A Cry For Justice

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

I Have Married three Abusers — Am I Stupid?

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:15-18)

Over the years in this ministry to abuse victims at ACFJ we have been fairly regularly contacted by victims who are not only presently married to an abuser but who have been married previously to other abusers. And in most cases they are asking themselves, “Just how stupid can I be?” Or, “What is wrong with me?” Or, “Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?”  These questions and more.

I suspect many of you who follow this blog can relate very well to this scenario. And many people who are ignorant of abuse and abusers will be quick to answer those questions  — “Well, yes, you must be stupid.”  “Yes, there surely is something wrong with you.” But in reality all that has happened in most of these cases is that a wicked, deceiving person came along, identified some vulnerability in his target, capitalized on it, and deceived her.  All of us have had that deception dupe us in some relationship or other and most often more than once.

Was the Samaritan woman at the well a loose woman, a whore who went from man to man? That is usually what is claimed, but surely there is a very high probability that she was the victim of deceiving, using men and she was an easy target for them.  Why? Might I suggest it was because she was “thirsty,” but she was looking for the wrong kind of water to quench that thirst.  John 4 is the record of that day when Living Water met her and she was never the same again.

Yes, I would suggest that a victim who has been duped by abusers several times does need to look within herself. Not to blame, but to try to understand what it is that is making her so vulnerable to evil ones. Does she fear being alone? Does she believe she is just rather worthless if a man doesn’t want her? Maybe she is just too naive about evil? None of these possibilities is sin, but each one is certainly dangerous.

It seems to me that a woman who has been repeatedly abused in a sequence of “marriages” must be somewhat similar to the traumatized rape victim. Through deception and guile the rapist drew her in, used her by force, and cast her away. Or if she is still with the abuser, he is killing her slowly, just as a rapist so often murders his victim.

We know numbers of women who have been through this chain of abusive marriages, and I am sure that they could be greatly helped by our readers, especially those who have had the same experience. What have you discovered about why this happened to you? Did you have some awakening moments when some truth jumped out at you that helped you? How can a victim of this serial abuse make some changes to break out of this cycle of being a target? (We are not placing any blame on victims at all here by the way).

Let’s hear from you.

82 Comments

  1. Oh, this is so on target! And I’d never considered that take on the woman at the well–I love, love, love that!

    I find that women who were abused can be drawn back to abusers because they’re not finished processing their trauma, and the abuse feels “familiar.” Also, they haven’t yet fully grasped their own personal worth, so the abuse feels “deserved.” Also, the earlier abuser(s) was/were always challenging their perceptions and telling them they were crazy, so they all too easily dismiss red flags.

    I think when an abuse survivor is ready to date again, it’s important to have a full understanding of red flags and deal breakers, and recognize that no, that awesome sense of humor doesn’t make up for the fact that he scorns, mocks, and belittles the waitress. Having a domestic abuse counselor or a friend who understands domestic abuse is ideal, but at the very least keeping a written list of “what I might think might be red flags” can help. Also making a chart about “things I love about him” vs “things I wish were different.” And noticing which ones are personality traits (he loves to go hiking) and which ones are character traits (he’s kind to waitresses). There are other things to watch for too–maybe it can be a blog post sometime!

  2. Jessica

    While I have only been in one abusive relationship with a man I dated, it is the only relationship of that nature; however, I was abused by my father starting at an early age. I am naturally somewhat timid and mild mannered. I am not the bubby outgoing type. I was sick a lot as a kid. I was very shy as a child, a pleaser, and happy to help people. I am still shy to a degree. Not all of these qualities are weaknesses in themselves but to predators, they do appear to be weaknesses. I have met many other women from abusive relationships who seem to have a lot of these same attributes. I am in a loving marriage now and thankfully I escaped that abusive relationship. I don’t really have any advice and I do know there are exceptions (a woman I became friends with who also escaped an abusive relationship with the same abuser as me is an outgoing fun type girl). One thing that our ex abuser seems to thrive and prey on is someone who is having trouble in their marriage. It seems to be his M.O.

  3. vk

    In my case, codependency was at the root of my issues and behind decisions I made regarding relationships. I had to do a lot of early childhood work, attend 12-step meetings, and go back to therapy to finally have some clarity about why I have done some of the things I’ve done. When I’ve chosen an abuser, it has been in an attempt to work through some unresolved childhood relationships in an attempt to “get it right” this time.

    [Note from Barb, please also read my response to this comment]

    • Hi dear sister and welcome to the blog 🙂 I changed your screen name to vk, to disidentify you for safety’s sake.

      Since you are new at the blog, you may not know that we believe ‘codependency’ is not a helpful term to use in regards to abusive relationships. To find out why we believe this, I encourage you to read this: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/are-abuse-victims-codependent/

      I’m not discounting that you found the ‘codependency’ concept useful, so I’m not wanting to dismiss your perceptions and experiences. But I do encourage you to read that link, as it may help you think the matter through even more. And I think that may bring even more clarity from the pain and fog…

      As for the idea that “when you’ve chosen an abuser, it has been in an attempt to work through some unresolved childhood relationships in an attempt to ‘get it right’ this time” — was that said to you by a therapist or a self-help book?

      Personally, I don’t like the concept that people who suffered abuse in childhood will in adulthood chose to get into relationship with an abuser in order ‘to get it right’ this time. That idea makes it seem like the victim of abuse is sick (pathological) or might have masochistic tendencies. It makes the victim seem foolish. If a child burns his finger on the stove, does he keep touching the stove in order to ‘get it right this time’? No! So why ascribe that kind of thing to victims of abusive relationships? Does it really make sense?

      At this blog we encourage readers to become aware of (and expose and resist) all the ways victims are blamed by society. One of the ways victims are blamed is this pop-psychology myth that victims of childhood abuse seek out abusive relationships in adulthood in an attempt to ‘get it right’ this time.

      In the link I gave you above there is a post about Stockholm Syndrome and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse. Some of the labels mentioned in that post are:
      — traumatic bonding, re-enactment
      — enmeshment
      — co-dependency
      — repetition compulsion
      — the idea that women choose, or unconsciously attract, abusive men

      It sounds to me like you’ve been exposed to (and taught) quite a few of those labels.

      I’m really glad you are recovering from the abuses you’ve suffered. I think you probably have been doing the best you could to seek light and clarity. And I honour you for the hard work you’ve been doing to come to clarity. I don’t want to discount all the efforts you’ve made! I am simply encouraging you to be prepared to re-examine some of the things you’ve been taught, because it’s possible that by re-examining them, you may come to even more clarity.

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

      And if you want us to change your screen name to something other than vk, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂

  4. Lea

    I will be interested to hear what others say. I had a bad experience with someone (not really abuse) and have been tried and I think succeeded in the next relationship to avoid those problems but picked up different ones. So maybe people avoid one thing they associate with the last guy and miss a different one?

    One thing I think Lundy Bancroft said was that women who had been abused as children iirc weren’t more likely to get in abusive relationships but stayed longer? So maybe the question is when to cut and run.

    • NG

      An interesting viewpoint that I read on a secular counceling website was that men with abusive mindset do not respect boundaries and they just go full steam ahead. I know, because the abusive guys I have come across acted exacrly like that. They don’t respect her ‘No’, but try to dominate and overcome her resistance. An entitled egoist wants to get his prey at any price, so he can be very persistent – unlike many decent men, who respect her need for space and try to avoid violating her boundaries.

      For someone who is craving for male attention and acceptance that may feel flattering, so I don’t blame the women for being drwan into this web againts their own will and gut feeling.
      Thankfully, I had zero attraction towards that behavior, and found it emotionally exhausting, but for a short moment, it can be intoxicating to be in the center of attention.

      • Praying I Have Learned

        True!

      • Lea

        I think there is a lot of truth here. My ex was very persistent and it was flattering for a time. It was just a lie.

        The Gift of Fear said that men who don’t respect a ‘no’ even in little things are not safe.

  5. IamMyBeloved's

    I will address the woman at the well.

    Jesus was saying to this woman, “You have had five men throw you away and the one you have now, you are not married to, and he is using you. Come to Me and I will give you living water to heal those wounds and give you a love you have never known.”

    You see, women were not allowed to divorce their husbands! Hence, those previous men had to have left and divorced her. What He is really saying is that she had been used and tossed aside like an old shoe and He could change that.

    Most abuse victims have been abused growing up. They are in a comfort zone of marrying what they know and are comfortable with. No one wants to be abused, but for those abuse victims, they choose what they have known, because it is in their comfort zone. It is a form of deception, but the victim is innocent. This is why it is so important to get whatever help we need to show us how abnormal abuse is and lead us to healthy relationships.

    • Survivor

      I would like to suggest that “comfort zone” is a misnomer.

