A Cry For Justice

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

Thursday Thought — When Abuse Occurs the Rules Change

‘When the line has been crossed over into real abuse, the rules change and do a 180.’

I learned that from a child abduction and security expert when he was on a talk show.  The situation that security expert gave as an example was (paraphrasing): “We teach our children to be behaved and polite in public.  This is a good thing when they are with loving, safe, and protective adults.  If they’ve been abducted, or are in any danger, teach them the rules completely change.  If they are even brought to a grocery store, then start pulling boxes off the shelves and making a mess. . .anything to bring attention from other adults who could help.”

This is a simple, simple proviso for victims of abuse, and all pastors and counselors should be taught it.  It is also something all kindergartners should be taught. [comment posted on our Facebook by Danna Wright]


  1. OMG! I’m in a meeting at school and am tearing up. “The rules change.” No wonder abuse continues! I am a “rule-follower” so marriage books have simply perpetuated the “rules” that in an abusive relationship, don’t work. It is hard to accept that doing what you are SUPPOSED to do (be kind, be patient, be longsuffering, be slow to anger, love your neighbor, be respectful, etc) leads to more abuse. I venture to guess there are a lot of us “rule-followers” on this blog. I have also noticed that once you “get it” and STOP following the rules, you are looked upon as rebellious! Well, then, call me rebellious. But that would be a misnomer. I am a “truth-follower.”

    • freeatlast8

      YES YES YES, Debby. I, too, am a rules-girl. I agree with every word you wrote, especially, “It is hard to accept that doing what you are SUPPOSED to do (be kind, be patient, be longsuffering, be slow to anger, love your neighbor, be respectful, etc) leads to more abuse.”

      I wonder if most of us “victims” are cut from the same cloth personality-wise. Maybe someone should create a test of sorts that women can take that would evaluate their propensity towards an abusive man.

      My counselor told me to consider this:

      You “think” your abuser thinks like you do. You value kindness, love, respect, friendship, harmony, etc. Most other people do, too. The problem is that some people don’t value those things in the same way as you; yet YOU think they do, and even expect that they do. You cannot suppose others think like you. Doing so will only cause you constant distress and exasperation.

      This was maddening because in my Utopian mindset, most people do value those ideals, especially when they profess to be Christian. Those ideals are part and parcel of the make-up of a Christian.

      So, it is crazy confusing to be married to someone who calls himself a Christian, someone you do life with for years and years, yet who does not embody the fruits of the Spirit–all the while, they expect the fruits on YOUR tree to be ripe and constantly in season.

      This has helped me to understand the entitlement mindset that is spoken about here at Crying Out for Justice. The abuser does NOT think like us, even though he looks normal, can act normal, and can be high-functioning in most capacities…yet in at least this ONE area, he does not think like what most folks would call “normal.”

      You mentioned you are a “truth-follower.” I agree. I have found several female truth-followers in the Bible since I divorced. They are: Esther (in courage she stood up for her people); Vashti (she stood up for herself to a drunken king); Abigail (stood against her foolish husband, fed the king and his men, and saved her family); Eunice, Timothy’s mother (she became a believer while married to a Greek non-believer and effectively raised their son to be a man of God…wonder how that went over in her household??? Her son even became circumcised to be more like the Jews to win them to Christ. I wonder how his unbelieving dad felt about that?) And of course, Mary, Jesus’ mother who followed the truth in spite of all the fallout. There are other heroines in the Bible, but these are the ones I have encountered in recent months.

      These ladies did NOT follow the rules (so to speak), and (with maybe the exception of Vashti…depending on your interpretation of her circumstances) they are all celebrated in the Bible as good examples! It helps me to read about these women who were also “truth-followers” who broke away from the “rules” of the day and followed their hearts toward righteousness. I suppose the abusers of their day might have called them “rebellious.”

      Part of my healing process has been to believe this about myself:

      For God has not given us a spirit of FEAR, but of power, and of love, and a SOUND MIND. As victims, we wallow in fear, weakness, and doubt. These are NOT mindsets the Bible says we should have. I love reading about courageous women in the Bible who exercised courage, strength/power, love, and a THE ABILITY TO THINK AND ACT FOR THEMSELVES with a sound mind. I really have to get the “sound mind” part down. Mental and emotional abuse can really strip away at your psyche.

      • SeeClearerNow (prev NotHeard)

        Thanks Freeatlast8 for those examples of faith that we can model. Risk taking, rule breaking, truth seeking brave women. My personal favorite is Rahab who is listed in the Faith hall of Fame Heb 11. Was she ever out of her comfort zone to face her fears! But she followed her intuition instead of the herd mentality of everyone around her, grabbed hold of the opportunity when it came and didn’t let go! I’m sure she had her doubts at some point that she was doing the right thing..its only human when you risk EVERYTHING ..think of all the ‘what if’s’ that could have put her off!! ‘Betraying’ her country to follow what she knew in her heart to be right…the parallels are striking! Vashti was definitely a rule breaker too..she could’ve lost and maybe did lose her head to stand for what she knew was right, in a country where the king was the law.. Funny thing, I always remember her being portrayed as evil as a kid, for ‘disobeying her husband’, forerunner to modern day feminists!! Too bad if she had moral standards and convictions of her own!

      • foundinhim

        Question, regarding being of “sound mind”: what do you do if you have gotten your words confused or misspoken a couple of details about abusive incidents – and your credibility with your church leaders is destroyed? I am being urged to confess lying. My elders & counselors suggest that my struggle with fear leads to me say things that aren’t true – in order to get attention. I understand that its important to be as accurate as possible. I understand that fear can make it hard to think and speak clearly. I also understand simple human error. Any advice on how to respond regarding accidentally misspoken words/details?

      • Seeing Clearly

        Regarding your question about your credibility with church leaders. I would first question if they our responding to you with compassion or with judgement. And a red flag goes up that they are perhaps being given too many details. Details that they like to gather to use against you in deference to your abuser. Jesus addressed just this kind of scenario when He drew in the sand and sifted through those, if any, that had not sinned as being the one to throw the first stone. It would be foolish to mention such scripture to church leaders who are bullying you.

