A Cry For Justice

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

How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.

Dr. George Simon, Jr. graciously accepted our invitation to write some guest posts for ACFJ, and here is his first!  Most of our readers will recognize him as the author of some of our favorite books:

  • In Sheep’s Clothing
  • Character Disturbance
  • And now the latest: The Judas Syndrome: Why Good People Do Awful Things

We extend our thanks to Dr. Simon for these books, which we regularly recommend to anyone who will read them.  I (Jeff Crippen) have taken copies to our church and given them out, with great benefit.  I wish we could get them into every pastoral seminary program. I remember when I first discovered In Sheep’s Clothing on Amazon when I was researching abuse.  I had not read very far when, I recall, I told myself “I like this guy!  I don’t know if he is a Christian or not, but if he isn’t, he should be!”  It turns out that he is, in fact, a Christian.  Thank you for taking the time, Dr. Simon, to help us here at A Cry for Justice.

Now, read and learn about what true contrition is, and what it is not.

__________________

I’ve counseled many individuals over the years whose problems were not so much the result of clinical conditions rooted in disease processes or biochemical imbalances but rather a direct result of deficiencies in their character.  Now, I’m not saying that genuine mental illnesses don’t exist.  But whether or not most professionals are willing to acknowledge the fact, and despite whatever diagnoses they might feel obliged to assign those whom they treat, a great number of problems they deal with are character-related and not purely trauma or biochemically caused.  This is especially true when it comes to abusive behavior in relationships.  Yes, there are individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress (i.e. have true Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD) or are in the throes of an impulse-control diminishing disturbance of mood or thought process.  But such cases are the exception, not the norm.  Most of the time, bad actors, especially abusers, have personality characteristics that predispose them to recurring problematic behaviors.  And, as I illustrate in my book Character Disturbance, certain personality types are more predisposed than others to abusive behavior.

A person’s character deficiencies inevitably spawn a host of irresponsible behavior patterns – bad habits that can become easily ingrained and, once rooted, extremely hard to break.  Often, these dysfunctional patterns involve forms of mental, emotional, and even physical abuse within relationships.  And while many of the character-impaired individuals I’ve worked with experienced periods of profound unhappiness and even a degree of regret over their actions, only a handful made truly significant changes in their once destructive behaviors. But those who truly did address their behaviors and succeeded in changing their lives for the better displayed a rare quality that seemed to make all the difference: genuine contrition.  By definition, personality patterns are deeply ingrained and hard to modify.  But that doesn’t mean a person can’t change.  People can and do change every day.  That is, genuinely contrite people do.  This begs the question about what contrition really is and how to know when someone is really experiencing it.

The word contrition comes from the Latin contritus (the same root for the word contrite), and literally means “crushed to pieces.”   The contrite person has had their once haughty and prideful ego completely crushed under the tremendous weight of guilt and shame.  Such a person has “hit bottom” (as 12-step program adherents are wont to say) not only because they can no longer bear the thought of how badly their actions hurt others but also because of their deep realization of how their usual way of doing things has resulted in abject personal failure.  That’s why the contrite person is first and foremost a broken person.  And, by definition, only by acknowledging personal defeat can a person become potentially open to reconstructing their life on very different terms.  It’s been said many times, but it’s profoundly psychologically true.  One cannot begin a new life without laying to rest one’s old self.

A regretful person is not necessarily a contrite one.  Regret often precedes contrition but is definitely not synonymous with it.  And when it comes to making meaningful changes in one’s character and turning around an irresponsible life, regret is simply not sufficient.  The word regret comes from the Old French, meaning “to bewail.” It’s a person’s intellectual and emotional response to an unpleasant or unfortunate circumstance (originally used to characterize a person’s loss of a loved one through death).  Anyone can regret something they have done and for a variety of reasons, some of which can be quite ignoble.  Even some of the most hardened criminals I’ve counseled had certain regrets. They regretted the loss of their freedom. They lamented the fact that a judge was able to exercise power over them and subject them to various unpleasant consequences.  Many “bewailed” that the sentence they received was greater than they anticipated or longer than someone else’s who committed a similar crime.  A few even regretted their actual actions, but most of the time even that kind of regret had to do with practical considerations (e.g., they didn’t plan their crime carefully enough to avoid detection, or they misjudged the character of their partner in crime who later “ratted [them] out” to authorities).  And when expressing their regrets, some were even moved to tears. But tears do not a contrite person make.  And mere regret has never been sufficient to prompt a person to change their ways.

Remorse is a prerequisite for contrition, but it’s also not sufficient for it. Remorse is a genuine empathy-based expression of one’s regret over hurting someone else.  By definition, psychopaths (alt: sociopaths) cannot really experience any meaningful degree of it, although they are quite capable of feigning it.  Fortunately, most people are capable of it to some degree, and having remorse for the injury caused another is a necessary first step toward real contrition.  But true contrition goes even beyond remorse.  Genuinely contrite people – their prideful egos crushed and torn asunder by the weight of their guilt and shame – not only hate their “sins” and the pain they inflicted on others as a result of their sins, but also are deeply unnerved about the person they allowed themselves to become that permitted their travesties in the first place.  And they necessarily resolve not only to make amends but also to make of better persons of themselves and their lives in a better fashion in the future.

Contrition is that very rare but absolutely essential feature of changing one’s life for the better.  It requires a true metanoia or “change of heart.” And even more importantly, it requires work – a lot of very hard, humble, committed work.  Reforming one’s character is the most challenging of human enterprises.  You have to put a lot of energy into doing it, and you have to feel a deep sense of obligation about doing it in order to maintain the energy to get the job done.  And contrition wears a very distinctive face.  Truly contrite people behave very differently, even from regretful and remorseful people.  And when you know what to look for, you can readily tell the difference.

One of the more reliable outward signs that someone has really experienced a change of heart is their willingness and commitment to make amends.  The contrite person is not only “sorry” for what he/she has done but is willing to repair the damage inflicted on the lives of others. I’ve known so many irresponsible characters who will challenge their understandably hesitant to trust again victims with retorts like: “I’ve said I’m sorry a million times now – what else do you want from me?!,” attempting all the while to throw the other party on the defensive (one of the manipulation tactics I discuss in In Sheep’s Clothing *affiliate link) for doubting their sincerity.  Or they will cite some small efforts they have made over a relatively short period of time and then chide their victims for not immediately accepting those small gestures as concrete evidence of meaningful, sincere, permanent change.  Contrite individuals understand that the burden of proof rests with them and that they owe those they have hurt a justifiable basis upon which to resume some degree of trust.  A contrite person is willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to regain good standing within a relationship.

