A Cry For Justice

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

Should wives submit to harsh husbands just like slaves submitting to harsh masters? (1 Peter 2 & 3)

[13] Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. [15] For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. [16] Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. [17] Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

[18] Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. [19] For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. [20] For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. [21] For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. [22] He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. [23] When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. [24] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. [25] For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

[1] Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, [2] when they see your respectful and pure conduct. [3] Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—[4] but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. [5] For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, [6] as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

[7] Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Peter 2:13–3:7  ESV

The Apostle Peter advises slaves to be subject to even perverse masters. How do we construe the ‘likewise’ in the instructions to wives that follow immediately after the instruction to slaves?

Peter is telling slaves to be subject to their masters even if the masters were harsh on them. (Some translations say ’servants’ but in that era servants were generally slaves owned by their masters, not wage workers.) If the master treated the slave harshly, the slave had no recourse because he or she was owned by the master. There were no rights for slaves in the Roman empire unless the master benevolently chose to grant them. The Mosaic Law had contained some laws that were designed to penalize brutal masters and to restrain them from being excessively harsh to their slaves. And it also set a time limit on slavery: the slave was to be released after seven years (unless he chose to remain with that master). But no such humanely moderating laws applied to slavery in the pagan Roman empire, in which the diaspora Jews to whom Peter was writing were living (1 Pet 1:1).

Since slaves were not free to leave their masters, Peter gave them advice on the attitude to adopt if their master was brutal:

If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

The mistreated slave could maintain an inner sense of personal dignity and self-respect by remembering that the way Christ suffered unjustly at the hands of brutal men was akin to the way he or she was being made to suffer unjustly. And while Peter is indeed telling slaves to submit, the tone of his message is not a harsh command — you MUST submit! Rather, it’s a tone of compassionate advice: Slaves: here’s a helpful attitude to have if your masters treat you harshly. This attitude will help you endure the mistreatment with inner dignity. Your master may treat you badly, but in your spirit you can have dignity and strength from knowing your fellowship with Christ.

It was positive and compassionate advice for slaves who, by law, could not leave their masters and had no recourse for any mistreatment they had to undergo at the hands of their masters.

Now, here is my point:  While slaves were owned by their masters, wives were not — and still are not — owned by their husbands. It is wrong, both historically and morally, to say that the ‘likewise’ at the start of chapter three means that wives MUST submit to mistreatment or abuse from harsh husbands. The socio-cultural situation of the wives Peter was addressing was different from that of the slaves.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter gave guidance for slaves in their social-cultural situation, and he then gave advice to wives in their socio-cultural situation. The ‘likewise’ refers to the fact that each portion of advice is suited to the socio-cultural situation of the group of persons to whom it was directed. The likewise does not indicate that the advice to each group is the same.

The advice to each group (slaves, wives, and later husbands) is clearly different! Compared to the situation of a slave to his/her master, a wife has more options when she is being mistreated by her husband. A wife may object to mistreatment, may resist or refuse to comply with harshness and abuse, she may leave an abusive husband. She may divorce him and marry another husband because she is not enslaved to the marriage contract (not under bondage — 1 Cor. 7:15). Peter implicitly points to this when he says in 1 Peter 3:6

you are Sarah’s daughters (an idiom for ‘faithful believers and followers of God’) if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

What could be more frightening than standing up to an abuser and telling him to stop it! That is pretty scary stuff.

It takes great courage to stand up to an abuser because when you tell an abuser to stop it, he escalates his abuse. So Peter acknowledges that wives may sometimes be in situations where they can (unlike slaves) choose between submitting compliantly/silently to harsh treatment, or standing up to it and refusing to comply with it. And that second option is often the scariest option — but it is the ‘good’ thing to do in some circumstances. (see last weekend’s post which is also about 1 Peter)

they [perverse husbands] may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

There is no guarantee, and the ‘may’ is a slender one in marriages where the husband is an abuser. The husband who is won without a word seems to typically be the husband who is just an unconverted guy with some degree of unconscious male privilege (it’s inevitable in most societies because male privilege is a ‘given’)  but he doesn’t exercise a pattern of coercive control over his wife.

In our observation, most abusers do not make much effort towards changing for the better while they are living with their target. Why bother, when the perks of controling the target are there for the taking? Many abusers seem to **realize** there is a serious problem only when their wife leaves. Then they suddenly start mouthing all the repentance and humility stuff.

