A Cry For Justice

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

I see the abuse. I realize I have no boundaries. How do I navigate this?

Victoria asked some very good questions in her comment on our Prayer Requests page. They are questions that I think many of our readers will related to, so I thought I’d put her words and my response into a stand-alone post. Here is what Victoria wrote:

“Rollercoaster of tears, joy, peace and doubt”. . . That pretty much sums up my life lately, maybe not so much “doubt” but the feeling that comes when the most godly around you reject you (not outright, but with dismissive sympathy, unanswered messages, accusatory questions about what you can do to be a better wife, and pat answer-advice delivered with glazed over eyes), when you recognize the abuse but the abuser is not an “evil” man, just a bound and deceived, wounded soul.

The peace of knowing God’s faithfulness and feeling His closeness.

The joy of revelation about my situation and being set free to be who God made me to be.

Tears for the pain that has been inflicted on my heart for years, for the realization that our beautiful children may be raised in a broken home, for the understanding that he may not choose to change, for the constant accusations and the new insecurity of having absolutely no clue how to appropriately respond.

I see the abuse, I realize I have no boundaries but I have no idea how to act towards him. I don’t want to give up on our family and reject him completely… This conflict is where the doubt comes from. The only advice/support I have (other than improve my submission to him and be a better/more godly wife) is from the internet and The Holy Spirit.

The revelation I receive from both is wonderful and overwhelming! But I have no clue what to do with this revelation!

Where & how do I set up and enforce boundaries? How do I navigate this?
How do you protect yourself from your closest friend?

How do you ask someone to get help when any dissension is met with denial and vehement accusation?

How do you hope for the best and prepare for the worst when preparing is in itself is an assault on that hope?

These things I do not know… we are on a waiting list for a counselor…
What I do know is that God is FAITHFUL and I need help!
Pray for me?

Here are my tentative answers / suggestions in response to Victoria’s questions.
As always, if anything I say does not seem to ‘fit’ for you, Victoria, please just send it to the trash bin.

I don’t want to give up on our family and reject him completely…

It might help you to re-frame the way you are thinking about his. You may have to reject your husband completely; that is what most victims of abuse end up having to do because most abusers don’t change — they masquerade change but they don’t really do it. But rejecting your husband does not mean rejecting your family. Your family — you and your kids — will be your family. And there are ‘families’ of Christian survivors and supporters who get it, like here in cypberspace, that you can lean on and be friends with whenever you want to.

Where & how do I set up and enforce boundaries? How do I navigate this?
How do you protect yourself from your closest friend?

Here are some ideas and posts that might help you in setting boundaries:

When asked a question you don’t want to answer, you could say “I’m not comfortable answering that,” or words to that effect.  (repeat as necessary)

My Abusers evil plan was to give me the scorched earth policy but with planning strategy and Gods help I outsmarted him. 

When do I submit and when do I stand?

Dealing with fear while setting boundaries

Do victims have a problem with setting boundaries

Don’t get Sucked in by the “Hoovering” vacuum of the abuser

The ‘just war’ theory: how it relates to divorcing an abuser

The Boundaries book by Cloud and Townsend is excellent and highly recommended for those who having difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries (or even those who don’t know why they should establish boundaries). There is a caution: in other materials Cloud and Townsend vaguely indicate they do not believe in divorce for abuse; that rather it is better to set boundaries and allow the abuser to leave. We do not agree with this view and caution that setting boundaries can often cause abuse to escalate. However, in terms of what it means to set boundaries, why we need to, and Biblical support for them, the book Boundaries is a book we can recommend on its own, despite Cloud and Townsend’s views on divorce written about elsewhere. We also have encountered other material by Cloud that would be harmful for abusive marriages.  We address this concern in this post.

How do you ask someone to get help when any dissension is met with denial and vehement accusation?

You obviously have asked him already, probably many times. There is no magic formula to ‘ask the right way’. Don’t think you can find it out, because it isn’t there! I suggest you stop trying to find the ‘right’ way to ask him to get help, and instead just concentrate on learning more about the abuser’s mentality and setting boundaries to protect yourself. Your husband’s responses of denial and vehement accusation are TYPICAL of abusers: it shows without a doubt that he is choosing to resist taking responsibility for his defective character. You are not responsible for his choices. All you are responsible for is your own choices. Read George Simon Junior’s works to confirm this. It takes quite a bit of reading and re-reading to reconfigure the way we think about these things, so I encourage you to keep working at your reading and learning and mental re-calibration; it will all fall into place eventually. 🙂

How do you hope for the best and prepare for the worst when preparing is in itself is an assault on that hope?