It’s one thing to say you’re sorry.  But it’s quite another to prove it by how hard you work to change. Behavior is the best indicator that a person is truly contrite and working to really change.  Living and dealing with persons of deficient character is always difficult, but many people increase the level of pain they experience in their relationships with problem characters by buying into the notion that if a person says they’re sorry, sheds a tear, or looks unhappy, and appears to mean well, things will necessarily be different. They give too much regard to a person’s regret and sorrow and don’t look hard enough for evidence of true contrition.  Traditionally-oriented therapists make this same mistake when counseling impaired characters and their relationship partners.  Pastoral counselors make the same mistake at times. A person’s genuine willingness and commitment to make amends is always accompanied by plan of action to accomplish precisely those ends. In short, a person’s actions always speak louder than their words or even their emotional expressions.  And I’m not talking about demonstrative gestures that make good impressions on others like going back to church or getting religion once again.  The contrite person conducts themselves in a fundamentally different manner than they historically have. They might not do so perfectly or every time. But they evidence a constant effort toward reforming their conduct, and when they fall short they readily admit it and do their best to get back on course.

Traditional therapies have always placed a lot of value on people’s feelings, and because they are also primarily “talk therapies,” on what people say.  And I’ve seen all too many times how therapists as well as the victims of irresponsible characters make the assumption that things are moving in the right direction because the bad actor shed a tear or two about something horrible they did or said they were sorry.  But even when sorrow is genuine, it’s certainly not enough to make a difference.  Sorrow is an emotional response usually connected to the loss of something. And while it is always painful to lose – especially when losing something of great value – that kind of pain is not in and of itself a reliable predictor of change. Individuals who have been in abusive relationships and who give a lot of weight or credence to expressions of regret and sorrow are most often doomed to an escalating level of personal pain and hardship. And in proper cognitive-behavioral therapy for abusers, where the principal focus is on behavior and fostering fundamental attitudinal and behavioral change, the therapist has to be much less interested in what a person has to say and much more concerned about what he/she is doing to truly correct problematic thinking and behavior patterns and repairing damage they have done.  Talk, as they say, is infinitely cheap.  And therapy or pastoral counseling that just focuses on getting someone to express their feelings or communicate their regrets is likely doomed to be ineffective in fostering meaningful change (I discuss this in some depth in Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age  *affiliate link).

I simply cannot count the number of times during my professional career when people who had done something horrible felt badly about it in some way afterwards. Often, they felt badly every time they repeated the same behavior. Having some regret simply isn’t enough to make a person mend their ways. I also can’t count the times that those affected by another’s misdeeds were so swayed by the wrongdoer’s display of tears or a claim of regret that they unfortunately helped “enable” that person to avoid real change.   Sentiment never stripped anyone of their character defects.  It takes a lot of concerted effort to overcome our shortcomings.  The truly contrite individual works to make amends, to do better, and above all, to be better.  That always involves demonstrable, consistent behavior – behavior that can be observed, monitored, encouraged, rewarded, and measured by both the therapist or pastoral counselor and other parties to a relationship with the troubled character.

To call oneself a Christian is easy.  To be a Christian is not so easy.  To say one adopts the Christian faith takes no effort at all.  To live the Christian faith takes a lot of dedication and commitment.  Yes, we are all – Christians and non-Christians alike – sinners.  But one cannot rightfully lay claim to the Christian life without experiencing genuine contrition when one sins.   Numerous scripture passages testify to this.  And titular Christians always betray their lack of real faith in Christ when they demonstrate no real contrition for their unseemly acts (c.f.: The Judas Syndrome *affiliate link). So, it’s incumbent upon those who have endured the scars of abuse in their relationships to pay less attention to the abuser’s protestations that they have once again found Jesus and instead look for the clear behavioral signs that the abuser has truly repented.

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

 

78 Comments

  1. I have always said, “Are you sorry you did, or are you sorry you got caught?”. If you are sorry you did it, then do something to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Otherwise, it’s just words.

  2. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  3. Katy

    This is fantastic, thanks so much for writing here!
    The reason I tend to doubt the sincerity of faith among habitually mean people – the power of God transforms character.
    It seems to be a combination of being saved by God (thus enabling an abuser to fully experience contrition) – and the personal commitment to the Christian life.

  4. Jeff S

    I remember telling a few people in confidenc (not my ex, because telling her would just allow her to “fake it”) that the one thing I needed to see from her in order to prevent the divorce was a plan of action to make sure she did not hurt me again in the future. That did not mean perfect behavior, but I wanted to see real, tangible evidence of a desire to do better, and that meant action. Action not promted by me or by a therapist, but something that came from within her that said “I hurt my husband, and I need to make our relationship a safe place for him.” Until I could see and believe that, she may have had regret and remorse, but no contrition.

    I prayed every night during the divorce process that if she DID do this and actually show behavior consistent with a workable marriage, that I would be open to see it. I’m not sure what it would have taken, but I really did not want to miss it if we could have the marriage back.

    Great article, and it would have been good to have when I was going through that process. I would have been a lot more confident in what to look for in her for the marriage to have the potential of becoming safe again.

    • Carrie

      You have put words to what I have tried to explain to people when asked if I plan this current separation to be permanent. (I do.) I don’t see a single hint at contrition, to use the terminology in this article.

      • Liz

        This is where I am right now. Not separated, but I see not hint of genuine contrition. Only regret at making life difficult, and anger that I am finally standing up to him and refusing to enable him any more. A lot of people still think that I just need to understand his point of view better, though, and that he’s sorry so he’s not a bad person.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Well, yes, we do need to understand his point of view. His point of view is that he is the center of the universe, that he is absolutely entitled to power and control, that you are his slave. That is his point of view. So they say he’s sorry? Esau was sorry, but he didn’t fool God. There is godly sorrow and there is fake sorrow that is all about self. Judas Iscariot was sorry. Was he a good person as a result? No way. Persevere to your freedom!

  5. Awesome! I loved this article, very eye opening. Thank you so much Dr Simon and Ps Crippen for your committment to our healing.

  6. Dr Simon, thank you so much for this article. We are honoured to have you as a guest author.

    I like the way you choose words so carefully; I am learning a lot from it. The word ‘contrition’ is rarely used these days, but one great advantage it has is that it doesn’t have a full-on religious connotation, so it’s more acceptable to people in secular psychology than a word like ‘repentance’.