      Comfort implies a degree of acceptance, which never really takes place in a heart tuned to truth and light.

      Further, comfort and anxiety cannot co-exist, even though they may appear to intersect from time to time.

      Each of us were validated upon conception. When an adult (parent, relative or other) ignorantly or presumptuously withholds that validation from a born child, that adult effectively robs the child of his or her security and rest. When this withholding is consistently applied by one and/or done within the context of a complicit (through cooperation or intimidation) group, it sets up invalidation as the norm and anxiety as normal.

      In short, that child subsequently accepts as “normal” what healthy persons not exposed to or forced to witness while growing up would immediately recognize, name and reject as patently and wholly abnormal and unhealthy: the overstepping of one’s own boundaries so as to degrade or usurp the person and power (i.e. life and abilities/works) of another.

      When the unsettled nature of anxiety replaces the natural bed of comfort and rest, fear enters in and sets itself up as landlord over one’s own house, accompanied by guilt and shame. They proceed to prance all over your mind, gloating as they go – or they surreptitiously block your thoughts/movement so as to immobilize your freedom and capacity for clear thinking, aggregating whatever speck of dirt can be found in the vicinity (or manufacture them) to place on your head. These are the ingredients of harassment and persecution, intimidation with the intention to oppress, bind and even destroy.

      Thus, as adults – and especially those in Christ – separating the sacred from the vile becomes an imperative part of the process as we renew our identity in Christ and build our boundaries. Through this process, we learn to discern where the dirt came from/whose dirt it really belongs to. In so doing, we learn to reason with a sound mind, permitting no man/person to degrade us as we live, finally, in freedom, with a clear conscience and pure heart, to the glory of God.

      This is very hard to do when you start from nothing/believing you are nothing (of no value to no one). It gets complicated to the point of impossibility when you accept Christ because you are making a life-changing decision without realizing the depth of the deception you have been born and grew up in. You are a walking void, engineered by those who abused you from infancy onward. You think you are holding yourself together and if you just be nice, others will be respond in kind.

      When you finally wake up one day and realize that everything you appear to be has been built on sand, your whole world crumbles beneath your feet. How can anything you say or do possibly have had any weight or meaning or fruitfulness to them when they have been predicated on lies and other fabrications? The ramifications of this apparent total loss of one’s entire life and supposed being is so devastating that one fears the loss of one’s grasp on reality as well. Very scary stuff.

      Only by the grace of God am I able to stand.

      He ordained me to live and so I must learn what that is.

      He imagined, intended, designed and realized me into existence so I must learn to be.

      He called me to higher things I know nothing about so I must learn to ask, seek and knock for every thing. He alone is my Source.

      He says He loves me and sent the Son of His Love for me, so I must learn love.

      • Thank you survivor! That was beautifully put.

  6. Tiffany

    I fasted and prayed for deliverance from “people.” I didn’t know who I was, at my core, and often made decisions by committee, putting confidence in flesh, instead of the Lord. I was a people-pleaser, and I CRAVED the acceptance and approval of man. I now KNOW that I’ve been accepted by God, and I seek HIM, first–about EVERYTHING concerning me. People are fickle. But God is, and will always be, faithful.

    • under the waterfall

      Tiffany, I think that people are quite a bondage and I love your idea about fasting for deliverance from that.

  7. Concerned Mother

    Yes, this is me, sadly. I still get looks when I explain my children have different dads, whom I had been married to, treated like crap every day by each. I left to look for freedom, finding bondage again…but this time! My husband is kind, generous to a fault, loving to family and friends, adores me, treats me like gold. We have known each other since we were teens, and the only reason I didn’t stay with him then was, he was “too nice.” He’s still “too nice,” but I love it and am grateful for it. We both think my mom prayed him into my life since she had loved him. She’s been in heaven for eight years now but we reunited on her birthday in 2014. I am on high alert for abusers now who try to come into contact with my daughters. I pray every day that I can teach them the signs and that they don’t just fall for men like their dads; to look for men more like their stepdad.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Concerned Mother for a story with a happy ending!!!!!!!!

      How you said that your husband is so nice, and in the past you thought he was TOO nice. Another of the many truths God has shown me about my life is that I was conditioned to dislike “weak” men (men who were kind and sensitive) so I subconsciously steered away from them. Getting to know myself, I realize that I actually PREFER sensitive men–even if some would consider them effeminate. A man who is able to love others and one who is interested in sharing many different areas in life and to really ENJOY them! It’s the OPPOSITE of the type of men I dated and the one I married.

      Years ago we visited a church that we had considered joining. The last time we attended, the pastor and asst. pastor both and stood up and took turns yelling at everyone that boys were not to be coddled and girls should only wear “girly” clothes and were not to play “masculine” sports. (They said this to the parents of the boys as well, not to allow them to wear “sissy” clothes or join girly sports–then they listed a few.) This so offended me at the time, so that was it for us.

      For those who like the TV comedy show, “Parks and Rec,” I saw an episode yesterday where the character Leslie, went out to eat with her current boyfriend Ben, and her ex-boyfriend cop, played by C. K. Lewis. At some point the cop ended up handcuffing Ben to the urinal in order to talk to Leslie alone. She had been trying to avoid this because she loved her new boyfriend. So all three end up in the bathroom and the cop said that he hoped to renew their relationship and pointed out how weak, small and sensitive Ben was and not manly at all. Of course Leslie went on about how she LIKED these very traits about Ben and that there was no way they were gonna get back together. And when I saw that I realized that many men and women are taught this–to go for a tough-acting man who appears to be fearless and not afraid to fight. Of course this is also a description of a psychopath so it’s not surprising that many of us ended up with them. (Shoveling my way out of another pile of lies I used to live under. (My [spiritual] arms are in GREAT SHAPE, cuz I’ve been digging through and tossing out the many piles of lies for years now.)

  8. E

    The culture in which a girl grows up can predispose us to ignore “red flags,” or not to know what a red flag even is. A harsh, entitled father can teach her that this is the “right way” women are to be treated. Some women who grow up in emotionally (or other) abusive situations, and do not realize it, become targets of abusers who can sniff out any of our attitudes or weaknesses along those lines.

  9. Herjourney

    Question the man’s commitment in a relationship. If he makes excuses? Red flag! If his integrity has huge crackes? Red flag. If it’s all about him? Red flag! If he gets a jolt out of making you jealous? Red flag! If he is kind and giving when your together? But stabs you in the back with verbal abuse in text messages? Red flag! If he leaves town on a regular basis and says it’s for a business trip, and your gut says.. Red flag! If you won’t deliver sex on the first date? Red flag? If he calls your phone and hangs up? Red flag! If he questions what your plans are for a certain day? And leaves you hanging with no invite to get together? Red flag!
    If he twists what you say and projects his sins back on you? Red flag? If he throws a tantrum when exposing his guilt? Red flag! If suddenly you hear nothing from him? Bingo!! He’s a player. And most assuredly he is a serial abuser!
    If he cares he will acknowledge his sin. He will humble himself before God and his victim and do the right actions to make it right.

    • Sunflower

      I’d like to add two red flags, one that was a surprise to me. If he’s always late, makes you wait for him and doesn’t care if it makes you anxious (and doesn’t like you to even know where he is)……actually he likes that, you are focusing totally on him and he is in control. The one that was a surprise was, if he says he wants to do it God’s way and wait for sex until marriage…….right, sounds good, finally got a godly man, right? Maybe, that may mean he’s so into porn that he doesn’t care and maybe it doesn’t even work for him anymore.

      • Herjourney

        ✔️✔️👌
        I am sure there are more Red flags. Speakup survivors! The abused is reading your comments.

      • Anotheranon

        Sunflower, I used to think “I’ve wasted YEARS of my life” waiting for that man. He made sure we were late for everything–except of course the occasional event that he was interested in. Then we had to get there an hour ahead of time. He had to ruin everything that he thought I would enjoy.
        (Now my blood pressure is going up thinking of it again!)

      • standsfortruth

        Some of these red flags are painful to remember.
        After I married my abuser, he made sure he offered little or no time to spend with me in the morning and would often sleep in late to avoid spending time with me.
        If I looked forward to a plan with him the next day,- he would not be ready for it, unless it was only his idea.

        He knew I would get up in the morning on our day off, -hoping and looking foward to doing something fun and he would deliberatly sleep in until very late.
        I realized later that this was a intentional “gaslighting technique” to make me feel discouraged and devalued. Which it did.

        Once I figured out what he was doing
        I began implimenting a “back up plan”
        (plan B), to do something with other people to avoid myself being let down…

        Needless to say he did not like me having my “bases covered” this way because once he woke up, he discovered he had not inflicted his usual dissappointment on me.