Try re-framing this: You can prepare for the worst — that your husband is never going to change and that may mean you have to declare the marriage over — while at the same time hoping for the best. How come? Because if you set firm boundaries to protect yourself against an abuser, you boundary-setting actions may in fact help precipitate him to change. If God actually has elected this man to be one of His own, your actions may be one of the things that precipitate him to admit without any hidden agenda that he has been lying, manipulating, resisting responsibility, blame-shifting, holding a mentality of entitlement and superiority, and acting unconscionably toward you. And he may become truly contrite and cry out to God and become regenerate — born again and given a new heart.

Bear in mind that abusers only very rarely change. But on the rare instances that an abuser changes, one of the most likely things to help precipitate that change is if their partner sets firm and unyielding boundaries — including but not limited to separation, divorce, ‘going dark’ = not responding to any communications from the abuser unless it’s unavoidable for legal reasons, and generally showing that they will not be amenable to being mistreated any more.

we are on a waiting list for a counselor…

I can’t emphasize this enough: Do not go to couple counseling. While there may be rare exceptions to this rule if  the counselor is wide awake and very experienced in astutely discerning the presence of abuse and is not going to get manipulated by the abuser, in the vast majority of cases couple counseling is no help and is likely to make the plight of the victim worse.

Lastly, here are some of our old posts that may help you:

Do victims have a problem with setting boundaries?

Believing and Responding to Victims (advice for pastors, Part 2, by Ps Jeff Crippen)  – gives a warning against couple counseling.

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

 

37 Comments

  1. Such a wonderful response. I understand where Victoria is coming from. Two months ago I left my emotionally abusive husband, taking our teenager daughter and moving into an apartment. I am blessed with unyielding support from friends. But I have no boundaries, I struggle with locking him out of our lives, and I am plagued with self doubt. He tells me our daughter needs a family. I am her family. She is happier now. I am too…I can’t agree enough about avoiding couples counseling. I tried that route. One session only…within 48 hours he had used what he learned against me, leaving me devastated. Abusers don’t change. Only we can. I pray for my soon-to-be ex husband every night. I pray for his peace, for his health, and for him to find his way. But I never pray to bring him back into our lives.

    Thank you for the book recommendations. I have read Lundy Bancroft and Patricia Evans extensively, but the third recommendation is new to me and I will look at.

    Victoria, know that you are on the right path. Spirit will provide and lead. Just trust yourself – it’s the first step to finding real boundaries.

    Crystal

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Crystal. You are fighting the fight courageously. Boundaries. What a skill to learn for all of us! Somehow we just don’t learn these things growing up as we should. I really like your prayer “I never pray to bring him back into our lives.”

  2. Laura

    Couples Counseling was the worst! He walked in with his tears as he had done to me so many times before, but he hadn’t done anything different to show he had changed. I was attacked for not forgiving and trying to make the marriage work. I did end up divorcing my husband. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. He remarried within a few months. I still pray for the healing I know God can do if we both seek after Him with all our hearts. I am told often by my ex that this is all my fault because I walked out. He takes no personal responsibility for any of it. In the end it isn’t that I gave up on my marriage. I just had to have safety for the children and myself. It is sad because you know in your heart and mind that it can be so much different, but he refuses to do different. That is just the way it is.

    • anonymous

      I am just now seeing where couples counseling does more damage than good. We had one session together and I broke into tears because he was lying. The counselor then suggested we meet separately. I was the one that met with her double sessions, every week. He went once every week or every two because, “he had nothing to say.” He recently told me that the counselor said his ‘punishment didn’t fit the crime.” (I separated from him over a year ago.) We are supposed to be meeting together, I will NOT be going. It is as others have said, more ammo for him. In his mind and the minds of his allies this validates that he holds no responsibility in this. He said he changed and I would see the difference if I went back. My response was what about the love a husband is supposed to show his wife as Christ loves? That if he is holding to scripture, he cannot pick and choose what he wants to obey. He said that the first command is for me as his wife not to be separated from him and each day that I am away is sin. THEN I would see the change and we would live God’s way. He has worn me down and made me weak where God does not put me. Standing in truth makes us strong. The comments about boundaries are so true. When I have set boundaries with him, the separation, not responding to nasty texts, etc, he says I am being selfish. Just this morning I was thinking how I have been remiss in areas of my life in setting boundaries. I liked Jeff’s comment that, ” we that we just don’t learn these things….” That’s the truth!