    As a Christian, I understand contrition and repentance are pretty much the same thing. They both involve being crushed – having a deep sense of inner brokenness – as a precondition to potentially reconstructing one’s life on very different terms. God gave me a crushing sense of my guilt, shame and sinfulness, and whilst doing that He simultaneously revealed Jesus to me, showing me His unspeakable love, mercy and brotherly kindness towards me (me – a degraded sinner!) so that I loved Jesus Christ and wanted to obey him. But then it took lots of hard work and effort (though He is always there to help me) to reconstruct my life on very different terms, learning from the Bible how to live as a Christian .

    Non-Christians who have an active conscience don’t understand this: to them, a Christian’s account of personal conversion sounds like gobbledygook. But they can understand contrition.

  7. Jeff Crippen

    This comment is from Anonymous. Just reposting it under an Anon name:

    This is excellent!
    So many gold nuggets in this piece I would not know where to begin to choose a favorite line. They are all right on target. I knew when I saw who wrote it, it would be good. I have both Simon’s books, In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance and am excited to know he has a new book. When I finish writing this note of appreciation, I plan to order it. His summation in the last paragraph is great: “To call oneself a Christian is easy. To be a Christian is not so easy. To say one adopts the Christian faith takes no effort at all. To live the Christian faith takes a lot of dedication and commitment. Yes, we are all – Christians and non-Christians alike – sinners. But one cannot rightfully lay claim to the Christian life without experiencing genuine contrition when one sins. Numerous scripture passages testify to this. And titular Christians always betray their lack of real faith in Christ when they demonstrate no real contrition for their unseemly acts .” …
    Sadly, so many today in Christian leadership positions do not seem to agree with this. It seems to be all about the responsibility of the victim to practice “forgiveness and move on” despite there being no signs of genuine repentance. Thank you Dr. Simon for standing in the gap and saying what needs to be said….

    • Thank you Anonymous and welcome to our blog if you are a newbie! 🙂

  8. Amy

    One of the more reliable outward signs that someone has really experienced a change of heart is their willingness and commitment to make amends. The contrite person is not only “sorry” for what he/she has done but is willing to repair the damage inflicted on the lives of others. I’ve known so many irresponsible characters who will challenge their understandably hesitant to trust again victims with retorts like: “I’ve said I’m sorry a million times now – what else do you want from me?!,” attempting all the while to throw the other party on the defensive (one of the manipulation tactics I discuss in In Sheep’s Clothing) for doubting their sincerity.

    Wow, wow, wow…I found myself shaking as I read this article. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it spoke so much to me. My ex was the master and still is of making everyone think he had and has changed. I remember after he walked out on me four years ago the pastor of the church we had attended saying to me how it looked like my ex was really trying to change. Huh, really???? So you think somebody who is changing would still say things like, “what more do you want? I’ve apologized”, “you just can never forever.”, “you’re so controlling just like your mother”, and on and on. There was never a true apology or acknowledgement of the abuse. There were hateful emails, bullying and him taking money like our tax return and closing out bank accounts, and telling everyone how I kicked him out. Wow… Guess I missed where he had changed.

    This article should be in the hands of every pastor and on the wall of every church. He should do mandatory classes for anyone who counsels couples. it would have saved me a world of hurt had the pastor and other prominent figures in that church had just stood beside me instead of pushing me from behind to do the “Christian” thing and reconcile. After all, I had some magical powers to change my ex if i would just submit, respect and love him more. Sorry, it isn’t my responsibility to change him. And what was happening in the marriage was not a marriage problem. It was a problem that my ex had. it was a personal problem and trying to get me to reconcile just to keep a marriage together because that would look good to the Christian community was not going to solve my ex’s behavioral problems.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Amy- Very, very good insights. Yes this really is an excellent article and I like your idea of hanging it in every church and every pastor’s office. You know, this should not really be that hard for Christians to get, should it? I mean, read the Bible! And yet, what? Either we have pulpits filled with unregenerate pastors; churches filled with unregenerate members, or Christians who have been spoon-fed the traditions of man for so long they have forgotten what truth looks like. But then, that isn’t supposed to happen to Christ’s true sheep.

  9. Thank you Dr. Simon for taking the time to write such a well written article. I had so much trouble with this when I was with my abuser. He was always in a puddle of tears over how sorry he was but there was never any action to follow. If I ever did anything wrong though and I said I was sorry he would say “words without deeds is worthless” and not accept my apology. Double standards were a constant problem in my marriage. Your article has been so helpful and I hope you will write another one for us soon.

  10. Anonymous

    It seems pastors/leaders today believe that repentance need not bear any contrition and is just a matter of acknowledging the abuser did wrong, but has no real intention to “change” or stop sinning against the victim. It is enough just to say, I’m sorry, but the real point that comes in here, is that the victim is then supposed to forgive and just trust again without any real repentance. They just say, “we’re all sinners and so are you!” as a response to change, but in reality what they are really saying is, “he is never going to change and it is not required”. But, I beg to differ, at least in the Christian realm, because we are called to put our sin away. It seems the pastors that victims deal with, don’t think anyone can or needs to do that, but then why does the BIble tell us to. If those same pastors dealt with the forgiveness they demand of the victims, the same way they deal with the abuser’s repentance, there would never be any forgiveness given either.

  11. As I See It Only

    Thank you for such a clear-headed, calm and biblical position on this issue. Years ago I ran across a book by David Clarke called ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’. What I learned was that someone who truly wanted things to be different and to save the marriage would produce measurable change and would not resent accountability, but would welcome it. I hear this same message from Dr. Simon–contrition bears good fruit that produces a radical change in character. Thank you for articulating this so well for us.

    • Leslie

      Thank you! Thank you! thank you! for posting this George Simon is the most helpful information I’ve read. Even though ive read both books, I needed this reminder. I was ” wearing down” feeling guilty for keeping my physical and emotional boundaries in place the face of niceness mixed with sadness and crocodile tears. I was close to breaking my boundaries until I read this last night. I have not seen true contrition. I had False guilt.
      It doesn’t help when your pastor says… “Gee will anything he does be good enough for you?”
      I just want it to be real.
      Thanks for the reminder that that is right!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Leslie – Those words: “Gee, will anything he does be good enough for you?” are abusive words, in alliance with the abuser. Treat them as such. God does not settle for anything less than true contrition/repentance, and neither should we. Stand firm!

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        I love your comment :” I just want it to be real”…Such truth!!

