A Cry For Justice

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

How pre-marital counselling kept this woman entrenched in an abusive marriage — by Kathy

One of our readers, Kathy, wrote this in a reply to a question Jeff C asked her in a thread. We thought it was so helpful we have obtained Kathy’s permission to make it into a post. I  have put the hurtful and damaging messages from the ‘c’hurch into bold font. This story also illustrates how God can wake up a victim and give her a wall to protect herself from her abuser. Now, over to Kathy:

In answer to your question about my experience with church, the principles taught in premarital counseling will keep a woman pretty entrenched in abuse, and that’s what happened to me. I alternated between focusing myself on pursuing God with everything in me, and loving my husband as best as I could. I see now I couldn’t do both, because my husband couldn’t tolerate so much of my devotion being given to God, so he would turn up the heat until I was too exhausted and depressed to do anything but weakly pray for help. I used to feel guilty about my weak walk with Christ, but He’s assured me He knew my heart, and was never disappointed.
I heard things like:

“Men need their ego stroked, find the one thing he does right and build it up.”
This just showed him how little he had to do to get acclamation.

“Continue to love him and serve him faithfully, won’t it be beautiful when he is won over with your beautiful love?”
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I tried, and my spirit inside me came dangerously close to dying. I still remember the day I realized that I could either let my spirit die and be his flesh-covered robot, or cut him off from my heart. That was the start of my journey out of darkness. I felt bad about that decision and ended up opening up to him again; the next time I came to that point I let God do the heart hiding, and he has put a huge hedge of protection around me. I am continually astonished at times when he has said something that used to have me crying and miserable for days, now I can watch it happen and I see how mean he is, but I’m protected from the emotion. It’s like I’m watching a movie, rather than playing a scene. I have no reason for why I’m so calm at this point of my journey besides God literally holding my heart together. It’s still very painful, but it’s such a different kind of pain, a healing pain.

“Marriages have problems, there will be times you don’t like being married, but love is a choice not a feeling”
True when he’s not abusive. Although I’ve started to wonder if ministers haven’t spread some of this jargon just to make church sanctioned abuse easier to carry out.

I’ve had people tell me there’s still hope because he has his good days when he’s really nice, or that he says he still loves me so much and all is not lost.

A family member pointed out that I made my decision to give him the “get help or goodbye” during a time of emotional distress and I should reevaluate now that it had been a few days.

My parents are fully supporting me, and that is a huge blessing.

I’ve been asked “did he ever hit you” more times than I can count. No, he didn’t, but it still hurts.

The church is woefully undereducated in abuse, so many women are crushed by abuse that is approved by the church. I know God must be grieving this, and I know it is a pervasive cancer. I love my Lord, my family is on a path to spiritual freedom that was started by my mother ten years ago. Her efforts have protected me from experiencing the full severity of abuse I know was possible, and they’ve helped me exit my fog after only five years of marriage. Through her labors I have drawn closer to my God during this misery, rather than losing Him. There are churches who are starting to get the message, but not enough.

63 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Hope for Survivors of Abuse and commented:
    With so many child abuse scandals involving Protestant and Catholic churches, it is becoming all the more evident that people need to be educated in what abuse is and how to address it properly. Whether it is a bishop abusing young boys or a large missions organization covering up the sins of a pedophile for decades-and refusing to relinquish the evidence-reform needs to happen.

    • Kathy seldon

      Thank you purposefully scarred, I’ll check out that blog.

  2. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    The comments about being faithful and about how much he loves you..Ugh!! Don’t you people who say those things understand I have been faithful for too many years. And saying he loves without the actions to back it up, nope, not love! And a” few days” Give me a break! If he is really repentant he’ll give me all the time I need! Ugh, don’t mean to sound bitter, just frustrated that these comments are sooooooo common.

    • Kathy seldon

      It’s so true, I still have people trying to make sure I understand that I’m not perfect and will eventually have to work on the issues that I brought to my marriage. My reply is that I am painfully aware of my flaws and have been working on them for five years, it may be wrong but I feel I’ve earned a break.

  3. Amy

    Kathy, my heart goes out to you. I do not know where you are in your journey, but everything you said resounded loudly for me. These were things I also heard, but I heard them after I’d been married 10 years to an abusive man and after I had become a Christian. I was so sure after giving my life to the Lord that He would rescue me from the abuse, that He would show me the way. But then I started hearing all that you stated above from mostly the women at the church I attended at that time and I was baffled. I was saddened, because this couldn’t possibly be how God intended marriage or was it?