  3. LM

    I can’t emphasize and agree enough about NO COUPLE’S COUNSELING. I learned the hard way by going that route. The only thing that came out of that was even more resolve from my abusive husband to not admit his problem, dug his heels in even further, AND the abuse got worse in that he added on even greater financial and verbal abuse, which was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back for me after 22 years. That is what finally gave me the courage to file for divorce, and helped me to realize that I am actually doing everyone (including the abuser) (including my children) (including myself) (including my friends in abusive situations who need courage to get free) (etc, etc) more of a favor this way. I am getting set free to be who GOD meant me to be…

    • Jeff Crippen

      This issue is so common – I mean the error of prescribing couple’s counseling for abuse – that it would seem to me that in the professional counseling world it should be considered malpractice. It is on par with a psychologist or counselor prescribing alcohol for an alcoholic. “Here we go, abuser – come on into a setting where you can abuse your victim some more.”

      • MeganC

        Oh! I had these same issues with couple’s counseling. We tried it for three years and it was AWFUL. AWFUL. It only gave him ammunition for later. And/or ideas to further the facade for a time. How I WISH I had known.

      • Annie

        I remember attending a lecture in psychology where students analysed a video of a client (in psychotherapy) who seemed very much a perpetrator of violence to me. The general consensus was that he and his ex-wife should consider couples therapy, and the lecturer concurred. Nobody seemed to notice that it was a one-sided attempt to get the marriage back, since she had divorced him. If that’s what they are teaching the next crop of psychologists, no wonder victims of abuse hit their heads against brick walls.

  4. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone say, “Do not go to couple counseling.” We tried it and it did make things worse. Here is what the husband & wife leaders told me, “Well, it must have been very hard for your husband to admit to you that he’d been married 5 times before you, You should have understood why he lied. You never should have called him a “Deceptive Liar,” and you should apologize to him.” And I can’t believe it, but that’s what I stupidly did.

    • LorenHaas

      Wanda, I guess I should not be shocked by the advice you received, but I am. If you have not done so already, RUN AWAY from counselors like this. They are fools caught up in a system of patriarchy. YOU are more important to God than the maintenance of your fraudulent marriage. Stick close to the leaders and resorces on this blog.

    • Jeff S

      When we tried couple’s counsling, my individual therapist warned me “If you do couples counsling, he will put the marriage first, ahead of you or your wife.” In retrospect, that was a good warning if I’d heeded it

      I think if you think about it and realize that putting the marriage ahead of yourself will cause you to feel unsafe and insecure, then it is not the time for couples counsling.

      • Anonymous

        When I did couples counseling, they made me tell my husband, that they (the counselors) had evidence on him, proving his abusiveness, that was given to them by his own children! I guess they were too scared to tell him themselves. I have spoken with an actual abuse counselor since then and told them this happened to me, and their response was overwhelmingly, shock and horror! I did not want to tell my abuser about it, they made me. A real abuse counselor, would have seen the stupid and dangerous move this could’ve been to the others involved and would not have ever done this.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Wanda – Yep, the standard basic rule taught by those who are in the know about abuse is “no couple’s counseling.” Yet this is the very trap that many (most) churches lead abuse victims into. It stands to reason: an abuser is the abuser. Would we send a drug addict to couple’s counseling? I mean, maybe down the line there are things that the spouse of an addict could be counseled about, but the addiction is the addicts issue. But when it comes to this matter of abuse, somehow we think it is a dual issue. It isn’t. As soon as couple’s counseling is prescribed for abuse, the abuser gets the message loud and clear “IT IS AT THE MOST ONLY 50% MY FAULT.”