  12. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    Was thinking about this post and something Jeff said on another post and things that have gone on in my journey. I was often, repeatedly rebuked during the counseling process and the two years until the divorce became final, that I wasn’t acknowledging the idiot’s apologies. Most times I would graciously email back “thank you”; but that was the extent of my acknowledgement. Job’s counselors that I had around me wanted me to repeatedly acknowledge that he was “at least trying” and I was to take these apologies as giant positive signs that God was working. I just could not do that. I could not lie and be a hypocrite. Just recently he took me to court claiming I was “denying visitation” when I was following my son’s therapist’s recommendations and I literally could not figure out how to legally force a teen taller and stronger and heavier than me to go where he doesn’t want to go and has panic attacks at the thought. Anyway, the state threw it out of court because the paperwork was filed incorrectly. I got a sobbing apology over email about how wrong he was to file. I didn’t believe it ( again) and within in a week he made a veiled threat about filing another criminal charge against me. This is not repentance, not contrition! This is why I ignored Job’s counselors because with in a week of apologizing he would repeat the behavior he just apologized for and then would justify it. Wishing I could have showed this article to them before. Would they listen now…probably not. They are all sure they were right in their counsel and I am the unrepentant one…sigh.

    • Leslie

      Thanks Jeff. Amazingly, God gave me the phrase ” stand firm!” Over 6 years ago in so many ways over several weeks. It was when I was just beginning stand up for myself in an attempt to be seen and heard in my marriage. I never fully understood what it meant until last year. To see you say this same words , in this context, is a pure gift from God!

  13. dory

    Truth, Justice, Mercy are all needed in the body of Christ, and at various times. Thank you for illuminating when and how to discern the “justice” aspect. Mercy comes when the apology is a contrite change of behavior after an acceptance and admission of Truth. LOVED IT!

  14. Kathy seldon

    This was posted at a perfect time in my journey. Mine has actually started to show some attempts at change. I’m trying to maintain firm boundaries to keep from getting hurt. I know not to have great expectations, but I still find myself wanting to encourage the positive steps I’ve seen him take. Can I do both? Can I give encouragment to the efforts he seems to be making while still maintaining my boundaries? Also, I just watched a foreign film called “take my eyes”. It was bit too vulgar for me, but it showed domestic violence sooooo perfectly. I mean, they nailed it. Even the complex little nuances that no one seems to see unless they’ve been there were perfectly portrayed in that film. Don’t watch it if triggers are a huge issue ( and there is explicit sex and nudity in it), but I’m still blown away by its accuracy.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks for the tip on the movie, Kathy. Interesting how often the world nails evil better than Christians do. And we are very glad that Dr. Simon’s article was a good boost to you!

      • AJ

        So true Jeff, I have been stunned this week by how the world has a higher standard of love when it comes to loving your wife than the church does. Non Christian people see his behavior as wrong but the church says its okay as long as you stay married. Not usually out loud but in many ways that is what they say.
        So exciting to have Dr. Simon post. Thanks to him and you for all you do in helping us to understand.

  15. MeganC

    Dr. Simon — Thank you for writing this. It was a cool drink of water to my soul. It just reiterates the fact that my ex truly was an abuser and was not really repentant. He could “play” contrite for a time but would eventually get exhausted and just snap back into his ways. And none of his contrition was really anything coming from his heart, but from what he believed I expected or what others told him he should be. Oh, what a difference it would have made to see one original, heart-felt morsel of contrition. It just would never come.

    I love the way you contrast contrition with remorse. Someone told me last year that Peter and Judas Iscariot basically did the same thing — denied Christ. But, Peter showed true repentance and went on to live a redeeming life . . . while Judas was surely remorseful . . . but it led to his death.

    I will read this article again and again to seal the deal. All your books are very well-read here in this blog community. You have a meaningful and healing ministry and we are all grateful!

  16. Pepe

    Thank you so much for this article! It clarifies so well the way we who have been hurt must begin to understand what we see and why it seems to be that the person who has hurt us has not really shown effort to change. Still frustrating but this put a frame for understanding the difference between what is said, meant , feigned and genuine.

    It explains why those who cheat become so expert at lying and posing too.

    I appreciate this blog so much and this post has been very helpful in understanding the behavior of my husband as he continues to drag around looking hangdog while minimally engaging with me at all.

    He seems crushed but without any hope of doing anything at all to help himself change…He appears to have given up …and longs to die no matter what encouragement he hears in order to see value in the effort even if for his children’s sake…especially the ones he had from the OW .

    It is sorrowful to watch. I continue to seek to learn how I may be of support as I am also continuing to walk after the Lord learning my own walk …I do not want to follow my husband into the “ditch” …I choose the continue in the faith according to the Lord and the scriptures.

    It is indeed a walk that takes effort but it is worth it and what else is there for us but to follow the Lord in truth?

    For me, I keep thinking ….

    Jhn 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

  17. Little Miss Me

    Dr. Simon – THANK YOU!!! Your work had helped me so much!

    When I filed for divorce he read several books (within the span of a few days) to prove how much he wanted to change. One of the books, or maybe a counselor, suggested he write out a list of everything he’s sorry for. He did this. “Twelve-plus pages,” he kept pointing out, not revealing that these pages were only 5×7 inches. He told me he did it, and told me I could read it if I wanted.

    He didn’t ask me to read it, he didn’t offer it to me with a sincere attitude or words of contrition. Just said it’s over there if you want to read it. I read it in private so he wouldn’t know I had. Mostly it was a list that made me realize how much he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he never bothered to change. There were still many abusive tactics right there in the list – a lot of covert blame-shifting (“Even though she didn’t tell me…”).

    If I hadn’t read “In Sheep’s Clothing” I might have fallen for it.

  18. Now Free

    “Contrition is that very rare but absolutely essential feature of changing one’s life for the better. It requires a true metanoia or “change of heart.” And even more importantly, it requires work – a lot of very hard, humble, committed work. Reforming one’s character is the most challenging of human enterprises. You have to put a lot of energy into doing it, and you have to feel a deep sense of obligation about doing it in order to maintain the energy to get the job done. And contrition wears a very distinctive face. Truly contrite people behave very differently, even from regretful and remorseful people. And when you know what to look for, you can readily tell the difference.”

    Dr. Simon, Thanks so much for informing us about the difference between regretful, remorseful, and being contrite. I used to wonder why my abuser looked sad at times, and still did not want to apologize for any of his abuse, nor did he want to change. You have answered a question I have had in my mind for a long time. What a revelation!

    Thanks for posting this, Jeff!

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this wisely-written information about contrition. A pastor once told me that many fall for the abuser’s lack of contrition because of a veil of deception (manipulation) around the abuser. Psalms 11:2 expresses it so clearly, too. I’m so glad I discovered your blog.

    • Jeff S

      Welcome to the blog- that pastor sounds very wise.

