A Cry For Justice

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

Review of Leslie Vernick’s “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”


This book has been somewhat helpful for some victims but we have to give caveats about it. It does not state categorically that Scripture condones divorce for domestic abuse. And it says other things which are unhelpful, confusing and hurtful to some victims.

Before reading this review we suggest you first read:

The ACFJ team totally endorse MoodyMom’s and Anonymous concerns about Leslie Vernick (and Chris Moles). 


I [Megan Cox] have just read an advance copy of Leslie Vernick’s forthcoming book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and it has been refreshing to my soul for many reasons. When I first began, I tried to read it through the eyes of the woman I once was — the woman who was hanging by a thread in an abusive marriage — the woman who was not even sure what I was experiencing WAS abusive — the woman who felt crazy and did not know why. When I took the tests at the beginning of the book that determine whether or not a woman is in an emotionally destructive marriage, it made my skin crawl. Memories came flooding back. Any doubt that may have crept into my mind over the past year or so dissipated. I even learned (through the tests) that “crazy making” was my ex’s favorite form of emotional abuse. Ms. Vernick’s book is good for all: those who are in the trenches, those who who are trying to work on their marriage, those who are breaking free, and those who have left abusive relationships.

Ms. Vernick breaks the book into three sections: (1) Seeing your marriage clearly (2) Change begins with you and (3) Initiating changes in your marriage. The crux of the work, however, is her emphasis on “developing your CORE”. Ms. Vernick believes that there is hope for destructive marriages. She wants to offer that hope. However, she is not dogmatic about this.  As hard as it is for me to believe, there are marriages that can survive emotional abuse . . . there are men and women who are willing to admit to abuse and begin taking the long road from repentance to massive change. This was hard for me to swallow. One of the blessed aspects of this book is that Leslie Vernick is clear about what that road looks like and how difficult it is.

Ms. Vernick gives a blueprint for how a woman can approach her husband (all the while creating clear boundaries) about abuse and the needed change. But, before all of this can happen, the CORE must be developed. The word CORE is an acronym for what a woman/victim needs to be:

Committed to Truth and Reality — That is, admitting to herself that the marriage is in a bad place. No more covering, pretending or masking.

Open to Growth, Instruction and Feedback — This is where we put on humility (confessing that the old way is not working and a willingness to try a new way)

Responsible for Myself and Respectful Toward Others Without Dishonoring Myself — I especially liked this part. Writes Vernick, “If you are going to stay in this marriage, then stay well; and if you are going to leave your marriage, then leave well.”  (p. 112)

Empathic and Compassionate Toward Others Without Enabling People to Continue to Abuse or Disrespect Her — This CORE attribute maintains the dignity of the victim. A woman must protect herself from taking on any of the characteristics of the abuser.

Once these CORE values are in place, Vernick then gives the go-ahead for confrontation of the abusive spouse.

Disclaimer: I realized, as I was reading this book, that my ex-husband would not have tolerated my “building my core”. There would have been no breathing room to do so, either. If he had found a book like this one, he would have raged. I would be in hiding all the time. When he saw me displaying any sort of grace-filled or graceful conduct, he would drive me to the point of distraction. I realize that this plan cannot work for every single marriage. And the author recognizes this. But, for some, Vernick offers hope. Throughout her book, Ms. Vernick is very aware of the plight of an abused woman and her tendencies. She reminds the reader over and over again that God cares more about human beings than He does about marriage.

As I read through the author’s plan for approaching an abusive husband (which is spot-on) and the possible outcomes (good and bad) of her approach, I became more and more confident that I had done everything possible to “save” my first marriage. It was very affirming, as I had (unknowingly) tried almost everything Ms. Vernick suggests. I feared, however, that she was not going to offer an option if it did not work. She stresses the fact that a woman cannot hold a marriage together on her own . . . but I was not entirely sure that Ms. Vernick was going to support divorce if all of these things did not “work”. Thankfully, toward the end of the book, she writes that divorce is not just permissible, but encouraged, for the sake of the protection and stability of a woman and her children (as a last resort) if things are not getting better and are only getting worse. After giving women a voice and empowering us to begin to make decisions on our own, searching Scripture and seeking out wisdom . . . after stating clearly that every situation is different and no one can tell women what to do . . . she writes this:

” . . . for some women, divorce might be the best choice because of her and her children’s safety and sanity. I’ve already shared stories from women who wished they would not have stayed married for the children. They see their adult children living out the same destructive patterns that they witnessed as children. How they wish it could have been different . . . ” p. 176

Particularly encouraging to my heart was Appendix B of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. There, the author lists five common mistakes “people helpers” make. Among them was “Encouraging the Wife to Try Harder”. It is a fine line to try to help a wife keep herself from dishonoring herself (it is very difficult when she is being made crazy on a daily basis) without sounding like she is being blamed. Vernick states the importance of not using a counseling session to further the abusive husband’s control by pointing out what the wife “needs to work on, as well”. This was an important finding for me in the book.

Overall, I am grateful that I read it and I suggest this book (coming out in September) to those who are not sure if they are being emotionally abused or to those who believe there is a chance for healing in their marriage OR for those who want to be sure they have done everything they can . . . before they leave well. Vernick’s book is affirming and refreshing. Read it and be edified.


  1. Brenda R

    Thank you Ellie for your views on Leslie Vernick’s new book. I have read all of her other books and they were all helpful to my growth and recovery. I have preordered this one as well and look forward to receiving it. I have left the marriage and on Monday I go to court to finalize the Legal Seperation. I chose to wait for the actual word Divorce. My husband says he is seeing a counselor, but have now found that he spends several nights a week at the restaurant where his former wife works. He was at that restaurant this week when he told me he was seeing his counselor. While I was living with him he refused to go there because she was working there. I find that all rather interesting.

  2. This is really encouraging!! To see a Christian counselor come right out and say that divorce may be necessary in some cases, finally a voice of hope and sanity!
    Thanks Meg – great review. sounds like an awesome book that every pastor needs to have on their shelf.

    • MeganC

      Thanks for your words, dear Katy! I felt the same way . . . I was so grateful to finally arrive in that part of the book where someone credible and known and godly would admit that divorce is sometimes necessary for a woman’s sanity. xo

  3. Wisdomchaser

    I have Leslie Vernick’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. I was never able to finish reading it because it triggered too much stuff for me. It felt like I was being blamed for the abuse when I read it and I just couldn’t continue. I hope that was not her intention. It sounds like she is taking a different direction in her new book. Maybe I will try to read it at some point. I am so glad that she recognizes that sometimes divorce is necessary.

    • I found parts of The Emotionally Destructive Relationship difficult to read. I have come to the conclusion, after reading a lot of material lately that God is the one that leads… I take some advice from some books and some out of others. I have come from a church where I have to search my heart for sin sin sin. Always searching the inward parts for darkness in my heart. Having a husband that think its his right to point my faults out and tell me off, to help me, I find this very hard to read and hear. I’m not saying I’m without sin, I’m just worn out of years and years of working on y faults and failings and failing miserably.
      I am about to start reading Leslie’s new book… I hope I feel differently when reading this one. Thanks for this review it has been very helpful

      • loves6, just want to say I understand 🙂

  4. Cindy R

    I received an advance copy also and this book was so absolutely spot on that I had a hard time not marking every single line with highlighter. I have seen some good information in the past on domestic violence but nothing this powerful that offers hope but does not produce guilt or put someone in danger if the abuser does not make the changes necessary for safety and sanity.
    I really believe that we should get this book and its teaching into the hands of every women. Why should we wait for the crazy making to happen, let’s be proactive and help women not give up their voice rather than have them have to regain it.
    Counselors need to read this book and understand in many cases they are sending sheep to the wolves when they keep telling the sheep to try harder to be a better sheep so then the wolves won’t want to destroy you.

    • Thanks for that Cindy, and welcome to our blog. 🙂

  5. IamMyBeloved's

    ” As hard as it is for me to believe, there are marriages that can survive emotional abuse . . . there are men and women who are willing to admit to abuse and begin taking the long road from repentance to massive change. This was hard for me to swallow. One of the blessed aspects of this book is that Leslie Vernick is clear about what that road looks like and how difficult it is.”