    “…love is a choice not a feeling”…oh yes, how often this was crammed down my throat, and I bought it too. Yes, love is something we choose to do and is not a feeling per say, I do strongly believe that God gave us feelings as a way to guide us. What I mean is, have you ever felt in your gut that something is just not right? Do we completely dismiss it because after all we are not supposed to allow our feelings to direct our lives? I don’t think so. I believe that feelings are sort of like a GPS, they can lead us in the right direction, although we can definitely be led astray if we only rely on how we “feel” at any given moment. Those deep down feelings in the gut that yell at us something is wrong could help us escape danger and keep us safe. And IMHO, I think it is God that uses feelings in us to lead us where He wants.

    “…did he ever hit you”…yep, how often I heard this one, especially after my ex left and I finally decided that I would not go back to his abusiveness. I was never physically hit, but I was physically affected by the slap of his words. There were so many times I actually wished he WOULD hit me, because then I could actually show someone an outward sign of his abuse towards me, I would have a visible scar.

    Eventually God did free me from that marriage and I can look back now and see how he sent so many people and resources to me for years as a means of opening my eyes to the abuse, but with all the backwards teaching in the church that I heard I was too afraid to walk away for fear that God would no longer love me.

    What I now know is that God loves me and always has, and my ex never truly did.

    Blessings!

    • Kathy seldon

      (((Amy))). My abuser was very covert, very manipulative, never belligerent or violent, and I also thought it would be easier to just be hit. It’s so hard working through past memories, especially she you start seeing that some things you overlooked were actually very calculated abuse. I remember feeling like there was this person inside my body screaming to get out, she would scream and shake the bars and rage while I sat there trying to figure out where this rage was coming from. I’ve been staying with my parents for ten weeks and that is gone. They don’t have to hit you to incite serious damage.

      • Kathy, so true about the anger. I spent many years being very angry and would take it out on the kids. I always felt so ashamed afterwards and could never figure out why I was so angry- I had never been an angry person before my marriage and I never got that angry with anyone else in my life. Thankfully the Lord took all the obvious rage away-but I was still left my with situation and it took years to put things together. Of course I spent a lot time apologizing to my two oldest children for what I had put them through. My husband never laid a hand on me or yelled at me either.

  4. Tersia

    Kathy, I know exactly what you went through. I basically just checked off as I read and it is so what the church believes. I left my abuser in June of 2012 and cannot wait for it all to be over. He never hit me either till the last day we were together when he just could not stand it anymore and attacked me. That was it. I was done. After 16 years I had had enough and have not looked back one day. Just looking ahead and going through the healing process with my kids.

    • Kathy seldon

      Tersia, congratulations on your strength it is hard to not look back. Places like this give me the strength to keep my eyes on the prize so to speak.

  5. lauralee

    I am new to this site and am so very grateful for having stumbled upon it! Oh my gosh!!! I’ve heard it all and then some! My husband has repeatedly told me that I have to forgive, even if he committed adultery. He disrespects my feelings and reminds me that love is not a feeling, its a choice. He states how good he is to me, I don’t have to work he supports me, how other women would love to have my life style and how all his buddies and others think I’m crazy and blah blah blah. He’s the perfect husband, he’s not abusive, I’m the one that abuses him. He has a third so called Christian therapist fooled, he’s that good. I’m appauled at the lack of education with the whole Christian realm, these pastors and so called therapists have co-signed his abuse along with his Celebrate Recovery buddies……….same with my abusive brother in law, now he is in denial thanks to hes Celebrate Recovery group in his town in Florida………..beware….Celebrate Recovery is NOT equipt to deal with abusers, addictions yes, not abusers and narcissists…………I’m so grateful to have found sane Christians that know the real deal………..hugs to all….Lauralee

    • Barnabasintraining

      Hi Lauralee!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Hi lauralee. Wonderful you found us:) Have you seen the resources page on the blog? It seems pretty much that the book to begin with if you haven’t read it is Lundy Bancroft’s — Why Does He do That? For many, this book was the real eye opener. Then if you want to move on to the real meaty stuff, you can read Barbara’s book (Not Under Bondage) and my book (A Cry for Justice)!! Just kidding. But of course we would love you to read them. Barbara’s will intro you to abuse, but then moves on to her main issue of a biblical examination of divorce for abuse. My book (written with Anna Wood), also gives a good overview of the mentality and tactics of abuse, but specifically shows how abuse victims are being mis-treated by their pastors and churches when they ask for help.

      So welcome to our little community here. Anytime you would like to tell your whole story, feel free. You can keep it as anonymous as you want.

    • natalietrust

      Lauralee, I was once married to a man who was able to fool a pastor as well as several counselors. I know that kind of pain. I am so sorry for what you have been through and are continuing to deal with. It is shocking what lengths some people will go to in order to maintain their cover.

      I will begin a series of blog posts covering the dangers of “Biblical Counseling “. You are right. These centers, groups, and individuals are not equipped to deal with abuse.

