A Cry For Justice

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

The Abuser’s Goal – A Master/Slave Relationship

But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:29-31)

The fundamental goal of the abuser is to possess power and control over his targeted victim. This is a fundamental truth regarding evil. Like the devil, like the wicked person who demands to have his evil way always lusts for power and control. “I will be like the Most High.”

Now, the abuse we most often deal with here is domestic abuse. Abuse in marriage, and most commonly in the cases that come to us the abuser is claiming to be a fine Christian. Wolf in wool, you see. Most professing Christians and pastors and churches and Christian marriage or counseling ministries think that it is God’s goal for all of us to set out to “fix” the abuser. To “fix” the “marriage.” I read one such authority recently who said that an abuse victim is permitted by God to separate from their abuser (carefully avoiding the word, “divorce”) and that at least initially the goal of the separation is to possibly jolt the abuser into repentance.

All of this is a flight of fancy, and I can tell you why. I will point to two truths (biblical ones) to support my position.

Abusers, by their very nature crave, in marriage, a MASTER/SLAVE relationship.

Chew on that for a bit. Abusers, by their very nature, crave a MASTER/SLAVE relationship. They of course are the master while their spouse is the slave. All their tactics, all their ravings and ragings, all their gaslighting and covert aggression, the whole package has one single goal — to be master and to enslave.

Now, chew a bit more. How can you ever have a true marriage, or even a healthy relationship/friendship, with such a person? You cannot. Every time you try to “fix” it, Pharaoh only rages and makes you gather your own straw. Or he promises to ‘let you go’ then reneges on his promise.

Did you see that sci-fi movie with the famous line of “cousin Eddie” — “I’m baaaaccckkk!”? Early on in the movie a captured alien is asked “what do you want?” Its answer was, essentially “to kill and destroy you.” No sit-down negotiation sessions needed. No compromise was on the table. And that is how it is in a marriage to an abuser. Master, slave. No bending. No alteration of that basic plan. “Sure we can have a marriage. I want to be married to you. But you are going to be my slave. That’s how it works.” Of course, the abuser never states that honestly; it’s most often couched in supposed “biblical” words.

Therefore, all efforts to fix, to reform, to persuade are futile. There is only one solution. End of relationship. This is why my repeated mantra is: a) Abusers never change (particularly the kind who pretend to be Christians), and b) A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.

There are fools and then there are FOOLS. The first might listen to correction, the second kind will never listen. Ever. 

Here is the text on this –

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
(Proverbs 26:4-5)

Have those two verses ever confused you? They have me. Of course Solomon intended them to as a literary device to get our attention and emphasize his point. I think Solomon is pointing to this — there are fools and then there are FOOLS. And we need to wisdom when responding to either type.

One type of fool is correctable and worth our time trying to correct, although even that kind of fool needs a real jolt — answer him according to his folly. I take that to mean either mock him, or challenge the presuppositions he is basing his foolish perspective on. Use language that confronts him with his foolishness. Draw a sharp picture of it for him, so he sees that he is the fool. Spell out bluntly the logical consequence of his thinking. Don’t try to reason with him in milder terms or you will simply be playing the fool yourself and he will walk away thinking he is wise (…lest he be wise in his own eyes).

The other kind of FOOL is the class where I believe most all abusers are found. What is the Lord’s instruction to us in dealing with them? Don’t even try. Don’t fall into the ‘explaining trap’. Don’t go down to his level by trying to combat his arguments, because those arguments of his are often too foolish to be worth engaging with. Do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. 

The only way this kind will ever listen is if YOU say things he agrees with, things that affirm his master status. This of course is what is happening in most churches. The preaching and teaching and counseling are “according to” the abuser’s folly. He likes what he hears and in the process the church becomes an abuser just like him. Yep. There it is.

The only way to handle a relationship with an abuser is to have no relationship, at least as far as it is possible for us. He is most unlikely to change, and the longer we remain under his dominion, the more we ourselves become someone else. And if he truly decides to change, let him do the hard work involved, let him get himself into a behaviour change program and put in the years of work needed to effect profound character change.

And even then, unless God quickens his dead spirit to life, he will not be a true Christian, so it wouldn’t be wise to be yoked with him. He will still be an Ishmael, not an Isaac; he will still be the ‘son of the slave woman’ in bondage to sin, not the ‘son of the free woman’ who by the grace of God has had been given a new heart, a new spirit.

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Jeff’s byline is on this post as the author. Barb contributed a little bit to it as well.

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50 Comments

  1. Pamela Aquino

    How very true

  2. Avid Reader

    The Bible says,

    “Can two walk together unless they be agreed?” Amos 3:3 (KJV)

    NOT can two walk together unless one is making the choices for the other!

    That’s the difference between the Bible and Christian marriage books! 🙂

  3. Tess

    Thank yòu Jeff and Barbara for your patience with victims like myself……

    Thank you for widening your scope to cover enslaving friendships as well as marriages…(i have experienced both).

    There is far more help and understanding for abusive marriages available online, than for abusive friendships.

    Its strange to me that this female friend has damaged me far more than my ex husband….my ex was lower on the Narcissistic spectrum..( 20 years ago).but still I got the same kind of resonse from both Pastors…..just ignore it and pray!

    This female friend caught me unawares and uneducated about Narcissism…..but my, how quickly I have had to educate myself!
    This blog has been invaluable.
    I am so grateful to the hurting victims who still try to encourage others by posting here …..thank you to everyone for your endless patience with me as I struggle to break off this toxic friendship.