        People tell us all we need to know if we will listen past the face value of their words and body language. I think maybe these church leaders are really telling you that they specialize in bullying. They are telling you that they do not have your best interests at heart. They are telling you to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction and don’t look back.

        We are reading too many of theses same types of scenarios at ACFJ to assume they are genuine servants of a holy God. How dare they have such intimidating conversations with you. You do not owe them any explanations or apologies. If you did intentionally speak incorrectly, privately ask God to forgive you with a repentant heart. God will forgive you.

        From now on, if your words begin to get tangled, it is probably a tool you can use to simply stop talking, take a deep breath and gather your thoughts. Your conversation can draw to a close right there. When our thoughts are soaring and swirling in the lies and manipulation from our abuser, it is no wonder that our speech is less than pinpoint. It is one of the subtle, often overlooked effects of abuse. We are made to look feeble of mind, though we are exceptionally bright people to be able to adapt to life with abusers. We are amazing, come to think of it.

      • My elders & counselors suggest that my struggle with fear leads to me say things that aren’t true – in order to get attention

        I would respond to them by saying something like this:
        Yes I am in fear — for good reason! My husband is abusing me, and you, my counselors and elders are distrusting and suspicious of me. I did not mis-speak any of those details in order to “get attention,” I did it purely out of fear and anxiety due to the abuse, and due to the fact that no-one fully believes that I’m being abused. By accusing me of “seeking attention” you are insulting me. And you are showing me that you do not understand trauma — you don’t grasp how much those who are afflicted by abusers can be affected by the abuse tactics. Please read Jeff Crippen’s book if you want to understand abuse better.

        And if you formed the idea that I was lying to manipulate, where did you get that idea? Was it put into your heads by my husband? If so, why are you giving him credit for telling the truth and seeing things clearly, when I am telling you that he is abusing me? Don’t you know that abusers breathe out lies as a matter of course? Don’t you know that they try to manipulate bystanders to enlist them as allies?

      • Seeing Clearly

        Bravo, Barbara
        This is exactly what should be said to those ‘c’ leaders.

      • Still Reforming


        Others have already given you wise counsel on your matter, but I want to jump in here to just make a couple of observations that hit me right off the bat reading your account.

        (1) Liars don’t present themselves as you did. In other words, you didn’t come forward in defensiveness or justifying what you’ve said. Those are tactics of liars. You came forward with a sense of self-doubt, consternation, wondering what to do… etc. Those are the hallmarks of someone who has been twisted around and manipulated.

        (2) Your elders and counselors are not hearing you properly. It never ceases to amaze me that someone in that kind of position of authority, who is there ostensibly to help others, can say things to you like, “your struggle with fear leads to your lying.” If they know you struggle with fear they need to begin to ask why you are afraid – not wield their power over you into making a false confession. I agree with what the others have said. Run from these Pharisees. They’re only interested in controlling you, not helping you. You owe them NOTHING. The Lord seeks those to worship Him in truth and in Spirit. They are not men of truth. Those who unintentionally get facts wrong aren’t liars, but confused people. (And never forget that confused people are easier to control, which is the end game of the narcissist-abuser: control of his target.) Run, don’t walk. Do not pass Go and collect $200. Flee to your Savior and to a safe place.

        (3) Re: advice to how to respond regarding accidentally misspoken words? Those aren’t lies if they’re not intentional, and these elders and counselors should know that. They haven’t given you appropriate counsel to date, so don’t expect them to change if you go back to them and say that you have misspoken. You probably are already getting an inkling that they don’t care about you – so don’t give them more ammunition. Don’t give them the hammer (the information) to hit you over the head with. You know in your heart that you didn’t lie but are confused. So take your sweet self and that information and get thee to a safe place – somewhere people love you enough to value your words and not beat you over the head with them. You’re giving them the benefit of the doubt. It’s time to turn the question around and ask yourself, “Why aren’t they doing the same (giving the benefit of the doubt with you?” Because they too like control. You aren’t trying to control anyone – and you still have the control over your own choices. I’ll keep you in prayer that God grant you the wisdom and discernment needed in this situation as well as the comfort level and peace to know that as a child of the Creator of the universe, you are highly valued by Him.

  2. Lisa

    A counselor told me once that I was an extremely obedient person. It was in the context of me not knowing that I needed to make my own decision about leaving a destructive marriage and being a “rule-follower” as Debby mentioned. Well, I certainly was a good sinner in other areas, but the so called “marriage rule book” played in my mind. Someone else had told me that I don’t know how to fight. So, I reflected on all that and learned how to stand up for me. All those scriptures we read and hear kept me stuck until I began to allow myself to hear God in the Spirit. Those very same scriptures used by the scribes that I was using myself in that wrong way, became my weapons of warfare as God spoke to me personally. I had to learn to allow myself to hear God in ways that seemed contrary to what I was believing. Yup, that was a 180 degree turn that led me out. And, the Lord used this blog site to confirm what HE said to me many times. This process gave me a whole new understanding of what we mean when we say the WORD is ALIVE!

    • Seeing Clearly

      We all like compliments. Growing up, two of my outstanding traits were being a rule-follower and being extremely nice. My innocence is gone, I now know that abusers looking for a wife, prey on nice rule-followers. I don’t know if it is something that they consciously look for, or if it is tightly woven into their evil make-up, or both. Maybe someone could give me their thoughts on that.

      • Valerie

        From my understanding it seems abusers absolutely look for someone they feel they can control….someone compliant. This works to their favor for more reasons than the obvious. At some level many of them realize they don’t fit into society and so in a marriage partner they look for someone who will essentially build good PR for them (both to look good to the outside world and for him to enjoy the image of his partner he’s mirroring by ascribing to himself their positive qualities). This all relates to their specific areas of interest. For instance, if the abuser wants to be known as a godly man he will choose a wife who exhibits those qualities, knowing it will be a reflection on him to a degree. Its the image he wants to present that’s important and not all abusers desire the same kind of image. Some may not care about religion and instead want to have an impressive status. He then may marry someone in politics, a lawyer, CEO, etc…someone with connections so he can brag about “who he knows”. But essentially they need someone compliant. If the target is boisterous and vocal that’s fine so long as he feels a fairly secure assurance he knows her Achilles’s heal to eventually force her to compliance. And for some the game of getting a seemingly confident person to point of compliance is half the fun. Pure evil.