    • NG

      Spot on – so many red flags mentioned here I have seen in the unwanted suitors who tried to woo me, one time or another.
      Ditto the temper tantrums, complusive desire to control, to manipulate, to feel important…

    • Praying I Have Learned

      If he criticizes every woman he’s ever dated, and criticizes EVERY wife Other family members are married to… but of course assures you you’re different… RED flag.

  10. MeganC

    I married a wonderful man who is NOT abusive after my first abusive husband. But, I still had soooooo much work to do. What was most broken was my *identity*. I spent most of my life trying to be what other people thought I should be. At an early age, I wasn’t that way. I was “sunshine” or “happy day”, as my great-grandmother called me. But, like so many people do, much of that personality was eroded by the people around me (It is what it is. It is done and I cannot do anything but move forward). I became someone who could be what was expected. I became an expert at this. Fear of failure and abandonment compounded this. Legalism compounded it. Knowing that I would not be shown any love unless I “succeeded” (which didn’t happen, anyway) compounded this. Entering into the Southern Baptist denomination compounded it, as did a cult-like-leader husband and his family. By the time I was 38, I could not take it, anymore. Being what I thought others wanted did not “win” me love. This phenomena had crept into my mothering, as I had tried to be a “perfect” mother, out of fear that I would ruin my children. Things got worse, as standing up for myself really did produce abandonment with my original core family. I had to take time to deal with that. That has taken 5 years to overcome. That is a pain that no one should have to go through. But, I see that it was necessary. I could not find that little girl, anymore. Going through EMDR therapy was one of the best decisions I ever made and studying up on what identity means and how I could “find myself” (that sounds silly and trite but it is true) was absolutely necessary to keep myself from allowing people to abuse me, anymore. But, it also kept me from compromising my own person around abusers, which had become second-nature. I hope this helps someone. It was a ton of work and was very painful . . . but so worth it.

  11. Good post, Jeff. I came to the same conclusion when I was preaching through John several years back. The issue with the woman was that she sought to quench her thirst in those things that can’t ever do it. Just like the water in the well, a relationship might offer temporary relief, but will never go to the heart, for we were made to worship Someone far greater. What opened my eyes on this was that a divorce was not a choice a woman was allowed to make in that culture. SHE didn’t choose to be divorced 5 times.She had been used and discarded again and again. until she gave up and saw herself only as an object to be used by men – so why bother with marriage?
    She was alone, isolated, helpless and desperate. Jesus offered her what she longed for, and she asked him for that living water. From then on, he was giving her the living water. She rightly discerned that what she longed for was worship. She wasn’t changing the subject. She knew what the heart of the issue was. She didn’t change the subject out of embarrassment; she knew what he was getting at, and asked about proper worship.
    It is also helpful to remember that the whole discussion started with the topic of ceremonial cleanliness. She was dumbfounded that Jesus, a Jew, would drink from her vessel, since Jews believed Samaritans were unclean.
    Jesus ended the discussion with true cleanliness – those whom the father seeks as worshipers, cleansed by Christ, brought into the fellowship of the saints, and accepted.
    The temple and the ceremonies were temporary. The true is now here. When we are united to Christ by faith we are clean and accepted by God and loved.
    When we understand this, we are truly able to minister to those caught in a cycle of abuse and degradation – your acceptance and worth is found in Christ alone. The father is seeking true worshipers and he is calling you today. The person and work of Christ is the true water which will quench that thirst – your thirst for acceptance and worth and value. Your thirst for a restored Eden is granted only in Christ.

    • Anotheranon

      Sam,
      Thanks for this reminder that it helps us understand more when we know the historical context of passages in the Bible. Our culture today is very different from 2000 years ago!
      And thanks for pointing us to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

    • The samaritan woman might have remarried those several times because of practical financial reasons — to avoid poverty and to avoid having to sell herself as a slave or a prostitute.

      • Sunflower

        According to a Jewish Rabbi I read years ago, she may have been barren. Or widowed several times. We really don’t know. Even her current ‘man’ could have been just an employer…….or using her……

        To be honest, part of my reason for marrying again was financial (so tired of the x harassing and black-mailing me), and to flee a town where lies about me were so rampant, even my daughter said that if she were me she wouldn’t want to live there anymore. And of course, these blogs and books didn’t exist, so I didn’t know how rampant this problem was. I thought I’d just gotten the one in a thousand bad egg and that surely most guys were smarter and kinder than that. And then, when the red flags showed up, I thought, “Well I can’t expect perfection.”

  12. LH

    That was one of my biggest fears: that I would remarry an abuser. That is why I continue to educate myself on abuse, including what are red flags. And of course, why I continue to pray that God will not let me marry another abuser. I’ve learned more of what a genuine Christian man looks like, and not to fall for words but look at actions.

    I was raised by a mom who was verbally harsh (as her mom had been to her), and was ‘always’ pointing out where I messed up. (I thot my dad probably loved us, but he didn’t want mom mad at him, so he wouldn’t defend us. Ended up viewing God the Father like that.) I grew up in the 50’s-60’s when the culture taught that a woman needs a man to be complete/ok. I was also raised in a church that taught divorce is only maybe ok where there’s adultery, and it’s the woman’s job to submit and always try to make things better. And also taught pietism – that God would love me more if I tried harder; got that message from my mom as well. I’ve been in the homeschool world for the past 28 years and ran into patriarchy, which at first sounded good and godly. And been in many churches as well as the homeschool world that taught that women ore the “relationship experts” and it’s up to them to make the marriage work.

    I never learned anything about what abuse looked like until I found the book “Living with a Passive-Aggressive Man” 20 years into my marriage. Once I read that I continued to read and learn to find out not only what I was living with, but also why I had let myself get into such a marriage. Lundy Bancroft’s was the most helpful. Now there are so many really good one, which is great! I esp appreciate that there are now many that point out how the evil of abuse is IN the Bible – as opposed to what I was told when we first went for counseling to our pastor: that verbal abuse is not in the Bible.

    I’ve been single for over 10 years now, and have grown a lot stronger in that time, and I know longer believe I would fall for the fake charm, but I continue to be careful.

    • Jeff Crippen

      LH – What a journey you have traveled! If we only knew then what we know now….I think that a lot. I’ve seen that homeschool patriarchy world as well. Proponents of it really tried, as I see now, to take over the church I pastor but by the Lord’s protection they failed.

  13. H

    I’ve only been in one abusive relationship, but I have realized that the worldview I had definitely made it easier for my abuser to entrap me. Even though I theologically affirmed the idea that people are thoroughly wicked apart from Christ, I didn’t function in daily life as if I believed that. Instead, I functioned as if people around me were “basically good,” which I think is very common outside the church but even common within. These two ways of seeing people are totally antithetical, but I never realized that!

    So when (pre-marriage) my abuser sexually assaulted me and then used every excuse in the book to make his action seem innocent, loving, not that big of a deal, and certainly not evil, I totally went along with it. After all, I know that good Christian girls think the best of people, and look at their own sin before they make any judgments about other people’s sin. After all, I can’t think that I’m really better than anyone else, right? That would be so prideful of me. So I have to do cognitive gymnastics to figure out how my own actions are just as bad as what I only NOW label as RAPE. So I end up marrying this rapist because of all the other “good” character qualities I saw and how I convinced myself that this was just a minor misstep and I couldn’t judge because after all, I’m just as wicked, right?

    I see many Christians around me sharing this same worldview that we, if we are good Christians, SHOULD interpret other people’s actions in the best light possible. I see lots of subtle shaming if someone dares to say “X did this to me and it was wrong.” They say, “oh, but probably X just meant to do Y; I’m sure they didn’t really mean to hurt you as you are interpreting it.” (So it’s my interpreting skills that are clearly condemned here.) In fact I encounter this on an almost daily basis it feels like!

    But since going through this abuse, I’ve begun to have different conversations in my head. When I hear “X just meant to do Y, they didn’t really mean to harm you,” I have begun to reply, “You are making an excuse for X. The action harmed me, therefore it was harmful, whatever X may or may not have intended. Let’s not minimize what happened.” I’ve also started saying to myself, “Hmmm, if X did this thing to me, perhaps they simply MEANT to do it. Why should I guess or assume they didn’t mean it? I have no idea what they meant. But I see a pattern of action, and so one possible reason is that they are intending those actions!”

    I’ve recently had an opportunity to try to apply this new way of thinking. I and my female best friend who goes to my church recently encountered a new guy in our age group at church who seemed very interested in making new friends. He seemed like God was drawing him in, but he was very immature in salvation (if he was even saved yet) and also immature in the normal guy/girl interactions in our church. He was awkward, but innocently so. We sort of took him under our wing for a little bit and invited him to a lot of mixed guy/girl activities, shared theological books with him, attempted to kind of witness to him and encourage him while at the same time maintaining appropriate and healthy boundaries. But over time he started showing signs of learning about boundaries but then intentionally crossing them anyway. He was not listening to our advice to get more involved with the guys in the church. He would make excuses as to why he could not do that, and continue to pursue activities and conversations with us instead.