  4. Daffodil

    This is so true. It was a “no-win” situation for me. When, without a word to me as I stood with him and his friend, he sold the patio furniture I liked that had been my aunt’s because “it would get damaged in the move” and I afterward told him that I’d wanted to take it with us, he asked me why I hadn’t said anything. What immediately went through my mind was, “Then you would have told me I was ‘bucking your authority.'” All I could ever have done to have “succeeded” in our marriage was acquiesce to everything he wanted. He’s now on his third attempt to “annul” our long marriage that he ended, and the third attempt because the Catholic Church is evidently “bucking his authority” too. Only God Almighty can change a heart that hard, but as Rev. Dave Orrison said in one of his posts, God may be telling me, “Or not.” I’m simply standing for truth. May God have mercy on his soul.

    • Hi Daffodil, re the Roman Catholic Church’s practice of annulment, allow me to share my own thoughts (and of course, you’re free to disagree with me).

      The Roman church invented the doctrine of annulment of marriage. It has a long history and is connected to their long-held view that marriage is a sacrament so divorce is never permissible. They decided they could ‘annul’ a marriage by declaring that it was never a valid and true marriage in the first place. Now, there are some genuine instances where a marriage ceremony was done but the parties were actually not scripturally permitted to marry – for example, marriage between brother and sister, or a marriage where one of the parties was coerced into the marriage by false pretences or by bullying parents, and so that party could not be deemed to have freely consented to the marriage. Those marriages are indeed invalid marriages, and should be treated as such.

      But the Roman church, to create a loophole for people to get out of marriages they didn’t like, invented the concept that the Church could annul a marriage by investigating the history of the parties and making a judgement about whether one or both parties were in fact never really committed to the marriage from the beginning. This loophole allowed people (esp if they were wealthy and powerful and able to lean on church authorities) to get their marriages annulled. And let’s say the husband got the church to annul his marriage – any children who had come from that union were then deemed to be bastards.

      Personally, I see no scriptural support for the idea of annulment. The Bible simply talks about separation and divorce. And in the the first century AD, when the NT was written, the Greek words ‘separation’ and divorce’ were used almost interchangeably: separation with intent to end the marriage was equivalent to divorce.

      • Anonymous

        Positively nailed it, Barbara! “INVENTED” being the keyword – dare I say man-made religion?!

        And the WEALTHIER you are, the greater chance you will be granted an annulment. Your money will “speak” to them, louder than your words.

      • Wealth and power were particularly important in previous centuries if you were seeking an annulment. The lowly, the poor, and the downtrodden usually didn’t stand a chance. Often you had to grease the palms of priests and bishops and prelates. And it might also help if you could lean on Rome politically — so merchant bankers, princes, noblemen and the like had a better chance of getting Rome to give them an annulment.

        I have not heard that wealth and power plays much part in seeking an annulment these days. I think the Roman church now tends to gives annulments for ‘social justice’ reasons.

      • Having said what I just said about wealth and power, it’s important to note that for all his wealth and power, Henry the Eighth of England had a darn hard time getting his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. The Pope refused to do it, even though Henry claimed that the marriage had never been consummated so it was not a valid marriage. Henry only managed it by declaring himself Head of the Church in England and breaking all ties with Rome.

        A good DVD to watch if you want to pick up this history is “Wolf Hall” (produced by ITV). I’ve just finished it and it’s excellent. It also shows what happened to Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thank you for teaching us on this business of annulment, Barbara. I have personally not have hardly any experience with it. I agree, it cannot be found in Scripture.

      • In my book, one of the appendices gives a brief history of marriage and divorce in the church. In that appendix, I refer to annulment and how it came about in the Roman church.

      • Anonymous

        Amazing story on Anne Boelyn. Was in the Catholic Church for several years…did a study on some of this along with the whole protestant reformation and the selling of indulgences!!

      • Believer

        It is of course no surprise in the slightest that evil ones would fraudulently claim their marriage was not valid in order to get out of it, as lying, thievery and destruction are their stock and trade. But I don’t see how their wicked and perverted actions or thoughts have anything at all to do with the truth of the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of annulment. It is either valid or not. Scriptural silence on it notwithstanding, I can’t see how it is not valid. I can think of so many scenarios where society as a matter of common sense would recognize that an apparently legitimate marriage was based on fraud and therefore is actually illegitimate, and therefore an annulment is required. I can only see that the “marriages” of all of us who were conned into marrying evil abusers who parade as Christians are simply and truly illegitimate. The abuser LIED, the abuser used a FAKE IDENTITY, the person we thought we married never existed. It was all a lie. More than feeling I qualify for an annulment I KNOW I do. God did not join us together. I agree that marriage is a sacrament.

      • Hi believer, I agree that if a person has behaved fraudulently to entice another person into marrying, then that marriage is not legitimate because the party who was tricked by the fraudster was not able to give consent freely because they were duped and deceived.

      • Anotheranon

        I knew a woman with several children who divorced her abusive, lazy, drug-addicted husband. Later she wanted to marry a single man who was Roman Catholic, so she needed to annul her first marriage. Her new husband just point blank asked the priest rather ironically “So how much is this going to cost me?” I thought that was pretty funny.

      • StandsWithAFist

        I have a former “friend” who became a Catholic specifically so she could have her marriage annulled. Further, she waited until her parents died & then inherited a multi-million dollar estate, which she then used to “pay” the priests.

        She was & is a malignant narcissist, and had wounded her husband, kids & many of us friends during the 30+ years of marriage. All she had to do was to send each of us an “apology” letter, pay the priest & voila—annulment granted. Never mind her beautiful but messed up adult kids….she got what she wanted, & had enough money to hire a fancy attorney who succeeded in taking her ex to the cleaners, while making sure even her own kids inherited very little.