      • Valerie

        I should clarify that what I described is more about abusers who also have NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and not the garden variety abuser…though it seems a high percentage of abusers also actually have NPD.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Thank you Valerie, Your evaluations make sense. It is the NPD that I was more or less thinking about.

    • freeatlast8

      Yes, Lisa. I am currently in this place…the place of renewing my mind. I still get loopy when I try to get at the heart of the truth on this matter. I need more understanding. Barbara or Jeff, could you please direct me to some articles for obedient rule-followers who need freedom…similar to what Lisa said here:

      “A counselor told me once that I was an extremely obedient person. It was in the context of me not knowing that I needed to make my own decision about leaving a destructive marriage and being a “rule-follower” as Debby mentioned. All those scriptures we read and hear kept me stuck until I began to allow myself to hear God in the Spirit. Those very same scriptures used by the scribes that I was using myself in that wrong way, became my weapons of warfare as God spoke to me personally. I had to learn to allow myself to hear God in ways that seemed contrary to what I was believing. Yup, that was a 180 degree turn that led me out. ”

      I posted something related to this just after Debby’s post above. I am just beginning to get my head wrapped around this new truth, but would love to see more about it.

      Thanks for your help!!!

    • standsfortruth

      FoundInhim, Cant you simply explain that you were not being intentionally deceptive?
      (If thats what they are trying to imply)
      Just let them know that you are willing to be up front about it, and clear up any misunderstandings.
      Everybody makes mistakes, but honest people are willing to admit them.

      • foundinhim

        I have done that, gone back and specifically addressed that. They say unintentionally being inaccurate is still sin – and slander.

      • well since they say that, they are clearly hard-hearted and don’t deserve to be in the role of shepherds. Therefore, you don’t have to heed them.

      • Seeing Clearly

        I wholeheartedly agree!

      • foundinhim: It is clearly time to “wipe the dust from your feet.” They are blinded by their own self-righteousness. Leave them to their reprobate mind. They are siding with the oppressor and helping to perpetuate the abuse. You don’t owe them ANYTHING. God is your witness and He is hearing it all, seeing it all and loving you through it all.

    • standsfortruth

      And by the way Foundinhim,
      Be sure to warn these same people not to find themselves- straining at the “gnat” of a few details, while swallowing the “whole camel” of abuse!

      • standsfortruth

        I am sorry you are going through this.
        Gee Wiz, they are trying like anything to blameshift and trivialize that which is the weighter matter.
        I think i know where they are going with this. ( since I share a common history with what you are going through.)
        I think you are in the “share the blame” stage for the marriage breakdown.
        Not only does this take the heat off of the church leaders to do justice, but it takes the focus and the heat off of the abuser to be held accountable for what he has done, and puts you in the same “sin boat” with him.
        The next phase usually is co-counsiling, (bad advice)
        But I would bail now if they wont even acknowledge the elephant in the closet issue of abuse.
        You deserve a church that will vindicate your reality, or at least one that isnt full of blind guides that are not addressing the truth.

  3. joyisnowfree

    What are the ways to bring attention to those that surround us for support, without being labeled a troublemaker. The abuser can use that excuse for blameshifting.

    • SeeClearerNow (prev NotHeard)

      A helpful piece of advice I received a while ago was ‘state your truth quietly’ not bowing to the ‘code of silence’ but having the courage to honestly but simply answer the old cliche ‘how’re ya goin?’ If they want to know more they’ll ask. I found if I say too much they can’t absorb it and I end up looking erratic or paranoid! A small but potent step.

  4. Seeing Clearly

    Thank you for giving us the tools to help protect and educate our children and grandchildren .You are so right that the rules change when abuse occurs. I hadn’t been able to verbalize that succinct truth and guideline. Now it seems so simple in my mind. I need to continue to instruct my young grandchildren in simple terms, and never take for granted that each year of their life affords greater understanding of what we teach them. By that, I mean, that the conversation can continue to have more specifics of what qualifies as abuse and that anyone can be an abuser in their life.

  5. Anonymous

    Good post. Another thought. Abusers often will remind victims when we are not acting very charitable or up to Christ-like standards (rules), however, they think nothing of breaking the rules required to live in harmony??

  6. StandsWithAFist

    This is a much-appreciated affirmation. My abuser crossed-over to my disabled child; that’s went I went NC. It was one thing to abuse me (I know, unacceptable, but the learning curve was steep…) but to drag my vulnerable kid into this evil dance? To use him like that? Exploit his innocence?? That was the point of no return. That was the 180. I will never, ever, ever, ever allow her near him again and I am unapologetic about it. Cross that line, and I. Am. Done. Period. NC. It’s a “package deal”: abuse me, abuse my kid, NC. No apologies.

    Thank you, TWBTC.

  7. Stillblessed

    As I was working on my healing a few years ago, I was learning that it’s possible to be ‘too nice’. I wrote “too nice is NOT a virtue” on my mirror, so I would be reminded every day that it was okay to speak the truth in love, even when those around me would maybe consider that I wasn’t being ‘nice’. It was so much easier to hide from conflict than to speak up, but I have become a lot stronger since realizing the truth that following other people’s rules just might not be Scriptural after all – even if they do have Bible verses that they believe back them up.