    At first, I personally had compassion on him and was making excuses such as “he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, he doesn’t mean it.” My friend was doing the same. But as his actions have continued in the same direction, I’ve talked to her about my abuser and how I assumed the best about him but look what happened. I’ve convinced her that we should focus on his actions and not guess about his intent, or if we guess his intent, guess evil intent just as much as we may guess good intent.

    She never would have done this without me, and I never would have done this without having previously experienced abuse. I consider that both of us have escaped a harmful relationship with this guy, and I thank God that he took me through abuse in order to teach me this so that I can protect myself and also protect the well-meaning but mistaken Christians around me who make excuses for evil. I think the number one thing I would tell any Christian to protect themselves from falling into an abuser’s trap is to take people’s actions at face value and to actually live out your belief in the depravity of humans.

    Even though I recognize it, I still struggle to apply it to my life. But I’m working on doing it and have seen small victories. If my abuse keeps even one friend of mine from falling into an abuser’s trap, then I am satisfied with the path God ordained for me, painful though it has been.

    • Jeff Crippen

      H – You have really been a fountain of wisdom here in this comment. THANK YOU!

    • Praying I Have Learned

      This is good good stuff. For those of us who have muddled through “unhealthy” a lot of our lives- our thoughts aren’t as clear on these matters. Even after all of my personal experience your words have brought more clarity for me. “Take other people’s actions at face value”… yes.

    • Even though I theologically affirmed the idea that people are thoroughly wicked apart from Christ, I didn’t function in daily life as if I believed that. Instead, I functioned as if people around me were “basically good,” which I think is very common outside the church but even common within.

      Yes — the belief that people are “basically good” is VERY common in the secular world. And despite all their rhetoric about original sin, and what the Reformers called ‘total depravity,’ most churches, in practice act as if people are basically good. And if people in the church do evil things, we often hear it attributed to ‘brokenness’.

      Instead of seeing and naming evil and wickedness for what it IS, when it gets exposed in the church, most churchified people tend to label it as ‘brokenness’. So the evil wicked person is seen as ‘broken’ — and we can fix them! NOT.

      Jesus did not call the evildoers broken. He called them proud, arrogant, whitewashed tombs, vipers, wolves, hypocrites….

      Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

      When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor —— sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

      • In other words, Jesus didn’t give the hypocrites who thought they were righteous any excuse. He exposed and poured scorn on them for thinking they were righteous, when they had in fact ‘cleaned the outside of their cup’ but were inwardly corrupt and evil. He didn’t say they were just ‘broken’. Jesus said he came for the sinners who KNEW they were sinners, who knew their sin was ineradicably destining them for Hell, and who KNEW that they could not, by any of their own efforts, get in right standing with God. He came for those who were truly broken by the import and gravity of their sins and who knew they needed a Saviour because they could not rescue themselves from the mire.

        Paragraph II of Chapter XV of the Westminster Confession: Of Repentance unto Life

        By [the saving grace of repentance unto life], a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

        [link]

      • H

        Love this: “Jesus did not call the evildoers broken. He called them proud, arrogant, whitewashed tombs, vipers, wolves, hypocrites…”

        I’m filing this away as another great phrase to add to my repertoire for when I encounter sin-leveling and this “all people are basically good” crap.

        The only place I’ve encountered such clear breathtaking truth about the true nature of sin and abuse is here, particularly Pastor Crippen’s wonderful sermon series on sin. It’s like the scales falling off my eyes, and suddenly the entire Bible makes sense! Praise the Lord and praise the Holy Spirit for guiding us into life-giving truth when the air is thick with falsehoods and contradictions in most churches today.

    • Elizabeth

      H – Thank you so much, that was a great story and example to follow. I might be 50+, but when I grown up, I wanna be like you! I hope my 25+ years of abuse will be an asset in helping others. And thanks to Barb, too, for your helpful commentary.

  14. Jessica

    In response to HerJourney. One of the biggest red flags was the rush into commitment regardless of MY wishes to take things slow. The abuser made me feel guilty for not wanting to commit as quickly as I did and insisted my level of love was not up to par as his. I was unaware it is typical behavior for an abusive people try to sink their claws in with rushing into commitment, had I known, I probably would have seen it as a red flag. Instead of him respecting my wishes, he made me feel bad or guilty.

    Other red flags was excessive over the top love-bombing. It was just too good to be true. Because it truly wasn’t good OR true at all! It was well planned in advance and contrived. He basically mirrored my interests. From food to music to movies, he liked everything I liked. He disliked everything I disliked.

    He literally talked bad (and I mean REALLY bad) about everyone including is own friends and family. But would be nice to their faces which confused me so much at first.

    He also accused me of doing the things that HE was doing. Probably the most aggravating of all. The amount of hypocrisy is astounding.

    • NG

      Jessica –
      this so reminds me of an abusive person who desperately tried to pressurize me into a relationship, and consequently marriage with him. No way!

      Badmouthing and backbiting everyone else, superiority complex (mixed with a low self esteem…), arrogance and hypocracy – yes, that’s the modus operandi. Talk about red flags – very creepy!
      And when the predator finds his best efforts opposed and resisted, the temper tantrums and guilt trips begin…

  15. Sigridur Thorarensen

    In an interesting article I read research shows that people’s brain that experience abuse as children does not develop correctly. The fight, flight response is dampened as an infant can not run from a cruel parent for ex. That leads to unhealthy relationships when you grow old because healthy people run away from abusers but the ones with unhealthy background don’t. So [I encourage victims —] don’t blame yourself. And [I encourage bystanders not to blame] those that have had relationships with abusers.

    • Hi Sigridur, welcome to the blog. 🙂

      I hope you don’t mind but I added a bit to your comment to make the meaning clearer. We take great care on this blog to try not to say things that could be ambiguous in their meaning and potentially hurt some of our readers. And part of that is to avoid language that tells victims what to do. We find it is more helpful to offer gentle suggestions in the form of “I encourage you to do x” rather than saying “Do x.”

      You seem to have a Scandinavian background and you clearly want to support victims of abuse. For those two reasons, I think you may be interested in the following post:

      The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse

    • Survivor

      So true. It is a miracle at all that any person, once an adult, is even able to recognize this upside down reversal let alone confront and defeat it, bit by bit, until the lies weaken sufficient that huge chunks of delusion start breaking off/falling away. It is possible to heal but I consider it to be simply and completely an astounding miracle that a person can get from such brokenness/dysfunction/disability to healing/restoration of form and function.

      There is nothing like the joy of seeing light again after so many years of living in a dungeon and thinking it was the way it was and always would be and that the despair that weighed your heart down so was … normal: everyone felt like that, lived like that.

      A comment on brain development: so much is being learned as we speak that either nullifies or magnifies what has previously been thought to be true and absolute (as far as science can be absolute). Two things I have found to be resonant with the mercy of God are that our brains are “plastic” – entirely able to be changed, transformed, actually, by our thoughts – and that our memories are actually bonds of protein: real “objects”! Amazing.

      On a side note, I have been regularly practising a process my doctor has devised for healing PTSD, a way of transforming memories by remembering the traumatic event, then putting the feeling into an image, then going through a process of analysis of the event from the rational and objective standpoint of an adult free from, in my case, the original abusive relationship. By the end of this process,, the memory is transformed – de-nuked as it were, no longer carrying any emotional impact or power whatsoever – as is the image that symbolized the feelings engendered by the traumatic event! In the weeks and months that follow, power dynamics in my relationships start to shift as my perceptions of myself and my world shift – all from the simple transformation of a few protein molecules in my brain. This is reframing at a biological level and I am grateful to have access to a professional who believes in God but not religion and has cared about victims of trauma enough to dedicate decades of her life to finding a way to help bring healing into their lives.

  16. Anonymous

    Thank you for this IamMyBeloved’s. It’s all really good stuff and how you explained that in the bible story these men had used and tossed her to the side…

    You wrote: “Most abuse victims have been abused growing up….the victim is innocent. This is why it is so important to get whatever help we need to show us how abnormal abuse is and lead us to healthy relationships.”

    For people like me, I’ve always ended up with therapists that either included me in the problem, sent me to group sessions when I really needed individual therapy, or, because I was so willing to take responsibility for my own faults–put the blame on me. I’ve sought help MANY times since my teens for eating disorders, depression, marriage counseling etc…..and not one person was even kind to me. Because of this I have much compassion for those who have been abused and harmed further by counselors who were not qualified enough to help these people, and I’m also extremely grateful when I hear stories of people who have found wonderful ones.