    I am just glad to hear that she is not advocating that the victim in the marriage, does this on their end, while the abuser just gets to keep abusing. That is the usual way I have heard that counseled – just do your part and change you and let him be who he is, until you win him. Yuk. I agree, that with true repentance and admission of the abuse and treatment for the abuser, there is hope. But, I also believe that there can come a point of no return, when the abuse has crossed lines that cannot be undone, even with repentance, where the victim just cannot ever trust again and the covenant has just been too broken, too many times. I do not think that the victim in that situation, should be forced to try to make reconciliation. I don’t know Ms. Vernick’s thoughts on this issue. Do you know when she says to leave well, does she mean to be whole before you go, or to leave respectfully?

    • MeganC

      She means to leave respectfully . . . without dishonoring oneself. In other words, do the best you can to manage the relationships well while getting your children and yourself to safety. She is very big on safety and gives really great guidelines. She is all about boundaries, as well, although she does not use that word.

    • Cindy R

      Leslie Vernick does an awesome job covering the stay well or leave well portion of making your decision. If fact to try and sum it up would not do it justice. I will not even try other than to point out a couple of things.

      She does not say to wait to be whole before you leave or some of us would have never have left. The situation would have destroyed us mentally, spiritually or even led to physical death. She gives examples of what staying well looks like and under what conditions that would even be advisable.

      Leaving well does not mean that you sweep things under the rug either and she does not advocate that at all but there is a way to handle things without going after revenge and I believe that is what she is talking about.

      As to your comment about do your part and change you and let him be who he is, she clearly states that in an emotionally destructive marriage or relationship is like like treating a marriage that has terminal cancer like it has a common cold and that is dangerous.

      Without going into detail, I speak from experience and this is the first book that I see that does not heap more responsibility and blame on the victims of this type of marriage. I would love for every pastor, counselor and woman’s bible study leader to read this book.


      • IamMyBeloved's

        That sounds very good. I believe one of the worst things a victim can do, is leave and seek revenge or retaliation. Sounds like another book that needs to get into the hands of the ones we go to for help, as well as our own.

        Thanks for the post, Megan!

  6. It is really interesting to read these comments about “leaving well”. Looking back I think I instinctively knew that “vengeance is the Lord’s” – so while I was a total mess emotionally and spiritually, I was able to pull myself together enough to get me and the kids out without acting in a way that would disgrace myself.
    For me, that looked a lot like the “Gray Rock method” discussed here previously.

    • MeganC

      I thought about this a lot when I was reading the book. I THINK I left well. But, later, I published some of the post-abusive letters/emails I received from my ex in my blog. I do not regret it. I had not met Barb or Jeff, yet, and I was ONLY receiving extreme pressure/persecution to go back to him. I wanted to see what the rest of the world thought about the secret letters he was writing me. I wanted to expose him in order to free myself. Most people were aghast at the things he was writing me. Others continued to persecute me by saying that I was “disrespectful” toward my husband. I do believe I made the right decision because it helped open my eyes and showed me that his words that had so entrapped me were not normal. It helped me get out of the fog. Some would say that that was “not leaving well”. But, I know in my heart that I was not being vengeful . . . I was only trying to free myself from the lies.

      • No that is not vengeance. Exposing evil is not vengeance, although wrong-headed Christians may say so.
        What would be vengeance is if you went around trying to “pay him back evil for evil” in some way.
        After I left I finally began exposing my husband’s evil sins against me – just to his family members who didn’t live near us and didn’t understand why we were divorcing. They were aghast as well. My ex called me on the phone (i was in my father’s house at the time) and raged at me for “telling his private business”!! lol That was the first time I stood up to him and said “NO – I will NO LONGER LIE FOR YOU”

        That wasn’t vengeance. It was just getting free and setting boundaries and standing up for myself.

      • King'sDaughter

        I don’t think that is vengeful at all. In fact, I completely understand! I have recordings of my STB-ex yelling awful things at our children and berating me. I have NO desire to injure him but have wanted to share those recordings just to expose the truth. Even in exposing the truth it is not to defend myself but to help people understand. They will judge and take sides, that doesn’t matter. I HOPE they will be on his side with truth so that they can help him.
        There are those who would still defend him and excuse his actions because people believe what they want despite the clearest evidence. Afterall, that’s why they are his allies in the first place! Some may be swayed by the truth but I know it would only add fuel for the others.
        “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” Sir Winston Churchill

      • MeganC

        Thank you both, Katy & King’s Daughter. You are right . . . vengeance would be turning around and doing all the same things to him that he did to me. And it would take a dozen years to do that . . . and a lot of energy. I, too, hope that there are people around him speaking truth into his life and showing him true grace and mercy. I think I got confused because there are some who ACT like my winning sole custody or the kids or getting re-married or moving forward in my life is somehow an act of vengeance upon him. But, it truly is not. I just want to protect the kids and have a shot at a healthy life, healthy relationships and a healthy family for these four kids. I have no desire for vengeance. Only boundaries and protection.

        Katy — that is amazing that your ex’s family recognized the sickness in your ex’s life. My ex in-laws would NEVER (as far as I know). It is interesting how many times I have heard women say that it is disrespectful to reveal the sins of their husbands. Most of the time, it is because those woman are hurting so badly and they need to talk about it. I know a woman who told a friend at Bible study about how her husband was looking at porn and sleeping with prostitutes. My friend was immediately chastised for being disrespectful. What?! What in the world?!

      • A key thing for me, as I’ve mentioned before, was making sure I didn’t leave with any feeling that my ex owed me anything. Her “debt” was wiped away, and there was no sense of imbalance. That is forgiveness.

        I have done nothing with the motivation of “making up” for what I experienced at her hand, nor have I accepted anything from her with that goal. I left to prevent future debt from accumulating, not to address the imbalance in our relationship. I have told her “There is nothing you need or can to for me to make this up. You do not owe me anything- we are square”.

        So no act of mine is vengeance. If she is truly forgiven and there is no debt, vengeance is not necessary. And that frees me because I need and expect nothing from her to move on. If I were waiting in her to make it right, I’d be waiting for a long time.

      • King'sDaughter

        “I think I got confused because there are some who ACT like my winning sole custody of the kids or getting re-married or moving forward in my life is somehow an act of vengeance upon him.”

        I recently started reading Lundy Bancroft’s, Why Does He Do That? and couldn’t help but think that the idea of you moving on, protecting yourself and your children being viewed as an assault on him smells an awful lot like entitlement (which Bancroft goes into in the chapter on The Abusive Mentality). Your entire existence is to please and serve him, so therefore when you do something unpleasant for him (no matter how appropriate and necessary) then YOU are hurting him. Classic reversal of responsibility!

        Its hard to untangle those feelings in our own hearts, sometimes leading to false guilt. Its even harder still to untangle the abusers twisty web for outsiders (which maybe leads to false judgment?).

      • MeganC

        Wow, King’s Daughter . . . That brings me even MORE clarity. Really, you don’t know how much that helps me! It seems like everything I have done . . . everything I have written has somehow become a personal attack on abusers. I am trying to grow, learn, move forward . . . with every step I have taken forward, I have had resistance . . . Now, I totally see it. Abusers believe that we exist to please THEM. If we are not doing that . . . Goodness. Thank you.

  7. King'sDaughter

    Just another thought on “leaving well”

    I believe “leaving well” is not so much about leaving perfectly (truly, just leaving is a feat in itself and a wounded person should not crucify themselves for mistakes made in this process– “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Rom 8:1) but is about the heart. It is always best to guard our hearts and keep them pure, This is hard to do in such a situation and I’m glad Leslie addresses it in her book.

    No condemnation for those who have left poorly! It just leaves less mess for the victim to clean up later.

    • MeganC

      I am glad you wrote that, King’s Daughter. We do the best we can. We do all we can. And God knows. Big hugs.

  8. I’m glad to join this great discussion on my book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Voice. I think the best verse that describes what we’ve been talking about is “Do not be overcome by evil by overcome evil with good” So what does “doing good” toward an abusive spouse look like? Here are ten things:

    1. It is good to protect yourself from violent people. (Proverbs 27:12; Prov. 11:9) David fled King Saul when he was violent toward him. The angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee with Egypt with Jesus because Herod was trying to kill him. Paul escaped from those who sought to stone him.