      • Barnabasintraining

        “IT IS AT THE MOST ONLY 50% MY FAULT.”

        This is the hue and cry of the abuser in our situation. He simply cannot stand the idea of being held responsible for his fate in losing his wife. The great irony of it is, by the time the abuser is done with the “I’m not the only one to blame” schtick, somehow he ends up not to blame at all and it is all the victim’s fault.

      • MeganC

        So TRUE, BIT! Exactly!

      • Victoria

        Had to LOL at the “50%”, I’m learning! When a mentor/counselor was suggested to my husband he emphatically replied, “What about you? Who are YOU going to see? If I need a counselor, you do too!” I told him that his getting help should not be based on anything other than him getting help. It seemed so childish!
        The funny thing is that although his motives were wrong, he was right. I need a counselor to help me stop letting him abuse me!

    • Anonymous

      In some states, couples counseling is actually illegal where there is abuse involved. Couples counseling should never happen in abuse situations. The problem is, that the counselors can be in denial that there even IS abuse, because it has been so dumbed-down by the pastors of today and the nouthetic counseling movement. Some pastors won’t even allow you to use the word abuse, because “everybody gets angry and yells and screams”. So, I guess we all know what that means! Ahem.

  5. Jeff S

    Regarding Townsend and Cloud’s “Boundaries”, I don’t actually recall them saying in that book specifically that divorce for abuse is not allowed. My impression was they danced around it a lot, but didn’t come out and say either way (though they did acknowledge that those who do not treat their spouses well often find their spouse setting a boundary of divorce). I believe it is in other material where they make their views on divorce more clearly known.

    I mention this because I was not triggered at all reading the book (and the “no divorce for abuse” view triggers me pretty hard) and I remember thinking that I wish I’d read it much, much earlier than I did. It wouldn’t have saved my marriage, but it could have helped me protected myself a lot better.

    And I actually think divorce for abuse is a logical view from everything else they teach about boundaries. I actually assumed they would agree with it and just didn’t want to say it for political reasons until I found out differently later, which made me sad. I think it’s inconsistent with their book to teach no divorce for abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Perhaps this shows us just how much pressure of various sorts there is out there in the Christian world against divorce. It is enough to make otherwise logical people come to a totally irrational conclusion. Divorce is a classic boundary. The same authors wrote the book Safe People in which they encourage us to identify unsafe people and keep our distance. I would assume they would agree that an abuser is a pretty unsafe person. So how is it that they would say we must live with one?

      I am 3/4 of the way through Boundaries (reading it to our women’s Bible study group) and we have yet to come across any statement that says you cannot divorce for abuse. But we are watching for it. As JeffS says, it may be in another book.

      • Anonymous

        They address it vaguely in Boundaries in Marriage. Basically, they don’t condone divorce, arguing that divorce is not a boundary IN marriage, rather it is the end of a marriage. They do, however, advocate sticking to your boundaries and that if the other person is boundary-resistant, the other person will initiate the divorce, in which case, you are not the one doing the divorce.

      • . . . if the other person is boundary-resistant, the other person will initiate the divorce, in which case, you are not the one doing the divorce.

        … in my view, the idea that the boundary resistant person will initiate the divorce is ignorant or fanciful, at least when it comes to abuse. Abusers are notoriously boundary resistant but only rarely do they initiate separation, let alone divorce. They want to hang on to the marriage so they can continue to abuse, but of course, they don’t tell people that’s their motive: instead they turn up the fog machine, “I love my spouse! I want the marriage to continue! — yadda yadda yadda.”

      • Jeff S

        Thanks for the explanation., It sounds like what I expected from reading their other book. It makes me sad because it’s an unrealistic position from two guys who really should know better. When you start setting boundaries with an abuser, the abuse will get worse as he or she realizes there are things he or she can not longer control. In my case things escalated big time.

        And honestly, waiting for someone else to leave is not taking ownership of resolving the problem. If a person knows the right solution is to end the marriage in their heart, setting boundaries and waiting the other out is at best legalistic and at worst very dangerous.

        The cynical part of me wonders if this position is taken due to their studied opinions on the subject, or because it is the party line in evangelical circles.

        This discussion notwithstanding, I think “Boundaries” is a VERY helpful book, especially for anyone still in a relationship where a lack of boundaries is hurting them.