    • natalietrust

      Lauralee, I was once married to a man who was able to fool a pastor as well as several counselors. I know that kind of pain. I am so sorry for what you have been through and are continuing to deal with. It is shocking what lengths some people will go to in order to maintain their cover.

    • Hi Lauralee, nice to meet you!
      I have no trouble believing your experience of Celebrate Recovery. :( The lack of understanding of abuse is deplorable.

      • Hi Lauralee :) welcome aboard! My abuser “tried” Celebrate Recovery too and I had to listen to him make fun of it and all the “stupid people” who were in the group with him. I enjoyed having the hour without him home but I was glad when I didn’t have to listen to him complain about it anymore. And then to hear the pastor running it tell me how great he was doing and how much of a blessing he was to the group made me want to vomit!

      • Anonymous

        I was so happy to stumble upon the book Life’s Healing Choices (all about Celebrate Recovery) because of its stories of changed lives that I embraced it, thinking that maybe, just maybe, we had a chance. I even lent the book to my counselor. It was yet another false lead. I had already come across Bancroft’s book by then, but due to my inability to use our credit card to pay for it, I had to secretly ask friends to do it and nobody came through with their promises. It would be another 6 months before I managed to get that book. I’m not even sure that I would have embraced Bancroft’s book if I had read it earlier, when it seems to stand out as the lone voice in the Christian world, where most of the other marriage books and counselors espouse everything in Barbara’s post above. Narrow indeed is the path of clarity and truth.

    • Kathy seldon

      Girl don’t get me started on celebrate recovery. Absolute joke of jokes. My brother was in it to work through some serious issues he had and he said it was glorified confession every week. A guy would come and confess that he had screwed up again, everyone would pat his back, tell him it’s okay because there’s grace in God, and good job confessing. And it never changed. There was zero repentance, just confession. Ridiculous. And it was hosted at a grace oriented church (not that I have an issue with grace gospel this church actually grew and strengthened my faith quite a bit before it hit this wall) but the pastor loves piper, Driscoll, Tripp and the like. He’s great at telling husbands what kind of man God expects them to be, but he still tells the women to submit in silence and grace. Kept me trapped and miserable, and did squat to help my brother. We found a much better program called freedom Ministeries from Gateway Church in south lake Texas, and it is life changing.

      • Song

        Kathy, I’m happy for you and your family is your live’s have been changed with the Freedom Ministry at this institution.

        But, I do want to express my concern and caution to you and others looking for help from an abusive marriage from them after seeking help from them myself. The first four hurtful and damaging messages that Barbara bolded in the original post were the same counsel I received from them. They very much came from the stand point of “it takes two to ruin a marriage” (which being interpreted means, “What do you do to provoke your husband to abuse you? See here, this is the Cycle of Violence wheel. You two are riding this wheel. Now go home and step out of the cycle. And, wife, don’t do anything to provoke your husband, so he won’t be tempted to perpetuate the cycle.”) and “if your spouse is truly evil, there isn’t anything we can do to help you.” (which being interpreted means, “We haven’t got a clue, the desire, the heart, or the time, etc. to help you.” ) That last statement was quite confusing since it seems the most logical place to seek help from evil would be in a place that says they know the destroyer of evil.

        Their positional papers about Divorce and Remarriage: http://gatewaypeople.com/sites/all/files/pdf/position_papers/Divorce%20&%20Remarriage.pdf contain many of the unhealthy beliefs that are discussed here on this blog. One example that is detailed under their Divorce category is loosing membership status if you aren’t cooperating in trying to restore or resolve your marriage problem. While I know of two men on staff who teach about healthy relationships, how to handle abuse in a marriage is not addressed. I have had counseling experience with three of the Freedom Ministry counselors- one was an intern who is now on staff, one who is one of the pastors, and one who is an Executive pastor. All three approached the counseling from the stand point of “You need to work on yourself, learn to communicate better, and, if you forgive him, the problems will disappear.”, which sounds okay unless you live with an abusive spouse because the problem is not the non-abusive spouse.

        I hope and pray other people have had better experiences at this institution. Please be cautious if any of you are or plan to be involved with them.

      • I’m not wanting to discount Kathy’s experiences, as I’m sure you have faithfully relayed your experiences to us Kathy.

        But I checked out that link to the Divorce and Remarriage PDF from Gateway Church, South Lake, Texas, and like Song, I have serious concerns with their teaching.

        They constantly talk about ‘the couple’ as both being responsible. From that cardinal error, everything else flows down the channel that ends up persecuting the victim of abuse and letting the abuser pass him or herself off as *the repentant party who wants marital reconciliation* (can you see the fairy dust in those asterisks?).

