someone I felt was spiritually minded but loved me enough to “hear” me. Sadly, I was bashed over the head with the Scriptures in the way you described. I spent that day considering the same solution. Going home. I didn’t. I’m still here. I’m still praying. I’m still with in my marriage, but weary beyond words. Thank you for posting and I am looking forward to reading about your journey, as I am afraid to venture in speaking to anyone locally again.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yes. I get that. God sees, and I believe He has help and hope for you. Praying for you now.

      Reply
    • healingInHim

      ImThereToo — My heart aches for you. Your comment is my story only I’m approaching 40 yrs. Through many years of counseling; some good; some very humiliating by asking me, “Did you argue with your husband?”
      … Obviously, it was pointing the finger at me instead of asking why we were in such a circumstance? Discovering A CRY FOR JUSTICE blog is how I discovered ministries like VISIONARY WOMANHOOD. These ministries helped untwist Scripture but it is sad that local ‘c’hristian connections aren’t reaching out to help and in many ways can’t be trusted — causing further emotional damage.
      I’m still here, too. We don’t talk at all. He is very confident in his life now because the adult children favour him and all extended family are much him as he now professes to NOT be a Christian so I shouldn’t expect anything from him and the children since they have also chosen the wide gate.
      Praying for you … please don’t ever feel ‘totally’ abandoned as the Lord has blessed us with many like-minded friends via the internet …

      Reply
  63. Nicole

    What a cliff hanger. This is spot on for me. 🙁 Anxiously awaiting your future posts.

    Reply
  64. healingInHim

    Thank you, Natalie.
    So much truth in your posting. I grieve with many commenters and can relate to the confusion of whether it is or isn’t “abuse”? In my heart, I know it is. One commenter said they contemplated suicide but held off because of the children and also they were feeling very dependant financially on the abuser, etc. I never felt suicidal but have told the Lord countless times that I’m ready to leave as even my children and siblings and many fair-weather friends have forsaken me. (they put on good public appearances but really don’t respect me)

    The “c”hurch definitely has not been there for me. Oh, yeah they want to talk about it over coffee … I’ve had enough coffee, thank you … just address my need and “Help me!”
    I need to know where I belong as it’s not that easy “moving on.”
    Praying for everyone … “We have a precious Lord and Savior who cares” ((hugs))

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      “It’s not that easy “moving on.” Profoundly true. I think as long as there is some kind of movement forward, however small, we are on track. Sometimes that movement is simply waking up to the truth. That, alone, can take a long time, but the slow dawning is still movement. God is doing so many things even through the process. There is no end game. It’s all part of His sanctification process in all of our lives. Thank you for your comment. Hugs right back.

      Reply
  65. Colleen

    Very true! When I finally got brave enough to tell my dad how I felt about his treatment of me he told me I needed to stop playing the victim! This was the second attempt at having a respectful relationship with him and though he can play nice for a while he always slips back into his old habits of belittling treatment.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yup. I just heard Patrick Doyle say that to have healthy relationships, we have to be willing to lose some. Because when we stand up and say, “Stop treating me like this” – you will either get cooperation (and the start of a healthy, mutually respectful relationship) or kick back. The finger pointing back at you means the other person isn’t interested in a mutual relationship. They only want to use you. Time to create some distance. Not out of a sense of revenge, but a sense of seeking safety. We can still honor others without getting up close and personal with them.

      Reply
  66. SM

    Sooo… been married 13 years, and what you’ve written sounds familiar. But… he’s been diagnosed with depression and anxiety (of which I’m no stranger). So, all this time I’m figuring that’s what is behind the behaviour. Possible? Also, is it a sin to stay and fight for our marriage?

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yes, sometimes unhealthy behavior is rooted in a brain injury or a trauma of some sort. That person needs help then via counseling, and for physically related issues – a physician.

      It is not a sin to stay and fight for the marriage unless there is long term and serious harm being done. If someone is being physically or sexually abused, it would be a sin to enable that. But even with emotional abuse, if someone is harming another person (you or your children), and this becomes clear to you – and nothing you try stops the destruction, then you may need to pray about leaving. But this is a decision between you and God. God has His own timetable for things. A good support system is important as well to help us walk this process. It can take months and even years to get to the other side.

      Reply
  67. B

    Bible Scripture – Hebrews 12:2-11 “Keep your eyes fixed on JESUS”…

    Reply
  68. Leann

    Thank you so much for sharring your journey. I too have been dealing with the same feelings and emotions in my marriage. I even said I was tired and didnt want to live anymore because I just couldn’t take it anymore

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so sorry, Leann. Praying for you this morning…

      Reply
  69. Christine

    Thank you for posting this. Honesty needs to be more valued by the church at large. I was married to an emotionally abusive porn addict, and much of what you wrote has also been my familiar territory.