  20. Victoria

    Thank you! THAT is exactly what I’m looking for in my husband! Its what I need to know we can move forward. Its what I’m praying for to save our family.
    Thank you for giving a more clear description of exactly what to look for. Before reading this all I could concretely verbalize as what I needed to move forward was, “demonstration of true repentance, accept responsibility for actions”. This article has put words to what my heart was calling for. Thank You!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yep, this was a really good one, wasn’t it Victoria? Dr. Simon will be writing another article or two for us,and you can greatly benefit from his 3 books – In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and The Judas Syndrome. Excellent stuff.

      It’s good to hear you getting all pumped and encouraged!!

      • Victoria

        Thanks, Jeff.
        It was a good article and I look forward to the next ones. This is all new to me and I appreciate what I’m learning. I’m getting educated and working out what my expectations are. I’m still not sold on the “He won’t change, its over” yet. Maybe I’m naive (I’m OK with that), but I’m still holding out for a miracle.

  21. Michele

    What if my abusive husband will NOT admit what he’s done (when recently confronted by friends/small group men/ pastor), but IS behaviorally changing?? His mostly changed behavior has lasted several months.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Michele – Time will tell. False repentance cannot be maintained indefinitely. Lack of genuine confession of the abuse makes the apparent repentance highly suspect for sure. Abusers are skilled at putting on the necessary facade and doing what they need to in order to get what they want – in this case perhaps it is convincing the friends and pastor and men that he has repented. It is not time for a party yet – the prodigal may not have really come home. It is not for nothing that the Lord requires confession of our sin as well as a turning away from it. Either aspect, without the other, is not genuine repentance.

      On the other hand, it is very positive that he was confronted by people in your church and perhaps over time the “lights” of heartfelt conviction will turn on for him. It sounds like you are being very wise in realizing that the lack of confession is very problematic.

    • anonymous

      I am in a very similar situation as you, Michele.

      • Anonymous

        “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” 1 John 1:9

        So, I would say, no confession (ie admission), no true forgiveness, and without forgiveness, I would tend to think, that the person is just operating in their own strength, which cannot last for long. Private confession, okay, that can happen, but honestly, why would he not confess it at least to you, if he were truly repentant and wanting to win you back? I would think that God would have changed his heart so much, if he were truly repentant, that he would not be able to contain how truly repentant he was. BUT my counsel to you, is not to give him any ideas about what true repentance would look like to you, as I agree with Ps. Crippen, abusers tend to be able to put on a facade and keep it up for quite some time, in order to get back “in”. Also, false repentance can sure leave the victim even more confused at the end of the day, so just try to be alert. I hope, for your sake, that his repentance is true, but better safe than sorry – once again.

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Well said Anon!

      • In my experience, most abusers will not admit what they did wrong, and if they do admit it, they make partial admissions that are only half-truths, so as to minimize the heinousness of their actions, obfuscate the story, shift blame, and deny their full responsibility. So when abusers are not admitting what they have done wrong, they are just being true to type. It is the norm, not the exception.

        I have noticed that many victim-survivors long for and hope that their abusers will admit their wrongdoing, and they ‘hang out’ for that so much and place so many of their eggs in that hope-basket that they can stay stuck in *just hoping* ——and being repeatedly disappointed when the hoped-for admissions do not occur. Or only half-heartedly occur.

        I have also noticed that once a survivor takes on board the fact that the abuser is NOT going to admit wrongdoing, then the survivor is better able to think through her options and make clear plans for her own safety and well-being.

        Abusers know that we long for them to admit to their sins, so they keep us hanging on a thread, ever-hopeful. . . but always in the end disappointed. And they know very well how to manipulate things so that we keep that slender thread of hope alive — because while they have us hanging on that thread, it is relatively easy to maintain better control over us.

        When I learned to stop hoping for my abuser to admit to his wrongdoing, and turned my thinking 180 degrees around so I actually expected him to deny and obfuscate his wrongdoing, he had less power over me. When he DID deny it, his denial didn’t throw me off into a slump of disappointment: I was expecting it, so I was mentally prepared for it and armored against it.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Excellent words Barbara! Everyone listen carefully to what she said here.

    • Barnabasintraining

      If I can weigh in here,

      Personally, I would distrust a failure to admit what he’s done, especially if it’s on the order of a “will not.” If he’s been confronted and will not agree with the complaint (confession), he is lacking repentance. If the heart/mind has not changed, you are still dealing with the same bad tree, no matter that the fruit looks different.

      • Michele

        I am amazed that so many of you cared enough to respond to my question!
        If you don’t mind- one more question- and it’s big, I realize….
        In “medium level” emotional and psychological abuse- it was worse, now it’s better, (he’s showing some behavior changes) but not repentant, is it better for the kids if I stay and wait (although he said rather pointedly to me and the elders and small group members “I will NOT confess to something I’m not convicted of- I have NOT been abusive whatsoever…” So clearly right now he doesn’t see it, but do I stay and wait and see if he does since at least he’s being nicer to us, or do I go and tear apart the family? This is so heartbreaking.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Michele – That decision, to stay or go, is discussed in Lundy Bancroft’s book Should I Stay or Should I Go? It is necessarily, your decision to make. However, I can tell you that abuse always functions in a cycle. What you are seeing now is most probably just a stage in that cycle of abuse. Sometimes abusers get so “nice” that they are said to be in the “honeymoon” stage – flowers, romantic, etc. I think Barbara prefers to call that the “setup” stage because IT IS ALWAYS PART OF THE CYCLE OF ABUSE. That is to say, the improvement you are seeing is no doubt (because he refuses to confess) simply a stage and it is abuse in and of itself because it is all designed to deceive you and to set you up for another blast of the full blown abuse you have seen before.

        Eds. IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.

      • Memphis Rayne

        So he will confess if he is convicted? Perhaps. Depends on wether or not confessing will get him more of what he wants? Plus he just stated the obvious that he is guilty of something!!!! But unless YOU point it out, he is not going to bring it up.
        Like most abusers they are very capapble of making just enough motion to change to get you looking at the small steps they make, that way you are focusing on that small thing instead of the big picture. The big picture is he does not care enough to do any genuine work for change, because in his mind (as he is telling you) he does not have any problems with how he treats you or your kids.

        Also IF you decide to leave, the burden falls on him. YOU are not resposnible for tearing apart the family if leave. If he is being nicer, then you have to wonder how long that will last? If your waiting for true repentence from somebody that says “Look Im not confessing squat” then I am afreaid you will be waiting a very long time.

      • Barnabasintraining

        I agree with Jeff. I haven’t read Should I Stay or Should I Go, but I know someone who has and she said it was very helpful.

  22. Little Miss Me

    Michele – No one is going to tell you to “tear apart the family.” Even those that would strongly suggest you leave an abuser are not telling YOU to tear anything apart – because HE has already done it. It sounds like you know this but after years with someone like him you don’t feel like you can even think to leave without blaming yourself for the struggles that will come with it.