        If the victim is strong and awake enough to hold out against all this subtle victim-blaming and mutualising, the victim will end up being put out of the church.

        In other words, same old, same old.

        You must have been lucky, Kathy, to strike a few folk in that church who were truly helpful — and probably they were helpful because they were not sticking to the church protocol completely. Praise God! :)

      • Kathy seldon

        Thank you both for your warnings and insights. It seems God has provided safe passage for me through some dangerous ground during my journey. I cannot express how grateful I am for His provision. It’s so sad how difficult it is to find a church that doesn’t have some monster waiting to come out of the closet as soon as you get settled. I am constantly longing for Jesus to come back so we can sit at His feet with absolute peace about who is teaching us and knowing that it is absolute truth and love that we are hearing.

      • Kathy seldon

        Yikes!!! I’m adding another reply because I read that PDF. It’s clear there is a small stream at that church that isn’t flowing with the major current, and I am so thankful that I stumbled into that small stream. The whole reason I gave that church a chance is because the woman who does many of the sex lectures got up in a class and said “if any of you who have been abused were told to stay and sacrificially love your abuser and therefore save him, or that the abuse was in anyway your fault, I’m so sorry. You were told wrong, and I apologize on behalf of God’s Church for the lies you were told.” And a couple I know where the husband was abusive went to them for counsel and after hearing their story the man looked at the husband said “you’re the problem”. They saved that marriage because they took him to task, and because the Holy Spirit worked a miracle (without that no amount of Godly counsel would have mattered). I will pray that these rebels can change the face of the evangelical church, just as Jeff C and Barbara are working to do. I will pray that God will continue to provide more and more rebels until we out number the oppressors.

      • Wow Kathy, what a story! Thanks for that.
        Maybe you could feed that ‘small stream’ some of the material from this blog, so they can have more weapons in their armoury to defend what they are doing, and to persuade the majority stream in that church to change its policy and practices. :)

      • Song

        Kathy, I’m thrilled to hear that the husband of the couple you mentioned was willing and able to respond to correction and respond to the Holy Spirit to grow. I had also heard of one their counselors reprimanding a husband and calling him to task for his behavior. That’s partly what gave me hope in seeking help from them, and I assumed it was practiced throughout the department. Unfortunately I didn’t realize there were different streams.

        I’m curious to know what the definition of abuse was to the lady that does the classes.

        I know this institution frowns on physical abuse and will counsel separation and then, quietly, counsel divorce if there is no repentance by the offending spouse. And it really does matter with whom you get an appointment.

  6. Now Free

    Welcome((Lauralee.)) And a thumbs-up to the 3 books Jeff has mentioned!

  7. Now Free

    Kathy, your family gave you the best advice of all. I’m so happy that you have their full support.

  8. Urszula

    Oh, yes–how true and sinister this all rings now! I, too, was fed these disgusting perversions of God’s truth–in addition to being riddled with a few other venomous bullets:

    “Men need their egos stroked–so you’d best not spend too much time with your own father or seek Dad’s advice too often.”
    It was not just my husband who was determined to alienate me from my family; his entire church was complicit. My family–who came from a different religious background than my husband’s, who was comprised of strong matriarchs who had raised me to be independently thinking and acting–were a threat to every murky seed “the cult” tried to cultivate in my innocent’s mind. Sadly, such a background was not enough to inoculate me with the wisdom to evade what quickly became an abusive marriage (and for that, I will always feel utterly blind and stupid–not to mention treacherous)–but it, with God, was what saved me from remaining in one. Before a year, I’d escaped to never look back.

    “You need to be physically available to your husband–at all times, for all reasons. Anger. Fear. Grief. It is how you are to be his greatest comfort in this world.” Ahhh . . . the justification for my husband’s sense of lordly entitlement over my body, my desires, my thoughts, my very personhood. His vindication for the first–and every subsequent–rape. The argument by which I became a dehumanized creature–a spirit dispossessed of corporeality, a being who from some other realm could watch with abject dispassion as the husk that had once been my body was abused and exploited and tyrannized, as he orchestrated the collapse of the romantic into the pornographic. This is how I degenerated into a gadget of contingency rather than a person of agency, how I became an object anticipant of his mercurial imputation. What would my body be tonight? His punching bag? His hunting ground? His sadistic theme park? His security blanket? His pregnable matrix? I was never a participant–only an apparatus.

