A Cry For Justice

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

FAQ Highlight — What about couple counseling?

Resolving the kind of conflicts between people for which couples counseling is intended will not stop one person from abusing the other.  Conflict is a pretext for abuse, not a cause of it.  [Terry Moore, a licensed clinical addiction counselor]

FAQ: What about couple counseling? 

Many of our readers can attest to the fact that couple counseling was a big mistake and only gave the abuser more opportunities to abuse.  Many pastors, church leaders, counselors, and “well-meaning” friends of victims need to learn this truth: Couple counseling is NOT meant for abusive relationships.

 

17 Comments

  1. Jessica

    Yes! Couples counseling should be for couples who really want to help their relationship. An abuser does not want to do anything but control the relationship and best believe they will put their best (or worst) game face on for any therapist.

  2. Couples counseling is absolutely NOT a good choice! It makes things much worse. If you are going to someone who is actually trained and experienced (not just “took a class and have the certificate hanging on the wall” of their church counseling office) in domestic abuse, they will be the first to tell you NO couples counseling. It’s one of the first clues that let you know they know what they are doing or they DON’T know what they are doing. Couples counseling is for couples. When abuse is present, you are not a couple. You are a controller and a victim.

    • standsfortruth

      I agree Debbie, what many of these misinformed “counselors” should have hanging on their walls is a plaque saying “Imprisonment counselor”.

      I quit calling my relationship to my ex- abuser a marriage, long ago. It never deserved that name..

      Looking back now I can clearly see it was a type of imprisionment.

    • keeningforthedawn

      Very, VERY well said, Debby. This could actually be a sort of “litmus test” to see if a counselor is worth their salt. And I love this sentence, “When abuse is present, you are not a couple. You are a controller and a victim.” This is truly where the rubber meets the road.

  3. Sunflower

    Like taking a dance class with someone who hates to dance. And hates you to dance. Wouldn’t that be fun!

  4. Herjourney

    Don’t forget!
    The abuser(s) main goal is control over his-her victims. It’s like a drug to them. Addicted to the power it gives them… Reality sucks. Don’t be a sucker!

  5. Trueworthy

    Absolutely true. My soon to be ex-husband went to counseling all right. The idea was he would “work on himself” with this male “marriage and family” therapist (who was/is a respected church member, and still speaks regularly on various topics at Divorce Care classes in the area). After my husband “worked on himself”, I would join him. He went twice alone, I went with him once. It became quickly obvious that the counselor was completely validating him with “good Christian men fall in these traps often” (the issue he finally agreed to see a counselor for was repeated emotional affairs). He went away with a pat on the head, and I went away realizing that this was a complete waste of time and money. Further down the path of understanding of emotional manipulation and abuse, I understand why. But, per standard Christian teaching, marriage counseling was supposed to fix everything. What a crock. It makes me very suspicious of men, and of the church in general.

    Debby’s statement, “Couples counseling is for couples. When abuse is present, you are not a couple. You are a controller and a victim.” is absolutely true. It’s so hard to recognize abuse when it’s there. My husband will still say to me, “well at least I don’t walk around like a victim all the time”….the implication being that I do, and he’s trying to shame me for it.

    • Herjourney

      In reply to the abuser looking like the victim.He masters his stance quit well. Outwardly, he is an outstanding imitatior. Inwardly he hates that taking a biblical stand against his violence angers him greatly.

      I don’t trust his kindly actions. He stalked me recently to ask how a family member was doing. I engaged, because he, the abuser, knows what emotional buttons work for his benefit only.

      The action that God and the abused is looking for is repentance. Not more control by slandering the one who took action against his abuse.

  6. Fool me once

    Oh, so true! I was fortunate in that I had a background in the subject and told my ex that a good couples counselor always sees each spouse separately first, and I made sure he went first. The counselor made it clear on my individual visit that he saw right through my ex. We saw him once or twice as a couple and he kept it a safe space for me until he dismissed me and told my ex that “our” issues were not suitable for couples counseling. He also checked in with me from time to time to see if ex was being compliant with his meds (of course not). Later, ex found a less experienced counselor whom he was able to deceive, and when called in for a couple session (no individual session) tried to give me homework and tell me that I would be thwarting God’s purpose in my life if I continued to hold myself back from the relationship. As if.

  7. KayE

    Many pastors and church leaders need to stop refusing to acknowledge abuse for what it is, abuse. All too often, even after being given evidence of dangerous violence against the victim, these pastors and leaders wilfully refuse to accept that what is happening is abuse.They continue to arrogantly insist the problem is couple conflict and that the answer is couples counselling. It’s an outrage.