    I’ve posted this before but the last time I went to marriage counseling with my husband I came armed with several books on personality disorders (George Simon’s, as well as others) and my husband even agreed when I told her he was a psychopath, PLUS our adult daughter came to back me up and this counselor STILL attacked me AND my daughter. If I hadn’t lived it, I don’t know if I could believe it.

  17. Praying I Have Learned

    My personal experience is that first, my upbringing trained me to accept abuse. For many of us that might be true. My father thought it was his duty to train the “overly sensitive”heart out of me. You know, so I wouldn’t be seen as weak. I don’t know. Maybe this is a reasonable exercise for someone training a young man? But for me- I learned I was more impressive when I could take all those crass jokes that were flung my way. So that became my identity. I married a classic narcissistic abuser. We lasted for nearly two decades because I was desperate for my kids to have an intact family and because he traveled. A LOT. Slowly but surely I lost myself and when I came up for air and tried to explain why I knew I was dying- I couldn’t. He divorced me and I later found out about multiple affairs. I went through a couple of years of private counseling and Celebrate Recovery and thought I was much better.

    Then I met my second husband. He literally thought I hung the moon. He had several boys and of course he thought I was just what they needed. Fast forward 3 years now and I have had to leave because there is so much jealousy and bitterness and anger in that home. My youngest boy was being the target of his boys’ anger and then when I was getting stolen from by them and trying to ask that something be done about the beat downs and the theft- I got the anger unleashed on me… I can’t do it all again. I just can’t. I was obviously vulnerable and naive and just got sucked right back in in my desperate hope to be needed and loved. Let’s just say – I pray I have learned. I’m on my knees asking my Father in Heaven to forgive me for looking anywhere else but to HIM for everything I or my children need!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Praying – We changed your screen name for anonymity purposes. Thank you for sharing your life here. I bet you have learned, a lot. Many blessings to you in Christ.

      • Praying I Have Learned

        Still learning and so very thankful for this resource of wisdom and support.

  18. SARAH

    or maybe it’s because there is just so many abusers out there…
    and all you need to know is the red flags and running away

  19. CrazyIsCatching

    Before we were married, my spouse said to me, “I’m not very good at relationships.” Being the boundary-less people pleaser that I am, I said that was okay and things would work out. Wow! In looking back, he was essentially telling me that he wasn’t going to put forth any effort into our marriage. We’re still married after 28 years. It’s an unhealthy relationship at best. To this day, I have no idea if he had relationships before me or if I was his first. He would never admit to having anything other than “friends”. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of leaving. Fear and uncertainty hold me back. Am I crazy?

  20. Elaina

    I’m soft. I love the unlovable. It is DIFFICULT to me to *not* esteem others higher than myself. I see them through eyes of compassion. It is DIFFICULT to me to see flesh n blood as my enemy. I see potential wasted. It is DIFFICULT to me to *not* get into scripture bondage where I know it rains on the just and the unjust, we are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile n bless those that persecute, never let the sun go down on anger, etc. I give benefit of the doubt. It is DIFFICULT to me to really comprehend that flesh and blood in free will…can be so incredibly dark hearted to evil. I trust and am open and vulnerable exposing my heart because that is how love is supposed to be. It is DIFFICULT to me to *not* be 100% raw, real n totally vested. I push up my sleeves n heave ho, try AGAIN to penetrate to an aha! moment of awakening. It is DIFFICULT to me to *not* try again and again to HELP the one who is dark. I give chance after chance. It is DIFFICULT to me red flag, shake dust and walk away because I see damage n broken rather than evil n dark n purposefully BAD.
    I pattern repeat.
    It is DIFFICULT to me draw that final “I’m done” line.
    Do I value myself?
    Yes.
    Am I stupid?
    No, I see truth but I can’t comprehend that truth could be so ugly.
    Am I naive and duped?
    Ahhhh. Now, we are cooking with oil here. Yesssss. I’m actually SURPRISED every single instance. Meaning, they are a hot stove. I put my hand on it n yet KNOWING all, I somehow expected *not* to get burned… (here’s the kicker) …again.
    I’m legitimately a kind, good hearted, loving, open, honest, real, tenacious child of God who loves to LOVE.
    Am I duped? Yes. How? I just am. I’m never prepared even with full knowledge. I expect the hot stove *not* to burn me.
    And here is where I will park.
    The things I find difficult and the fact that I CAN be duped, then KNOW n be duped yet again surprised my hand got “burned,” THIS is where my pattern repeat needs to focus.
    Do I deserve to be loved the way Christ loves His Bride, the Church?
    Yes.
    Do I struggle with self confidence or unworthiness?
    No.
    Am I worth more n deserve better?
    Yes.
    Do I now know scripture actually FREES me and does *not* put me in a guilt minded, cognitive dissonance suffering bondage?
    Yes, I do know that.
    Do I understand healthy boundaries for *my* benefit?
    Yes, I do know that, too.
    Do I know that PEOPLE can be just free will choosing darkness living and shun the light?
    Yes, I do know that, too.

    So why am I duped? Why am I surprised? Why do I struggle to achieve the impossible…which is a changed heart from stone to flesh? Why do I struggle with the concept of evil in *people*? Why do I struggle to WALK AWAY when I know all? Why must I try n try again n hope til it makes my heart sick bc it never gets realized?

    I LIKE me. I like my bubble where I’m in, but not of, this world. I like being kind. I like being tenacious against the devil n all his works. I like that my eyes search HARD for good. I like being soft hearted n loving extending grace – undeserved blessing.
    All of what I like about me is all that the wolf predators PEOPLE who are wicked, prey upon.
    And…I pattern repeat.
    I, like the woman at the well, have not as yet, to date, been in a healthy relationship with a man. Yes, I’m the common denominator in this equation but…I would challenge that… because I know no matter nature vs nurture, white collar, blue collar, geographic location, socio economic backgrounds, education, and the so on…MEN WHO PROFESS TO BE CHRISTIANS…all have been wolves n I the sheep.
    It is embarrassing n humbling to me to be up front n say that I STILL pattern repeat.
    Can I walk away?
    Yes.
    Do I?
    Not until my heart is literally sick from trying so hard n getting *no* fruit of change. Then…I can walk away.
    This is my story.
    I hope my own self analysis can help another. I desire healthy. I’ve yet to experience it.

    • Hi Eliana thank you so much and welcome to the blog. I admire your honesty in self-analysis and I think it will help some other readers. Perhaps now you’ve written it out like that a few rays will shine through the fog to help you to change the pattern — change it in a way that works better for you.

      If you haven’t already done so, 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.

      And if you want us to change your screen name to something other than Eliana, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂

    • H

      Elaina, I think so many genuine Christians have similar struggles and thought processes. I’ve really struggled with guilt over similar feelings inside of me, wondering if there’s something wrong with me since the results of feeling and acting that way are so often harmful when you encounter evil people. But I believe God is teaching me that it’s not a bad thing to have a gentle, loving, compassionate, forgiving heart. It’s something he delights in. It just happens to be character qualities that are risky in a world of sin.

      One thing that has helped me has been to learn about God’s character qualities that are less talked about, such as his absolutely just judgment, his hatred for sin, and his deep concern and compassion for the oppressed, the weak, the poor. Jesus is the most compassionate, loving, forgiving person that ever lived, and yet he was like a fierce lion when it came to evil! God will not ultimately forgive everyone. Many will be cast into hell because they persecuted Jesus’s precious Bride. God cast US ALL out of Eden and out of relationship with him when sin entered the world. I’m certainly not more loving and forgiving than God himself! So I feel like that gives me permission to have a balanced character reflecting God better, to protect myself from evil people and expect people to treat me decently or else remove them from close relationship with me.

    • strengthforthejourney

      This is me to a T! I have never been in a healthy relationship either. I’ve had 3. All abusive. Every. Single. One. I try to see the good in people and not give up on them. I also struggle with the concept of evil and that some people truly are just that, evil. I just want to believe everyone has good in them and everyone is capable of change.
      I have repeated this vicious cycle with men over the past 12 years. They’ve all done the same thing to me, just in different ways. Your story has helped me greatly. I pray both of us learn to recover from this. It is HARD.

  21. LookingToTheLord

    Thank you Jeff, for your thoughts on the Samaritan woman. The usual story of her that is portrayed has never sat well with me. I wasn’t quite sure what the underlying story was, but I didn’t think it would be what everyone usually said. Now, that you have said about the man having to divorce her, I think “of course”! That makes perfect sense and was what would have occurred then.