    And my personal favorite: “Men are problem-solvers. But sometimes, [and this directed to my husband] women will just want to jabber and cry. They don’t want you to give them the solution that easily suggests itself to your mind. They want you to hear them talk it through even when they never come to an answer.”
    Not only did this sanction my husband’s abrogation of the authority to make my every individual decision, not only did this license his every appalling misogyny and chauvinism, but it maliciously constellated his charge that I, as constitutionally female, was “too emotional” and, therefore, “less rational” than he. No problem of mine was ever “real,” could ever be afforded genuine attention–because it was all a puerile fantasy of my neurotic gender structure. When–for a very brief time–I considered the marriage worth salvaging and my erstwhile (I should say never-while) husband worth believing, this man made sure to find a church counselor who, he assured me, saw that these were indeed the roles we played in our marriage: he, the logical realist; I, the flighty fruitcake. “He understands how emotional you are,” was the line he actually attempted to bait me with! I already had one abuser in my life; I didn’t need another–a man who had never even met me before in his life, assuring me that he “understood” how “emotional” I truly was. Based on what? Oh, yes: my husband’s reasonable, rational word, of course. Not on your life. (Incidentally, this counselor [whom we never saw together] had to be located by my husband outside our own church. Even prior to marriage, our pastors recognized me as the more scientifically-minded of our pairing. Go fig.)

    • Kathy seldon

      Urszula, your story is heartbreaking. I actually was recently told the “men are problem solvers” by his mom, along with “God gave men pride and we have to understand that and respect that pride” I asked if that’s true the. Why does God treat pride as a deadly cancer.

      • Wives are told to respect their husbands in Eph. 5, but they are not told to fan the fires of their husband’s pride.

    • Kathy seldon

      Also, I come from a very matriarchal family. I was a strong woman who would “never let a man treat me like that” judgmental to the core of women who couldn’t get it together and give their men the boot. So yes, I had to eat a lot of words. I wouldn’t trade the compassion and understanding I have now for anything. Few groups of people I have encountered are as non-judgmental as abuse survivors. They are such a safe haven for any weary soul.

      He was manipulative, he used my matriarchal past to keep me down. He knew I didn’t want to be crazy like my borderline great-grandmother. We would joke that she was crazy and each generation got a smaller slice of the crazy so I was pretty close to normal. But I had a terrible temper as a child that I was ashamed and afraid of. He knew I did not want to carry on the tradition of domineering female, so whenever I got too uppity he would turn victim and whine about how I was acting like my grandmothers, that I was being bossy or nagging. This always put me in my place.

      But my family has warred the past few years to gain freedom from the generational bondage that seeks to keep you in the dark. And from inner vows and judgments of the past that plague our adult life. My mom has been spiritually battling for us for years and we are now free enough to join that fight. My sons will know peace!

      • Urszula

        Oh, man, Kathy . . . can I relate!! I am so glad to hear the strength in your voice as you recognize your situation and find the God-given courage and strength to move forward. We are all praying with you! HUGS!

    • Dayflower

      Urzula, the last part – “men are problem-solvers” – my soon to be ex is telling me this now. He apparently read some book and decided “our problem” is that we are not communicating right because “women are more emotional” and “men are analytical.” And I apparently disrespect him all the time! Nevermind that he is abusive to me and the children… There were hints of this throughout our 25 year marriage, but it is really coming out in his emails and texts to me since I finally realized his anger issues are abuse and found the strength to get out.

      • Katy

        any man who says that women are emotional and men are logical has never met any of the women I work with. :) This totally disregards all women who live in the realm of science and operate on a logical basis all day long – every day – it’s our personality. Not that we don’t have feelings – but everyone has feelings. Men who say stuff like that I would automatically assume are abusive or just stone cold ignorant.

        My husband also decided that “our problem” was a lack of communication (on my part) and a lack of respect for him (on my part again). Interesting. This is the same man who snuck around behind my back, and took out an unsecured loan from the bank for $10k so that his sleazy coworker could put in a pool at his house. When I found out about it I was never allowed to bring it up again or I was threatened. I wasn’t allowed to ask if the dirtball was making the payments or if we were stuck with it. I never brought it up to taunt him – I was too scared for that.
        And my dad told me not to ask him about it, because clearly my husband must be embarrassed by my questions and it was making him flip out – so the message to me was that I had to shut my mouth permanently.

        I tell you what – I’ll never shut my mouth again. I’ll never be that kind of slave ever again – I’ll use my God-given brain and LOGIC which is as good as any man’s, and I won’t be told to shut up because I am a woman. EVER. again.

      • Welcome aboard to our blog, Dayflower. Glad to hear you have awoken and found the strength to get out. Hope you keep coming back and commenting. :)

      • Urszula

        Dayflower, I am so glad that you are able to see the anger of your soon-to-be-ex (good for you!) in his e-mails and texts. Isn’t it amazing to have such things in writing? To be able to point to it and say, “Aha! There it is! This is what it is that he does, what it is he has made me to feel!” It is so incredibly important to have that. Many abuse survivors escape to freedom by having to crawl out from under the oppression of a gaslit atmosphere. And if you’ve been gaslit so much as to believe that your perceptions and reactions are faulty, there is nothing so heartening as being able to return to the monster’s written word to verify that, yes, YOU are competent, strong, wise, and good. There is no passage of time to dilute your resolve, no supposed “deluded memory” to threaten your assurance. All of your black and blue is right there in black and white.