        As an only child she got it all, & has been partying ever since.
        She’s got the power, control & the money to buy it.
        Master-slave indeed.

  5. LH

    Yes, this is soooo true!! My ex absolutely wanted the master/slave relationship, not a real marriage.

    I love what you said “And if he truly decides to change, let him do the hard work involved” – the opposite of what our counselors (yes, plural) and pastor said.

  6. joepote01

    “Don’t fall into the ‘explaining trap’. Don’t go down to his level by trying to combat his arguments, because those arguments of his are often too foolish to be worth engaging with.”

    Exactly!

    Moreover, explaining, debating, and trying to convince plays right into the abuser’s game plan. That’s exactly what he wants…because that’s exactly where he excels. He is an expert at using foolish illogical arguments to manipulate others…at questioning obvious truths as though the burden falls on the victim to prove that black is not white…and at feigning emotional crises to garner sympathy.

    Don’t do it! Don’t play his game. It’s a trap waiting to be sprung.

    Here is a recent post on my blog discussing how clearly C.S. Lewis illustrated these abuse tactics in his children’s fiction series, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’: http://josephjpote.com/2017/03/narnian-abuse/

    Thank you, Jeff!

    • Anonymous

      Exactly! That is what they want… to draw you in to their sick world. They enjoy the crazy-making game of watching you stumble around trying to untangle and make sense of the web they weave. They love filling your world with fog. It’s all so premeditated and part of the abuse.

      When I started to wise up to his tactics, taking less and less his bait, he switched gears: gaslighting was the next evil on his agenda. I didn’t understand what was happening to me at first, but I felt like I was losing my mind. It was a real blow to force myself to recognize and face the cold, hard, bone-chilling wake-up call that I was dealing with real EVIL. He would see me look confused and fearful in those times of gaslighting, and what I recall, is the level of great comfort and ease that would come over him. He was once again “winning.” The master had his slave back in line.

      • joepote01

        ” It was a real blow to force myself to recognize and face the cold, hard, bone-chilling wake-up call that I was dealing with real EVIL.”

        Yes! I was the same way. For years, I assumed she was a basically ‘good person’ who was rather selfish, spiritually weak, and made a lot of mistakes. It was a huge paradigm shift to realize that she was intentionally hurting me for the shear pleasure of watching my pain while establishing power and control over my life. To realize this wasn’t just basic selfishness…it was intentional EVIL.

        That was a very bizarre reality to have to face.

  7. Anonymous

    I read an article years ago about a woman who’s boyfriend wanted to be “dominated.” He told her what to do and she did it. Months later, this man hated her but because she knew how to control him, he wouldn’t leave her. SHE was the one telling the story, and she thought it was funny that even though he hated her, she was still able to control him. For one thing, it says a lot about her nature that she would play this game in the first place, but for her to think it was “funny” to be able to control a person who she KNEW wanted to escape and hated her, was ……horrific.

    We’ve had a hacker for years. He is able to hack everything we own (it’s not even hard for a person to do this nowadays–just takes a little time). It appears as though he enjoys having control over things–likes to get our attention by doing “goofy” things with our gadgets. He hasn’t “harmed” us, but he has established that if he WANTED TO, he could do this at ANY TIME. The threat is always there.

    The truth of the matter is that I’ve lived with some form of this “threat” my entire life. My psychopathic dad always had a threat of some kind that defeated me and made me comply. My husband used having many children and fear of divorce and poverty to control me, and all throughout my life in different jobs and positions, they’ve used various “threats” disguised as rules to create a perpetual state of fear in order to control people.

    Pastor Crippen wrote, “Abusers, by their very nature, crave a MASTER/SLAVE relationship. They of course are the master while their spouse is the slave.” THIS SHOULD BE AT THE VERY BEGINNING OF EVERY SERMON STARTED, NO MATTER THE TOPIC. Then from this truthful and BIBLICAL standpoint, the preacher can speak on love, marriage, sin, etc. But STARTING from the truth of this statement. A reminder at EVERY sermon about the nature of some humans.

    God has shown me again and again the truth that Corrie Ten Boom wrote about. This wisdom came from her sister Betsie who ended up dying in a concentration camp. ““There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!””

    We are loved — those of us who belong to Jesus — DEEPLY, DEEPLY LOVED. And God, when he shows us the truth of the horror of evil, is actually saving us —by letting us see the TRUTH of the lies of this evil world. You are not alone, not even for a nanosecond when you are His…

  8. Anne

    This was God given! I needed this post today. I’m trying to stay strong, not second guess myself. This was what I tried to tell him several times in recent years, only I said he only wanted a servant when I wanted to be a partner, an equal. But yes, slave works.

    A few weeks ago, I heard my anti h say under his breath that he didn’t want to be in the marriage, wanted out, wanted me dead. I was shocked by the death wish, he’s never said anything like that before.

    Never faces me and talks. Always talks behind a closed door, just loud enough so I can hear or at times or places when I might not be paying full attention or be falling asleep. But good old hypervigilance … I’m always on high alert and aware when he’s around.

    [info redacted to protect commenter]

    He’s never been physically abusive, but to hear him say “I want you dead” … the final chain holding me broke and fell. I’m free!!!

    Thank you, ACFJ for helping me get through the last two and a half years to this point. Please keep me in your prayers, for safety for me and [for those I am responsible for].

    There’s light at the end of the tunnel … finally!

    • Hi Anne, I redacted a bit of your comment, for your safety. You’d described some details about your anti-h’s behaviour which might potentially identify him. So I didn’t want him or his allies to know the other details you’d given… hence my redactions.