  8. Still Reforming

    May I ask for some counsel here? My attorney suggested to me yesterday that as part of settlement he’d suggest a joint counselor for my abuser and me. I know that counseling isn’t recommended here (and I’ve been through several marital counselors already; Because he lies in counseling – and is still lying – it’s always been counter-productive). But I don’t know what to do. When I suggested a domestic abuse counselor with whom I’d already met once (and he suggested a psychiatrist for the abuser, which was nixed by my attorney as potentially seeming aggressive against the abuser to the judge), the attorney said since I’d already met with him once he’s out as a counselor for us – even meeting separately as a counselor – because it would be viewed as if the water is tainted against the abuser already. I don’t want to go to counseling AGAIN – especially ostensibly for “developing a joint mantra” to tell our child (“this isn’t about you; it’s not your problem,” etc.), as my attorney wants – because she’s smarter than that. She knows what’s going on already. She doesn’t need a mantra. Is it advisable to go to counseling AGAIN – even if separately – with some psychologist or psychiatrist (whose views would NOT be honored by the court, I’m already told, lest we go back again after the upcoming court date). In fact, the psychologist recommended for my husband by the domestic abuse counselor was nixed by my attorney yesterday because he wants her to be available at some other future court date as yet unknown (if ever). Do I agree to counseling in our settlement even though it’s against my better judgment – knowing it won’t result in a single thing except emptying my pockets further?

    • Seeing Clearly

      Still Reforming,

      It isn’t clear to me exactly if you have hired this attorney to legally settle your divorce. If this is your attorney’s role, your attorney needs to get your divorce finalized succinctly, neither looking right nor left. His/ her expertise is legal matters and should not dabble in relationship fixing. I would be adamant about absolutely no more contact with your abuser, in or out of a counseling office.

      The courts are not interested in what you or your spouse do in your spare time. The attorney is trying to waste yours. Many attorneys are not at all versed on narcissism as it relates to relationships/marriage. It appears that your attorney just doesn’t get it. Feel free to ask him/her to stay on task and quit wasting your money in delay.

      When the divorce is final, I would imagine you and your children may do well to seek guidance in adapting to all that has transpired and what lies ahead. Also, you may benefit from a personal counselor right now to gain confidence in your ability to make the best choices for you.

      You made a good choice to come here for affirmation of your gut feeling. Keep moving forward . We’re with you.

      • Mary

        Still Reforming,
        I totally agree with Carol’s statement: “Feel free to ask him/her to stay on task and quit wasting your money in delay.” Having gone through a similair situation with my attorney during my divorce. Spending way too much money on one more counselor that revealed, yet again, I was not the crazy one.
        Now I work in the court system and see that attorneys, especially Christians, can feel like they have to do all they can, in good conscience (right?), to keep the marriage together. But there is an underlying monetary gain. Call a spade a a spade…move the case along.

      • Still Reforming

        From what I can tell, my attorney(s) definitely do not get narcissism. I think the request for counseling is all for the sake of appearances, and that’s where I struggle with doing it (that and I know that it would be to no real avail).

        My daughter is already in counseling. I got her a good counselor as soon as I could see where this was going so she’s been counseling for nearly half a year now with a super pediatric counselor who has been helpful to me as well.

        They also have “Christian” counseling at this center, but I’m wary of that term used, as two marriage counselors billed as “Christian” turned out to be duds in the past. However, I was able to hear some of the chatter about God when I was paying for last week’s visit and I was encouraged by what I heard from the founder of the group center speaking with the receptionist and my daughter’s counselor. And this pediatric counselor has helped me to try to see the situation in new ways – trying to find creative ways to get our/my goals achieved while working within the legal system.

        Our last session (I sit in on my daughter’s sessions and we all talk, at my daughter’s request) included a discussion about bullying and what can we do about it. The question was posed as if in a school setting – although it was clear to us all we were really talking about my husband/her dad – and my daughter replied she’d seek help from the authorities. To which the counselor replied, “And what if the authorities don’t help you or let you down?” We determined together that it’s best to try to still stay within the system to work out more creative solutions, perhaps trying to use the opponent’s weaknesses against him. So that’s got me thinking…. and the Lord may be giving me some food for thought along that vein.

      • Still Reforming

        Yes, Carol, I have to say – so far I’m not impressed with this law firm. Although I think they’re trying to do what’s best to get as much out of the judge’s hands and into my/(our) own hand(s) before our court date, they’re clueless about abuse and abusers. I don’t feel as though I’m being adequately represented or defended so much as managed and pressed upon.

        My child and I are in counseling – mostly for her, but I’ve been greatly helped as well by the pediatric counselor. Thank you for the affirmation and validation of my gut feeling re: counseling for the abuser and me. I will take that advice with me into my settlement meeting next week. Thank you for standing alongside me during this time.

    • SR, sorry, I don’t have any words of wisdom to offer here. The US system is so different from the Aussie system.

      • Still Reforming

        Thanks, Barbara. I’ve lived in Oz way “back in the day” (late ’70s and early ’80s) – initially in Perth and later Melbourne. Lovely land and people. I hope to bring my daughter back there someday so she can enjoy the Land Down Under as well.

    • Still Reforming, I suggest consulting with the domestic abuse counselor that you liked and ask him for a referral. He might have a like-minded colleague you could work with that the court would approve of.

      • Still Reforming

        Thank you all. Thepersistentwidow, I’m glad that I asked the question here. You see, the domestic abuse counselor is the only one who I think would see my husband for who he is and “get it.” He’s read Lundy Bancroft’s books and attended workshops with Lundy. And yes, perhaps he would have a like-minded colleague that the court would approve of at a later date. This DA counselor did recommend a psychiatrist (and specific tests for my husband, based on the facts of our case – they included a psycho-sexual test and some kind of parenting or family test). My attorneys nixed that as appearing too aggressive before the judge. (Interestingly, my husband has filed two motions against me, so we’ll see how the judge perceives those. If favorably, then I wonder if the bias for the husband and “father’s rights” won’t be glaring.)

        In thinking this all through, I pondered why do the counseling thing at all if judges or lawyers have so little respect for the profession that an initial visit from me would be seen as “tainting the waters”? If that’s the case, then they must think very little of professional counselors if they can be so easily swayed. Why recommend counseling at all? I suspect that it’s for how it appears on paper.