      • Dayflower

        Thank you everyone. There was a lot of gaslighting going on – mixed with this attitude about men being more logical, etc. And I have an accounting degree! It was maddening. It still is. I didn’t realize how entitled he felt, but it is really noticeable now in his emails.

  9. Anonymous

    You know, this is so true:

    “I still remember the day I realized that I could either let my spirit die and be his flesh-covered robot, or cut him off from my heart.”

    I did not realize I needed to cut my heart off, until the day it was asked of me, “What are you going to have to become against God’s will for you, in order to stay in the marriage?” I realized then, that I was giving up my spirit and the very life of God in me, to fight the constant demons of abuse, and I was too weak to do it anymore. My life had been made null and void by all the abuse I had lived through. What was worse, was that I had been so isolated, I had no one that I knew who was close enough to me, to vouch for me, as to what kind of Christian I am, other than my children, and in the leadership’s eyes, they didn’t count. The people I counseled with claimed to have known great and swelling facts and information about abuse, but in the end, they proved that they do not know anything about abuse!

    I think the “c”hurch sometimes teaches that we are to lose our lives (body, mind and soul) for the marriage, but is that what God says? The “c”hurch would say, “If that’s what happens, then that was God’s will for you”, but what about our bodies, minds and souls and our relationships with Christ? Do they not count for anything?

    • Yes, the doctrine about suffering / losing our lives / dying to self / carrying one’s cross is greatly misunderstood.

    • MeganC

      Yes! I was entrenched in this lie, as well:

      “Continue to love him and serve him faithfully, won’t it be beautiful when he is won over with your beautiful love?”

      and all the others, sadly . . . only Christ can win a person over with His love in the way that is described above. Only Christ can die to save us. Often, the ‘c’hurch asks us to die for our abusive spouses . . . and often, we do, on the inside, as you expressed, Kathy. I felt the same way and I know the darkness of that death. :( I will never forget when a friend said to me, “God doesn’t ask you to die for your husband; God has already done that for him, and he is choosing to ignore that.” The burden that is put upon men and women in abusive marriages is unbearable. But, not only that, it doesn’t work.

      Thank you for writing this. I could relate to every single lie that you were told. So grateful for God’s truth that sets us free!!

    • Kathy seldon

      I recently heard a pastor that I respect say that sins against the spirit are so much more grievous because the body came from dust and will return to dust, but the spirit came from God and will return to God. When a person strikes the body he is striking dust, but when he strikes the spirit he is striking the image of God. we place entirely too much emphasis on dust. I was also so weary (I won’t say weak, anyone who endures abuse is not weak). I explained it to my friends by saying that my bones were tired. Being out for a couple of months has made such a difference, but when he manages to get back into my circle somehow that fatigue comes racing back and I totally check out of reality. It’s really a blessing because when that happens I hear God whisper in my ear, “this what you will be going back to if you believe his lies right now, trust me and not him” and He’s been right every time.

      • Now Free

        Kathy, I respect what your pastor says, but believe me, being hit is a sin against the body and the spirit. My to be ex husband was mainly a covert abuser, but he did severely abuse me physically.

        I’m not minimizing verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, because I’ve experienced it repeatedly in a very long marriage, and the emotional and spiritual wounds run deep. But the very painful memory of his brutal physical assault has stayed with me although it happened many decades ago. Those who abuse physically are always abusive in other areas as well, such as being verbally and emotionally abusive.

      • Kathy seldon

        Oh he wasn’t even talking about abuse, I honestly don’t even remember what the topic of the sermon was. I apologize if my statement minimized physical abuse. My issue is the preoccupation other people have with our physical safety without much regard for emotional safety. A physical offense is undoubtedly evil and very painful. I have simply wondered why, if murdering the body results in death or life in prison for the offender, why is soul murder so disregarded. When a person is hit people focus on the sin against the body, but what about the sin against the spirit that they are ignoring?

  10. Kathy, Thank you for sharing your story. The way you describe disassociation as a hedge of protection by God helped me so much! I always felt guilty about how “cold” I was to the man that I was suppose to be in love with. You are an amazing woman :)

    • Yes, she did a great job of describing “the wall”.

      For others who haven’t seen that post, I think the wall is something that we often feel guilty about when it is really there for our protection:

      https://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-wall/

      • Kathy seldon

        Jeff’s, I had not read the post on the wall yet, thank you for posting that.