      If you want to use a different screen name on this blog, just email TWBTC. Her address is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

  9. GypsyAngel

    I am repeatedly grateful for this blog. It puts into words, so much that I have tried for years to say. This is not to say that I didn’t make bad choices, because I certainly did. But ending my marriage to a man who not only considered me his property, but CALLED me his property was not one of them. I only wish I had stood up sooner. Thank You all…and Keep up the good work.

  10. Anon

    I have been reading your wisdom for a few yrs now. I am in the process of trying to divorce an emotional controlling abuser. We sold our house and cannot agree how to split proceeds. Check expires [date redacted]. He has no lawyer, no job (he had an accident that he claims left him unable to work), does not help support the children living with me and is not current on child support.

    Any help on getting this guy to not be so selfish and share more of proceeds? He wants 50/50 by the way. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for your website. ..it had helped me through this hard journey in so many ways.

    • Hi, I changed your screen name to Anon — I strongly suggest you do not use any part of your real name when commenting on this blog, given the situation you are in.

      I doubt there is any way to get this guy to not be so selfish and to share more of the proceeds. I presume you have a lawyer. I would consider the lawyer’s advice and if the lawyer says “just accept a 50/50 split of the cheque” that is probably the only way forward. It’s better than the guy getting MORE than 50%, isn’t it?

      It will be vital for your lawyer to get your ex to formally sign off in writing on the split of the cheque. The abuser’s verbal words are worth nothing. He will need to be held to agreement by having it all in writing, and make sure you and your lawyer keep duplicate copies of all the documents — that way if your lawyer lets your down, you’ve got your own copy of all the correspondence and documents.

      Depending on the child support system in your country, your ex’s arrears on child support may or may not be addressed fairly. In Australia, the Child Support Service can quite often garnish arrears from the owing parent’s wage or from his annual tax return, or remove the funds from his bank account if they know what bank he banks with (they did all those things for me, at different points). But in some other countries the system does not have that power (sigh).

      And you may find it helpful to look at our tag for Financial Abuse (there are currently 16 posts under that tag).

    • Oh, and welcome to the blog and please read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  11. ACON

    “… the longer we remain under his dominion, the more we ourselves become someone else.” Unfortunately, this is true.

    When men abuse their wives as a result of false teaching (e.g. Patriarchy or Shepherding), there is a slim chance that they might eventually come to their senses. When the abuse is due to their character disorder, there is no hope (short of a miraculous intervention by God), and you might as well cut your losses. Pastors and counselors who believe they can “fix” a character-disordered abuser grossly overestimate themselves.

  12. Misti

    I’ve described it that way for a while, much to the annoyance and anger of some persons. I wonder how much intersection there is between modern (illegal) slavers and abusers of family. I suspect it’s high.

    On Proverbs 26:4-5, I agree, and I think it also points out the mindsets/mentality involved in communicating with a fool. A fool will think himself wise unless answered according to his folly, but you (or observers) will look like a fool for engaging according to the folly. So if your goal is to keep him from being wise in his own eyes — well, you’ll have to answer in line with his foolishness. But if you don’t want to seem (or potentially be) like him, you can’t do that.

    And/or maybe it’s talking about the feelings involved. The urge to answer a fool can be strong, because “Can they not understand?!” But in doing so, your goal in the conversation feeds what they’re wanting and doing with the conversation and ultimately plays his goal if you’re answering him.

    As an example, consider online “debates” in non-curated comment areas on controversial topics. At least some commenters will be talking past each other. If you bother to point out the sources of the disconnect or even the root assumption/interpretation that causes the disagreement, someone will respond as if you necessarily support the opposing side, even if you explicitly say you don’t. If you persist in speaking to that person, it’s highly unusual for it to actually change the person’s mind. You can, though, answer on their level, undermining how smart he feels and giving witnesses the impression you’re the same sort of person, or you can ignore him altogether (easiest option) or politely point out his folly for the sake of others who see the conversation (which is difficult and has a high risk of leading to getting sucked into making that person your target audience).

    The sentence structure (“Answer (not) a fool”) refers specifically to the target audience to for whom your words are meant, but that could easily be a significance added by the translation to English. I do find that answering for the sake of other witnesses is far more likely to bring benefit to someone than is answering for the sake of the fool (which leads to much negativity). But such a situation requires there to be witnesses who could benefit, and it’s a lot of stress for minimal payoff, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the original verses’ phrasing applies to that, too.

    • I love what you said here, Misti. Thanks 🙂

    • joepote01

      Yes, excellent point! I sometimes struggle with the same questions. “Knowing this person is not open to hearing what I have to say, is it better to not respond at all, or is it better to respond for the sake of other listeners/readers?”

      It is sometimes a fine line. Either way, it is important to understand your target audience…and to avoid getting sucked into meaningless arguments…

      Thank you, Misti, for expressing that so well!

  13. Freewill

    Is it really impossible for the abuser to change?

    • It is not impossible for the abuser to cease being an abuser. But abusers are very resistant to having to change, they have practised ‘responsibility resistance’ tactics for years and their underlying mindset of entitlement and superiority and their ‘justifications’ for their conduct are deeply ingrained in their personality. They have chosen to be like that and have by their own selfish choices entrenched it deeply into their character. So abusers seldom change. It is not impossible for them to change, but most of them choose to go on the way they are.

      All abusers are adept at making superficial appearances of change, superficial ‘sorries’ and manifestations of ‘repentance’. But those things are simply more tactics of abuse — the abuser does those things to get people off his back and to con people into giving him another chance and to get them to feeling sorry for him because “he’s so upset about what he’s done”.