    A dear friend always reminds me: “If you are OK, your children will be OK.” So, ask yourself what you need to do to be OK.

    • Michele

      All good, thought provoking responses. As you all probably know- its so much more difficult to apply these realities to your own situation even though my head understands what you’re saying:)
      I just ran across another woman’s post on this blog that her husband refused to drive her to the hospital when she was in labor because she wasn’t cleaning the house well enough….would you say this is the extreme situation most of the women in this blog are in? Mine is not so extreme. Mine is more constant criticism, refusal to acknowledge me, my thoughts, desires, feelings, unfair, unreasonable, unkind, always my fault, refuses love and relationship, disrespectful, talks to me like I’m am idiot- but he WOULD drive me to the hospital if I was in labor- he would NOT take his abuse that far.

      • Little Miss Me

        Michele – My situation was not that extreme. In fact, that was one of the more difficult things to deal with – there was no clear cut, outright actions that would be commonly accepted as abusive. He never hit me, never clearly threatened me, never even really called me names or yelled. (I used to wish that he would hit me because then someone might understand.) But the things you describe are not healthy and not tolerable in a marriage.

        If you haven’t already, I suggest reading more on manipulators and you’ll likely find a description of your husband. When I read “In Sheep’s Clothing” I was glad I was reading the kindle version or else I’d have gone through 10 boxes of highlighters! While going through the list of manipulative tactics at one point I couldn’t stop shaking it was so real and so clear. (I read it on my phone in the bathroom and in the dark whenever I could so he wouldn’t find it.)

        I used to think that I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t want to teach my children that marriage was something you could walk away from. But then I realized that by staying I was teaching them that it was OK for someone to treat their spouse the way I was being treated.

        Finally, are you safe? Are you sure? Mine got very frightening at times even though he never hit or directly threatened. Take the MOSAIC threat assessment online (which unfortunately uses the term “Domestic Violence” for the relationship assessments) to get another perspective on this. My situation came out a 7 out of 10 chance that he would become violent – and that awareness was immensely helpful as I navigated my way through the past year.

      • Mama Martin

        Oh, Michele, I understand your questions and wonderings. You committed to this man. You have children together. You’ve done your best to be the best woman you can be. I, too, thought “There are others worse off than me. I can deal with this – I’m strong enough.” I hope you are able to read a book like Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? so that you begin to understand how your husband thinks. I also worked through the exercises in When Love Hurts and was amazed at how pervasive the abuse was. It went into every area of life – and then I started to grieve the life I had never had – the life I thought I had but didn’t since my husband never did listen to what I said (I had been deceived and thought he listened to me – but then I looked at his actions). Oh, Michele, look at what he does, not what he says. What do his actions say? What thoughts do his actions show?

      • Memphis Rayne

        I use to think also “At least he doesnt do this or that” “He is NOT that bad” and believe me once the fog lifted, the reality is ABUSE is THAT bad. Exactly how far is it OKAY to abuse another person?? So if he abuses you a “little” is it still abuse?

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Yes, three years later I am seeing how bad the abuse was/is( because he still pulls things, especially with the kids) and mine never hit me either, well once, but so long ago. After he was gone and I started to heal, the realization of what I lived through and what, living through it, that I taught my kids was acceptable. My daughter is allowing herself to be manipulated constantly by her “best friend” and thinks she “can handle” her father’s abuse and tells me “he’s trying to not yell” as if that is the only issue

      • Dear Michele,
        I understand you uncertainty. Reading Lundy Bancroft’s book would help you a lot, I think. But also read or re-read the definition of abuse we have in the sidebar of this blog. It emphasises that abuse is fundamentally a mentality of entitlement and a pattern of coercive control. The behaviours of abusers can be on a spectrum, from the lesser to the greater, and where they are on this spectrum may make a difference to the severity of damage that the victim and children suffer. But if there is a pattern of control and the abuser has a mentality of entitlement, it is abuse.

        My first husband only used violence occasionally: pushes, shoves, elbowing me in the ribs, an occasional hit but not a heavy punch or a beating. But he would have never have refused to drive me to hospital if I was in labour. He cursed and used sarcasm unkindly, but he did not roar at me in angry tirades, or keep me up at night interrogating me. I give you these few examples just to illustrate how abusers can each differ in their abusive behaviours, but that does not mean that one abuser is ‘not really an abuser’ because he doesn’t do the bad things another abuser does. The entitled mentality and the power and control is common to all of them.

      • Michele – I’m the woman (whose husband wouldn’t drive her to the hospital when she was in labor) – and I often felt that my husband’s abusiveness wasn’t extreme enough to complain about.
        It is very difficult when you are in the thick of it, to judge how “extreme” it may be. My husband didn’t hit me. So I struggled with labeling it as abuse.
        Concentrate on what the underlying motives are in your husband’s treatment of you… for instance, my husband didn’t drive me to the hospital when I said we needed to go – because it was a display of power. He got to choose when we went to the hospital because *he* was the one in control. Not me, and certainly not an infant.
        Likewise, what is your husband’s underlying motives in constantly running you down, denying love and affection, destroying your spirit day in and day out?
        As Ps. Crippen has said here before: Abuse, in the end, is murder.
        Trust that this is not your fault, and your children’s happiness does not depend on you laying yourself on the altar of his abuse. That in the end, God can make your children prosper no matter what – everything does not rest on you. I know this is the exact opposite of what most of us feel in this situation. 😦

      • KingsDaughter

        “I know this is typical scared thinking. Scared of not knowing what’s on the other side. If you’ve been on the other side…is it really better?”

        Michele,
        One of the most important things that I’m learning after being in an abusive relationship is to learn to think and own your own decisions. That said, with so much mixed feeling about this decision I would make sure you search out every one of the things you mentioned and make sure you are prepared to own any negative consequences. I’m NOT in ANY way saying stay with your abuser! If you feel that your life is in danger, RUN! However, there is a lot to be said for making careful well thought out plans (sometimes it takes space from the abuser to do this- could you go away for a little while and visit family?). It will be difficult to leave, make sure you have all the confidence in your choice and peace with God first so you can endure. Nothing will tear you up like “what if” so to eliminate that as much as possible, you must be completely convinced that you did everything you needed to. When you decide to leave there is a way to do it with confidence and grace (that’s what I’m aiming for). I’m never going to convince everyone about my decision, but I know what I need to do to have peace with it.
        Every situation is unique, in my situation boundaries are helping me to be emotionally safe (outspokenness about the physical abuse and physical separation are helping keep me safe from that) while I give him every opportunity to do the right thing without giving excuse for his behavior. Another great tool is learning the abuser’s tactics, get educated on this and it will help you not to get entangled in his web. Maybe you could learn to shore up your relationships with your children too? If you deepen your connection with them it will help them to sort out the truth of what is happening. You don’t have to point out how their dad is wrong (it will only backfire) but you can teach them truth and give them skills to learn to evaluate right & wrong behaviors. I have one child who has some of her father’s traits and I’m working with her on positive ways to deal with those as well as getting counseling for her.
        God Bless you, Michele!
        And remember there is no fear in love!