    2. It is good to expose the abuser. (Eph 5:11) Bringing the deeds of darkness into the light is the only way to get help for both the victim and the abuser.

    3. It is good to speak the truth in love (Matthew 18:15-17) When someone grievously sins against us and will not listen, it is good to bring the matter before the church for additional support and authority.

    4. It is good to allow the violent person to experience the consequences of his/her sinful behavior. One of life’s greatest teachers is consequences. God says what we sow, we reap (Gal. 6:7) A person uses violence at home because he gets away with it. Don’t let that happen. (Prov. 19:19). God has put civil authorities in place to protect victims of abuse. The apostle Paul appealed to the Roman government when he was being mistreated (Acts 22:24-29). We should do likewise.

    As we look at the entirety of Scripture, we never see God endorsing the misuse of power over another individual or giving a husband entitlement to misuse or mistreat his wife. .

    God designed marriage to be a loving and respectful partnership, not a slave/master one where one person dominates and controls the other. Tim Keller in his recent book on marriage writes, “The Christian teaching [on marriage] does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.” When one spouse seeks to gain power and control over the other and bullies or intimidates using words, finances, physical force, or the scriptures, he or she is not only sinning against their spouse but also against God’s plan for marriage.

    If the abuser refuses to listen, refuses to repent or change, the blessings of a close marriage are impossible. Unconditional love does not equal unconditional relationship. God loves humankind unconditionally but does not offer unconditional relationship to everyone. Our sin separates us from God and our repeated unacknowledged and unrepentant sin also separates us from one another. Marital intimacy, trust, fellowship, and warmth cannot exist where there is fear, threats, intimidation, bullying and disrespect of one’s thoughts, feelings, body, or personhood. A marriage with no boundaries or conditions It is not psychologically healthy, nor is it spiritually sound

    One person in a difficult/destructive marriage can make the relationship better by not reacting sinfully to mistreatment, not retaliating and not repaying evil for evil, but one person in a difficult marriage cannot make a bad marriage good all by herself. It takes both people working together. Sometimes Biblical counselors place an inordinately heavy burden on one spouse to somehow maintain fellowship and intimacy in a relationship while they are repeatedly being sinned against. it’s not possible.

    I invite you to visit my website where I am posting weekly video’s on how to understand emotional abuse and the misunderstandings that go into wrong counsel.


    • IamMyBeloved's

      Thank you so much for commenting here, Ms. Vernick. I have a couple of things I would like to ask, if you don’t mind. I have not read any of your writings, but plan to.

      One confusing thing I have encountered is the area of physical abuse. The abuse wheels indicate that physical abuse is: intimidation using one’s body, throwing, kicking, hitting, choking, restraining, keeping one from exiting a room, etc. So often though, I have heard that unless a woman is being repeatedly assaulted on a day to day basis, there is no room even for separation. This is confusing to me because it can be just as terrifying living with one who does the above things without hitting, and that seems not to be viewed as “physical abuse” by so many. No one can ever know when the bough will break and the abuser will completely “lose it”. Where do you stand on this aspect of abuse?

      One more. How do you feel about an individual who has just been abused for so long, that they cannot stay in the marriage, or go back to it, if they have already left, even if there was repentance?

      • IAMB — the abuse wheels do not confine the definition of domestic abuse to physical violence, and nor does Leslie Vernick from my reading of her forthcoming book and her blog. And from what Leslie wrote above: “Marital intimacy, trust, fellowship, and warmth cannot exist where there is fear, threats, intimidation, bullying and disrespect of one’s thoughts, feelings, body, or personhood,” she understands that abuse is not restricted to physical violence alone.

    • Leslie – I haven’t read Tim Keller’s book on marriage but I am a fan of his – it sounds like his excellent reasoning and insight is brought to this topic as well. I was a little afraid of reading his book because all the books that men write about marriage are usually so crazy (patriarchy! woot!)
      thank you for your comment, so happy to see so many in the house of God together at last on this!! 🙂

      IAMB – the question of having to return to an abuser after he’s repented — I think if you’ve been violated so much that the covenant was destroyed, just because he finally repents does not mean you must return. You are free. It would be like starting over fresh, and if you can’t trust him enough to return & your feelings for him are so dead that you can’t make them live again — that is okay and you can move on with your life.

    • King'sDaughter

      Thank You, Leslie!
      You are a blessing, a fountain of His refreshing in this dry land!
      You have such a beautiful, sound grasp on the truth! I know it sounds like I’m gushing, but I am very thankful to hear these truths articulated so well!
      After years of having God’s Word twisted and abused, trying to fit myself inside of the “truths” I was being told about submission, headship and sacrifice, it is a BLESSING to receive WHOLE and accurate teaching that is not in ANY way lopsided!
      I especially needed to be reminded of these truths tonight!

      God Bless You, Leslie! May He make your message well received and His truth promoted throughout His Church so that The Church can properly do what it has set out to in the area of “reclaiming marriage”. Once I started sharing the truth of what has been going on in my own marriage and have been getting educated on abuse, I have had NUMEROUS women open up to me about their own marriages and it is CLEAR that The Church has a long arduous task of building healthy families instead of just locking (manipulating) people into destructive marriages.

      Bless You for your valuable work!

    • Lost

      Hi Leslie,

      Well, it’s no wonder my STBXH calls your book Emotionally Destructive Marriage “evil” and that he hates Tim Keller’s writing also.
      Your realistic answers on what “doing good” means toward an abuser makes perfect sense to me. It’s appropriate, nessecary and realistic to respond in those ways. Thank you for articulating those points so clearly.

  9. Leslie’s book and blog has helped me make sense of an otherwise hopeless situation! Being a Christian and part of the Christian community, I heard so many people tell me that I was making a huge mistake and it didn’t matter what had happened, I should stay. I wish I would have found her long before my divorce but at least after the divorce, her words and advice gave me a place in which I could understand my situation from a Biblical perspective and no longer beat myself up because of the divorce. Thank you A Cry For Justice for what you are doing here. I look forward to reading more from you!

  10. Lighting a Candle

    Leslie’s book and youtube videos were huge in me admitting and understanding that my marriage was “destructive” aka “abusive.” LIFE CHANGING. Very very thankful for the book, youtubes, and coaching ministry. There have been a few major “aha” moments in recognizing the abuse- taking steps to end it…and now separating myself from it. Coming into contact with her was one of the major ones. I strongly recommend her work, esp for believers. She is a treasure. I praise God for her and I praise God for you guys too. You all have no idea what your ministries are doing in the practical lives of me and my kids. Thank you Lord for these faithful servants. When I look back to where I was three years ago….it is stunning. Day and night difference. I was hopeless, exhausted, traumatized, working my fingers to the bone. I had no self care and he was tormenting me psychologically, emotionally and financially. God has really truly made flowers come out of the desert- and made a way where there wasn’t one before.

    I also recommend her coaching services- they are excellent.

    • Juiness

      I didn’t leave well, and I have guilt about it. All the years with lack of empathy and telling me I’m crazy for thinking he was abusive, gave me the motivation to want to expose him. I think I secretly wanted him to recognize how he hurt me and the children, but all that it did was prove his case that I was crazy and he was justified in divorcing me. I take full responsibility for what I did. No matter what he did, it was no excuse for me to want to get revenge. I have tried to make amends to him, but all that did was reinforce that he is the innocent party. No one knows I left because CPS was involved. Still praying and trying to heal. Even more than the abuse, his cover-up job felt like the biggest betrayal. Leaving well requires your own heart healing, for me healing couldn’t occur until I was out of the situation. Still healing.

      • Hi juiness, I agree that for many many of us, heart healing can only begin when we are out of the abusive situation.

        I am ambivalent about Leslie Vernick’s guidance to ‘stay well or leave well’. I think that for some victims it could easily be just another guilt intensifier. I think it would probably have been that for me, when I was living in the abuse. And yes, I have read the whole book. It is difficult. . . I know that each of us victim/survivors are so individual and we do not all hear things the same way.