        I’m frustrated by the fact that on the one hand our judge is described as NOT respecting counselors or psychiatrists, but on the other hand I’m supposed to agree to joint counseling for the sake of appearing agreeable and pleasant and easy-to-work-with, etc, but….. for what? To go to counselors who this judge doesn’t respect anyway?

        Thanks for the voice of reason. You are right. If counseling is pressed upon me by my attorneys (who more and more sound like they’re representing my husband), then I’ll stick to my guns for the DA counselor with whom I’ve already met.

  9. Ellen

    So very true!

    I often wish I had pulled boxes off the shelves right out in public so that people would know that something was terribly wrong. I even thought at times how great it would be to stand up right in the middle of a sermon and challenge the pastor for the way that I was being treated.

    “When abuse occurs the rules change.” I should have followed the new rules!

  10. outofthefog

    I continually tell my spouse that the rules have changed. We are seperated & I have given myself a year (not much left of that year now) before I make any important decisions. However, he continually says “we are married therefore I am head of household & you” & things like “you still need to get my ok for all decisions” & of course ” since we are married we still need to be intimate”. I tell him again the rules have changed now. He says “show me where it says that in the bible & I will abide by it”.

    I know it is lame but I look at him and don’t have a clue what to say or how to back up my statements. I know there are so many over arching things in the bible that deal with sin that could apply but I honestly just want to point him to concrete things and I can’t. I then go back to questioning everything he says about me not be a biblical wife, not reading scripture right, not being submissive, being willful/prideful blah, blah, blah. So weary of his constant accusations, hammering for scriptural back-up etc. I want to do what is right but sometimes I just don’t know if holding him accountable, setting boundaries & saying “NO MORE” was the right thing. He is the master scripture twister & in his extreme narcissism now sees himself as the victim. A view not one of his friends (ex), family members, or church of 1000 would agree with. Help!

    • standsfortruth

      Out of the fog,
      It sounds like he is projecting and trying hard to redefine your perceptions.
      Mine was quite good at this and even Interrupted my sleep patterns to wear down my defences even more.
      I ended up putting locks on a room in the house, so that I would have a “saferoom” where I could go and feel safe and think straight and sleep if necessary.
      Are you journaling or writing down what has been going on so you can look at it later and reflect ?
      Sometimes I cant journal, ( due to time constraints), but I make what i call “dated headlines” that I later go back on and fill in the details, when i do have time.
      This will help you when you feel overwelmed as to see why you are initiating seperation.
      It is hard especially when they want something because they intensify durring that time. (perhaps he is cycling?)
      They can be so good at spinning the truth that you begin to doubt your own.
      Kind of like How on the Wizzard of Oz, when Dorothy was trying to make it with her friends through the flower fields to the castle. (Seeking her truth)
      But as she had the castle in plain view and was getting closer, a spell was cast, by the evil one to divert her, make her sleepy to stop her from seeing her truth.
      This is similar to what the abuser does to the targets reality.
      They work hard to redefine our truth for their end goal.
      For Power and control over them.
      I also had to impliment the “grey rock method” because if I didnt, I was constantly being bombarded by his distractions to wear me down.
      Perhaps once you establish a boundary or two, you can start to observe his tactics, so you will recognize the pattern.
      Praying for strength and discernment for you.

      • Still Reforming

        standsfortruth (love the screen name, btw. Reminds me of Martin Luther – “Here I stand; I can do no other.”)

        Remind me again of what the grey rock means, if you would please. That sounds like some visual I need these days.

        Like your testimony, threatening sleep is what my abuser took to doing not long before he fled, and changing locks was suggested by a friend during that time. It never got to that, but I did start journaling intensely at that time. No longer did I apply “Love keeps no record of wrongs” in the wrong way, although it took some time after that point to learn more about its right application (here, in a very good post by JeffC: What Does “Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs”)

        I like your idea of dated headlines – in a pinch. I find myself jotting down what I can remember and then writing more the next day or so as memory and sanity serve.

      • Hi Still Reforming,

        Remind me again of what the grey rock means,

        ACFJ has a post titled The Gray Rock Method that you may find informative.

      • And because of the alternate spelling grey/gray, you can find mentions of grey rock, or gray rock, by putting either of the phrase into the search bar. 🙂

      • standsfortruth

        Still Reforming, grey rock has been helped me immensely. It puts a stop to all the distractions that the abuser creates to keep his target “off balance”.
        Intrestingly enough, before I found this site, I was frequenting the 180 phychopath site because there were so many parallels that described my abuser.
        And thats where I found the “Grey Rock Method” first mentioned, and started using it back then, because it gave me a reprieve from all the manufactured chaos .
        The administrator of that site had been getting some angry emails from my abuser on the side, (yes he tries to cyber stalk me) so she emailed me to let me know that I must be doing something right, because if he wasn’t an abusive person, he would have respected my choice to grey rock him.
        She said normal people respect your right to grey rock. Abusive people don’t.

    • Seeing Clearly

      You have given yourself a year to make important decisions. I applaud you for setting yourself aside for a year. The word “distraction” comes to mind. It sounds like the tactic of distraction is in full play. He is like a child pestering his mother when he is bored. Or when mother is really trying to concentrate on something important, he wants attention right then, whining and tugging at her clothes, crying if necessary. If his mom tries to stop the distraction by putting the preschooler in his room behind a closed door, he will bang on the door and scream. A preschooler doesn’t know the question/answer distraction tactic, the child doesn’t know that tossing scriptural questions around is an option. The child still assumes the Bible is God’s Word. It is his connection to Jesus and Jesus loves.

      Does this look at all like your abuser in a very flimsy way? It is in large part distraction so that you won’t concentrate and decide to banish him from your life. Perhaps.

      Stay on track. This year is not about him, it is about you. It isn’t about the Bible, it is about you. It is about what you want for your life. God is not concerned if you can get all of your abusers questions right. God is concerned that you value yourself enough to sit in “quietness” with yourself so that you can hear yourself and hear God.