By refusing to comply with abuse, the wife is doing good, being morally pure, trying to limit and curtail her husband’s sin and hold him accountable for it.

It is good to restrain sin and to try prevent it from running loose, is it not?

When a husband is entrenched in a pattern of egregious sin against his wife, the wife actually shows RESPECT for him by judiciously setting boundaries against his abusiveness and by employing justice and truth to hold the husband accountable.

She shows purity of conduct by refusing to comply with his deceitful and evil ways.

She can show respect and love for him by leaving him. Ellie has eloquently described this in her post I left him because I loved him,  and IamMyBeloved’s has applied Deuteronomy 13:6-11 in a similar vein in her post Nor shall your eye pity him.

Lastly, here is a clinching reason why the ‘likewise’ at the beginning of the wife’s passage does not mean that the wife must always submit without murmur to harshness, like slaves who have no option. The word ‘likewise’ occurs at the start of the husband’s passage as well. And there, it clearly does not import the idea that husbands are to submit to harsh or wicked treatment just because they are husbands! It carries on the meaning I have argued for: that Peter’s advice to husbands is suited to their socio-cultural situation.

And in the socio-cultural situation of husbands, what they need to be advised about is the need to live with their wives in an understanding way: not lording it over their wives, not being harsh with them (cf Col 3:19). By reminding himself that his Christian wife will inherit the kingdom just as much as he will, a husband will be reminded to not to think of himself as superior to her.

To make this point really crystal clear, allow me to re-order the passages in order of slaves, husbands, wives. This makes it clear that the ‘likewise’ is Peter’s way of saying “each of these instructions is similar in that each of them is appropriate to the class of people for whom they are intended.”

Viz:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

* * * * *

Note: I first published a shorter version of this in a comment I made on one of Ps Meadows’ notorious “Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism’  posts at the Reformed Baptist blog. Longstanding readers will remember that we critiqued Ps Meadows’ catechism here and here and here. All comments on Meadows ‘s catechism at the Reformed Baptist blog have now been removed by the owners of the blog, whose names they never reveal . . .
I’m glad I saved my comment! 

UPDATE: further reading

Nate Spark’s post Love and Respect and Proof-Texts contains some good analysis of 1 Peter 2:18–3:7  but please note that we do not necessarily endorse all of Nate Spark’s writings.

32 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    Barbara, As always, enlightening and truth telling. We are not slaves of our husbands, for those who remain married. We can stand up to them, set boundaries and even leave if necessary. Rewriting the words in my brain and continuing to rewrite helps me to tell others what is true.”You are not required by God to accept harsh treatment from your husband. I am not a slave.” Say it and repeat as often as necessary

    God bless you Barb, Ps Jeff and all who are reading this Lord’s Day.

  2. Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

    This was such an excellent, well thought out study of the passage. Thank you. My ex-husband wanted me to be a slave. He even gave me a bracelet I was suppose to wear that said “Slave” in little block letters. I showed it to my lawyer’s secretary so she could photograph it. She was appalled when she saw it and said “Did you throw it back in his face?” I had to answer “no”. I took it and discretely forgot to wear it or had a reaction to the leather. I didn’t realize it was wrong until I was out from his harsh yoke. I didn’t like it, and felt embarrassed by it but did not know it was wrong. Trying to explain that feeling to people who have never walked under the yoke of abuse is difficult.

    • HappyToBursting

      Wow. That was quite bold of him.

      I once ventured to ask my X why he wouldn’t help with a little cleanup after meals. Without even turning to look at me, he said, “Because your job is to serve me.”

      He also liked to set up impossible scenarios so that he always had something to point to to illustrate my unsubmissiveness. For instance, after meals I was expected to immediately clean up while he watched tv. I was also required to sit on his lap while he watched tv. Clearly I could not do both, so he unhappy either way and it was always my fault.

      As miserable as our “marriage” was, I hate to think how bad it would have been if I had understood these concepts early on and applied them. Of course, if I had understand them, I would have also understood that I didn’t have to stay and endure it. Thankfully my parents understood and helped me get out.

      • Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

        HappytoBursting, I had that exact scenario! Having to clean up from dinner and get the kids ready for bed all while supposed to be sitting at his feet beside him while he watched TV. Impossible, and how many nights I kept trying to do it all thinking that somehow I wasn’t fast enough but he would start to watch TV right after eating. That made it physically impossible.