    • I remember the day I decided to cut myself off from him emotionally. Not sharing my thoughts, feelings , opinions. Not letting him in at all. I had to do it to stay sane and minimize the pain. Even Jesus didn’t trust HImself to men overmuch,because He knew what was in their hearts.

  11. Regarding “love is a choice”- I still believe that, but maybe not in the way they mean. That is, every day we make choices about who to honor and who to show affection to. To choose to love someone is a gift, and it should mean more that it comes from my decision to love rather than an emotional pull that I cannot withstand.

    But along with that, if love is a CHOICE it means that I decide who I give myself to, and when my spouse has behaved in a way that has destroyed the relationship then it is MY CHOICE whether or not to continue to show love toward that person (or, in what WAYS I show love, becuse I don’t personally feel that my actions toward my ex were unloving- they were just a different kind of love).

    But what it seems people mean when they say “love is a choice” is that it is not a choice at all- that it is inevitable. That’s not a choice. What they really mean to say is “love is a command”.

    • MeganC

      That’s really good, Jeff S. I have never heard that. If love is a choice, when it is MY CHOICE whether or not to show love toward a person.

      I also believe that love does not always translate into: stay and let him or her ruin and abuse you. Is that truly loving for the abuser? Was it good for him to allow him to hurt the kids and me? What was I teaching him? What was I teaching the children? I propose that the most loving thing I could do for him and for the children was to leave.

      • Anonymous

        Jeff S. & Megan-When my husband said he did not love me during a joint counseling session, they told him that love was a command from God – he had no choice in it. Then 5 minutes later they asked him if he loved me now, and he said, “yes”. They were content with his answer and basically dumped the aforementioned “no, I don’t love her at all” and thought I should put my feelings away because, “He said he loves you – get over it!” I just couldn’t get over it, because God was prodding me not to trust him, and his actions never changed. In fact, within months, he would prove once more, that he did not love me at all – he actually hated me with deep and aggressive hatred. And then again, several months after that event, he went on to cohort with that same pastor (the one who had counseled us and told him he was commanded to love me) which led to my being excommunicated. Sounds like deep and lasting marital love, doesn’t it? The pastor was just furious, that I would not abide by his “fix it” measures for the marriage and started his process of making me a marked woman. A wife who has been married for as long as I have been, knows her husband better than anyone. The pastor just thought he knew my husband better than me, because, well, he was the pastor! But God proved Himself to be right and true. He knew that I could not trust my husband, and He let me know it.

        So Megan, I concur with your thoughts. My putting him out was what was best for everyone and the most loving act I could have ever done, for all involved. Sorry if this sounds a little angry.

      • Jeff S

        This is so wrong- that people can think a person has had a sudden turnaround because they give back the answer you’ve told them they must give. It’s like certifying a person to do brain surgery for passing an exam after you’ve given them all the answers- but you’ve certified them to work on someone else, not yourself.

        And I DO believe we are commanded to love, but not the kind of love that a husband and wife share. The scripture makes it clear that we can choose not to love in that way when the marriage has been broken by one spouse’s actions.

      • MeganC

        If it sounds a little angry (which it really doesn’t), then I am pretty sure you have a very good reason to be.

        That man is not a pastor. He lacks wisdom (understatement). I am so sorry for all you went through. I had a similar experience and so have countless others. “You shall know them by their fruit” . . . not their empty, people-pleasing words.

    • Jeff S- I heard a sermon once about how “love is a command” and that God commanded us to love on another so it your marriage is “on the rocks” you are COMMANDED by God to love and work it out!! I had forgotten about that sermon until you post…at the time I was in the fog and I thought it was a good sermon, it only managed to keep me and who knows how many others in a bad marriage even longer.

  12. “Continue to love him and serve him faithfully, won’t it be beautiful when he is won over with your beautiful love?”

    This is so awful, and this attitude is so pervasive in Christian materials about relationships that I don’t trust any of it. This is a recipe for co-dependency, and the church is the one doing it to its own.

    Bottom line- you are not your spouse, you cannot change your spouse, and to overly invest in your spouse changing to the point that you disappear is not biblical, but it is codependent.

    • Anonymous

      You have a point here, Jeff S. and I believe that the Church may have begun an actual “religious co-dependency”, by misusing God’s Word in some of these areas. So while AA works with spouses to help them not be co-dependent, the Church is undoing all of that teaching by giving them a “religious” co-dependency. Hmm…

    • Wendell G

      I know this is several days old, but I came down with a triple whammy infection last week (sinus, ear and bronchitis) that has kept me pretty much under the weather.

      Jeff, I agree with you; however, until we can counter the proof texting of verses like 1 Peter 3:1-2, this is a tough teaching to counter.