  23. Little Miss Me, Thanks for the tip about the MOSAIC test. I just took it, and it appears that my situation is escalating. I gave the information to the attorney that we will be meeting with jointly this week, so that she might be aware of the situation. The test is helpful-thanks again.

    Also, my sister is a therapist and she said that the Lundy Bancroft book, Should I stay or should I go is an excellent resource. I recommended it to a friend, and she said that it gave her clarity on her situation-she decided to go. Michelle, that seems like a must read for you.

    • Anonymous

      The MOSAIC test is a threat assessment tool created by Gavin de Becker, the author of “The Gift of Fear”. This book is recommended by Pastor Crippen and Barbara and is listed under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

      • Michele

        Barbara, Jeff, and all you faithful, caring bloggers walking this together- I know I already said, just “one more question”, but I have yet another I’d love to pick your brains about! You will probably find it a little bizarre when I tell you I read “why does he do that?”, “Wolf in Sheeps Clothing”, almost done with “should I stay or should I go?”, and Cindy burrells articles and books, as well. I’ve ordered Barbara’s book- it should be here any day now! I of course plan on devouring it. I took the mosaic test three months ago and scored a 7.
        I, too, have most of the books on my little iPhone which I read in the dark, in the bathroom, and any chance I get. I, too, couldn’t believe how validating it was to have someone describe what I haven’t been able to and make sense of the crazy world I could never get to the bottom of.
        So why am I so hesitant?
        (It could partially be explained by the church I go to….guess which one? Pipers:). But truly, they have actually recently surrounded me with support, so it’s not even the church that holds me back right now. It’s a couple things one of which is this:
        Almost everything I read suggests that the abuse spirals into cycles of increasingly worse behaviors and attitudes of entitlement. Here’s what trips me up. That is not what has been the case for me, which is what causes me to hesitate in making “the move”. If I didn’t leave then, why would I leave now, when he actually shows some signs of being human. In the past, he was physically abusive. I was hit, dragged, sat on, put in a headlock, interrogated long into the night, called names, “you don’t just have thin skin, you have no skin”, etc etc. I was told it was a sign of a lack of submission to walk across the street and look both ways. I should trust his leadership to look for me. He would have me practice keeping my head forward or closing my eyes as he gripped my hand and determined when to cross, and on and on and on. We all have a hundred stories, right? Here’s what’s weird. He got a little better through the years. It’s definitely still there, to the extent that life is hard and I’m sad inside, but he’s not crazy like he used to be…he’s just…hard. He sort of changed into a mode of “Im (michele) just another adult in the house, taking care of what needs to be taken care of, and he has poured all of himself into the kids. So, in the outward, crazy ways, hes actually less abusive to me. And to the kids….well, he’s super involved and loving a lot, and harsh, demanding, demeaning a lot, too. Whereas, I haven’t really received his love side, at least they do. What do you make of this? What do you make of the fact that he did get better- the cycles didnt get worse.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Michele – I wonder if the cycles have actually gotten worse in that his tactics are not so overt as they used to be? I don’t know. Just a suggestion to think about. A man who does not love his own wife, has treated her as he has treated you, demonstrates that he has no heart, no empathy. My question would be, why stay in a marriage that is not a marriage? But again, that is just something for you to consider – it is never just a simple “I am leaving the jerk” scenario, is it?

      • Memphis Rayne

        Im unrested with the fact your husband would not take the abuse “”that Far” …as in he would drive you to the hospital, yet he did not have a problem with physically harming you, demeaning you and your children. He is an abuser, period. His abuse however may have mutated into something more subtle (yet equally destructive)….and as far as the kids?….A truly loving Father does NOT abuse a childs Mother, that is a fact, just as you would not harm him, and you no doubt foster their relationship between their Dad….beware, their is intent, and their is an agenda and he does have a motive. I would be inclined to consider what Pastor Jeff C suggested….abusers have a sneaky way of keeping you guessing yourself, questioning yourself, deflecting the abuse, they decieve people into thinking that the abuse is “”not so bad”, or non existant. You did not leave when it was physical, so what? Thats HIS thinking “well if I am that bad, why didnt you leave then? Or if I am that bad why are YOU still here?” That just may be filed in his mind to use against you when you decide you have had enough. You didnt leave then, for the same reason you dont leave now, the same reason(s) we all stay for whatever duration we stay. Abusers lie, they manipulate, they can be sublte or overt, they do whatever it takes to remain in control of you. Leaving is a free fall, your mind no doubt swirls with ALL the “what ifs” You may think “”He is a good father after all”” but again what good father demeans his own children? What good father abuses his own wife, the Mother of those children? Your family is a hard thing to let go, the hope you have for change will keep you there, he most likely knows that. Well I am no expert, and I tend to be a little over direct, but the physical abuse may lay dormat for weeks or years? He may just like mentally torturing you more, plus its not as obvious. The only thing I know for sure is that when the time comes to leave, God will fill in those gaps, plus you should be very cautious, he does not sound like somebody thats going to just go away, or let you leave without some sort of altercation..((((((he already knows he has gotten away with the physical assaults, you cannot just tape back up those boundaries he crossed? That will remain forever swinging on the back porch, he reserves the right to revisit that when deemed nessicary. Thats an open field for the rest of your marriage)))))….and I am confident in that based on the fact he is STILL abusive, and unwilling to stop abusing, so his little changes he finds fitting mean zilch…Anyhow,….as most of us know, its a long hard road to hoe. Well at least we will all be here for you either way = )

      • Michele

        I hear you Jeff and Memphis…I’ve been mulling over your thoughts again and again these past months. I’m on the verge of making the decision, I think that’s why I’m asking all these questions of you guys. Truth is. I’m scared. It’s a big decision. Be honest with me….is single parenting 4 kids- one who is just like his dad, no job, kids blaming you, dad telling them it’s your fault the family split up really so much better?
        I know this is typical scared thinking. Scared of not knowing what’s on the other side. If you’ve been on the other side…is it really better?

      • Michele, I don’t judge you for being afraid. Not at all. Separating from an abuse is like running the gauntlet. The time around separation is scary, yeah, but most of us have found that it does get gradually better over the mid to long term. I shall pray for you.