        All the years with lack of empathy and telling me I’m crazy for thinking he was abusive, gave me the motivation to want to expose him. I think I secretly wanted him to recognize how he hurt me and the children …

        I don’t think it is sinful to want to expose evil. The Bible instructs us to expose evil! Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:11)

        Nor do I think it is sinful to want the evildoer to recognise how he hurt you and the children. Wanting the evildoer to recognise the harm he did is the same thing as wanting him to feel conviction for his sin. This is exactly what God wants sinners to do: feel conviction of sin so that they may come to repentance!

        So I encourage you to not feel guilty for wanting those things.

        The fact that when you sought to expose him and get him to recognise the harms he inflicted, it backfired on you because he used what you did to “prove” his false claims that you were “crazy” and “he was justified in divorcing you” — that doesn’t mean you WERE crazy or were the cause of the divorce.

        You might have been unwise in the way you tried to achieve your righteous aspirations for exposure of his evil, but being unwise is not the same as being crazy. HE is the cause of the divorce. HE is the wicked one. HE is the one who lies and refuses to behave respectfully and with consideration for you and the children. HE is the one whose conduct was putting the children at risk.

        And if the world and the church were more supportive of victims of domestic abuse, and you sought to expose your abuser and get him to recognise the harm he caused, the world and the church might have believed you and stood with you to vindicate and protect you, rather than side with him or sit tacitly on the sidelines while you were in the middle of a train wreck.


      • surviving freedom

        I don’t know your situation specifically, but I would like to ponder this statement:
        No matter what he did, it was no excuse for me to want to get revenge.

        Often, when I would attempt to confront the abuse, set a boundary, get angry, not accept his claims of change when his behavior was still the same, tell about the abuse (past and present), etc. The abuser (and others) would claim I was punishing him, seeking revenge … in other words I would be accused of being bitter and unforgiving. Until finally, I started checking in with God’s Word and ask Him if what I was doing (even in wanting to expose the abuser for who he really was and desiring support from others) was taking truly taking revenge, was done out of bitterness or unforgiveness, here are the questions I would ask God and seek Scripture for the answers:
        Am I sinning against God or the abuser (according to God not the abuser)? I would check the Ten Commandments and ask: Am I lying? Am I denying God? Am I being lustful? Am I coveting something that I’m deceiving or manipulating to get, or that isn’t mine (not wanting your integrity slandered, denying false claims made against you, wanting help to escape abuse, not wanting false blame – is not coveting)? Am I spreading false testimony about the abuser? Am I rejecting God and desiring what He hates?

        It was really important to ask myself if what I was doing was truly seeking revenge, look to God’s Word, ask yourself if what you did to expose the evil was revenge or unforgiveness? Or, is that just the abuser’s (and others who are false prophets) accusations against you? This really helped me discard false notions that whenever I took a stand or attempted to seek help against what was happening to me, that I was somehow being bitter, unforgiving, and punishing. Often an abuser and those that hide or enable the abuse will attempt to shame the victim into keeping quiet, but keeping quiet about the evil of abuse is not God’s way … it is the abuser’s way.

      • SF — those questions you asked yourself are excellent!

        For anyone who wants further reading, here a couple of posts on vengeance —

        Vengeance and vindication: what is the difference?

        Anger, hatred, vengeance: – am I feeling them? are my feelings wrong?

  11. cindyrapstad

    I still like Leslie’s book but as with anything I have to discern what is true or not in my life. As I have journeyed this path I learn more and more about me and the cycle of abuse. The one part I did have a problem with the book was the stay well and especially the leave well part. Many women have to reach a boiling point before they leave for good and with that the grieving part of the realization of the death (if it ever was alive) of the marriage is anger. I think of Jesus in the temple, would He have been classified as leaving well? Turning over tables and calling names. Sometimes a spade needs to be called a spade. We need to name abuse for what it is and proclaim it loudly. For far too many years we have been silenced and told no matter what we need to be a good girl. Actually I think I did better as a young girl when the first boy to kiss me without asking got punched in the mouth.

    I got indoctrinated into the nice girls don’t do that even if boys take advantage. If you be nice they will be nice to you. No; abusers and bullies do what they do because they don’t have consequences. No more, no more, no more.

    What I am more concerned about at this stage of my life is listening to the Holy Spirit in my life and not what man has to say.

    We need to help women in abusive relationships get stronger and learn how to discern the Holy Spirit and make decisions with that in mind rather than telling them how to act or behave. We can show them tools but only the person in that marriage knows if that tool works or not. When I speak with women in abusive marriages they have been so smoke and mirrored they don’t know what the truth is. Once we get them trusting their instincts they figure out for themselves if they can stay (with safety plan in place) for a season or longer or if they need to exit with safety in mind.

  12. Lost

    Read this book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage about 2 years ago. It didn’t help then. Read it a few months ago again as recommended by someone and picked it up today because of all the great reviews around here on this blog. Yet I have the same result — not helpful. An abusive man leaves no room for any of this work.

    Committed to truth and reality” (the “C’ from Vernick’s acronym CORE) works now as the truth is he is an abuser and the only way to survive is to acknowledge it and stay away- no contact whatsoever. The reality is we never had a loving relationship- only set ups and explosions. It’s constant chaos. Constant. Yet he could be calm and collected whenever it served him (like in front of others of course). Leaving me anxious, ashamed, humiliated and abused and alone.

    Open to growth, instruction and feedback”- this sends the message that others know something you don’t and that you must be open to learning it. Learning from ACFJ and those who comments so far is the only support so far that has helped me see the truth. Those who are outraged by abuse. Those who don’t empathize with abusers. IMO no one knows better than the ones who are abused. To be open (safely) is having other abuse-educated non-abusers and non-allies to support those who are abused and not support those who abuse. Otherwise you may be hearing good information from a twisted source which equals twisted information.

    Responsible and respectful”- how do you handle being set up by church leaders and your abusive husband and seeing it happen and calling it out and being treated as YOURE being disrespectful and irresponsible? That messes with your mind big time. I realize I did have an angry attitude and wasn’t very gentle or nice to their standards after those set ups. That was IMO an appropriate reaction to being lied to. They’re trying to get you to cover things up and blame yourself. It’s a war in itself to fight submitting to that alone!

    Empathic and Compassionate without Enabling others to continue abuse or disrespect”- IMO the only “enablers” are the ones who abuse or agree with the abuser. I’m over believing “it’s crucial that you not lose your empathy and compassion even in a destructive marriage.” I CAN’T have empathy or compassion for my STBXH. If I do- I’m in trouble- I’m walking into a set up somehow eventually.

    I don’t think that women who are abused lack respect, empathy, or a willingness to learn. I think they have those things already. They’ve been duped and forced to believe twisted lies in order to merely survive each day.

    So in conclusion IMO no blame can be put on the wife in anyway. And these words throughout seem to put way too much emphasis on her.

    I believe living with an abusive, controlling destructive, hateful man will make it impossible to build a CORE. To stay with an abuser is the opposite of the C in CORE because they NEED you to believe and live under their lie. I can’t even do a simple house chore or enjoy anything without my husband sabotaging it. I mean I like sunny days like anyone else and because I enjoy that he’d make sure I was convinced to stay inside somehow. Not just for the day either. If I didn’t go along with his plan or belief then I would certainly pay later on. Teaching me ever so subtly to eventually not enjoy anything and to not be responsible because there was always a consequence if I did. Always.

    If I didn’t leave and don’t continue to stay away at all costs- committed to reality and truth of what’s going on- I’ll die in more ways than one, and my children will continue to become like him. I’m angry at the evil done by him and angry that it’s covered up and justified by this church. If I don’t stay angry at abuse I’ll do just what they do. And I’m committed to not ever going back to the lie – meaning I’ll always be outraged by abuse wherever it is.

    Perhaps this book would be better applied if there wasn’t so much deception and wickedness running rampant in this world. Because it isn’t just the abuser lying- it’s other women and men and churches and police who have this ugly and twisted idea that women are worthless and not to be believed or respected. But I can tell you that most of what I read in this book is what others (esp in churches) use to keep women responsible for the abuse. Her emotions and reactions are the focus. Yet they never hold the man accountable for what he’s done.

    I say this with respect to all others here and their opinions.

    I for one would not recommend this book to someone being abused.