      • Under the Waterfall

        I got similar answers from mine; I asked him why he couldn`t occasionally unload the dishwasher or transfer the laundry from washer to dryer if I was not home. He snottily asked me in disgusted tones `well, then, what is a homemaker FOR? He said this because he believed that since he was supporting me and I was staying at home, that I was asking HIM to do MY job. I explained that I actually didn`t mind doing the majority of the house related work for that reason, that I was a stay home wife. What I did mind was his mentality that he had a built in maid and mother who was just `supposed“ to pick up after him because that`s her job. Only occasionally, like say if we were having guests for Christmas would he help with vacuuming or something like that. But generally both he and the kids would just leave dishes and pop cans for me to pick up.

        He now will carry his dishes to the kitchen and take mine too, which is an improvement.But if I ask why he never exercises any initiative if say, the dish drainer is full of clean dishes or he sees the bathroom or kitchen garbage can overflowing, he will come up with something like `Okay, I will stay in side and do that if you do the tune up on the car or if you renovate the basement“. I don`t really expect him to do a whole lot in order to `prove` we have some kind of mutuality in our relationship, but I sure would appreciate it if he didn`t just always expect to be served but not have a servant`s heart. He will help with some things; carrying heavy stuff for me, building something I need, etc. His attitude if I ask him for something is like its a heavy burden that he is only doing VERY reluctantly; big sigh, shoulders slumping over, Eeyore expression on his face. It`s his stinky attitude that bugs me. He expects full service `wifing`no matter how badly he treats me but doesn`t expect that of himself, and he is mad because I don`t want to sleep with him. I actually did have normal desires for him in the beginning but years of being yelled at and bullied have rather removed that desire.

  3. Jeff Crippen

    Good stuff Barbara! Ha! I wonder how many abusers who demand “submission” from their victim act when they perceive THEY are being mistreated by their boss at work. Of course we all know that the famous double standard is a typical trait of the abuser.

  4. raswhiting

    “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are ***heirs with you*** of the grace of life,”

    Some translations use the term, “joint heirs” in verse 7. How much further from hierarchy and domination can we get! In no way are women slaves of “husbands”.

  5. Searcher

    Tolerating abuse will not usually stop an abuser. The nature of abuse is control, domination and misogyny. Yielding to an abuser will not cause them stop because they fail to recognize boundaries . They push and push the wife making increasingly unreasonable demands. Some may demand that the wife drop out of college and become a stay at home mom. The wife may seek work in the Sundayschool Department. Initially the husband may “allow” the wife to participate . He will eventually begin to grumble as he realizes that his wife enjoys working with other women in the church and the sense of community that this affords her.

    An abusiver is motivated by control and domination. Everything that happens in the home must resolve around him. Yielding to abuse makes the abuser worse. I had a “friend” at church who was abusive. I realized that this man was abusive years after meeting him. We spoke every week at church. His wife gave up many important aspects of her life for this man but the abuse became more severe. It is not possible to truly romantically love someone who is hurting you. The abuser is never satisfied because he wants more submission. The wife can never make the husband happy. I have come across many abusive men, most at church. They seem normal when you first meet them. Once you get past the fake charm you find a brooding angry man. An abuser may be placated temporarily but it cannot last. If I am the focus of my world, I cannot really be happy. I will always feel that something is missing. Instead of accepting my own brokenness, I lash out at those around me. I am not an expert but I have spoken to abusers and their spouses. These men are like bottomless drums. They are never satisfied.

    Also, I realized that these men are not really anyone’s friend. The secrets that they protect keep them from being authentic and open. Patriarchy hurts men as well as women. Men end up isolated from their families. Those who use the bible to justify hurtful actions or use certain texts to make someone feel that they should stay is wrong. The bible says that perfect love casteth out all fear. We should treat those who we claim to love with love and curtesy. Those who claim that God hates divorce are trying to protect patriarchy. A wife is not a doormat.

    • KayJay

      Searcher said, “Once you get past the fake charm you find a brooding angry man.

      Ain’t it the truth?! And true about not being/having friends…they depend on their victims to meet their every need, so they really can’t have/don’t need friends. They are too busy sucking the life out of their current Target. I wish I could discuss my personal experience in more detail, but each time I try, my brain fogs over…nothing coherent comes out. I’m keeping a personal journal, but even that is hard for me to look at, even when I’m writing in it. So thankful for this site and the commenters here, keeping it real!