    I am one of those people who ask what is wrong with me, how stupid can I be, how could I let this happen again. I have been married twice, one as a non-Christian, the other as a born again believer, both to abusers. As I have read this article and the responses, I still ask the question, what is wrong with me? Why do I do this? Growing up I never felt good enough, pretty enough and many other not enough’s. Perhaps when these men came along, I desperately wanted to believe that they loved me and that I was good enough for them. I went back to my first husband three times as he said that he had changed, but it was worse each time. I did finally leave him and afterwards found out that he had sexually abused my eldest daughter while we were still in the marriage and I fought for him not to have access as I believed he was doing it to my youngest daughter on access visits as well.

    In my second marriage I didn’t leave. I didn’t even realise what was happening really as being in fundamental churches, wives were to obey their husbands, give up their lives for their husbands, etc. I did get counselling initially in the early stages, but my husband never changed and when someone found out about him, he would move us. So that kind of life became “normal” for us. An older pastor had stepped in after I mentioned something to him and when he found out the extent of the abuse, and confronted my husband, my husband’s behaviour escalated and we were afraid of him more and more. My husband ended up having a heart attack which was worse since he couldn’t work and was at home all of the time. In the end, the Lord in His mercy removed my husband from our home. I was still devastated. I loved my husband and I had given every part of myself to him. What was the worst thing for me was having to come to the realisation (it is now several years since he left) that it was all an act. He didn’t really love me or the children (we have one child together as well as my other 2 children). He never tried to make things right, he didn’t care that he had lost us, he just doesn’t care. Our life was just a lie. I don’t even know if there was any part of our life together of more than a decade that had any truth. My children and I were pretty much not functioning when he left as he controlled every part of our life. A number of us went into serious depression as time went on. We just couldn’t cope. Thankfully the Lord has brought some brighter aspects to our lives in the last few months.

    I can’t see that I would ever trust another man again or trust myself again to get involved in a relationship. It doesn’t make it any easier since an unmarried pastor who was very good friends with us while we were together, won’t even talk to me now that I am on my own. It is not “appropriate” since I am a single person. I struggled for many, many years to accept the fact that the Lord would love me. I could easily accept that He died for me to set me free from my sins ( I seemed to have so many more than others and being in fundamental churches, we were made to be the worst sinner on the earth since both my second husband and I had both been married before as non-Christians and there had been divorce) but couldn’t accept that the Lord would actually love ME. I heard a message about five years ago which changed my thoughts on that, although I now believe that God is true to His word on this and I just accept it because even though I know He does love me, I can’t understand why He would. It is hard to accept that the man who is supposed to love you the most on this earth and be closest to you (apart from the Lord) , your husband, can’t find anything in you to love.

    Like some others who have posted, I want to accept people how they are, I don’t want to judge them, I want to believe what I see. I used to be a nurse and I do have great compassion for people. Maybe that gets me into trouble. I don’t know. I don’t know how I can know. I now look to the Lord to be my husband, He is the only one I can trust. I don’t know how I will cope when all of my children have left home and are married and there is no one physically at home with me, but I pray the Lord will give me grace for that time.

    • Hi dear sister, welcome to the blog 🙂

      I changed your screen name to LookingToTheLord, for your protection. And I airbrushed some details in your comment like the length of your second marriage and the sexes and numbers of your children.

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

      I used to be a nurse too. And I loved nursing because it was a job where I could utilise and express the compassion I have for people.

      The single pastor who is not speaking to you … that kind of thing hurts, eh? Do people like that realise they are conveying a message that we divorcees are contaminated, tainted, leprous? Do they even think about how their avoidance of us might hurt us?

      Quite possibly that pastor believes (mistakenly) that it is sinful to marry a divorcee, so he’s steering a wide berth around you in case to guard himself from getting interested in you. If you read my book you’ll see the argument I put forward for why that belief is mistaken.

      • LookingToTheLord

        Dear Barbara,
        Thank you for your reply. Yes, it does hurt, but there doesn’t seem much that I can do about it. I think he also thinks that it is “avoiding all appearance of evil” not to talk to me. He is not the only one to do so. The older pastor that I mentioned before, is the pastor of our church and a widower. He has been the only person to regularly visit our family in the last 3 1/2 years. The majority of our friends are married and most of them won’t come for a visit unless I have my son in law over as well or some other male, such as our pastor. It is sad but the way things are.

        I do have your book; it has been on my shelf for quite some time, but every time in the past I have tried to read it, it seems that I can’t get past more than a few paragraphs. It has been at least 6 months since I have tried, so I should try again since I am in a better emotional place now than I was then. I will look at that particular subject you have referred to first.

        Thank you for your ministry. I appreciate you all and your commitment to tackle the truth.

    • Jeff Crippen

      LookingtotheLord – THANK YOU for telling us your story and being so honest. I am sure your words here will help many of our readers. I WISH you could be in our church here. We would love to have a person like you here. Of course the difficult thing to get hold of and to really feel deep inside ourselves is that all of this wickedness you have been the target of is in no way your fault. In fact, I maintain that abusers who parade as Christians are today’s equivalent of the devil’s emissaries who hate and persecute Christ. I think that a huge part of why they target godly people like you is because they want to destroy His flock and it is their very nature, like that of the Pharisees who were children of the devil, to rage against Light. Not only does the Lord love you, He has His loving eye particularly on you – the apple of His eye you might say.

      The reason your abuser cannot find anything in you to love is because he is incapable of love, not because you are not lovable. The devil does not love. He worships himself as the closest thing to “love” in him. So with his children. The brighter your beauty in Christ grows, the more he hates you. This is why Jesus said we are blessed when the wicked revile us and say all kinds of evil against us. It is assurance that we belong to Him.

      I noticed that you used the word “fundamental” to describe the churches you have been in. I have had some experience with independent fundamental baptist churches. I am not sure if this is the breed of church you mean, but as you have been shunned by that pastor I suspect it must be something along that genre of church. Those places are really not churches at all because they do so much to substitute the real love and grace of God in Christ with sheer, enslaving legalism. Many are King James Version only, heavy on men dominating women, strict dress codes, sin to drink any kind of alcohol ever, that sort of thing. As the Apostle Paul wrote more than once, this kind of thing not only has NO power to help us put to death our sinful flesh (Col 2), but in fact the law, when misused to supposedly enable us to be righteous, empowers and energizes sin. So “churches” like that are really sin factories. All white-washed on the outside of course, but inside, well, what a mess. Such a place will increasingly reject you as your come more and more into the truth of Christ. And learning that truth for most all of us means having to go through some tough experiences and losses.

      Oh, and I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that the reason that pastor shuns you is because it is part of the “code” of those kinds of churches. People are taught that really, women are Jezebel seductresses not to be trusted, always on the lookout for holy man to seduce and draw into their web. The way they handle this then is by setting up all kinds of rules, one of which is “I will never be alone under any circumstances with a woman not my wife.” They even boast about that stuff. But in the end it simply betrays the evil that is in their own selves and falsely accuses women in general. Be assured, that man is no one you would ever want to be married to.

      Our prayer for you is that the Lord’s presence would become increasingly real to you and that He would mightily do in you what He promises all of His people. Namely,

      For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:15-16)

  22. strengthforthejourney

    I am this woman. I have been with more than one abuser. In fact, abusive men are all I have ever known. Ever.
    I was adopted and raised in an extremely loving home. I had amazing parents. My daddy was never, ever abusive or cruel. He loved me and I always knew it.
    But still, I always ended up with abusive men who wanted to control me. I have been in relationships with three abusers. They have all slowly eroded my self esteem and self worth. My personality is very passive and ultimately, I always just wanted to be loved and accepted.

    But then, something in me just snapped. I realized that my past doesn’t have to equal my future. Jesus loves and cherishes me, and the RIGHT man at the RIGHT time (NOT now!) will see what I have to offer.

    My abusers have all tried to use God and church to manipulate and control me. It was only after stepping out of the situation and the fog lifting slowly that I realized the horrible pattern I have been repeating. There are plenty of people who judge me for my past, think I’m garbage due to more than one marriage in my early 30s, and accuse me of being the wicked, bad one who broke my ex’s heart. But in my heart of hearts, I know abusers do NOT change, regardless of how much they may apologize or shed tears. I had to get out for me. God knows why I left. That’s all that matters

    • freeatlast8

      Following this. So much to learn!

    • Thanks SFTJ 🙂 Your story shows that being raised in a loving home where there was no abuse is NO guarantee that one will not be targeted by an abuser in adulthood.