    • C

      Dear Lost, wanted to let you know your comment mirrors my thoughts, too!!!
      It is why I keep going back to Crippen’s sermons and Powell’s comments to keep reaffirming to self ex knows and chose evil in spite of and his helpers all knew and chose to help him in spite of and I am not taking false blame any more by anyone in any way under any euphemism or any other excuse (including what sounds an awful lot like it in Simon’s new book.)

      (I have hesitated to say anything at all as Vernick and Simon have both had many good points. It seems like it is rare for anyone to brave potential readership storm and call evil evil as Crippen, Roberts, and Powell have done and do.)

    • Hi Lost and C

      Yes, so far we have not publicly expressed concerns about Leslie Vernick’s writings on domestic abuse. But we are not averse to anyone like you wanting to express such concerns.

      Concerns have been raised by a few others privately to us, and we have been mulling them over. We just haven’t yet had the time to put our thoughts down in a way that we hope might be helpful and edifying for the body of Christ as a whole.

    • Believer

      I agree with you. Those suffering oppression from vile liars should not be told how they need to improve themselves. The right response is outrage at the evil being perpetrated upon them (would we tell an abused child how they need improve themselves in facing their abuser properly? Or the traveler left beaten and bloodied on the side of the road what he needs to do to get himself blameless before facing the world again?).

      I believe abused adults, and all people everywhere, need to hear that God will judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. I believe we all need to be exhorted to truly fear God not men, which equals obeying the truth, rejecting all lies, and separating oneself from evil. That is a hard and narrow road but the only road of obedience, the only road for true believers. That is taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. Our responsibility is to Him alone and our comfort is solely in Him too. He will judge justly and the wicked and vile will burn!

    • Anonymous

      I’m very thankful for your comment.

      In recent times, someone recommended Leslie’s book to me.

      I have not read it yet, as honestly we don’t even have the money to buy it due to husbands latest financial fracas, and he has cut me off from what little money we do have, again, but I did go watch some videos on youtube of Leslie’s to see if it was worth buying the book in the future if possible.

      I have to say that even though some of it sounded really good, I couldn’t continue watching.

      Although Leslie seems very sweet and genuine, when I heard (and read some posts of hers) this idea that if you just sit down and explain things to your husband, that it’s about having a certain communication style, and then it might stop his abusive behaviour or make it better in some way, I just could not go any further with her material then. Maybe she says there is more to it than that, but this just made me want to run for the hills. I think most abused women have already tried this for many years in many different ways, and it just feels like more onus to change things, being put on me again.

      At this point I have tried many different ways of communicating to my husband how his behaviour hurts me, and he simply doesn’t CARE. In fact he only goes on sinning all the more boldly. I just can’t see how Leslie’s advice can work when you are dealing with an abuser. I think it can actually set you up for more abuse. If her point is to try that at the beginning and if they still don’t repent then to leave, well I am just hoping that there is some disclaimer at the front of the book that tells women who have already tried that for years, that it is not the book for them.

      In my opinion even trying the whole communication style thing, even at the beginning, won’t work with an abuser.

      It has been through God teaching me, this blog, and Pastor Crippen’s sermons that has finally got me to the point that I don’t think the abuser will ever change, and it is only through that truth that I feel I am finally being set free and nearly out of this (I hope).

      I also saw that Leslie works with Chris Moles. He was also recommend to me. The problem I have with the help they both offer, is that it works on the premise that abusers can and do change. That there is hope. This confuses me as it seems contrary to the bible. Doesn’t God’s word say there is a point of reprobation, and God has very strong things to say about the ‘wicked’. The abuser most certainly is in the category of the wicked. It is horrible having to accept that, but it is the truth.

      The other issue I have is the exorbitant price they charge for their programs. In the thousands. It seems to me if you are charging such a huge profit on the back of other people’s suffering, then you must at the very least have a vested interest in selling the idea that changing your communication style can make your abusive marriage better, or if your husband does the $3000 men’s group, that he can or ‘might’ change. Abused women are vulnerable and desperate and will pay this huge money if they think there is hope.

      I’m just very against false hope, and at the end of doing these very expensive programs being told, “well sorry, it seems your husband is never going to change and you should divorce”. I remember reading a comment on one of the posts here, from a woman who paid that much for her and her husband to do Paul Hegstrom’s program, and being told exactly that.

      Why isn’t God’s word ever enough? What happened to having freely received, freely give? God gives to us freely, and I think He has very clearly laid out what to do if you are with a man or woman continuing in abusive sin. It doesn’t involve a very expensive program or hanging in there for another year while you try some new communication styles.

      If I tried to say some of the questions Leslie suggest as ‘inviting him to repentance’, my husband would absolutely see that as a chink in my armour, a weakness he could see to exploit. It has taken me a long time to build some strength up and this would set me back so far. In fact after reading one of Leslie’s posts today, I subconsciously worded a text message based on what I had just read from her blog, and he smelled the softening immediately and replied with directives of how from now on I must speak to him in such and such a way. He straight away picked up on that my ‘style’ had changed and that I was bowing down to him in a way.

      I say all this, fully admitting I have not read her book, and also knowing she does say a lot of good stuff. I also really hesitate to criticise her work, but I just don’t see this approach working with an abuser in any way. Maybe in the ‘difficult’ marriage as she says. But not with an abuser. Not with a wolf.

      I also am only writing this out, as it has set me back in the last few days, finally getting to place that I know I need to be out of this marriage, only to be recommended two programs/people that believe abusers can change and have ‘THE’ program to make it happen. I’m so over that and don’t want any more of my time wasted. It’s like one more thing to hook you in for another year or so of the merry go round. But I do know the people who recommended this had very sincere hearts and this is nothing against them personally.

      Someone else commented here, that it comes down to listening to God and not man. God can use man, yes, but when one person is saying they have a ‘program’ or an Acronym or a communication style that can change things, I think at times it can be adding to the word of God or even offering false hope. God makes it so simple, and He gives it freely out of love. I’m tired of being made merchandise of.

      Sorry if this was heavy. It’s been a tough week. And feel free to not post this. I know it is delicate subject as there are already so few counsellors/pastors etc speaking out about abuse. I just wanted to add that confusion was added to my journey this week, through Leslie’s and Chris’s approaches, since I had finally got to the point of accepting he would never change. I always run these things through the Cry for Justice search box, and felt compelled to just say something.

      • Anonymous, every single concern you have expressed about Leslie Vernick and Chris Moles are concerns that Jeff and I have as well.

        I think we may run your comment as a stand alone post. It is top notch. Bravo! And thank you for taking the time to write it, especially in this harrowing time you are going through. 🙂

        (((((hugs))))) from Barb

      • We (Jeff and I) want to announce right here and now that we are scrubbing all our posts about Chris Moles.

        We apologize for not having done this before. Many thanks to Anonymous whose comment pushed this up to the top of our agenda. And also we want to thank the reader who emailed us about the posts we have had on Chris Moles. It is due to these two readers’ vigilance that we have been prodded to scrub the posts we had published about Chris Moles.

        We want to say to all our readers that we have been having concerns about Chris Moles (and concerns about Leslie Vernick) for some time, and have not prioritised sufficiently the need for us to alert our readers to those concerns. Please forgive us.

        Right at the top of this post by Megan C we are putting a link to Anonymous’s comment which critiques Vernick and Moles, in case anyone finds this post but doesn’t have the energy or time to read the whole comments thread.

      • Kelly Yazzie

        Barbara Roberts, I am shocked that you & Jeff would hold this review so highly when ‘Anonymous’ has not even read Leslie’s book, which shows in ‘his/her’ ignorance in the comments. The comments are so off-based …please read Leslie’s book before critiquing her. Thank you :/

      • Kelly Yazzie, it seems to me that you didn’t even read Anonymous’s comment in full. If you had you would have known she is a woman because she refers to ‘my husband’. Yet despite the fact that you don’t seem to have read Anonymous’s comment carefully, you admonish us for taking Anonymous’s response to Leslie Vernick’s work seriously. Is that fair? I don’t think so.

        You also make out that Anonymous has written a ‘review’ of Vernick. IMO it’s a bit shady of you to use the word ‘review’. Anonymous never pretended to be reviewing Leslie’s book. She was only sharing her thoughts and responses to one video by Leslie and a few online articles Leslie has written. Anonymous’s comment doesn’t really in my mind qualify as formal ‘review’.