    • Fog: I could go into a very long “my story, what I’ve learned” but no need bc what you are struggling with sounds so like me that I believe our stories may have a LOT in common. 28 yrs of verbal/emotional abuse (no physical but lots of manipulation and control. I think in some ways, when there is NOT physical abuse, and hubby is taking his fam to church and highlighting his Bible, we have a harder time really seeing the abuse for what it is, but it is just as devastating to the spirit!) 22 yrs of “being submissive, doing my best, always trying harder to please, going to couseling, reading marriage books, going to marriage semninars/classes (he was always willing to go, he just never applied any of “his” part but used alot of the info to remind ME what I needed to do better but he felt REAL good that he was “trying” by showing up for classes. He felt it was a “REAL sacrifice but that’s just the kind of guy I am” attitude) to try and “fix” our marriage, to get him to stop treating me and our 3 kids so badly.

      Then 7 more years of the fog slowly lifting, then this last year, some HUGE breakthroughs. I am seperated, living in another room for 5 mths now and getting the same kinds of manipulation tactics being used against me (but I recognize them so they dont affect me near as much any more) You sound like you are in that stage where you are still spending a lot of time scrutinizing YOU and YOUR actions and I venture to guess you have already done this for years, looking at yourself, what YOU can do “better” looking at every event where you lost your temnper or acted in any way “unChristlike” and feeling guilty that you weren’t “better” and that hub is more than happy to keep you there by constant reminders of your imperfections etc. (Just a hunch based on personal experience) I humbly suggest you stop looking so hard at you right now and look at what God says in His Word about spouse’s role, what that should look like, sound like. I think it will give you some balance and perspective to see what is really going on. Here are some steps that finally led me out of the fog:

      1) I have read and contiue to read EVERYTHING that Jeff and Barbara post. LOTS of sound, Biblical, LOGICAL, “getting to know the true heart of God” Bible lessons have helped combat the “cherry-picked verses, followed by a sermon (man’s interpretation of what God REALLY means by that verse) that have virtually brainwashed me (and most other people in the church) into believing twisted half-truths and gross misinterpretations/misrepresentations about marriage, my role, hubs role, submission, headship, covenant, etc.” There were many times I would read something they (ACFJ) wrote and (being honest here) it was such a different perspective, my mind sort of rebelled and I thought “That CAN’T be right. That’s just so DIFFERENT from what I have been taught all these years. How can all those Bible teachers be wrong?! And it was uncomfortable! Seeing truth after YEARS of lies is difficult. But over time it began to seep into my subconscious and was making so much sense I had to take it seriously and do some more study.

      2) God had to get me to the point where I valued MY relationship with HIM, instead of constantly trusting in others’ relationships with God to “interpret” for me and tell me what God was “trying to tell me and what I should do.” I was de-valuing God’s love for ME, His ability to get through to me via His Word and the Holy Spirit, and depending on Man to tell me. THat’s like playing telephone only instead of allowing God to DIRECTLY speak to me (I didnt think I was worthy, knowledgable, really afraid of “missing what He was saying”) I put more faith in OTHERS to get the message to me and we all know how that goes in telephone. The message is distorted/twisted. This revelation (that He is NO respecter of persons and He values our relationship just as much as His relationship with Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll, my pastor, etc.) has vastly improved my feeling of closeness and intimacy with God.

      3) I took a break from looking at ME, picking on my own imperfections, scrutinizing my every thought and action (I now know this came from a feeling of “not deserving God” and a spirit of legalism that says I have to earn His love and acceptance. You could have knocked me over with a feather when THAT truth sunk in!) and basically cutting my imperfect self some SLACK! I asked, “WHO am I MOST OF THE TIME? How do I view others and act toward them on a consistent, (not PERFECT) basis? How do I respond when I have hurt someone?” It was sadly a “huge revelation” that I was a “likable, caring person” (sad that I had been so hard on myself for so long) and although it is important to do self-reflection and to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and take care of the things that have hurt/affected others, I need to care about ME as well and not be so critical of myself. This also helped me to not feel guilty when I began to really look at hub’s actions and start seeing them for what they were: manipulative, controlling and at times, downright cruel. (See some of Jeff’s posts about breaking the marriage vows and Lundy Bancroft’s posts about “who is being abusive?”)

      4) God had to get me to the point of not needing others’ approval. I spend so many years and so much time trying to get other people (mostly church-folk) to understand what was going on in my home. I NEEDED them to say, “Wow, yes. That is bad and unBiblical and you need to get away from that and God won’t be “mad” at you and you need to be safe and healthy, etc” But instead, I got the party line “Patience, forebearance, submissions, love him out of his anger, what are YOU doing wrong, YOU are being unforgiving, look how SORRY he is?”, etc. (even though I had been doing all that and more for decades to no avail!) Now I understand I didint want to dissapoint God and since I didnt understand my value to Hiim, I needed others to AGREE with me that the treatment I was suffering was intolerable and that God would “understand” if I left. The thought that these people (who KNEW the Bible and had really “good, close” relationships with God (like I can actually KNOW that?!) and who knew so much more than little, ‘ol me and how presumptuous and haughty of me to think I might know MORE than they, etc) might DISAPPROVE of what I decide to do was so overwhelmingly scary. God has healed me of the “approval” lie. He is the ONLY One I am accountable to. That means I better be spending my time listening to HIM and talking with HIM and understanding HIM, His heart, His love for me, His authority, His holiness, who He really is and who I am TO Him, and stop relying on others to be my intercessors/messengers/interpreters.