      For an abuser to change enough to really cease being an abuser, it takes years of intentional and very hard work. Most don’t stick the distance.

    • Misti

      In my observation and experience, an abuser has a core belief that some people are more important, valuable, or worthy than others–and that they’re either among the superior or the most superior, themselves. As far as they’re concerned, they have every right to do what they do. This pride or self-deification is what fuels the pattern of abuse and hypocrisy, and it’ll usually include a dissonance between the person’s public and private faces.

      It’s self-absorption or self-centeredness, taken to an extreme or practiced consistently.

      The justification given for why some persons are more important than others or what is cited to make some persons more important than others will vary, depending on the abuser. I’ve observed more than one change justifications at the drop of a pin, based on their audience; when outmaneuvered, such persons cut their losses, launch into personal attacks/smear campaigns, or both. This requires intent and at least partial awareness.

      I’ve also witnessed some who have fairly consistent justifications and seem legitimately confused when that justification is denied/disproved. My suspicion is that such persons were usually taught to be that way, possibly via the “golden child” role in a toxic family dynamic, and some only abuse out of sincere belief that it’s a necessary part of life (ex. others will seek to control them if they don’t do so first), and I don’t think all such persons are necessarily malicious. If this is correct, that does not change their responsibility for their actions, nor how they should be responded to. It does, though, mean that proper response from others–boundaries, refusing and separating from their abuse, etc.–can result in them realizing they’re in the wrong and making the effort to stop being abusers…if they’re genuinely willing to admit that.

      And–at least in my personal experience and observation of this–a core component of what makes a “golden child” the golden child is that they are never responsible for anything, according to the toxic(s). (The foil to this role is the “scapegoat”, who is held responsible for anything and everything.)

      Such an unwitting abuser has the same problem as a witting abuser, where they must first be willing to accept responsibility for themselves.

      But let’s say an abuser actually wants to take responsibility for themselves. How do they do that? If all they know is an incorrect manner of evaluating responsibility, that’s the circle of people they’re going to know, and be friends with, and trust. Just like someone who was a long-term scapegoat, an abuser who genuinely desires to change will have definitions and logical connections that are incompatible with the non-abusive mindset, like a perception of disagreement as condemnation or attack, or a belief that your manner of response and understanding things is the only way.

      So such an abuser who desires to change essentially has to relearn how to read, how to observe, how to draw conclusions…

      Victims do this all the time, coming out of the fog, especially ones who have lived out of the fog in the past. (It’s harder if the fog is all you’ve ever known, but still possible.)

      But for an abuser to seriously and sincerely admit wrongdoing? Zacchaeus seems to have done it, in Luke 19. Saul/Paul did it. The Bible clearly indicates it’s possible, yet it also lists more who either made false confessions (Ananias, probably Simon the Sorcerer) or never repented at all (the vast majority of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s day).

      The illustrations in the Bible also indicate that genuinely repentant abusers will accept consequences, make significant reparations that suit the crime and victims, and stop abusing. Victims will still be wary until fruits prove true (ex. Saul/Paul), and the repentant abuser will sincerely accept that. (It’s part of the consequences for their actions.)

      An abuser who insists they’re sorry and begs for the victim or others to ignore the consequences of what they did (like broken trust in a relationship, or invalidation of credentials) is not demonstrating repentance under the Biblical model or illustration.

      …And I’m going to stop hopping down this rabbit trail, now, I think. ^_^

      • Jeff Crippen

        Misti – I agree with everything you have said here. Very good insights. I would add one more vital point however. You said – “But for an abuser to seriously and sincerely admit wrongdoing? Zacchaeus seems to have done it, in Luke 19. Saul/Paul did it. The Bible clearly indicates it’s possible, yet it also lists more who either made false confessions (Ananias, probably Simon the Sorcerer) or never repented at all (the vast majority of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s day).”

        The fundamental change in Zacchaeus, in Saul of Tarsus, and in every single other sinner who genuinely repented and changed is not to be found in themselves, but in the Lord Jesus Christ who came to them and saved them. No abuser will ever become a non-abuser and righteous in God’s sight apart from coming to genuine faith in Christ and being born anew by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The things you describe that would characterize a truly repentant abuser are the fruits of that new birth in Christ.

        I would also add that the Apostle Paul was never an abuser as we define the term. Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee who genuinely and sincerely desired to serve the God of Abraham. His zeal in doing so exceeded that of all his compatriots, as he tells us in his letter to the Philippians. But as he also wrote to Timothy, Christ showed him mercy because he “acted ignorantly in unbelief.” That is to say, until Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Saul thought he was serving the Lord. Contrast this with the abuser. Abusers are not sincere. Abusers wear a disguise. They are not sincerely trying to serve God and therefore persecuting others, they are serving themselves and they hide behind a mask of wool. This the Apostle Paul never did.

      • Thanks Jeff, that is very helpful, esp the part about how Saul the Pharisee thought he was serving the Lord: he was not hiding behind a mask, he was sincere. He wasn’t craftily manipulating the religious community in order to serve himself. Although he persecuted the church, he was not someone who fitted our definition of an abuser.

      • Misti

        Saul/Paul was not an abuser in the sense of malicious intent, which is what you often speak of, but would it have looked much different to his victims while he was in the midst of his ignorant and abusive period?

        Sure, there are nuances that can be suggestive of a difference between someone who abuses out of ignorance vs. out of malice, but they aren’t indicative. A well-crafted mask can even be stronger than the façade that can be built out of ignorance, because someone who’s two-face because they sincerely believe that’s what they’re supposed to be doing won’t properly understand why, so they’ll be clumsier about using it. I’ve noticed that most (though not all) witnesses don’t notice the difference, possibly because most don’t pay attention to the slips to begin with.