    • PEARL

      “Once you get past the fake charm you find a brooding angry man. ” Watch a man’s jaw muscles, he can be smiling at you but if you see them working, he is seething inside.

  6. Nancy

    My separation from my husband became official last month when he moved out. All I can say is “Whew!” To some on the outside I look selfish, sinful, and in denial of those facts. On the inside, I and a select few know the whole truth. I’m glad it’s over- 32 years of torment, self-doubt, sadness, pain, losing myself, co-dependence, and emotional abuse. God has restored joy unspeakable to my heart and face; I look and feel lighter. God is able to speak directly to my soul about those sins I genuinely do have because I am able to listen without the filter of abuse and false-guilt.

    I realized the other day I’ve never had a life without an abuser. 53 is the new 20! I can breathe, walk in the Spirit, set a better example for my sons, and relax as Jesus is my husband and father and Savior.

    God bless your work,
    Nancy

    • Truthmatters

      Nancy,
      I can relate to your new sense of life. I’ve been separated from my soon-to-be-ex husband over 3 years now (after about 30 years of marriage) and I have people telling me I am so different from what I was before. They observe a happiness and joy about me that they never saw before, I look years younger than I used to, I have an interest in life that I hadn’t had for a long time, not to mention that I am in a better place financially. I also have a closer relationship with God and can relate to other people better because I don’t have that old dysfunctional relationship with my husband getting in the way. It only gets better as time passes! And I give God all the glory because He gave me the courage to get out of that crazy situation. And I am grateful for blogs such as this one that have helped me to grow by leaps and bounds in my understanding of the TRUTH from God’s word

  7. Thank you for this post…. very thought provoking.
    My husband thinks he owns me. I am HIS wife end of story. I have had things happen over the years where he has told me not to do what that guy said he is not your husband…you do what I say not him.
    still hear how wrong I have been over the years with my interactions with men. I am now scared to have anything much to do with males, friends or otherwise because of his reactions. There are many things I’ve done that still come back to bite me. I’m the naughty wife and he is the Saint that gets it so right. He looks good to everyone.
    I’m outspoken a lot of the times these days. I used to let things build up and allow so much abuse, thinking I was being the submissive wife, taking in the lectures and believing his complaints against me.
    Now, I hear his contempt when he makes remarks. (Subtle contempt) He has become cunning when he throws a verbal punch. So much undealt with stuff from his abusive home life as a kid and his thoughts toward me.
    These days my husband hardly smiles or laughs. He doesn’t share his feelings with me. He is negative (says he is a pragmatist) any ideas of making things better, or doing something around the house is met with an excuse for it not to be. I sense he is cold, non empathetic, contemptuous, angry. A man that feels his needs are not being meet…. by me. So much of it unspoken at the moment.
    I realize I cannot meet his needs and I never will be able to. I’m realizing that he has just about snuffed out my personhood. I’m a friendly outgoing person, he has caused me to not be like this around him. I am not outgoing and happy around him. This is something I’m coming to realize in recent times. I have lost the knowing of who I am as a person because I lived by what this post talks of. I submitted to him in every way.
    I have allowed him to be my master and I his slave (not by housework etc) but by me seeking to fulfill his needs, to make him happy, to try to make him smile etc.

    Very thought provoking post… thanks Barbara

  8. thepersistentwidow

    “You are Sarah’s daughters (an idiom for ‘faithful believers and followers of God’) if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

    Barb, you are so right. There is nothing more frightening than standing up against an abuser’s sin. We try to reason with them, we try to overlook or work it out, but ultimately we are standing against a wall of hatred and evil. I finally realized that I needed to take a stand because of the effects that my abuser’s actions were having on my children and the church I belonged to would not back me up. I didn’t realize that they were so legalistic until this crisis came up, so ultimately, I had to take a stand against them, too. At the time I was in the most confusing, lonely, and desperate time of my life. It was frightening!

    Because it was so frightening, I threw myself at the mercy of God. I tried to make godly decisions throughout the whole situation and I figured that wherever he took me, I was safe with him. Here I am five years later and happily I can testify that God was indeed faithful. He led me out of that wilderness, redeeming the worst situation into the best. I am in new church that has supported me with true Christian love and my family is happier, healthier, and free of abuse. I look back at that situation and see clearly that God worked all things for my good and am amazed! Leaving abuse is a real walk of faith and takes a lot of courage, but God takes care of his children as a kind father. We can trust him because he loves us.