      • strengthforthejourney

        I’m so glad my story is helpful. ❤️

  23. kim

    Recently I’ve been reading about the effects of trauma on the brain. Trauma produces physical changes in the brain, and can cause damage to the areas involved in focus, decision making, planning and organizing, among other areas. There is also a phenomena known as “traumatic bonding”, whereby we get “addicted” biochemically to the highs and lows of an abusive relationship. These effects on the brain take time and proper treatment to heal, and, no, the effects do not make us stupid if we make subsequent choices that may not be the best for us. I believe we need to be compassionate with ourselves and remember that we are not to blame for someone else’s choice to abuse us. Many of us have been in “survival” mode for so long that it almost feels normal, but we can change that with the proper help.

    • strengthforthejourney

      Oh my goodness Kim… this is spot on. I didn’t realize this existed, but it makes PERFECT sense. I’m going to do further research on this.

    • Hi Kim and others, the term ‘tramatic bonding’ is one which seems to shed light on things for some survivors as they are coming to understand what happened to them. However, we believe it is on the whole a term we prefer to avoid on this blog.

      It is a term which pathologizes the victim: it discredits the victim, it depicts the victim as in some way sick or defective or deficient. So it contributes to the mindset of victim-blaming that is widespread in culture.

      For more info, please read this post:
      The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse

      We try to avoid terms which discredit or pathologize victims. We prefer instead to elucidate and honour victims responses. Here is a pdf which explains what it means to honour the responses of victims:

      https://www.calgarywomensshelter.com/images/pdf/cwesResistancebookletfinalweb.pdf

    • kim

      I apologize if I inadvertently created confusion or triggering for anyone with my comments. I will check out the posts Barbara has posted the link to- thanks, Barbara for sharing.

      • ((hugs)) and blessings to you, Kim. 🙂

  24. Anotheranon

    I have only been married once, but it lasted over thirty years.
    I had an abusive parent who made me feel like I was no good. This parent was extremely critical and controlling–but never physically abusive. I also had an abusive younger sibling. I felt unwanted. I remember as I got older I just wanted someone to love me. (Nowadays this is called having low self-esteem I guess.)
    I had always wanted to be a wife and stay-at-home mom and have a “happy” family, and I was afraid to move away to go to college so I married my boyfriend thinking it would be “happily ever after”.
    I now see that I was pursuing an idol and not looking to God to fulfill my life. But I also feel like I had no support at home and was not strong enough to be on my own at age 18.
    Fast-forward to now–my children are Christians, and even though I am getting a divorce I know that God will provide whatever I need. I trust Him and look to Him for guidance.
    (Sorry for all the “I’s” in this response! But I hope it helps someone.)

    • Survivor

      I used to feel guilty when I used the word “I”, too. “Selfish” would instantly ring (then echo again and again) in my head.

      I have since learned that “I” am part of the equation in any and every relationship. Even without a relationship with another person, “I” am still a valid part of the equation in my relationship to my heavenly Creator and Father.

      The “selfish” response is getting softer and softer. Sometimes I don’t even hear it at all! I know that it is the Adversary/Slanderer-Liar who accuses me, not God.

      Who am I to disagree with my Creator and heavenly Father? (He IS love itself.) HE wants me here.

      Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness (the one with healing in His wings) identified Himself to people by His actions but also by His words, two of which were, “I AM”.

      P.S. Your life is evidence that YOU are, too!

  25. under the waterfall

    Regarding red flags, I was thinking about the post some time ago in the blog about Pride and Prejudice ? and how the lady Lizzy had been entirely taken in by a scoundrel; she realizes at some point that she really had no right to presume such goodness in a man that she really knew nothing about other than what he told her. She blindly walked right into an evil intrigue without having a clue. In this case, she looks back and realizes that the man had put himself forward to her in quite a charming way that so disarmed her scruples that she never caught how actually full of impropriety his behaviour was and that she had fallen for it, because she wanted to believe what she wanted to believe, and that this way of responding had robbed her of her own scruples.

    I`ve done this many times, walked right past serious red flags and my own inner alarm bells, because I hope the alarm bells were just past problems related to trauma and not a real present day real time issue, so great was my desire to believe what I wanted and needed to believe . It always starts like with Lizzie, with a vision of the other person`s goodness and honor that is wholly unwarranted and then when things happen that fly against it, I am so unable to level with myself, so determined am I to hang on to this vision of have of who I think this man is, that I wind up getting into quite a bear trap of a snare. Its like I am carrying around a crown and a sceptre of honor that was refused by my own father and looking for someone to give it to. Probably what catches me up is that I haven`t realized how great an effect that trauma can have; my vision of my daddy, like that of most little girls, was one of goodness and honor and wonderfulness and he was the most precious person in the world to me.

    It was a vision that had to be forcibly wrested from me bloody inch by bloody inch because I was just not able to let go. I realized at some point, that when he died, I was more grieving for the man that should have and could have been, than for what was. But it didn`t help disentangle me from the horrible creeper vines and gnarled twisted limbs of the deep dark swamp that formed in my mind and soul as a result of all this. In my case, the vision is one I`ve created out of my own need for someone to actually BE those things and so often it’s me that initially goes after the relationship. I presume things about the man in question that just aren`t true and ignore evidences that would show me there is a problem I should be attention. And I am willing to behave without an inch of propriety and throw all dignity and caution to the winds and shred my own self respect to have this. Right now because of my relationship choices I have lost the respect of everyone in my life including myself.

    • Survivor

      In Christ – and Christ alone – there is no condemnation. But we all need another/other believers to keep us accountable and strong, speaking the truth in love, building up each other’s faith with the Word of God. No one can do this in isolation (actual or imagined).

  26. Survivor

    Curiously, the question of my stupidity has been surfacing quite often of late. I know I’m not stupid, yet wonder how I end up associating with such deceptive, sick people. The sense of despair and utter aloneness in the world goes back very, very far. I want to find the place where I lost the head of my axe in the river! I am determined to get back/recover what was mine – and God will do it just as He made the iron head surface so as to be retrieved and secured once again in it’s proper place so as to be of use in the service of the King!

    Thank you, Jeff, for another timely post – and thank you to every one who has commented. Books are being filled up in heaven with your encouragement, expounding the Word. May God bless each of us with a greater perception and knowledge of Jesus/Yeshuah, our Lord and King, the Messiah, the Son of God’s love, no less.

    With God, ANYTHING is possible!

    • I want to find the place where I lost the head of my axe in the river! I am determined to get back/recover what was mine – and God will do it just as He made the iron head surface so as to be retrieved and secured once again in it’s proper place so as to be of use in the service of the King!

      AMEN! Great image 🙂

  27. keeningforthedawn

    You have all said such valuable things here. I really appreciate this post and its invitation to introspection. I did want to share one thing that has helped me in my experience. That is: I cannot afford to assume that other people think the way I think.

    For instance, if I extend kindness to anyone, I do it for the joy of being kind and reflecting the light of Christ. However, if someone else extends kindness, I need to be aware that there could be an ulterior motive behind that. Another example is honesty. This is extremely important to me, so I tend to be honest (to a fault, some might say). However, I can’t assume that everyone is going to be honest with me. Lying is one of the abuser’s favorite weapons, and one of the first tactics abusers use to snag their victims in a tangled web of deceit. If something seems “off”, that is often a red flag presenting itself.

    • Lea

      “That is: I cannot afford to assume that other people think the way I think.”

      I have been having the exact same thought this year!

  28. StillBlessed

    It’s not because we’re stupid. From what I’ve been reading on here, and from my own experiences both in an abusive marriage and working with other women who are in abusive relationships, I’m starting to see that many people who suffer abuse have similar personality traits such as a high level of empathy, a desire to be kind and caring, a dislike of conflict and a love of peace, spiritual beliefs such as esteeming others better than themselves, being submissive and eager to serve, willing to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of others, a natural tendency to believe the best about someone, and to assume good intentions and honesty in others. These are the traits and beliefs that they live by everyday. And then many have had the parental and/or religious training to obey those in authority, and to not trust your ‘gut feelings’. I’m beginning to see that a lot of those personality traits are seen as ‘weakness’ to an abuser, who seems to be able to hone in on this kind of person who will be easily used to invoke sympathy, gain trust, and take advantage of. Although I do think it’s possible that abuse in our childhood pre-disposes us to accept it as adults, my theory is that it’s more a mixture of personality traits and training that is an obvious green light [i.e, perceived as likely easy prey – Eds] for the abuser. And maybe the most vulnerable of all are the ones with such personality traits and training who have also suffered childhood abuse.