    Reply
  70. Sally

    This resonates with me. The almighty church gave me no support, but gave him plenty. No amount of submission made things better. In fact, they made things worse. After 26 years of weird manipulations and threats and blaming, I walked. Hardest and best move I ever made. Never mistake feeling badly for having made a bad decision. I really felt that the church had made marriage an idol, and it was far more important than anything else.

    Reply
    • For Too Long

      Sally, your comment is exactly how I’m feeling right now. My church is excommunicating me because I’m not seeking their “permission” to leave a twenty-four year abusive marriage. They have held marriage up to such a degree that it is more important than the people who are in it. I have repeatedly tried to say, “Yes, God does hate divorce, but He hates abuse more.” Of course, this falls on deaf ears because marriage is their idol – sacrificing even the wife’s and children’s health to it if need be, so we can “keep the family together and glorify Christ.”

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        That church and church’s like it are a scourge to the Name of Christ. Walk away and shake the dust off your feet.

        Reply
  71. Anonymous

    Hi, I have read through this list and am wondering if I am in this type of ‘marriage’ but am a little confused if I fit the criteria.
    My husband hid a porn addiction from me for 13 years which he finally drip fed confessed 5 years ago. The porn had stopped 3-4 years before confessing but the ‘issue’ had carried on with other imagery etc. I found something on the computer 9 years before confession but during that time, was lied to and told I was unforgiving and had an ‘over active imagination’ etc. No more porn since confession, but some supposed ‘isolated incidents’ of lusting over random women in public. These ‘isolated incidents’ were not confessed to me nor to anyone else. What he did do, was lie to me every time I questioned what he was doing with his eyes.
    He now has an accountability partner but it wouldn’t surprise me if he lies to him too. I must confess I have been very unforgiving of him for this whole ordeal. Also, I have battled a chronic illness for many years I had in remission but all the stress has caused a relapse so this has cost me my health too.
    I now don’t trust my husband at all and every time I express this, he is patient to a point but then loses his temper and starts saying some of the things you have listed above.
    Does this mean I am in an abusive relationship? Or more that my husband is frustrated I can’t seem to trust him?
    Sorry for the vagueness of this….it is a long story and I’ve had to write very briefly here. We tried counselling but it made things worse. People saying things from church made things worse. This has taken a huge toll on me, even making me physically sick. I can’t leave him as I am too sick to work and can’t support our children.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      What you are describing is emotional abuse, yes. The confusion and inability to trust due to lies and accusations are typical. Illness caused by emotional stress – yes. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. You can’t change your husband, but you can get help for yourself! The inability to forgive is costing you peace of mind as well. I think this was the hardest thing for me to grasp. I thought forgiveness meant coming together in harmony. Not so. Forgiveness is between you and God – to set YOU free from bitterness and anxiety. Reconciliation is what can happen if the person who is doing the offending confesses, repents, and changes. But they are two different things, and often, in an emotionally abusive relationship, the victim can learn to forgive, feed their partner with a “long handled spoon” (as Jan Silvious would say), and do some healthy detachment in order to heal. But they may never be able to have an intimate relationship with the abusive spouse. This can be quite tricky to maneuver without counseling and/or support. Part of detaching is not giving them feedback anymore. Albert Einstein said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Giving feedback to an emotionally destructive spouse doesn’t work, so it’s a waste of energy. We think that maybe if we try harder or word things differently or say it in a different way, then they will care and listen and work with us. But it always backfires. The focus has to eventually turn from the destructive spouse and making that “work” to Christ. Eyes on Christ, only. He loves you. In Him is found peace and rest for your weary spirit.

      I recommend Patrick Doyle’s videos. They are amazing. Try:
      What is Forgiveness?
      How Reconciliation Works
      Learning to Forgive

      Keep me posted. Praying for you right now.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Thank you so much for your reply and input Natalie, I appreciate it greatly. My husband now claims he has stopped lying, and has stopped the lusting after women in public. I do not believe him after all the lying. He is desperate for me to ‘move on’. Am I right to steer clear of him so to speak, or how do I know whether this time he is actually telling the truth?