      • Jeff S

        At Barbara’s request, I have updated the original post based on information in the comments.

      • Barnabasintraining

        I read the Boundaries book ages ago and found it very helpful at the time. Revolutionary, in fact. I don’t have any recollection regarding anything they might have said on marriage/divorce as that wasn’t an issue I was concerned about then. I have since learned they do actually deny divorce for abuse and I found that hard to reconcile with other things I’ve heard them say regarding remarriage (unless it was another of the New Life folks that said it and I’m remembering wrong). But I still have a hard time reconciling that the BOUNDARIES guys who are highly experiences psychologists could not get what is actually going on with abuse. ???

        I’m very sad to hear they are holding that the abuser will supposedly seek divorce him/herself when boundaries are put in place against the abuse. That idea was covered somewhere on here a while back with a letter from someone (Mary Kassian, maybe? Or whoever it was that went to the BJU seminar) who said something similar. It came across like the victim was almost supposed to drive the abuser to be the one to file because that’s what we really want anyway, and the victim wouldn’t have that mark on their record, as it were. It came off to me as manipulative and dishonest.

        I wish they would research the issue better.

  6. ByGod'sGrace

    The following is a bit of my opinion and a little of my own experience (so far) all of which can be elaborated on. I apologize in advance if any of it is confusing or worded incorrectly (my mind is a work in progress):
    One of the hardest things I have ever done (and I’m still doing) is reforming my own thought processes because after years of abuse my thinking was incredibly distorted. Scripture and biblical counseling (who happened to be from my pastor and his wife) helps tremendously with this process. God gradually provided what I didn’t know to look for over a period of time as I was able to receive it (for many reasons I see in hindsight). I agree that re-framing our thoughts is essential. Be very careful in choosing a counselor for yourself. I’ve made my own share of mistakes there. I also don’t recommend couples counseling. In my case, I was the one being counseled to submit & change and my abuser walked out empowered. Not to say I didn’t need to change or deal with sin, but did it through personal counseling.
    Filling myself with knowledge of all of the different forms of abuse and the healing process from authors who come recommended by trusted individuals has been greatly beneficial to me. (I’ve read most of the books you’ve suggested…they were very helpful!) Read them in secret if you must, at a friend’s house, the library or the park. I’ve even found some of them at my local library!
    Boundaries are a massive thing for someone who has none. I had NONE! I can only control myself and my own reactions. I cannot force others to take on my opinions and thoughts anymore than I can “save” them. What I CAN do is say what I will accept as appropriate behavior towards me and what I will not. I highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That?”, I heard of it from 3 different sources within days, so that was a given that I needed to read it! “In Sheep’s Clothing” by George Simon, Jr. was very beneficial as well. Boundaries are an essential ingredient to changing distorted thinking. It is VERY difficult to do, especially alone, so support & accountability by a trusted person is recommended. Consistency is key! I may as well not use boundaries if I am going to be inconsistent with them. It is for my own benefit/protection and for the benefit of the abuser.
    As far as rejection goes, I do not think of it in terms of the person being rejected. I am “rejecting” the abuse but I am “loving” my abuser in an extremely difficult way. It does not appear to be love from those who have a distorted thinking of abuse. Also keep in mind that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. I can forgive my abuser without being reconciled to him due to his continued abusive behavior towards me. Remember that change is seen over the long term! That’s another one I have learned the hard way.
    I cannot stress enough to stay in prayer and the Word and work on yourself, not him. It may very well not turn out as you would wish. Abusers rarely change. Definitely hope and pray for the best but definitely prepare for the worst. But keep in mind that “best and worst” are ultimately by God’s definition not ours.
    We have a gracious, merciful and just God. Look at what He has done here. This is a smorgasbord of people that are here to share, love, and assist each other. Now THAT is the provision of a truly awesome God for which I am very thankful.

  7. Song

    Great responses, Barbara!