        On this blog we honor and prioritise the voices of victims. We do this because victims have been de-voiced and discounted for so long. Anonymous shared her thoughts on what she had seen from Leslie Vernick. She was quite entitled to have her thoughts and feelings, and to share her them here.

        I, Barb, have read Leslie’s book. Leslie sent me a pre-publication copy. I read it carefully. I saw some good things in it, but there were things in it that concerned me. I have similar concerns about Leslie’s work to the concerns that Anonymous has expressed, even though Anonymous has not read Leslie’s book.

        Kelly, are you a victim/survivor of marital abuse?

  13. Raped By Evil

    (Note from Eds: This commenter is responding to Believer’s comment]

    Believer, I get where you are coming from but please understand that some of us have been abused our entire lives and it is not simply a situation of mind over matter.

    Why did I give my life to Jesus as a youngster? Was I interested because I wanted to be abused? Or because I felt like I was a strong little solider? No. I was an unloved, extremely abused little girl that nobody cared about. I lived in a derelict trailer house. The projects were across the street from our trailer park and this is where I’d go to hear the word of God. I listened to the lady talking about Jesus while she placed the little felt characters on the poster board and I loved these stories of hope. It was the hope and promise of God’s love and tender care that drew me in. And as a result, I gave my life to him.

    My heart and mind were true. I tried to follow all the rules that I’d been told and tried to obey my parents and honor them. I tried to be a good student. I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried. I tried even more and came up empty.

    Without the LOVE of Jesus and the TRUTH about evil…we cannot endure without being destroyed.

    It was decades of trying like crazy but ending with the same result of me being so unhappy and feeling so absolutely worthless then God letting EVERYTHING in my life that I’d been told by liars that were “sure things” I could count on–being revealed for what they were. Evil people with no conscience who used me and then threw me away.

    This last part, “That is a hard and narrow road but the only road of obedience, the only road for true believers. That is taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. Our responsibility is to Him alone and our comfort is solely in Him too. He will judge justly and the wicked and vile will burn!”

    For a person just realizing that most people around them (if not ALL) are selfish abusers, this would do nothing but add to their burden and hopelessness. What these people need is the love—shown by practical measures such as shelter, food, clothes, listening and doing what can be done to help. I know at the lowest point in my life if I’d been told this on top of all the abuse that I’d endured…..I’d have either commit suicide or completely given up on God. I KNEW it was a narrow road and I’d been picking up my cross daily for decades and not realizing I’d also been forced to carry everyone else’s cross as well….I was a pack mule that nobody thought twice about but whipped mercilessly if I brayed my unhappiness or inability to stand under such a weight.

    Your first paragraph shows your heart and that you do understand and it’s beautiful, it’s just that even though the words you use in the second paragraph are “right,” they can also be triggers for many of us who have been abused by them….we truly NEED empathy—and our pity is to be reserved for those who God deems worthy of receiving it. If we give it without discernment we end up draining ourselves dry so that there is none left for the truly needy.

    • Hi ‘Raped by Evil’
      I’ve read Believer’s comment carefully and I’ve read your response carefully. Thanks for contributing your perspective to this discussion.

      I get that you were triggered by Believer’s second paragraph. That’s an example of how easily we victims can get triggered, eh, even by things that other victims have written with the best intentions to support and validate other victims of abuse. 😦

      I’m going to support both of you, if I can. It think it’s great that RBE has the clarity of mind to articulate what triggered her, and to express that on the blog. I think it’s great that Believer spoke lots of truth in her comment and that she affirmed that

      Those suffering oppression from vile liars should not be told how they need to improve themselves. The right response is outrage at the evil being perpetrated upon them. … God will judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

      And as one of the moderators of this blog (and the one who published Believer’s comment) I take responsibility for not noticing the potential triggers in Believer’s second paragraph. I’m going to say what I mean about that here, but first let me assure you, Believer, that I know you didn’t mean to trigger anyone and your comment was written in a pure and generous spirit. 🙂

      Now that RBE has submitted her comment, I can see what the potential triggers were in Believer’s comment ….and please don’t feel bad, Believer. I’ve done this kind of thing myself, to other victims. I think we’ve probably all done it at times, unwittingly. The only reason I’m going to explain what I see are the potential triggers is that so that we can all learn from this experience, myself included.

      Here is Believer’s second paragraph:

      I believe abused adults, and all people everywhere, need to hear that God will judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. I believe we all need to be exhorted to truly fear God not men, which equals obeying the truth, rejecting all lies, and separating oneself from evil. That is a hard and narrow road but the only road of obedience, the only road for true believers. That is taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. Our responsibility is to Him alone and our comfort is solely in Him too. He will judge justly and the wicked and vile will burn!

      The thing with I believe abused adults, and all people everywhere, need to hear that God will judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day — is that it doesn’t spell out the differentiation between how various people need to hear that God will judge.

      Everyone needs to hear that God will judge. But deceivers, abusers and their allies need to hear it with the emphasis God will judge YOU, whereas the abuse victims need to hear it with the emphasis God will judge your abusers if they do not repent, and you are not to blame for the abuse you’ve suffered; we are all sinners and we all need a Saviour, but God is compassionate and merciful and he will gladly adopt you into His family if you come to him humbly asking for him to be your Saviour. If you make him your Lord, he is loving and kind and He will not judge you because Jesus has already taken that judgement for you when He died on the Cross.

      Now, obviously I’m not wanting to say to Believer “You should have written it like that, sister!” I’m only spelling this out to help us remember to balance the two sides of the gospel. For the gospel is both “God will judge” and “God offers forgiveness in Christ.”

      The next part of the paragraph said I believe we all need to be exhorted to truly fear God not men, which equals obeying the truth, rejecting all lies, and separating oneself from evil. That is a hard and narrow road but the only road of obedience, the only road for true believers. That is taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. The potential trigger there could have been mitigated with a addition like the following: “Rejecting all lies can be very hard for the abused person to do, when a lot of the stuff she has been taught by ‘c’hristians is sub-biblical or even false. The abused person often needs wise true Christians to help disentangle the false ideas she’s been taught from the truth that she’s been taught. And disentanglers are as rare as hen’s teeth!” — Without that kind of qualification, I can see why someone already triggered by the first part of the paragraph could be further triggered by the middle part of the paragraph.

      The next sentence is Our responsibility is to Him alone and our comfort is solely in Him too. That in fact did have one error in it, now I look carefully. I think our comfort is not solely in Him. Yes, there are times when He may be our only comfort, but a Christian’s walk generally includes quite a lot of comfort being provided through other believers, and even through non-believers, Balaam’s donkeys, and people who are not Christians but have compassion and wisdom derived from life experience. When people tell an abused Christian, or a single Christian who longs to be married, “You should find all your comfort in Christ,” they often hurt the person they’ve said that too. So that could have been an additional trigger.

      Believer’s comment ended with, He will judge justly and the wicked and vile will burn! — so she did in fact emphasise that God’s judgement is for the wicked, not for the saved. But I’m guessing that what happened for RBE was that the preceding sentences had triggered her so that by the time she got to the last sentence she was not able to feel the balancing and mitigating force of Believer’s last sentence.

  14. laurie

    Regarding Anonymous’s comments:

    I think it’s important to remember that Leslie Vernick has a much broader definition of abuse than some. Most people equate “abusive” with “physically dangerous”. One thing that helped me immensely was understanding that even though my husband doesn’t physically harm me, his tactics are still abusive. Those are the kind of husbands she recommends you confront, not the physically dangerous ones.

    [INSERT from BARBARA ROBERTS — I disagree with some of what this commenter says and I will state why in my replying comment to her. Also, I’m giving a TRIGGER WARNING because this commenter says some things which some of our readers might be offended by and triggered by].

    The fact is that some abusers DO change, and our first efforts should be directed toward that end, if and when it’s possible. I think there are a lot of people who divorce prematurely because it’s just so exhausting, and they don’t have good counselors to help them through it. They experience a type of “last straw” event, and they decide to divorce. The reality is that there are even repeat adulterers and physical abusers who change…the bible has many verses that say that the evil and wicked will be saved if they repent – truly repent, including abandoning their wicked ways. Look at Paul, the very epitome of evil, present and condoning a murder, yet he was transformed. Jesus confronted him, the church supported and taught him, he repented.