    I had a mostly happy childhood, although there was a small amount of sexual abuse. I learned to always obey those in authority. I was an extremely shy child, a fearful child, with a strong desire to have others like me, a hatred and avoidance of conflict, and the ability to see the best in most every situation. And I was never taught to listen to those gut feelings. I have the spiritual gift of mercy, which seems to enable me to put myself in someone else’s situation and imagine how they may feel, and to see things from more than my own perspective. Like someone else wrote, I somehow seemed to think that everyone was a ‘good’ person. I was rather confused, very gullible, and had very few boundaries against anyone who appeared to care about me. I married young, and the covert verbal abuse started in our second year of marriage, after our first baby was born. It was 20 years later before I read Patricia Evans’ book and realized that what I was experiencing had a name [verbal abuse]. It has taken a lot of self-education about abuse/abusers, and 10 years of becoming strong in my own identity as a valuable, beloved daughter of God for me to be able to walk out of the fog, trust my gut feelings, accept that it’s okay to have boundaries, recognize one can love others without putting trust in them, and to speak truth even if it provokes conflict.

    I’ve learned a lot from the experiences of others, as well. One of my children has been in an abusive marriage, others of my children have had to deal with abusive employers (all three of those employers were female, by the way), and just this last year I have been supporting other women who have been abused by so-called ‘friends’ (also female.) It doesn’t seem to matter if the abuser is male or female, the behaviors are similar.

    I’ve been married more than 35 years now. There were few red flags that I remember, and I attributed those to ‘just his personality’. There were hardly any of the red flags that most people talk about – maybe because his was such covert abuse? Most of these took years before I could look back and see the pattern. I like what someone else mentioned – watch for things that show character traits, not just personality quirks.

    I also think that sometimes an abuser will show very few if any red flags, because they are in ‘salesman’ mode. They have no need at that point to exert control, and it’s not till after marriage or commitment of some kind, or after other types of life changes such as birth of a baby, accidents, illness, moving to a new home, etc, that the abuse will begin to show up.

    Some of what I should have seen as red flags:

    Is he emotionally needy? Does he ‘need’ you to make him feel better, yet resists any attempts you make to do so?
    Does nothing ever work out ‘right’ for him (in his opinion)?
    Does he always have excuses/reasons for why he can’t change something in his life?
    Is it always someone else’s fault?
    Does he get angry quickly at little things that go wrong?
    Does he see others for whom things are going well as either ‘privileged’ in some way or special recipients of God’s favor?
    Does he show jealousy when others are blessed?
    Does he get you to do things for him because “you are more capable” than he?
    Will he make a vague comment about something that leaves you without any understanding of what he’s talking about, and then wait for you to ask questions before he’ll say more? (This is a very subtle form of control – he has the knowledge, you don’t, and he’s forcing you to ask questions.)
    Do his words claim blame for everything by saying things like “it’s all my fault, I messed up again, I can’t do anything right” yet he never takes responsibility for anything and somehow manages to make you feel like it’s really all your fault?
    Does everyone always misunderstand him? (according to him)
    Does he have no real friends?
    When you ask him about his dreams and goals in life, does he not have any?

    Some red flags to watch for in an employer:

    Does she shower you with praise and talk about what a good worker you are?
    Does she give you jobs to do that are truly outside your knowledge level or ability because she likes your work so well?
    Is she grooming you to become her ‘right hand man’?
    Does she give you responsibility for things that you really shouldn’t be responsible for?
    Does she give you jobs to do without instructions, then expresses some disappointment when you don’t do the job ‘right’, but at the same time talks up your abilities as if you are wonderful?
    Does she have lots of big ideas for your future, things that she is going to help you accomplish (without seeming to care that you might not want those same things)?
    Does she push against your boundaries by having you work longer hours, do something not above-board, or ask favors of you, all because “you are such a good worker and she can trust you”?
    Does she introduce you to her business associates with embarrassing praise and maybe even slightly untruthful compliments?
    Does she offer you a higher wage or extra benefits earlier than usual ‘just to help you out’ and because ‘I know I can trust you to get the job done’? This is similar to the ‘love-bombing’ that often happens in the beginning of a dating relationship with an abuser.
    … All will be well until you hold your boundaries, begin to question her, or resist her plans for you. That’s when the abuse will begin.

    • Thank you Still Blessed for this wonderful comment and the extensive and well-written list of warning signs!

      Yes, it’s not because a person is stupid that they may end up being abused by multiple abusers. The ‘stupid’ label is one that many ignorant bystanders apply to victims. But that’s because most people don’t appreciate how evil and subtle the manipulations of abusers are… We wage an ongoing war at this blog against the pathologizing of victims. Victims are not pathological. Victims are not deficient or defective or ‘wrong’ or ‘messed up’ or ‘stupid’. Those are the labels that abusers and the comfort-zone-clinging bystanders like to use, but they are wrong labels.

      Victims of abuse ALWAYS resist. Victims of oppression always resist being oppressed. Resistance is ever-present. It just needs to be elucidated (have light shone on it) so it can be honoured for what it is: brave, creative, prudent resistance to oppression.

    • Moving Forward

      Your red flags for a future (or current) spouse are spot on. But, they are so subtle it takes years to recognize the pattern, and is almost impossible to explain to anyone unless they have experienced it as well, or are willing to take the time to listen. When someone sincerely asks, can I give an example of how he emotionally abuses me, I don’t know what to say, because it is a pattern, not an episode, that illustrates the abuse. Mentioning just one of those red flags will get the response, that they, too, deal with that in their spouse sometimes, as well. I hope some day I, too, can put together all my thoughts on what I went through and the things I learned as coherently as so many on this blog can do. I so want to be a help to others where I live.

    • Lily

      I, too married young. We were both 19. Years later I cried out to God, “Where does this come from?” and I immediately had two ‘videos’ running in my head. He was tormenting his little sister and my brother was tormenting me. That is why I did not allow my children (and I have many) to tease or pick on each other, ever. I made a big point of trying to teach them that if they could love each other they could stay married (if the spouse was not an abuser). So when a parent says that sibling rivalry is ‘normal’, yes it is, and that is why they are with us so long, that we can teach them that ‘normal’ means ‘our natural bent to sin’ and godly has to be learned and practiced. My mistake was modeling a totally wrong response to abuse, so some of them married abusers. Those that were still at home when I put a stop to it have much better understanding of relationships in that department.

      I knew he tormented his sister (and his little nephews) and I ‘talked him out of it’, much to her relief, but I saw later that he just transferred that to me. My brother, though he tormented me terribly for years, when he was around 14, when he gave his life to God, changed so much overnight that we quickly became best friends. And he has been a great husband and father. But my earlier reactions to him, I think were still in effect later to h.

      Another thing about red flags is that when we are dating, we try to be so pleasing that we rarely say no, and if we do and find resistance, we quickly give in, and think we’ll deal with that when we’re married.

  29. Elise

    Thank you all. Our pasts are not our futures. We aren’t crazy, we aren’t stupid, we are grateful for truth and life and those that ‘get it.’ There aren’t that many, but aren’t they great! We are encouraged. And as we heal, we share our truth with those that will hear. Thank you!

  30. Anonymous

    Okay, I will step forward… step forward as one who found herself in two abusive marriages. Took me some time to do this thinking oh no, round two, who will believe me?! The first ‘marriage’ was unbelievably horrific and ended with him being excommunicated from the church. He wore white gloves to carry out his abuses. Therefore, he never physically abused me. Of course not, if he hits me I have evidence. He would NEVER for a moment jeopardize getting caught thereby having his large-and-in-charge Mr. Christianity facade questioned. Along with his emotional, mental, psychological, financial, gaslighting, sexual and monster of control abuse, he would laugh in my face with a smirk saying, “Go ahead, tell the church, no one will believe you.” He was wrong; they did believe me.

    I remember thinking post-divorce, well I am wiser now and this could not happen to me again. I was wrong…

    As evil and wicked as my previous marriage was, this next marriage made that one look like a walk in the park. I do NOT say this lightheartedly – it IS a fact. Only by God’s grace did I ‘literally’ survive this time around. I fled from him in the night; but then I went back; and then I needed to be physically rescued!

    I am filled with peace and joy now as I live in an abuse-free environment surrounded with so many who love, support, care for, and respect me. I have always said being a victim of abuse is not just something that happens to you, it now becomes a part of who you are. Abuse changes you. You now see the world and people through a different lens. But, now, “the fire in my bones”, to borrow Barbara Roberts phrase, is what keeps me seeking to understand how it is I suffered at the hands of two abusive ‘husbands’.

    So how did I get tricked twice? For starters, Satan used on me the second time around the exact same trick he used the first time. Why? Because it worked! I am the one, now, who needs to be wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove. And believe me I have been looking inward to identify the areas where I need to grow and better understand why I made the choices I did. I cannot afford to be an easy target, prey for another predator. And so it’s a work in a progress. And I cannot fully express the gratitude I have for this site at A Cry For Justice!

    One thing both my ex abusers have in common – both were ‘big shots’ in the church – that’s where I met them. And so when pastor Crippen talks about those hiding in the pews and pulpits, he absolutely nails it!!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Anonymous.

      (((hugs)))

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