    Victoria, My heart goes out to you! I remember being in the place you are and feeling so angry that, once again, I was the one trying to make the marriage work and having to make the changes in the relationship. But, unbeknownst to me at the time and opposite to the previous changes I’ld made, these changes would begin the healing of my heart, mind, and spirit. They brought life to me and destruction to the type of relationship I had had previously with my husband, and that was a good thing! There is no true establishing of a loving, reciprocal relationship when one person is verbally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually abusive. Learning about and implementing healthy, relational boundaries empowered me to cut the abusive umbilical cord that allowed my husband to suck life away from me and feed off of me. It was hard but necessary. I’m so very, very thankful for God’s presence, words, and the many conversations He and I have had that helped me stay sane and move away from the quicksand of all the confusing “Words of Wisdom” from friends, churches, and marriage counselors! He truly is life! And for the internet!!! Information is incredibly valuable!!! I found articles and information that identified what I was experiencing, books such as those mentioned by Barbara, and have learned to recognize, tune into, and trust what my spirit/mind/body is telling me, to pay more attention to the kind of person I knew myself to be, and I’m learning more about critical thinking.

    I echo the wise of advice of avoiding couples counseling at all cost!! Finding a couple’s counselor that is skilled and adept at spotting abusive people, especially if the abuser isn’t covertly “evil”, can be very difficult. As Jeff S. related so well above, “If you do couples counsling, he will put the marriage first, ahead of you or your wife.” Couples counselors will prioritize the institution of marriage over and above you as an person, a precious woman who desires to love her husband and family and experience that love as well. They will not hold your best interest above the marriage. And most likely you will experience an escalation of abuse from your husband and quiet possibly verbal or emotional abuse from the counselor.

    Stay strong, Victoria!

  8. Lisa

    I can’t express in words how thankful I am for this blog! THANK YOU~~Lisa

  9. bright sunshinin' day

    “If God actually has elected this man to be one of His own, your actions may be one of the things that precipitate him to admit without any hidden agenda that he has been lying, manipulating, resisting responsibility, blame-shifting, holding a mentality of entitlement and superiority, and acting unconscionably toward you. And he may become truly contrite and cry out to God and become regenerate — born again and given a new heart.”

    Barb, this IS real love and concern for one’s soul. What you’ve said reminds me of Anna’s recent post on ACFJ entitled, “What I learned through my Endurance.” She left her husband because she loved him and was concerned for his soul. Once she realized he loved and embraced wickedness as a lifestyle, she concluded that staying and “covering” his sins was not good for him or her or the children.

    What a painful process it is to come to these kinds of realizations. Can be confusing, too. For me, the added confusion came by way of many misguided or uneducated counselors. But, in His time, God led me to some good counselors who DO understand the mentality and nature of abuse.

    And not surprisingly, good counsel can come from children, too. My son recently showed me Prov 22:10 which says, “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.” Prov 9:7-9 says, “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” The ESV study notes for Prov 9:7 and 9:8 are instructive: “The scoffer has gone beyond a simple lack of judgment, and has made a conscious decision for evil…While a fool shuts out wisdom, a wise person is glad for the opportunity to shut out folly…”

    • Katy

      I love Proverbs. It is CHOCK FULL of advice on abusers and fools! And yet the church thinks none of it applies within marriages 😉
      But I have found that to be the case – if you try to give a wise man some information, he takes it in, and it improves him…..if you try to give the same information to a scoffer or fool, he revolts! and you get abuse in return!
      As Eccl says “there is nothing new under the sun”

  10. MeganC

    I kind of wanted to address this part here:

    “When you recognize the abuse but the abuser is not an ‘evil’ man, just a bound and deceived, wounded soul”

    I thought that for years. I truly believed that my ex was a wounded soul. And, he was, to some degree. And he was bound. At some point, though . . . we are held accountable. Sometime, in our youth, we are no longer allowed to have excuses. My ex was given chance after chance to make wise choices that would have given him victory in his life. There was a time (toward the end), where a trusted friend told him that he needed a “brother” to come alongside him and really hold him accountable . . . that he could not “wrestle out” his abusiveness. My ex said, “No, thanks. I can just wrestle it out.” And, I realized, in that moment . . . that, yes, he was wounded . . . but he did not want to change. And I was only enabling him by feeling sorry for him and his family background and all his woundedness. He chose to hurt us. 😦 That was a very difficult realization and it was a springboard for me to release myself from the false guilt and finally leave. My ex crossed over from the bound and deceived years ago . . . and chose not to change, but actually was an evil man.