  14. Scared momma

    Thank you for this reminder. Just today fell for the ” he just doesn’t understand”, and re explained some of my boundaries once again. Wish I could go full no contact, but with children that is not allowed.

    He pulls me in with false accusations that my boundaries hurt the kids. Accusing me of making my boundaries so severe it hurts the kids. But, the truth is without putting in place these high fences, he just walk all over me. I am really struggling how to maintain boundaries with him without it becoming so extreme. Like turning phone off during his visitation. It’s true, it hurts the kids, many times they want to call and can’t. But, if I don’t he uses the kids phones to call or text me. One side of me feels these kind of boundaries are justified and needed. On other hand, I feel like I am deserting the kids. He is so good at playing to my feeling of guilt. Make me feel like it is all my false.

    Or, he accuses me of things. Typically they have a little truth to them, but he totally twists things. I end up trying to defend myself, explain things. But I don’t think that helps any. He knows he is wrong, he doesn’t really care about my explanation. In end, I think he just wants to upset me, and the fact I respond at all proves he did.

    Your absolutely right that I am giving him what he wants by explaining things. I guess, I need to start making my responses extremely brief. But then, I am accused by courts of being rude and difficult. Refusing to answer. They never seems to see that what is said doesn’t deserve an answer. There is no winning.

    i find it easy to see what I’m doing wrong just can’t find the right why to respond to these kind of things, and I’m forced to respond.

    • You’ve probably tried this already, but just in case you haven’t: — could you let the kids leave their phones on during visitation so they can call you if they wish to, but if he uses one of the kid’s phones to call or you could immediately hang up as soon as you heard his voice. And if he used the kid’s phone to text you, you could simply ignore his text message. Would it be implementable? Would it be effective in helping the kids feel better and helping you feel better?

    • Anonymous

      Scared Momma,

      Abusers are constantly toying with us. Dr. George Simon says this about such a man:

      Manipulators will often couple denial with other tactics such as feigning innocence. This is when the person you’ve confronted acts like they have no idea what you’re talking about or pretends in a self-righteous manner that they’ve done absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or guilty for. Sometimes they can use denial and feigning innocence with such intensity and seeming conviction that you begin questioning your perceptions and your sanity. You start out knowing that you’ve nailed them on a behavior and somehow they get you to wondering if you haven’t gotten it all wrong. A very effective one-two manipulation punch indeed.

      “He pulls me in with false accusations that my boundaries hurt the kids.” The exact opposite is true. You have been forced to set boundaries, to PROTECT your kids. His abuse is what HURTS them.

      Their thinly veiled accusations of us are an attempt to keep us on defense – they know we will react to deny their outrageous accusations and so we become a pawn in their hands; they have us right where they want us! And that’s what they do: they take a sprinkling of truth and package it in lies and hurl it back in our face. We attempt to untangle the mess and hence, the crazy cycle marches on as our dignity goes under attack and our personhood diminished.

      When we are convicted by the Holy Spirit it is a gift of grace and for our good and to bring us immediately back in to the loving arms of our Lord. When abusers falsely accuse, they are doing so in compliance with their father, the devil, and they do so to AFFLICT OUR CONSCIENCE!! They take advantage of our sensitive-to-the-Holy Spirit-conscience, and use it as an opportunity to molest us. We can NEVER NOT BE ON GUARD in the presence of an abuser.

      • Scared momma

        Thank you Barbara and anonymous.

        I have tried hanging up or no answer, but it is worse. He take his frustration out on the kids. It’s easier to have him angry at me when the kids are safely home with me.

        So how do I get out of cycle. Do I just let him attack me. He tends to throw these things at me in middle of thread that need to be addressed. Threads about kids health, meds,school. But always an insult or accusation. Many times other people would not even see the accusation. He covers them with fluff, so others can’t see it, but it clear to me. The fluff tends to be empty promises that I know will never happen. Which is all the more painful because I see it clearly. I know what the true meaning is, backhanded way to hurt me or kids, yet he Manages to look good, and I’m the heel that won’t let kids call.

        It has taken me a long time to even see these remarks for what they are. Many times too late. I have already responded, but sooner that I used to. Was not long ago, I didn’t see them for what they are at all.

        So I plan on slowing things down, fight the urge to respond right away. Think about it for a day or more first. But then how do you respond. If I say accusation are not true, it feels/appear like I am making lame excuses. If I don’t respond it feels like I’m letting him treat me this way. Any suggestion on how to respond, where I keep my dignity, but don’t give him my attention.

        Someone recently spoke about jade (justify, argue, defend, explain). How do I respond with something that avoids the trap of giving into a JADE response. I’m frequently get sucked into the explaining, but I am vulnerable to all the JADE responses. I fall for the he just doesn’t know, however, he is a grown man with advance college degree. He is not dumb. He must know.

        Just really thinking out loud but need to learn to respond that keep my dignity, only addresses issue and does cause him to take out any anger on the kids. I’m sure there is no perfect answer, but there must be a better way that what I am doing.

      • Hi Scared momma, you said—

        Was not long ago, I didn’t see them for what they are at all.

        I hope you’re giving yourself a pat on the back for having grown so you are now recognising those hooks of fluff-disguised accusation which you weren’t recognising so quickly or so well before. 🙂

        JADE – that’s a good acronym, eh? When I was going through my three-day family court trial for custody, I learnt to say “I deny that!” when I was on the stand being questioned by my husband’s lawyer. That simple three-word response might be something you might want to use to your ex, when you are responding to his messages.