        I only had one child and did have a job and a house, so I was not facing the situation you are facing, and I don’t want to blow off your fears, but I have heard testimonies for other Christian survivors who say that the other side was better, even though they were under immense pressure of finances, job, kids, and post separation abuse from the abuser. Have you considered talking to a secular domestic violence support service? They may help you think through your options and they will understand your fears. They won’t tell you what to do, but they can help you make a safety plan, even if you remain living with the abuser a safety plan can be very helpful.

      • Little Miss Me

        Michele – You are strong. I know you probably doubt this about yourself but it’s clear that you’re a strong, smart woman. It’s perfectly natural to fear the unknown – especially when there is so much to face no matter what you choose.

        I have two kids and both have similarities to their father, and that’s one reason I chose to leave. They’re still with him half the time, but half the time they’re being shown what really is and is not acceptable behavior. I can actually tell them that something’s wrong and follow through with the consequences without that being changed or me having to endure the same thing from their father without any consequences. Yes, half the time they’re with him but I’m hoping that they’ll figure it all out in the end.

        That’s one way it’s better. It’s been about 6 months since he moved out and I can feel myself coming back. Elements that I hadn’t realized were gone are emerging, and I’m definitely a better mother and have more peace. Yes, I have TONS of chaos with the transition (had to switch jobs because of a similarly manipulative boss, and the new job isn’t working out either), but I’m smiling through it all, and not just because that’s what I was told to do. Prayers for you and your children.

      • Hi Michele, just wondering how you are going. We haven’t heard from you in a long time. Hope you are okay.
        love from Barb 🙂

      • Katy

        Michele –
        I had 3 little ones and no job when I left. This is terrifying. I had the same fears -.I couldn’t decide if the security I had with my abuser was better than the unknown on the other side.
        I remember daydreaming about what my life could be like if we left….I daydreamed about being at peace. Just…calm. peace. Freedom! and to have real friends. After I daydreamed about it long enough… I finally jumped off the edge. God caught me. and we have not gone one single day without shelter, or food, or clothing. I don’t think that was a fluke. 🙂 Yes I worried a great deal about money and jobs and the kids and everything. But the relief I felt from being out of those chains was worth it.

        I’ll pray for you in your struggle, you are very smart to think all of this through and to be so careful. All of your research will serve you in the future. But in the end this leap is going to be between you and your God. He loves you so much. 🙂

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Michele, it’s not easy, so not an easy path and I had lots of doubts too but so worth it on the other side. Just not having to walk on eggshells everyday! Wow! The difference is immense. And yes, I had no job, four kids, a truck that would only transport two at a time and continued harassment from him but it was worth it!

  24. G. F. Mom

    Ugh! good article and good comments. Sadly I am seeing words and tone but no plan of action for access to the bank account. Promises with much procrastination. No plan of action. 😦

    • Anne

      This is a wonderful article and addresses what I am most struggling with. Coming up on the one year anniversary of the event that led to my understanding I was being emotionally abused.

      9 months ago I confronted my husband about his behavior. I talked to him for over an hour as I stood there in front of him as he sat in his chair and listened, showing very little emotion as I cried, struggled and tried to make him understand the pain I was in.

      Literally the only responses I got were “I can’t change the past”, “I know I’ve been wrong” (but I can’t change the past) “, “I’ve made poor choices” (focusing my time and attention on work and church, not family), “I feel the same way as you do” , “we need to talk like this more often and communicate”.

      Instead of feeling relieved and like we had come to some kind of connection or understanding to build on and change, I was just confused for months. Your wife of many, many years comes to you and tells you how hurt she has been by your words and actions for many years and you don’t seem surprised, upset or the least bit sorry. I would have been ok with seeing anger or even outrage at my words. Just something, any emotion at all, but all I got was him parroting back to me, oh I feel that way too. But no emotion or expression while doing it. In that conversation I said I was sorry many times for not being able to make him happy, be as good a wife as I wanted to be, tried to explain how his words and actions made me feel and how that contributed to my shutting down emotionally on our marriage.

      I think I was even trying to provoke any reaction I could by the end of it as I was so taken aback by his non-reaction to anything I said. I was an emotional basketcase by the end of my letting it all out. He was so calm and cool we might have just been dicussing the weather or what’s for dinner.

      Since then, I’ve yet to hear him say “I’m sorry” even once, which was all I was really looking for that day 9 months ago. There have been gifts of flowers and jewelry, dinners and lunches out, doing dishes a few times a week, taking out the trash and recyclables and even missing some church events to stay home with me.

      He’s tried to get me to do some marriage encounter type things with him, all run by the church he attends. Given their teachings and the kind of marriage things I’ve been to there before, it will not help our situation now, only hurt me. John Bevere and “under cover” is really pushed there. I know that Lisa Bevere was there to do some women’s conference too, not familiar with her, but her husband scares me. Went to a John Bevere filmed sermon series husband’s church pushed heavily and was appalled as if you followed it to its logical conclusion, if you didn’t do whatever the pastor said, your salvation was in jeopardy. That the pastor was over you, before God/Jesus, and if you left his covering of authority by disobedience to him, you were in disobedience to God! And then the Eggerich Love and Respect dvds (from his book of the same name) appeared and husband wants to work through them with me at home since I wouldn’t go to the marriage encounter they had at church based on Eggerich’s book.

      Anyway, so off topic here, but it all contributes to my situation. Husband is even finally getting some things fixed around the house that should have been done a long time ago. All these things, presents, time spent, fixing things, make me hope he’s really changed. But I know about the cycle of abuse now so afraid to trust. But don’t want to throw away a long marriage if there’s a chance to fix.

      I’ve been really struggling to understand if husband is sorry and desires to change or if he’s just doing things to bring back status quo. This article is so helpful. I feel guilty when I don’t trust, but I’m starting to really understand that trust has to be earned and he’s thrown it away with his treatment of me over the years, so I’m not being unfair not to trust, only cautious and careful to protect myself.

      (eds note: some details edited to protect the commenter’s identity)

  25. I know this is a very old article but i just wanted to say how much i agree with you about reading his stuff. I randomly found some of his articles on abuse and i kept reading them forever because they were so good and then some of his stuff just started sounding very christian-y to me so i had to google if he is a christian and this post here is what i found! And since i know hes a christian now, ill be buying all of his books! Wonderful and insightful man of God. The insights God knew i was looking for, thank you

    • Jeff Crippen

      Candidxallie – Great find! Yes, those books are very, very helpful. And our older articles are just as true as the new ones. Thank you for your encouragement!

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