      From the NIV: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

      That has been stated to me so many times, I can’t count; however, if they read the text carefully, it is NOT talking about winning over an abusive husband, but an unsaved one. Given, a chronic abuser is almost certainly not saved, it is very possible to be unsaved and not an abuser. From what I can see, it is speaking more to the witness of the wife that may affect her husband’s spiritual state.

      Note: I’m not trying to get into what submission means here, just the misuse of the verse to justify forcing a woman to stay in an abusive relationship.

      It is the twisting of Scriptures like that which really bugs me!

  13. Kathy seldon

    Thank you all for your responses, this post hit at the same time my life exploded a little bit. Three days ago I once again explained to my abuser that his efforts at counseling and reform weren’t working for me because he still didn’t believe he was abusive. He gave me a speech about how only I have control of my emotions and if I felt afraid and hurt it was because of my own distortions. So I told him I was definitely not coming back, he called me controlling and abusive (eye roll). He’s been trying convince the people at the air base where he’s stationed that I have postpartum depression, that I’m not taking care of the kids because they have a cough and I haven’t taken them to the doctor, and some other fun lies. Thankfully, I’ve gotten military family advocates involved and they see right through him. He’s filed for custody to try to force me back there. But we never changed out legal residency, so technically I’m home and he’s abroad. I have to go file my own custody claim Monday. I’m so mad at him for doing this, I’ve given him nothing but chances and hope. And he’s thrown it to the wolves. It didn’t have to go this way.

    • Kathy I am so sorry he is pulling this crap! But I am so glad that you got Family Advocates involved!! I was in the Navy before I left my abuser and they helped me so much! I will be praying for you and if you need advice about the military side of things you can contact me anytime (The team has my email address :) ) I am a Vet. and my father is still in the Army so we may have connections that could help.

  14. FinallyMe

    I’m so glad to have found this blog. I’m sitting here in tears as I read about all the experiences that are so similar. My husband became verbally and emotionally abusive out of the blue after 19 years of marriage. Why do you ask? Because I finally got my thyroid and hormone treatment right and started feeling good for the first time in a very long time and wanted to rejoin life again instead of always sitting on the sidelines. I guess he liked me there, on the sidelines. Then he never had to worry about me gaining another man’s attention. He’s now met his soul mate in a mental health facility after he spent a week there for severe alcoholism. Where has my church been? Behind him 100%. *I* did the unbiblical thing of filing for divorce. I can’t say thank you enough to the person who told me about Lundy Bancroft’s book. It helped me stand strong in my decision. To wait and see if there was going to be true change, not just take his word for it.

    • FinallyMe it is so encouraging to hear our blog has helped you, and I am glad you are having healing tears. Welcome to our blog, dear sister. :)

  15. Kathy seldon

    Finallyme, I love your username. My usename is actually a tribute to the woman I was before the abuse, it’s a character in one of my favorite films that I haven’t watched in four years. When I first opened my eyes to the fact my marriage was abusive, not just bad, I went online and read articles and blogs like this for three hours. By the time I was done my tears were spent, I cried that whole time. I’ve cried some more since then, but not like that. that day was a huge turning point for me.

  16. anna

    Finallyme, nice to see you here.

  17. Heather

    “Continue to love him and serve him faithfully, won’t it be beautiful when he is won over with your beautiful love?”

    This is so awful, and this attitude is so pervasive in Christian materials about relationships that I don’t trust any of it. This is a recipe for co-dependency, and the church is the one doing it to its own.

    Bottom line- you are not your spouse, you cannot change your spouse, and to overly invest in your spouse changing to the point that you disappear is not biblical, but it is codependent.

    I understand this completely. This is what I have been told also. It is a way of sanitizing the garbage in the marriage of a believer who has been in the seat of “victim.” The “church” loves the sanitized version and suggests that it is from the Word of God. It’s all about appearances. Victims would love to see a miracle in their marriages and give the glory to God. But Jeff’s bottom line is right…..you cannot change your spouse.

    I firmly believe that the church has operated in an ungodly manner. The corporate group has no business dictating some things. A true believer will take everything to the Lord. After all, the indwelling Holy Spirit will be able to convict, exhort, teach, and guide each one of us who desires His will. And I also believe that the Lord brings other godly people into our lives who may see things more clearly than we do, at a time when we need grace and compassion, not compulsion to appear perfect.

    It grieves me often when I think that until my eyes were opened, I also may have put undue burdens on others who were in pain. I have had to confess that I was ignorant and did not understand the full scope. Though my circumstances have been traumatic I see that I have grown and have much more mercy and understanding regarding those in pain. I am grateful that God allowed me such pain in order to grow in grace and truth. I think we can all say that.

  18. Lisa

    WOW…….Truth Spoken right to me…..This is exactly what was instilled in me by many pastors.

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