        “I deny that!” doesn’t entail going into any justifications or explanations. It’s simply a denial of the false accusation. And said firmly, on its own with no elaboration, I have found it quite a good way of maintaining my dignity while at the same time rebutting the false accusation.

        I know what you mean about how he slips in his accusations in the middle of ‘parenting discussions’ and the accusations are coated with fluff so that others wouldn’t recognise them as malignant and unjust. Abusers are able to do this because they’ve lived with their victims for so long and know all the subtle ways of conveying a malignant message to their particular victim because they have all the history of the relationship and have spent so much energy figuring out how to needle the victim covertly and what the victims’s most tender spots are.

    • Moving Forward

      Scared Momma, I have dealt with these issues, too, but have only endured one session in court and one private sessions with lawyers where I had to listen to all his blame and accusations. Unfortunately, the judge sided with him, and my poor children now have to spend more time with him. Blaming me is just a part of his vocabulary, whether with me or other people, just like some people swear every second word and don’t realize it any more.

      Along with JADE, there is also BIFF. Brief – keep it short as too many words get twisted. Informative – facts, no emotion, no blame. Friendly – I don’t go for this one too much – I just try and make sure I haven’t put in any jabs at him. Firm – clear, concise, and to the point. Do not admonish, give advice, or apologize. I, too have to wade through all the put-downs and blame to look for the one or two things I need to respond to, if there are any. Then I ignore the rest and send one or two sentences to deal with those. However, being careful not to fill in his email address, I sometimes type out other thoughts I have. I always let an email sit for a few hours or a day, dwell carefully on the wording, and then when I am ready to send, delete what shouldn’t be there, type in his address, and off it goes. That way, I have got my thoughts out of my system, but he can’t use them against me. My daughter, who used the same method, accidentally forgot not to type in his address, and sent off a very pointed email once. She never heard from him again! She had been trying to go no contact (she’s in her 20’s) but he wouldn’t respect it. However, her mistake got her what she wanted.

      Regarding communication during visitation, my children have known from the first, since I am a bit anti-technology and he is all about technology 24/7, that when they are gone they are prayed for and thought about, but there will be no contact with me. And when they are home he gets no contact with them. The peace of mind of knowing that he cannot pester them or me when they are here whether by phone or email is worth it, even though it might make the separation harder when they are gone. They don’t even think about it – its just the way things are. And I have always refused texting from him even when we were together, and now am so thankful. I know he would drive me crazy. And now, he doesn’t even know my cell number, so he can’t start even if he wanted to, and I’m sure he would since breaking boundaries is what he and all of them do.

      I hope you can find a solution for your dilemmas that work for you. With time and practice you will learn to let him blast away in his emails (you learn things that way) and respond in your own time to what needs a response. It took a while for me to understand that all the explanations in the world will not help him understand – his screwed up brain will never work that way, and he even if he could understand, he doesn’t want to, but I can sure give him a lot of ammo by talking too much, so now I don’t.

      P.S. The quote by Dr. George Simon below nails it!

      • Anonymous

        That’s wisdom, MF: “I have to wade through all the put-downs and blames to look for the one or two things I NEED to respond to.”

        A very godly preacher once said, “Take the meat and leave the bones.”

      • Charis

        I agree with Moving Forward using BIFF and limiting contact during visitation and your earlier comment about JADE. I have implemented these with my own situation throughout separation and divorce. Most things are handled 1) through email and 2) very little is handled via text and 3) it is extremely rare that we talk via phone and 4) even rarer that we discuss anything face-to-face (except by way of ocassional child exchange – and that is very limited).

        Thus, I follow BIFF or how I like to describe a “business professional” format when emailing my exh. Like others here – I look to find the question mark in the email. I skim the rest and ignore it. I only answer the question with facts. “Facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” This was a learning curve for me. It felt cold – rude, even. It is not. I am answering the question at hand. And…lest email start becoming a new way of manipulation, I laid the ground rules. Although I cannot control how many I receive from him, I will only respond to one per week. His urgency/frequency does not create an emergency on my part. I also created a folder for them to be filed directly into so that his email doesn’t flood and fill my Inbox. I can divert my attention to the folder when I am ready.

        As with Moving Forward – contacting my son during visitation is something I do not do. Instead, the boundary/expectation rests with the child. If my son wishes to contact one of us during visitation – it is up to the child to initiate contact. And he is free to do so via text or call. Although my exh hasn’t reciprocated this expectation. I do not forward/read his uninvited messages to my son. I view this as an interruption and impingement upon our visitation time. Butt out!

        Finally, I offer this other solution. If you have a Safe Friend. Someone who “gets” what you are going through. Someone who has walked these hard miles with you. Someone who sees your exh for who he really is. Someone you trust. Another option is to auto-forward his emails to that person first. Allow them to redact them and only forward on to you the important bits – the question marks – the necessary questions. I have seen this work extremely well for a couple friends of mine. It allows for further healing and one more break – allowing you a further step back from feeling like you “must engage” when you are trying so hard not to. It provides an emotional buffer.

        Much wisdom and peace to you.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you all for the useful and loving responses to this thread–invaluable information!

        Scared Momma, what you’ve described–the way you’ve come to see the relationship you have with this abuser in your life and what his TRUE motives are and the evil and desire to manipulate and control you while giving the appearance of “doing right” to others–is something I can totally relate to. Unlike you however, I only had one child left and God allowed this child to see the truth and I was and am still with my abuser. (He is gone for months at a time which allows me reprieves from his physical presence.)

        But I too initially battled the constant onslaught of his emails, phone calls and trying to use the other children to get at me.