  8. Pastor Crippen left this comment on our FB page under this post. For those of you who don’t follow our FB page I wanted to share it here:

    When the Lord is in conflict with us, that is to say, when OUR sin alienates us from Him, “couple’s counseling” is not the answer. “Now, Lord, don’t you think you could…”? Nope. The issue is sin. OUR sin, and the only remedy is that we turn from our sin, repent, and receive the forgiveness that is in Christ. And that is the very counseling God gives us. In abuse, there is only one guilty party in regard to the abuse. Only one needs counseling — “repent!” Of course abusers don’t because they don’t want to. They want to be God. [Jeff Crippen]

  9. healinginhim

    Couples counseling merely opened my eyes to another form of abuse — where I was led to believe that they understood my abuse; only to have it eventually turn around and leave me stranded, again.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yep. Exactly. It’s like getting an invite from the IRS for a tax audit and they tell you it is for your own good.

  10. StandsWithAFist

    Years ago I asked my therapist if my spouse & I should seek counseling together.
    She said something I never forgot:
    When YOU come in, YOU are the client.
    When you BOTH come in, the MARRIAGE is the client.
    Thus….”couples counselling” does NOTHING for the victim, the target, the abused.
    It serves the illusion, not the reality.
    My therapist was the first person who was committed to me, as a person, an individual.

    That was more than my marriage had ever been.

  11. MaxGrace

    I don’t understand why there is such a “blind spot” in churches. It seems that if you believe there is no divorce for any reason whatsoever, that somehow this makes a Church a truly scriptural church. I admit it is difficult to see through that thinking if you have never been in or known anyone in an abusive “marriage”, or children in an abusive situation. . (or if you refuse to acknowledge the evil behind the abuse, or refuse to see the need to help set the captives free through truth in scripture that covers every situation.)
    Now I fear to go to church because after having been in a very abusive marriage, and seen my daughter go through one, it sickens me to think that these heinous behaviors are going on right under the noses of the clergy in the Name of the Lord. Couples counseling is fruitless with an abuser. I did couples counseling with my husband in a church. It made him angry and vengeful. I just don’t understand why there is no help or encouragement for the abused, no matter if it is a wife and children, or a husband who is being abused. The world is much wiser and supportive regarding domestic abuse, battering, and control tactics. You can go to a secular counselor and receive much more understanding and help. It happened to me. My counselor got me into a shelter quickly. I’ll never forget when I first called for an appointment and she asked what was the problem? I said a couple of sentences, not sure how to explain, and she knew immediately. She said, “you’re walking on eggshells.” I broke down inside and bowed my head in unbelief that someone actually could put into words what I was trying to say. She got it immediately. That was exactly what I was doing. I will always thank God for her. She knew about abuse and how to plan for safety. It wasn’t easy but we did it. And the Lord blessed us. That was the beginning of my road to separation, divorce, and sanity, because of her help. I also want to say, that I had prayed and prayed for guidance, feeling like a failure, hopeless, loaded with guilt, because my prayers and “submission” was not working. I could not find help or support in the organized Church, and know and thank God for the loving provision that he gave me through this wonderful lady and her organization. There seems to be a stigma to divorcee’s in churches, I dare to say. Perhaps some of it is warranted. IDK I give Him thanks for helping me. I am grateful also for this website where earnest saints desire to bring light to a dark area in “biblical” churches, and “scriptural” counseling. This is a place where one can honestly share their experience, strength, and hope, in a safe format, without judgment. Gracias.

    • I think it has a lot to do with the mindset of control that a lot of churches have, which seems to stem from the idea that an authority figure must “make” us comply with Biblical behavior. A sort of “we must resort to any tactic available to keep these wives in line and married (not the abuser?), because that is what the Bible says (their twisted version of scripture anyway) and we are the spiritual authority in their lives (um, no?) so it is our job to ensure this outcome, regardless of the (exaggerated?) circumstances she is in.”

      We are forced to ignore the Holy Spirit (who is clearly trying to tell us something when our bodies and minds are falling apart!) because church authorities want to usurp the Holy Spirit and make “taking it” sound spiritual, when it is absolutely of the devil. I would want someone to “stay” with someone because they feel they can safely do so, not because they feel they SHOULD no matter what behaviors are displayed.

      God does not want us “obeying Him” because He will zap us if we don’t, but rather, He loves us and lets us choose whether we will love him enough to trust and follow him (to “stay” with Him). I’m not sure I am wording this very well. But the “control” part. Definitely something there. The church chants “God is love” but their actions say, “God is law.”

  12. MaxGrace

    Oops I meant to say stigma should not be against the victim. The abuser warrants being dealt with. I should have reread my statement.

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