        Reply
        • Formerly abused wife

          If your husband is open to it, the National Institute of Marriage does *AMAZING* things with marriages that have been through issues like you describe. Yes, it’s counseling, but it’s not like any counseling I’ve ever been to before. (Regular counseling, as well as our pastor at the time and people from church, did far more harm than good trying to “help” our marriage).

          God did a miracle at NIM, and completely saved our marriage. (And there’s none of the manipulative “stay together for the sake of the children” or “God hates divorce so work it out” type of junk from them either). They genuinely want to help.

          I am not trying to promise the world, but I would strongly encourage you to at least check it out. A few minutes on their website, maybe a call to their office, can’t hurt.

          Here’s a link to the page of their website where couples who have gone to their counseling program share their experiences.

          http://www.nationalmarriage.com/marriage-counseling/testimonials/

          Reply
          • Natalie Klejwa

            Thank you for the link! I will pass this on to his counselor. 🙂

            Reply
      • Lonely wife

        What you said here…”Giving feedback to an emotionally destructive spouse doesn’t work, so it’s a waste of energy. We think that maybe if we try harder or word things differently or say it in a different way, then they will care and listen and work with us. But it always backfires.”
        Ohhh…this is sooo true! I wish I would have known this 5 yrs ago, it would have saved me years of heartache, tears, anger and frustration!
        Abusive men only think of themselves…no one else!!
        I just discovered your blog, Natalie, and I’m going to share it with my friends who are also in abusive marriages!

        Reply
  72. Vicki

    Contemplating suicide but I love my kids too much. Yes he’s an abuser and he knows it but he is staying til they all graduate. I would leave now but I’m broke and undereducated.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Oh, Vicki. You’re in a dark hole with no light up ahead, yet. I hope you’ve had a chance to check out some of the resources on my About page. Many of them are free online. You are not alone. Praying for you now – for courage and endurance. And for a way out.

      Reply
      • R

        Vicki, have him removed from the house. Get a good lawyer and a restraining order. You are important your life matters.my sister is fighting a similar fight. Get a good lawyer and go from there.
        I saw my sister shrink to a small weekling. One day she said no more. She got an awesome awesome lawyer. It’s not easy but she is so much more happier. He’s a sly man. Plays music at church,but the devil at home. A good provider financially but very controlling . I’m praying for you. You are gonna have to be the one to do something to remove yourself and your children out of your terrible situation. Since you did not ask to be put in this situation he will be forced to take care of you financially. Good luck . I hope you have some support.

        Reply
  73. Sue

    Natalie, I’m so, so sorry for the “hell-on-earth” you’ve had to experience. I want you to know I have a great respect for you and support you in sharing your journey. Thank you for standing for truth and being a voice for these ladies. I pray as you courageously share your journey in the coming days, they will be encouraged, strenghthened, and feel supported. May they experience true freedom and healing as you have.

    Reply
  74. Susi Lundquist

    I experienced emotional abuse from my father growing up. I experienced physical abuse and manipulation from my mother growing up. I saw VERY plainly the abuse from my mother and was able to deal with it (slowly over years) and heal from it. But, with my dad, not so. I didn’t see it. My husband didn’t see it either. He even encouraged me to spend time with him. He finally crossed a series of lines when I was 50! It took till I was 50! I’m now 4 years past that time and I’m doing well. I didn’t talk to him for year. I now only talk on rare occasions (he lives far from me) and I email on my terms.
    The church for the most part hasn’t understood, but I have had a few friends who get it. Mainly because they had to walk through it with their husbands. The first year was hell. I was just SO confused. I seemed SO selfish. I would have a good day and then 3 bad ones and I just had to fight SO hard to keep my head on straight, many times my breath was taken away. The tears flowed during worship and I clung to Jesus. During that first year I shared with a friend who’s been through it and she said, yeah, it’s all new and you don’t have any patterns in place yet. That statement from her made it easier for me to embrace the mess. Kinda like with your first baby, it’s all new and you live on a rollercoaster of loving it and wondering if you’ll survive another day! The second year proved to be easier in that my emotions were steadier and I had a sort of compass.
    I’m still learning, I think I always will be in recovery of sorts. I’m thrilled that my husband isn’t abusive, but ofcourse I’ve noticed patterns and habits that have needed to be talked about, argued about and cried over more times than I can count. We have 8 kids and they are NOT carrying what I carried. They are emotionally healthy and growing. I could not be more pleased. God is faithful. He somehow allowed me to be able to parent them well. I’m not naturally selfish and actually enjoy serving and listening to others. I know those traits helped immensely. Ofcourse I was “really good” at it from the emotionally entangled relationship with my dad!
    Anyway, I appreciate your voice. I think it’s voice in the wilderness, but so was John the Baptist. And he prepared the way for the savior. You have a gift with words and your words are NOT falling on deaf ears. You will have new arenas to “fight” in, but you can come at them from a place of rest because you know who you are and whose you are. You are a peacemaker in the true sense of the word. God Bless You as you embark on sharing your journey. You will give courage to many.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your struggle with this. All these stories, including some of the messy specifics, help normalize the crazy process for others who are reading and feeling lonely and devastated and confused. I think women instinctively know that if they begin to attempt to get away from it, there will be a fight inside of themselves that is tremendous PLUS the fight with everyone else around them. They do need to hear from other women. These stories give us courage and hope! God bless YOU!