  9. joyisnowfree

    My last wordss to my soon to be x was, “BASTA! (Spanish for enough) May The Lord rebuke you monster” I felt the boldness when I confronted him once and for all. Now the last time I received a text, he was using manipulative tactics to turn the tables on me and make me feel sorry for him. He even asked that I pray for him. I know his prayers are hindered because of his sin, but he knows it as well. I have chosen to ignore him and let Gid do all the fighting for me. It feels good to have God (my daddy) on my side. After all, we are the apple of His eye.

  10. Remedy

    Thank you, Persistent widow, for that powerful testimony.

  11. joyisnowfree

    I can relate to how you feel. My husband was very abusive in bed and tortured me mentally. I also seperated from him the firsr time and allowed him to return because I loved him. Through the years it wae bitter sweet (more bitter) and it was confusing to understand why I loved him and deep inside knowing that something was wrong with him. I would always ask God to show me the truth about his true colors. As painful as it is, God finally, in His perfect timing showed me his intent. What helped me more than anything was looking a the cover of the book “Not Under Bondage” and reading it’s significance. I knew then that many beautiful sisters were going through the same abuse and even though some have broken free, we were all confused at one point and would ask, “why does he do that, if he loves me” But Jesus would never treat us this way and His love is unconditional, pure, healthy and true, and He shows us through His actions daily. I tell the Lord, you are my true husband.

  12. IamMyBeloved's

    Good work again, Barb.

    I love – well not really – how well meaning Christians cry “If you leave him, how will he ever come to know Christ??” and “What about HIS soul??” as if staying and taking the sin of abuse will somehow bring him to Christ, or as if our dying for the sinner will somehow make atonement for him. We are not deity. We cannot atone for anyone. The question, “what about the victim’s soul”, never quite seems to make the list of questions that get asked. Absurd.

    The most “loving” thing to be done, according to the Word of God, is to get up and leave, confront and demand that the sin stop, by removing yourself from it. (Most abusive situations share the danger for the victim in staying and doing confrontation face-to-face with the abuser.) After all, once abuse enters a “marriage”, the covenant is broken and if the marital covenant is broken, you no longer have a marriage. Leaving or sending the abuser away, gives you the opportunity to see from a distance, if there is any hope for repentance and restoration, or if the abuse will just escalate. It gives you a chance to clear your own head and hear clearly from God what is His will for you to do – and then do it. It also just might give you a real sense of just how abusive the abuser really is. Trust me.

  13. rncsd

    My h. has used and still uses “you are my wife for life” which is possessive, ownership. He views himself as a slave to God. This came out of him a few years ago on a Sunday morning as he led worship. I have wondered if he transfers some of his beliefs onto me. No women should not submit as slaves to masters. When I married him I thought I was submitting out of love to him and that he would take care of me. Now after years of his patterns of neglect and abuse combined with his odd spiritual beliefs ( and counselor telling me ‘take care of yourself, he will never take care of you’ ), I no longer accept the wife-for-life. It’s really crazy making when I heard this, believed he loved me yet treated me with such scorn and contempt. Is it possible that what I have experienced for 27 years is his own personality disorder or frames of reference imposed on me? Do abusive men heap neglect and verbal insults on their wives because they really wish it on themselves?

    As I have sold my business location this year at a loss but to ‘take a breather’ and set a new course ahead, went on three volunteer mission trips and applied to grad school for PhD, my h. has been allowing me the space ( although it may threaten his ego, I am not seeing it yet. Which may emerge in January if I start coursework and the actual process towards the degree ). We go out in public less than an hour a week and live completely separate lives even though we share the same house. I think he knows that I am free to leave. ( I asked him to leave for a month two years ago then let him back in. Now I think he is on best behavior because he wants the house/farm ). He is a mens group leader for the pastor/church and I believe that he wants me to be like the other milk toast women at the church who seem neurotic if you ask me. But I will not. How do women keep it up, living like a slave to men who are not even close to Christ-likeness in their treatment of them? I can’t do it any longer.

    • Is it possible that what I have experienced for 27 years is his own personality disorder or frames of reference imposed on me?