    These things still happen today. What Leslie is trying to say is a highly emotional and exhausted state is not the best time to make a life-altering decision. There’s a chance the husband can be changed, so it’s best to go through a series of steps to be sure whether that’s a possibility or not, including a time of separation, etc. She also states in no uncertain terms that the time also comes for many women when they should leave their marriage, and under no circumstance should they subject themselves to abuse, physical or otherwise.

    Even though she strongly advocates working toward reconciliation, Leslie is very clear that if you are in physical danger get out immediately, or take a short time to get a safety plan in place and get out as soon as you can, even if you can’t confront him. She guides the reader to determine their safety level first, and then decide if it’s worth the risk of confrontation. Leslie definitely does not blindly recommend that all abused wives should immediately confront their attackers. To claim so is a misrepresentation of her teaching.

    • Laurie, I have several things to say about your comment.

      You said:

      The fact is that some abusers DO change…

      You assert that as “fact” but it is by no means as certain as you make out. Here is the picture I have gathered from reading widely in this field for many years, tracking the research and professional opinions from clinicians and DV experts, as well as the testimony of victims of domestic abuse: very few abusers truly change into non abusers. The ones who may have truly changed are like as rare as hen’s teeth.

      And I have never heard of true and lasting change in an abuser who was passing himself off as an active christian. I know there are Christian counselors who say they have seen it in some of their clients. But those counselors do not, IMO, have a true and living understanding of what it means to be a Christian. And they are being snowed by their clients who are abusers.

      You said:

      The fact is that some abusers DO change, and our first efforts should be directed toward that end, if and when it’s possible.

      Why should our first efforts be directed towards that end? Who are you to tell victims of abuse what they should or should not do? And why do you make the presumption that victims may not have already been trying to get their abusers to change for a very long time… You and Leslie seem to make the assumption that the victim has not already tried in multiple ways to persuade her abuser to stop being mean to her, so you can come in and pontificate on her and tell her what she “should” do.

      God only gave one admonishment to Cain, and it was very brief (see here). And God did not tell Abel that he should go and admonish Cain.

      You said:

      I think there are a lot of people who divorce prematurely because it’s just so exhausting, and they don’t have good counselors to help them through it.

      Well, that’s your opinion. But I think you are wrong. There may be some people who divorce prematurely, but those people are not victims of abuse from their spouses. Victims of spousal abuse typically take a very long time to decide to divorce their abusers. And Christian victims of abuse tend to take even longer than non-Christian victims of abuse. And many Christian victims of abuse consult Christian counselors who give them dangerous and foolish counsel that prolongs their suffering rather than mitigates it.

      You bring up the Apostle Paul:

      the bible has many verses that say that the evil and wicked will be saved if they repent – truly repent, including abandoning their wicked ways. Look at Paul, the very epitome of evil, present and condoning a murder, yet he was transformed. Jesus confronted him, the church supported and taught him, he repented.

      Paul was abusing the church. But he was NOT abusing his intimate partner. There is a big difference.

      And he was abusing the church because in his Pharisaic mindset he thought he was serving God by crushing the people who called themselves Christians. When he was converted on the Damascus Road, the church didn’t have to ‘teach’ him how to become a non-abuser. You’ve just made that idea up in your own head.

      Paul was indeed taught a lot by the Holy Spirit after his conversion, but as he says: “Of those who seemed to be great (what they were in time past does not matter to me; God looks on no man’s person) – nevertheless, those who seemed great contributed nothing to me.” (Gal 2:6)

      You said:

      What Leslie is trying to say is a highly emotional and exhausted state is not the best time to make a life-altering decision.

      That’s one of the places where Leslie talks down to victims. She pathologizes them: she sees them as defective and deficient people who need to be coached by her. I do not like that attitude of hers; it can be offensive to some victims.

      Lastly, you said:

      Leslie definitely does not blindly recommend that all abused wives should immediately confront their attackers. To claim so is a misrepresentation of her teaching.

      You have created a straw man argument here. Leslie does not recommend that all abused wives should “immediately” confront their attackers. But she does recommend that all abused wives give lots of thought and effort into “building their C.O.R.E.”. She gives her readers the impression that leaving or divorcing the abuser is very much a last resort. And her book doesn’t clearly state that abuse is grounds for divorce.

      I know she recently published a blog post saying that abuse is grounds for divorce. But she attempted in that post to provide a scriptural argument for that, and her exegesis and application of scripture has so many flaws and wrong ideas in it that I can’t bring myself to write about how woeful it is.

      She once recommended my book in a blog post she wrote at biblicalcounseling.com, but I have the feeling she has not actually read my book carefully. Or, if she did read it, she didn’t understand it.

  15. Laurie

    Wow…I think you really missed what I was trying to say…. The whole content of my post is qualified by the first few lines, which give a definition of “abuse” which is much broader than just physical beating. I would agree with you wholeheartedly that most men who are at the point of regularly physically injuring their wives are probably not going to change. But the men who are stuck in patterns of covert abuse (blame shifting, escaping responsibility, stonewalling) sometimes do change when their wives can finally see it for what it is. I stand by my assertion that it is a fact that SOME abusers do change, I did not say that change is certain, as you seem to have read into my comment. I personally know at least 7 Christian couples in the last nine years who were heading for divorce, but are now happily married because the abusive husbands (and in some cases wives) have changed. This includes cases of porn addiction, adultery, and at least one case of chronic physical abuse. So it does happen. I also know of many couples who are now divorced. I didn’t say all abusers change.

    Wives often rationalize away this kind of abuse because many of the things their husbands are saying are technically true. For example, “Love should be unconditional.” “My feelings are just as important as yours”. “Do unto others…”. I spent years not really understanding that what my husband was doing was actually abusive. Leslie’s book helped me see that my husband was twisting scripture to escape his part in creating emotional intimacy. Before I read her book, I was stuck in the mindset of, “Well, nobody’s perfect. I have to forgive him and give him another chance.” My trying to be understanding and patient with him just enabled him to continue with his emotional abuse. Leslie’s book helped me realize that my husband needed real-world consequences in order to see that his behaviour is really destructive. We are now separated, and my husband is seeing a counselor, something I believe he’d have never done if I hadn’t sent him out of our house.

    In this kind of situation, without reading Leslie’s book, I might have got fed up and gotten a divorce. But the book gave me the practical steps to initiate change in myself, beginning with growing the courage to get out of the situation. In marriages like mine, I believe it’s best to take these kind of steps toward reconciliation first, instead of going straight for divorce. I have heard stories of men who were much worse than my husband who did turn their lives around when their wives enforced consequences. Of course, there are many more who resist, and don’t change. That is what I meant when I said our first efforts should be made toward reconciliation…I spent 15 years trying to get my husband to understand, but my methods were ineffective. Leslie’s book gave me methods that are more concrete, and that are currently working.

    There’s a reason why Leslie’s book is called “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”. Most of her advice is aimed toward emotional abuse, or covert abuse, not specifically physical abuse. As far as chronic physical abuse goes, I would never presume to tell any woman what she should or shouldn’t do, other than that she should do whatever she can to get safe. Obviously that’s the number one priority. I would hope that there would be some effort to remedy the situation instead of going straight for divorce, but I believe that wife will know better than I if any efforts have a hope for restoration. My “should” comment was meant to be directed toward cases of covert or emotional abuse…I would hope the first step would be to enforce boundaries and consequences through separation, and hopefully that will wake up the spouse to the problem. I think many men think they’re not being abusive because they don’t hit their wives. If the consequence of separation does open their eyes, then I would hope the next step would be working toward reconciliation. Depending on whether he can be self-aware and change, of course. SOME do change. SOME.

    My comment about Paul was meant as a response to Anonymous saying that the Bible says that the wicked can’t change. As her comment was about “the wicked” in general I commented about the wicked in general. Saul was certainly wicked, probably more wicked and self-righteous than the average husband, and he could and did change. The bible says that Ananias was used by God to restore Saul’s sight, and that before beginning to preach, he spent “certain days” with the disciples in Damascus. I assume they instructed him and helped correct his twisted theology during those days, I think that’s a reasonable assumption. There certainly is biblical grounds for some wicked people to be given over to their wickedness, but it would be twisting scripture to say all wicked people are doomed to never change. Paul is only one of many examples.