      5) I spent a lot of time on hurtbylove.com (which is a hotlink on ACFJ) reading everything in the left-hand column. I cannot tell you how helpful it was in revealing to me that my hub’s actions were CLEARLY abusive and gave me so much insight in to my own responses and lies I was telling myself. After reading and studying enough, a clear picture begins to form and you will konw what you know what you know. You will no longer feel the need to get others to understand and approve of you or your choices, although giving them information to educate them on the abuse cycle will become a driving desire! (At least it has for me)

      Your hub’s actions clearly show he is neither repentent nor humbled on any level. (might want to read up on the “repentance checklists on this site and on hurtbylove.com. VERY helpful!) He shows no signs of acknowledging his sinful actions toward you or a desire to make restitution and instead he deflects, denies, ignores, minimizes your concerns, your wants, your needs, and uses (his legalistic interpretation of) God’s Word to control you (how sick is THAT?!) instead of exhorting and uplifting and encouraging you. What part of “love, honor and cherish” shows in any of this manipulation? Did Jesus use ANY of those tactics to “get what he wanted?” No. He shared truth. Either people repented and were saved or He shook the dust off His feet as He left the town. He loves the repentant heart (regardless of the degree of sin) but to the unrepentent heart he called them “vipers, hypocrites, and a tomb of bones” and they wanted to KILL him for it. Obviously they didnt “approve” of what he was saying, but that didn’t make Him any less right or any less God or any less willing to speak truth when it needed to be spoken.

      You don’t have to consult ANYONE but God on whether to leave or stay and you don’t have to have a timeline. If you are staying at the house, maybe look into other accomodations if that is possible, give yourself a rest from his attacks. If you are already at another location, maybe limiting the contact. Don’t feel pressured from hub, me, this blog, well-meaning friends or your own false guilt. Being separated is not CAUSING the problem, being separated is a RESULT of ongoing abuse, a natural consequence (for HUB) and a time of healing for you, that is healthy and normal. When you have healthy and normal responses to unhealthy and abnormal behaviors, healing can begin.

      I hope this has been helpful. (I didnt think it would be a BOOK when I started!) I do know the confusion of “am I doing the right thing.” Becoming educated on abuse tactics is essential. You will feel a well-srping of truth INSIDE and will no longer be moved by others’ ignorance.

      • Still Reforming


        My testimony has commonalities with yours, but I never really thought I was the problem. I was willing to shoulder half of the responsibility for our problems until I realized his behavior was just…. odd. When the pieces of the puzzle just didn’t fit and I couldn’t force them to fit. So I started research his behavior, starting with passive-aggressive (interestingly after an incident where his mother attacked me verbally, not him) and that lead to researching narcissism.

        I spent years (probably up to five) researching both of these things before a confluence of events occurred, thanks be to God. One of which was that I stopped learning about him. My world stopped revolving around him and his issues and started revolving around me and our child. I started reading books about people who had lived through the abuse and came out okay on the other side. I began reading books about healing, and I think that God pointed me to this website as well.

        Something you wrote here resonated with me though – and that is that whenever I hear the words “God wants you to…” I stop listening. I think I have just heard too much misinterpretation as far as someone else presuming to know what God wants me to … whatever follows that first part of the sentence. Quite often it’s a misinterpretation from one verse or section apart from the whole counsel of God’s Word.

        I’m cutting and pasting your comment in my journal. (As I have been doing with many comments from this site lately.)

    • Valerie

      Outofthefog, my stbx had a similar approach to me. What strikes me in what you said is, I look at him and don’t have a clue what to say or how to back up my statements. I know there are so many over arching things in the bible that deal with sin that could apply but I honestly just want to point him to concrete things and I can’t.

      The fact that you express feeling backed in a corner and trying to defend yourself IS your biblical truth to back up your claims against his sin. Someone who truly wants to follow God has a humble heart and teachable Spirit. He would want to know your opinions and weigh them carefully. When the terms accusations and hammering for backup are used to describe the interaction that isn’t a sign of humility or teach-ability. This was also my experience as I finally realized I needed to protect myself (we shouldn’t need to defend ourselves). After reading the book “Foolproofing your Life” I realized my husband was what scripture refers to as a biblical fool. (The book BTW is an excellent book to gain clarity but Silvious has one particular item that is emotionally dangerous to abuse victims…overall very good though in laying out the principles of a biblical fool. *See eds. note at bottom of comment) After recognizing that this is exactly the mindset laid out in scripture that I had been dealing with I then began to respond to him as scripture calls us to with such persons. First and foremost is not attempting to reason because you can’t reason with someone who is unreasonable. Not throwing your pearls to pigs. Why waste energy on someone trying to get them to understand your point of view when they clearly have no interest in it? Their interest is in being right and having control (as shown in their behavior), not to have unity in the relationship. To such people scripture calls us to remove ourselves from their influence and lay out our boundaries. It all goes back to the fruit of the Spirit (which is referred to in the singular- they must all be present- as opposed to fruits plural, which refers to the acts of sinful nature. I have come to understand that when someone has the Spirit they will then exhibit all of the fruit in varying degrees…not just some…in order to reveal the true indwelling of the Spirit.) You can’t fake the fruit of the Spirit because it comes down to attitude and heart issues.

      Sometimes I would respond to my husband by simply reading a passage from scripture…not pointing it at him but simply reading it because it applied in the situation…reading the fruit of the Spirit passage perhaps. (In doing this following the principle of how Jesus dealt with satan by using scripture and not attempting to argue…Jesus never defended himself but rather just spoke truth back to those who accused Him) Before I changed my approach to basically only use scripture, I kept trying to appeal to his good nature I was convinced was stuffed down deep in there somewhere. I would tell my husband that his behavior and attitude were not revealing a desire to understand and more hostile in nature. I told him we was not displaying a desire to follow God so I would not take time to show him how his actions were not honoring me or God. The attitude has to come first. I never any sign of that good nature I thought he had to have had despite multiple attempts at finding it. After taking this approach of responding to his attitude and speaking truth without accusing nor attempting to defend, it relieved much weight and anxiety from my shoulders and I realized just how combative and hostile he had been when I no longer attempted to defend myself. While defending myself drained me, to realize I didn’t have to and it was pointless gave me more energy!

      *Eds. note: The book Fool-Proofing You’re Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in your Life by Jan Silvious is on our resource page. And, as Valerie pointed out, we have placed the following caveat with our book description: “This author says abuse is not grounds for divorce. We disagree with that, but find other useful things in the book.”

      (the book link is an Amazon affiliate link, if you buy the book after clicking on the link, ACFJ gets a little bit of the retail price.)