      Dear RNCSD, whether or not he has a personality disorder is probably an academic question, and even if you knew the answer to it, it would not help you decide how to navigate your life from here on out. Personality disorders are notoriously hard to treat. That’s what psychologists and mental health professionals say. Some are more treatable than others (e.g. OCD is amenable to treatment if the treatment given is best-practice by a well trained OCD specialist.) But the kind of personality disorders that best ‘fit’ the abuser profile — antisocial PD, narcissistic PD, for example — are usually pretty untreatable.

      At this site, we tend to talk about ‘character disturbance’ rather than ‘personality disorder’. We use the term character disturbance because that is the term that Dr George Simon Jr uses (we have his name listed in our tags — if you want to read our posts about him search in our tags at the top menu.

      I would also recommend you read our posts on mental illness in abusers (another tag).

      Bottom line is, we usually find it more helpful to stop trying to psycho-analyze the abuser or pin him down with a mental health label. It’s more useful to understand his tactics, his mentality of entitltement, and his pattern of coercive control. Equipping ourselves with that understanding helps us come out of the fog and thus helps us make decisions for our own safety and well being.

      Do abusive men heap neglect and verbal insults on their wives because they really wish it on themselves?

      Personally I don’t think so. I don’t think they are masochists. They are more like sadists. And they have deficient or totally seared consciences.

      With abusers, most things are upside down and back to front and inside out. That’s why it’s so crazy-making being in relationship with one of them.

      And abusers frequently accuse their targets of the very sins they commit themselves. We call it breathing out lies, making false accusations, and blame shifiting. The Bible has a lot to say about false witnesses who breathe out lies. Check it out in the book of Proverbs.

  14. rncsd

    A few more thoughts come to mind to describe how I began to understand my h. view of me as his property and that I exist to serve him. If I picked up tree limbs after a wind storm or mowed the lawn before he got home from work I would hear “thank you for doing that for me”. That is one small example of him thanking me for working around the house. I responded a few times with “I didn’t do it for you”…”I live here too”. Well that went over like Vashti to Xerxes. Oh, speaking up, having an intelligent response or any opposing view expressed to my h. is not good. So I have learned to be more like Esther and maintain my composure, go about my business. He can have his kingdom ( workaholic ). But I do not work for him. I just returned from a 10 day mission trip on Sunday. My h. made it known to me that he cleaned the bathroom floor on his hands and knees because the linoleum was dirty. It was risky to respond but I did, “that’s the smallest room to scrub floor, do you want to tackle the kitchen next?” Wierd. So does this make him think that I feel valuable because I clean the floor and when I am away he’s willing to do it? The floor was only one of the items on the list of things he recalled doing: swept barn, laundry, bed linens, flipped the mattress. I love keeping my house clean but lived in. He is ocd. It’s his way. Fine. I am not his maid or slave. I will clean my house because I like to live in a clean house. He does not want to hear that I clean house for me. Oh, he even thanks me for taking out the trash can to the road for pickup. I do not put the trash out for him. My latest pet peeve is his “thank you” as a response when I say “I love you”. Just weird. I shutter and bristle in a way I hope he can’t detect.

  15. joyisnowfree

    Proverbs 19:19 – A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment. If thou deliver him, he shall do it again and again.

    When I first came across this scripture, I knew that God was speaking to me about my soon to be x husband. I couldn’t get this scripture out of my mind. As I began to meditate on my abuser’s rage and anger, I promised myself that if he would to reap the consequences for his behavior (such as going to jail or getting into a fight etc.) I would not interfere in rescuing him.

    But I think that for me, the scripture goes deeper than that. I came to the realization that by not stopping the abusive cycle, I was allowing him to continue in his anger and to lash at me over and over and over again. In a sense I rescue him by my permissiveness and he is free from correction or punishment from God.