    As far as Leslie’s advice that abused women should develop CORE strength…CORE stands for:
    Committing to believe the truth
    being Open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and WISE counsel
    being Responsible for yourself and Respecting others without dishonouring yourself
    and being Empathetic but not Enabling destructive behaviour

    How is this not good advice? Her point is to be empowered to say NO to abuse, and take steps to determine whether the relationship can be saved or not. Her concept of CORE empowers people to get out of a victim-mindset and either stay well or leave well. Some women might choose to stay, for the sake of their children, or stay long enough to get themselves financially independent. It isn’t always wrong to choose to stay, depending on the type and level of the husband’s behaviours. It is equally not always wrong to leave, and Leslie is very clear about that in her book and also on her website. She is also quite clear that it’s best to get some professional help (not necessarily HER, but help from a counselor who understands the emotional abuse dynamic) in order to work out the issues that reveal which is the best decision. I find this to be very biblical, since it is stated numerous times, especially in Proverbs, that there is wisdom in wise counsel. Leslie is also clear that one should take great care in choosing whose counsel they will follow, since many church counselors, pastors, or lay ministers simply do not have the training they need to help.

    And as far as divorce being the last resort, I think most Christian teachers would agree that divorce should only be pursued after efforts toward reconciliation have been made…surely you believe that if true, complete reconciliation is possible, it should at least be given a chance. Not by sacrificing the safety of the wife and children, clearly, but giving a separation a chance to sink in will generally reveal the state of the husband’s heart. Either he will be contrite and willing to do his part of the work, or he will get even more aggressive, and either way, you have a better idea of how to proceed.

    I originally posted because Anonymous clearly stated she hadn’t read Leslie’s book yet, and she had made some statements that seemed to not reflect what the book says. I just thought it was unfair to have such a one sided post when the poster had not even read the book yet.

    Honestly, the book was not written for women who have already decided that divorce is their only option. It was written for people like me, who are stuck in a pattern of covert abuse, which leads to confusion about whether this relationship can be saved or not. It’s written to those women who need help knowing how to figure out if they should stay or not, not for those who already know they need to leave.

    With all due respect, Ms. Roberts, it seems to me you have not read “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” in its entirety, or perhaps your personal experience coloured your interpretation of it.

    • Hi Laurie, I have read Leslie’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”. The publisher sent me a pre-release copy before it was published and read it carefully.

      And I re-read it recently, in order to give my feedback about it to Leslie (which I sent her by email).

      I know that Leslie and you and I all take the view that domestic abuse encompasses far more than physical beating, and that some/many abusers do not use physical violence on their targets.

      I know you didn’t say that all abusers change. 🙂

      You said

      I personally know at least 7 Christian couples in the last nine years who were heading for divorce, but are now happily married because the abusive husbands (and in some cases wives) have changed. This includes cases of porn addiction, adultery, and at least one case of chronic physical abuse.

      I won’t try to deny your personal observation and experience.

      I myself know of one case where a couple successfully reconciled after the husband had been sexually unfaithful with two different women. And I know of a case where a husband got heavily into porn but then was convicted of his sin and renounced his porn habit and he and his wife are still married. I know of no case where a professing-Christian husband was abusing his wife in the pattern of coercive control which characterises domestic abuse, and then he reformed and the marriage is intact.

      I believe I know of one case where a husband who was abusing his wife in a pattern of coercive control and then, due to his wife setting firm boundaries and ultimatums, he did much hard work over a long time and he actually reformed and the marriage is intact. But that man is not and has never professed to be a Christian. He is Dave Nugent and he now runs behaviour change programs for men who abuse their female partners. His work was showcased in the documentary “Call Me Dad” which was shown on SBS TV (an Australian TV station) a few years ago. And I’ve met him in person and I think he is the real deal.

      So while I will not deny your observation and experience of domestic abusers who have reformed and saved their marriages, I myself would want to get to know the people in those cases before I could say there had been true, lasting, heart-deep change in the abusers.

      In my observation, reformation from sexual infidelity or a porn habit is not easy, but it is easier than reformation from the pattern of abusing one’s intimate partner that is characterised by employing coercive control to target the very personhood and identity of the target.

      I may be wrong, but I have the impression this post is the only post you’ve read on our site. May I invite you to check out our FAQ pages on divorce and remarriage. I think you may find that we have more similar views that you might have first thought.

      Thank you for interacting with me. And I hope you keep commenting on the blog.

      And by the way, we always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to check out our FAQ page.

    • Reconciled


      What you have written is exactly my experience and understanding of Leslie’s work. I was a victim of covert abuse in my marriage, and it was through Leslie’s work that I began to see it and make the changes I needed to make to move my life forward. Thankfully, I am one of the few who has seen my husband receptive to boundaries, consequences, and growth. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast, but three years in and I have no reason to think we won’t make it.

      Leslie set me on the right path, provided the support and growth that I needed to be able to handle my situation in the way I saw fit, and led me to other great resources like this page. I never worked with her one on one with the exception of one phone call when I was in a very dark place. I did participate in her Conquer group for a year, maybe two, but the cost was very low. Without her work I don’t know that I would have survived. My marriage definitely would not have.

      I have no doubt there are errors in her work, as I have no doubt that there are errors in anyone’s work. That is why personal knowledge and discernment are so important.

      Thank you for speaking up.

      • Hi Reconciled, welcome to the blog! 🙂

        This seems to be your first comment at our blog. I am wondering if you have looked at our blog before, or if this the first time you’ve looked at it.

        I’m also wondering something else…pls feel free to answer or not answer, I don’t want to make you feel pressured in any way. 🙂

        If years ago you had found our blog rather than finding Leslie’s work, would our work have been helpful in you figuring out how best to respond to your husband?

        I am glad to hear your husband has responded well to the boundaries and consequences you gave him, and that he is growing and that your marriage is still intact. You seem to be one of the very few lucky ones.

        Another thing I’m wondering is whether your husband would have fitted our definition of a domestic abuser.
        Here is our definition (we show in the sidebar of the blog, because it is so important):

        Domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.
* Sometimes the genders are reversed.

        A domestic abuser is a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very Domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.

        * Sometimes the genders are reversed.

        BTW, we like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

        And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

      • Reconciled

        Yes, my husband was abusive by your definition. Not all abusers are pathological or evil or unsaved. My husband had other underlying issues that resulted in behaviors that looked much the same as behaviors you see in a character disturbed person, namely a narcissist or borderline personality. These were issues he was unwilling to hear, unwilling to accept when pointed out to him, and unwilling to work on until the pain of the consequences of not doing so was greater than the pain of dealing his issues. I did NOT give him the benefit of the doubt about his behavior. I did NOT expect him to change. He has proven himself and it has taken him years.

        There were many resources that aided me in my journey out of abuse, Leslie’s material, Jeff’s book and this blog were part of that, as were materials from Lundy Bancroft, Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Chris Moles, and Patrick Doyle. All of these materials were invaluable to me, and although I don’t agree with everything in ANY of them, I recommend them to others. Also, they all came to me in the same time frame. I believe I read Leslie’s and Jeff’s books at the same time. I started reading this blog in the same time period.

        Leslie Vernick provided what no other resource, mentioned here, provided for me at the time. Namely, she provided affordable and ongoing personal support, not only through her video teachings and regular group phone calls, but also through an online support group. Most of the women I met through Leslie’s support group (over 500 women at the time I left) are in abusive situations where the abuser won’t change. As you said, I am one of the very few lucky ones. What Leslie gave each one of us is the tools to be our best self, to discern our own situations, and the freedom to make our own decision to leave or to stay. I wouldn’t be where I am today, which is a very good place and still growing, without her work. My marriage, which is also in a very good place and still growing, would not have survived without what I learned from her. So while all of the works I mentioned above were important aspects of my learning, growing, and understanding abuse, Leslie’s was the most pivotal and had the most impact.

      • Thank you for answering my questions in such detail, Reconciled.

        I appreciate the way you have commented in your two comments.

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