      Reply
  75. Sandy

    I am so glad Leslie addresses relationships where people are abusing each other. In my own relationship that was the Key. I could not really address his abusive behavior until I addressed my own. IT WAS KEY to restoration. We were trading emotional beatings with each other. I am not seeking to blame anyone for their spouse’s behavior but rather to point out that abuse is often hidden by abuse. That is why it is so vital to get help from an experienced person and go through a process – this is all many many pieces of sin, lies, blaming, hiding, discounting, and denial. You can’t see all of it when you are in it. Thanks Natalie for your ministry through writing and sharing your story.

    Reply
    • Kate

      Oh Sandy, how encouraging! “I could not really address his abusive behaviour until I addressed my own.” I love this. This is where I am. I believe Satan tries hard for me to just and always focus on my husband and his abuse and his problems. I need to look inward and ask the Lord to purify the ugliness I me. If I were humble and honest, this is us, trading emotional beatings, but I love to play the victim card. Thank you for your post, your words have given me hope!

      Reply
      • Debby

        Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He Do That” really clarified this “Who is abusing?” I began to ask myself, “If he was not abusing me, would I feel the need to defend myself and be “in your face?” Have I tried other, far less overt responses to no avail? Have I tried being patient and reasonable to no avail? I realized not ONE of my other relationships was I in any way shape or form, “abusive.” In fact, I was patient, kind, caring, etc and had no issues with my other 30+ relationships. I am not justifying my “outbursts” (few and far between) but I am saying that if you find yourself in a situation that is not “your norm” then maybe it IS him. Anyone cornered will eventually fight back. Is that abuse? No. I am only speaking to my situation. One of the lies perpetrated against abuse victims is that the abuser can do immeasurable harm but if we EVER react in a defensive way, then all focus goes to that incident. You feel literally TIED DOWN and GAGGED. It is insidious. The only solution then is distance. Then often as not, you are “the bad guy” for “leaving.” It is crazy-making!

        Reply
  76. Not Alone

    All I can say is thank you!

    “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me ; he shall set me up upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5

    Reply
  77. Sheila Gregoire

    BRAVO, Natalie! Let’s walk in TRUTH.

    What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

    Too often we feel like ALL God wants of us is to love mercy. NO. We’re also supposed to “act justly”, which is standing up for truth and for what is right. The two are always in balance, and we find that balance by walking humbly with God.

    I have seen both mercy and justice so much in your posts lately. It’s a tough balance, but I believe that you have found it. And I just want to cheer you on as you say, “I will speak the truth, because anything else is not being godly.” Absolutely.

    Reply
  78. Sarah

    Keep talking, Natalie. Thank you

    Reply
  79. Sarah

    Thank you for tackling a difficult subject in an honest way. I have not lived that hell, but I have friends who have and are living in that. You’re openness helps me to help others and to be more understanding. Please keep this conversation going. There are too many hurting women in church, dying inside, with no help in sight. They need a voice and those of us who want to help need to be shown how.

    Reply
    • Emily

      My thoughts exactly, Sarah. I have learned and continue to learn so very much. Thank you Natalie for allowing us in.

      Reply
  80. Natalie Klejwa

    I’m praying for you this morning. It’s tough to recover from those kinds of “incidents.” I will say that as time passes, I’ve noticed that my reaction of pain and even surprise (why are we surprised? But we are…) has gone down significantly as I’ve emotionally detached and gotten stronger in my CORE. (Leslie Vernick’s acronym – you are probably familiar with that term, but if not, pm me.) I’ve been working on that in a concentrated way for three years now – but have only seen major break through in the last 6 months – and even more so in the last three. So it does take a lot of time, and there is just no way around that. It’s good that you are physically separated. I don’t think I could have concentrated on my CORE while my husband lived with me. I couldn’t think straight about anything, the confusion and pain and anger were so intense on a daily basis. Separation has given me a chance to think, focus on Christ, and heal. It will come. I’ve heard so many testimonies of God’s faithfulness from women who are further along than you and me. Cyber hugs from me to you…it’s going to be okay. Hang in there.
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
    ” Lamentations 3:22-23

    Reply
    • Debby

      “I couldn’t think straight about anything, the confusion and pain and anger were so intense on a daily basis. Separation has given me a chance to think, focus on Christ, and heal.”