    • Heather 2

      Wow, Megan! When I first read Victoria’s questions I wanted to respond and now I have read through all of the replies and yours became personal to me.

      I realize now that I had no boundaries. I struggled with that one because, like Victoria, I had no problem with saying no and having limits. But what I didn’t see was that I had no emotional boundaries whatsoever, until very recently. It confused me.

      Just this week I began to set a boundary and it was not well received by one of my children. I understand how she had grown up in a home where mom had none and she learned, as did the others, that I would always be there to take it and to fix it and to never ever protect my own heart! I am now learning how to be assertive, how to create the boundaries that I need, and that I can demand them in a way that is appropriate.

      My ex had boundary issues as well as father issues and learned to be passive and covert. He did not want his image tarnished in any way, so I bore the brunt of it. I had a very difficult time considering his behavior as evil. I too thought he was wounded and implored him to get help. The more I returned to reconcile the more he thought he had no problems, that I was the one who needed to change. His actions always betrayed his words. And it was evil. The nice guy that everyone saw had another side which remains hidden to most.

      I am so very grateful to my Father that at a time when I could no longer afford individual counseling He continued to open up websites to me often when I was at the end of my rope. I was nourished as I saw myself in other stories. So many times when I found an article I hit a bulls eye! It was remarkable. And little by little I continued to put the pieces of the puzzle together. My greatest fear is abandonment and I still struggle with it and I go to guilt. My ex blamed me for everything when I chose to divorce him. But praise God I am still healing as my eyes are opening day by day.

      Victoria asked how she will know…….In my case, one day I simply said “I’m done.” I just knew I could no longer live that life. It didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t even understand what my life had been all about. As with many victims, we return. We have our reasons. And it prolongs our pain. But once we do decide No Contact and leave, we begin a journey to healing. God is ever with us. He doesn’t leave us alone. Others will betray us and turn their backs on us. But His presence is there and real! And there are times when we encounter people who truly care. They provide enormous refreshment in the desert.

      I am very grateful for the wonderful support at Cry for Justice! Thank you!

      • MeganC

        Heather, I can so relate to all you are saying! My greatest fear is abandonment, as well. I think that comes from losing my parents at a young age and the struggles/abuse/abandonment I experienced with my family when I left my ex. Nevertheless, it is present and I am working fiercely on breaking free from this fear. Considering that fear in you (and what I know of it), it was particularly brave of you to leave your ex husband. Cheers to you!!

        I always return to John 9 . . . where the blind man was healed by Jesus and his parents basically turned their backs on him . . and he was kicked out of the synagogue. And Jesus WENT and FOUND HIM. You are right! He is always there and He never leaves us alone!

        You also hit on something I believe is important . . . when we have had no boundaries with abusers, our children watch that and imitate. The children aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong . . . thy just go with what they see and know. When I first met my (now) wonderful husband, he was pretty shocked at how I had no boundaries with the kids. Even though I was working with them night and day to help their healing processes, they pretty much walked all over me. David put a stop to that and they were more secure for the boundaries, as was I. I had not realized how much they had learned from others in my life — they had learned that it was normal to walk all over mom!

      • Anonymous

        I am really thankful for your addressing this portion, Megan. It brings clarity and understanding. I too, saw my abuser as wounded, a poor soul in need of my understanding, etc., and felt very sorry for him. But, as you all have said, that day came and the blinders were taken off of my eyes.

    • That’s so difficult to realize and embrace.

      • Mama Martin

        Yes, Ellie, it is difficult and that is why the journey can be long. It is so important to look at the actions and block out the words – for the words confuse and the words are often in direct conflict with what the actions say. Look closely at what the actions tell you.

  11. Jeff Crippen

    I have personally, this year, in several cases, had first-hand experience in seeing lives change for the better as a direct result of studying the subject and practice of boundaries. People who only one year ago would have deteriorated into a paralyzed, depressed state are now radically different. In very similar or even more difficult situations, they are experiencing peace and strength. We have been using the book on Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, relating it to Colossians 2, and functioning as a small group support team to back one another up. The effect has been remarkable.

  12. Rebecca

    I am glad I found this article today. I am recently separated and have been having trouble with guilt feelings, wondering if I should let him come back, self doubt, all of that. Thanks for these wise words.

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