      • Valerie

        At the time of reading that book I wasn’t even thinking about divorce but I will point out another piece of troublesome advice that Silvious speaks of that I allluded to. On p 216 in Q&A she states that if you choose to remain living with your biblical fool then you are obligated to marital intimacy with that person. (She says, however, you are no longer under that obligation if you are not living with them.) In her defense it could be that her position is as such because she recognizes that this advice might help a person realize they can not live with their spouse who is being cruel to them if they are biblically commanded to remain intimate and therefore help them to see that physically separating themselves is the next biblical step to take. It was damaging to my spirit to read that when I was just beginning to become aware my marriage was abusive because I didn’t see separating as an option at that time so that admonishment was a heavy burden. Obviously I can’t know what her intentions were. She does state that she believes that by scriptural definition the biblical fool can not be a Christian. I still consider that book to be biblically sound overall and a helpful resource to recognize abusive relationships.

    • I know it is lame but I look at him and don’t have a clue what to say or how to back up my statements.

      I suggest that rather see this as lame, see it like this: His accusations are his tactic to suck you into a debate about scripture. He does not want to debate scripture to understand let alone obey what it really means, he only wants to use ‘debate’ as a tactic to keep you on the back foot, to keep you feeling intimated and lower than him. Even if you had all the scriptural rebuttals to his accusations, he would not agree, he would not listen to those rebuttals except to figure out how to shape them into more bullets he could fire back at you.

      So the best way to deal with his incitements to ‘debate’ is to say “STOP IT!” and walk away. Or to say nothing. zilch. zero. Act like he didn’t even say anthing. Like he is not there. That way you give him no oxygen, no ammunition, no-one to fight with. Steppping out of the circle, out of the duel of “who has the right scriptural interepretation” is probably the best way to handle him. By stepping out of the circle, or not even stepping into the circle, you are subtly showing how ridiculous, how ludicrous, his conduct really is. And abusers hate to be ridiculed. They’d much rather fight than be ridiculed.

  11. In light of some comments regarding “being too nice” I wanted to share the following:

    “Perhaps you’ve never reflected on whether your sincere desire to be “nice” undermines any expression of belief or disbelief. If you are effectively stopped by an internal dialogue that insist the need to be nice trumps all other goods or needs, perhaps it is time to seek afresh, resist that voice, break the hold of bad ideas, and step out in faith and obedience and do or say what is needed.” Apologist Dr. Stuart McAllister.

    It was decades into my marriage when I started to awaken to the abuse, though at the time I didn’t understand it as abuse. My husband was noticing a change in me and didn’t like it. He told a pastor that we had been counseling with that the pastor had given me wrong advice, that the pastor had created a monster. What was my husband objecting to?

    Well, you see, I stopped being a doormat, I stopped keeping my thoughts to myself, I stopped letting him think he was always right. And I started to discover my “voice”. I started voicing my opinions, started voicing my concerns when I disagreed with something he said or did instead of keeping my mouth shut, and I started voicing my objections to his illogical arguments. In my husband’s eyes — I stopped being nice.

    I was raised to be a “nice” girl and that mentality carried over into my marriage. So for years, actually decades, I was a “nice” wife. In other words, I was “a silent, do as you’re told, don’t rock the boat, and don’t disagree with me” wife. But Scripture doesn’t call me to be “nice”, it calls me to faith and obedience. I have often prayed that other victims that are blinded by the “nice mentality” will see its destructive hold upon them and become free from it.

  12. Outofthefog

    Oh my goodness – to all of you… Standsfortruth, Debby, Carol & any I fogot, thank you for taking your time to respond. Every post is always so helpful.
    Here is some clarification. We do not live in the same house. We both run a company the we started together many years ago – equal in every way. ( he now wants complete control for which he says that is the only true biblical solution) no one in the company would want this.
    We also have a large ( recovering from patriarchy) family of which 5 are still in the home full time & 2 more part time ( college) & 3 completely out. For those reasons it is hard to limit contact.
    Otherwise I would be content to never speak to him at this point.
    I am going to look up the article about the gray rock method.
    I have read this site, always read the posts & comments which are incredibly helpful. For so long I thought …. I was the only one with a husband like this. So for just that reason alone this blog has been a lifesaver.
    I also related to what you said Debby – that what you were learning was so contrary to what you had been taught that you thought it could not possibly be right. That is me! So when spouse throws more accusations of me being unbiblical, a feminist, not godly I go right back to questioning.
    I do/have/am reading all the books referenced. So many have been so helpful. I honestly thought I struck gold when I found this site several months ago.
    When I told him to leave after yet another huge raging/violent outburst my children were so relieved. (He broke doors, dishes, phones, computers, drove erratically with littles in car, swore non-stop, called me & others horrid things, threatened people ( those whom he didn’t agree with in governing agencies) the list goes on & while I haven’t forgot it is so darn easy for me to fall back into that thinking…..oh had I only done something different, or it wasn’t that bad…..
    The truth is I feel it might have been worse than I thought & yes I have spent the last three years writing down things he had said or that have happened. It is helpful to reread & remember.
    My battle right now is to stay strong , fight for the things I know God is showing me through people’s words, books etc. Focus on real truth, & be ever seeking the Lord in all these matters. I truly do appreciate each & every response to me & all others. I appreciate ACFJ also – I have told my pastors & counselor about this place as I know I am not the only one.

    • out of the fog, this is just a teeny heads up . . . a nudge to remind you to give thought to which details of your circumstances you share at this blog, and to what degree sharing identifying details might put you at risk of further or escalated abuse.

      And if you ever want us to edit any of your comments to remove identifying details, email twbtc and tell her which comment you want edited and what you want removed from it. 🙂

      cheers — Barb

  13. bright sunshinin' day

    Twbtc, you said, “But Scripture doesn’t call me to be ‘nice,’ it calls me to faith and obedience. I have often prayed that other victims that are blinded by the “nice mentality” will see its destructive hold upon them and become free from it.” A book that may help reinforce what you are saying re “nice” can be dangerous, is “No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice – Instead of Good – Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends” by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer Degler, PhD.

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