      Yes! This! The church thinks separating is like the worst possible thing that anyone could do! It’s like trying to detox a person while still pouring venom into their veins. I am a totally different, stronger, confident person capable now of making rational well thought out decisions and confident in my ability to see manipulation tactics and real vs fake change. I tried getting there for years and years and finally separated and it was the BEST possible thing I could have done. Even my husband THANKS me for having the courage to do that because it has forced him (NOT my motive because I didnt even care at that point, and those are HIS words) to face his own wounds and seek healing.

      I always found it ironic that our church (former) has a “Marriage Intimacy” class and a “Divorce Care” class. There are a hundred courses of action between those two, but for some weird reason, you get NO support (and in fact are castigated) for any of the in between steps, yet supported once divorced. Hmmmm….

      Reply
  81. Freedomgirl

    Natalie…THANK YOU, once again, for your voice.
    Blessings, strength, and peace to you. To all of us that have walked/are walking/don’t yet know they are on this road…

    Reply
    • Cheryl

      Thank you beautiful lady. That’s all for now. Just…thank you

      Reply
    • Faith

      Helpful article, but terribly sexist. Emotional abuse can just as easily be perpetrated by a wife toward her husband.

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        True, but this blog is for women, and this article was written for women. If you are looking to get help for men, there are many resources out there, but you’re right, this particular article is not one of them. That doesn’t make it sexist. That makes it specific.

        Reply
        • Miranda Flynn

          Natalie, I am 70 yrs. young now, and have been a believer for 50 years. However, I have not had a personal relationship with Jesus until the last 25 of those yrs. That is when I left the legalism of the church for a personal following of Jesus. I have learned some things over the years, having been now married to a man for 35 yrs. who himself was both physically and emotionally abused by his father. That abuse carried into our marriage emotionally and verbally. I have realized it over the years, but there is one thing I read in the above article that does not match with Scripture. Yes, Jesus suffered and DIED for me to free me from the bondage of sin myself. But Peter writes that we are partakers of HIS sufferings! Yes, the truth is that we AR here to suffer for Jesus! Not physically if we can avoid it, as we are called to be LIVING sacrifices, so we seek to stay alive, if God so wills, so we can suffer for His righteous sake (His righteousness is IN us!). If a person puts God first in their lives, their very unhealthy husband can be saved (read 1Cor. about someone being pleased to dwell if they are not Christian) by the wife’s willing, sacrificial life of suffering for Christ! Read all the Scriptures on suffering for Jesus. We are already free when He called us and saved us from our own sins, and He tells us that whatever situation we find ourselves in, if He is our very life, we have freedom already in Him, and we have a calling in that situation. Paul said that if someone was a slave (common in his day) they should seek to be set free, but IF they cannot be set free physically from that freedom, they still have a calling from God in that condition of slavery! My point is that Paul said he was a slave of Jesus Christ! Do I want to try to escape the sad words and attitudes of my husband by just running away, or do I want that to be the place where Jesus placed me for a REASON! Be careful about running away from any kind of wrong doing (other than physical abuse, as we are called to be LIVING sacrifices and not seek martyrdom). I do not allow my husband to think that his unkind words to me are right. He knows they are not. I do not allow him to identify who I am because I know who I am in Christ. I point out to my husband that he and I disagree about how to live, and if he wants to leave, he can leave. If he were ever to become physically abusive, he would have to leave, or I would. But to be told that we are not to suffer for Christ on this earth is wrong. That is our very calling. I am concerned that the world’s way of defining “freedom” is not the way God defines it in His word. I encourage all women to do a study on the word “suffering” in the NEW TESTAMENT, not the OLD, and see what God is saying.

          Reply
          • Natalie Hoffman

            Suffering in an abusive marriage is suffering, but it is not suffering for Christ. The women who stop enabling abuse and stand and walk in truth and are excommunicated from their churches and their families out of obedience to Jesus and the Truth – they are suffering for Christ. When we enable destruction and lies and blaspheming of God, we suffer, but not for Jesus.

            Reply

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