  16. Dear readers thank you so much for all your encouragement. I’ve only just had time to read all the comments here (so busy with caring for my Dad.).
    I am so grateful for you all. The fellowship at this blog helps me just as much as it helps other readers here. 🙂

  17. Valerie

    I can relate to your story also. I left for a given amount of time (telling him the date I would return) so that he could think about the marriage and what he wanted. I was working with a counselor to help me navigate the best way to do this as a way for him to make the decision on whether he wanted to be married. I was in denial enough at the time that I actually thought he would fight for the marriage. When I got back he was more angry and cruel than ever. He also indicated that what he “learned” in my absence was that the problems were more my fault than he realized (said in so many words). He got quite vicious and hateful to the point there was no way I could be in the house with him. I no longer felt safe. Though he never hit me, when I saw the hatred in his eyes, his pride and how he mocked God, I felt he was capable of anything. I left again, not knowing what to do from that point but shortly thereafter he filed for divorce. His true colors have come out much greater since then and it has been nothing but shocking to see that I truly never knew the man I was married to all those years. Since getting out of the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) it is clear that he has been this way since we met but I didn’t want to believe it so I made excuses and believed the mantra that if I just “loved him more” that he would be won over. Being more loving and continually extending grace (while overlooking offenses) was only enabling him more to abuse and he kept getting more vicious and hateful the kinder I was to him. Truly surreal. It took getting out of the abuse to see it for what it was. I can hear God so much better than I could in that chaos and the Lord has been good to me! 🙂

    • PEARL

      “Being more loving and continually extending grace (while overlooking offenses) was only enabling him more to abuse and he kept getting more vicious and hateful the kinder I was to him.” The kindness of God leads us to repentance, he sounds just like Pharaoh, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by being kind to him too and it only proved how hard Pharaoh’s heart really was. Your husband’s hard heart was the problem.

  18. restinginhim

    I am so thankful that I have found this blog! I had to leave my husband almost 2 years ago due to increasing verbal/emotional abuse that was moving rapidly toward physical abuse. Though we have lived apart I have left communication lines open with him and continue to wait in hopes that he will seek help and we can begin reconciliation process. This journey has been so confusing as I have felt that I have been left on my own to figure this out.

    I felt I had support of my Pastor and his wife in the beginning but then it seemed they wanted no part of it after a year. I am not sure but possibly because my husband has stated many times that he is seeking the Lord and things like this. Yet he refuses to get counseling to deal with the root of the abuse, or anything else that i have stated needs to happen before we can work on the reconciliation process.

    I think my pastor and his wife wonder why I have not returned home after this long but yet are not willing to come out and tell me to just in case he hasn’t changed. It is hard because I have even mentioned that I really need some counseling to work through all of this and I was ignored. I just feel cut off where my marriage is concerned. My desire is to glorify the Lord in all that I do and not feeling that I can ever find clear direction is very confusing. As I pray and seek the Lord the only answer I feel I have received is be still and know that I am God.

    • Welcome Restinginhim, We are also glad you found this blog!!

      We like to direct all new commenters to our New User’s page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting.

      The confusion is so common with victims of abuse. May I suggest you keep learning about the abuser’s mentality and tactics. Also, we have a tag (see top menu bar) for ‘couple’s counseling’ that would direct you to posts we have that explain the dangers of couple’s counseling when dealing with an abuser. We find that most of our readers have more success speaking with a secular counselor who is knowledgable in the the area of domestic violence and abuse rather than a pastor or church leader as they typically do not have an accurate understanding of the nature of domestic violence and abuse and often times do more harm than good.

      Again, welcome! And keep commenting and reading. 🙂

    • Hi restinginhim, welcome to the blog 🙂

      I encourage you to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  19. My h said he doesn’t need me for anything. Just me being in the house, a warm body, is enough. He stays on the couch on the computer or tv most of his waking time after his job.
    He also states how he has given up EVERYTHING for this family. Yet says he has no needs. I’m the one with needs.
    1 Peter 3:6 says do not fear anything that is frightening.

    It’s finally more clear to me that the verse is talking about doing what God would have us do without fearing how man(or husband) will react to our doing. I’m still not clear what my doing is going to be but I feel confident God will show me and He is with me. I’m not alone.

    • It’s finally more clear to me that 1 Peter 3:6 is talking about doing what God would have us do without fearing how man (or husband) will react to our doing.

      you’ve got it! 🙂

  20. Nate Spark’s post Love and Respect and Proof-Texts contains some good analysis of 1 Peter 2:18–3:7

    … but please note that we do not necessarily endorse all that Nate Sparks writes.

  21. PEARL

    Barb,
    What if the slave mentioned in the scripture above is a Christian teen with a Roman master that liked having sex with men, which was very common, how did the Christian obey God? If he was the receiver of the sexual advances, he was deemed effeminate according to Romans 1. The master is obviously deemed a homosexual, never mind that he has a wife correct? I guess it’s a two part question.

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