        I don’t know if this will help but I just want to let you know how HARD all of this was for me so I truly understand where you heart and mind are.

        We got hacked years ago and as a result of this, I ended up refusing to use a cell phone, got rid of the home phone we had cuz it was digital and could be hacked, refused to use the computer at home (I used the one at school but only when I needed to), went for a time without cable because this too was hacked etc. The weight of this–trying to figure out how we were hacked in the first place, then trying to escape from the hacker and then trying to find ways to prevent it from happening again plus the fact that I was attending college in my forties with severe PTSD, and heavily in financial debt, took precedence over my husbands abuse. In other words, through God’s grace of our being hacked and so poor (can you believe I consider this a gift from God? It took me many years to see this) the fear and pain of my husbands wrath was superseded by my desire to be free of the hacker and having to ensure we had food to eat.

        I was TERRIFIED that he (my husband) would destroy me because of this (my refusal to respond to his harassment) but I STILL refused for MONTHS to plug in the phone for instance, or to check my email. There was this thought process going on in my mind, to just see if I could do it for one more day–to not respond and to let God be with me and to let him be God–and I was SOOO afraid and already SOOO broken yet I did this.

        During this time he colluded with one of our other children and they called child services saying that the one daughter still at home was anorexic and they were afraid for her welfare. (I need to cry for a minute here.) There was one police officer and one person from child services–both men. My daughter was VERY ANGRY and because of this it gave me strength to not bow to these people. They asked me questions and I answered them but kept asking who had called–they said they couldn’t tell us so my daughter and I were talking over these two and guessing aloud who had done this and why. Since it was obvious that this child was NOT anorexic (they actually took pictures) and once we stated that her brother was a psychopath who had finally moved out and that this daughter was finally in a homeschool program that SHE had chosen and that it was the first time in years that she felt like she had some control in her life because things weren’t insane, now she was forced to be exposed to this! Once this tidbit of information was revealed–that her brother was a psychopath who’d been institutionalized because of it–it was obvious where the call had come from, and that was basically the end of it. They backed down immediately and left soon after. On the way our the door the police officer (Christian man) kindly told us that it wasn’t so and so or so and so, so we didn’t need to worry that it was the neighbors who had done this and thus reassuring us.

        My daughter immediately went on-line and discovered that because she was over 16 years old she needn’t have submitted to their questioning and could have told them to leave. This armed both of us and if there would have been ANY further harassment from this arena they would have been ousted. (If this daughter had had several children and dropped out of school and been a drug addict–they would have been trying to help her–instead, because she was a model child and student–they felt they could attack her.) I still didn’t plug in the phone, and when I checked the messages weeks later I found that the child services had called and cleared us of any charges. When I called this man back he was surprised that I waited several weeks, I told him I don’t use my phone much….that’s it.

        What I’m trying to say here is that if you DO want to start refusing to reply or to not respond to his abuse, it may be hard at first but God will be with you and he will be God in your life if you let him. (Only comply to the terms agreed to in the legal settlement.) As Barb pointed out–you’ve come so far in even being able to identify his abuse as abuse so don’t short-change yourself.

        Sometimes I would just allow myself to not respond for a time, or I’d sit on it and time would go by and sometimes I said nothing or sometimes I said a bible verse that was important to me or sometimes I flat out called him a mishandler of the truth. I also started to realize that God would be there with me, I started to gain trust in him, and I also realized nothing would “get in” my husbands brain–he never internalized wisdom or even common sense–he was all about keeping the fight going–so I learned to think of MYSELF and what I needed in order to feel safe or like I was saying and doing what was right for ME. At first it felt like I was being selfish but I was actually learning to love and care for myself which in turn is taking care of and showing reverence for the one that lives inside my heart and operates my soul–God. I was showing my love for him which helped me overcome feeling selfish and instead RIGHTLY viewing myself as being worthy of pouring love on myself. Because of how hard all of this was God imprinted it on my soul–you are NOT alone little one, and God knows how hard it is. He will help you and sustain you.

  15. Nuttshell

    This blog is spot on regarding abusers craving the master/slave relationship. I filed for a legal separation with the hopes it would “jolt” the ex into realizing our marriage was dysfunctional, and he would want to do whatever it took to keep it. He counter filed for a divorce. That was three years ago, and I am still going to court because he keeps filing for one thing or another which is classic narcissistic behavior. I still have not received everything due me according to the final decree. At the beginning of this process my ex said the following statement which shows the master/slave mentality: “You know what is wrong with our marriage? There have always been two chiefs and no injuns.” I bet you can guess which one he thought he should be and which one I was suppose to be (chief vs. injun). In the past two and a half years, he has had three jobs. That is very telling.

  16. StillWiggling

    My second ex always said, “We’re a team!” One day I finally understood that he meant it was HIS team and I was supposed to be slobbering with gratitude that he allowed me to play on his team.

    During one of our final fights, he suggested we go to counseling. I thought that meant he was starting to understand what I was talking about … and then he continued. “Boy, are YOU gonna get an education!” We went, the counselor saw right through him, he was the one that got schooled, he refused to accept it, stomped out of the office, and at that point it was all over except the paperwork.

  17. Scared momma

    Well, I tried your advise. Sounded pretty simple. He sent one of his accusing messages this morning. I sent a simple “I disagree” back. Well, he has sent 9 replies to those 2 words. I am only required to look at messages once daily, so I have decided to wait until tomorrow to open. But, really 9 messages. Hope there is a learning curve, and message decrease with time. Looked back over last 4 months and over 1000 message on family wizzard, few dozen emails and several hundred texts ( I blocked text last week). What is normal number of contacts with ex when you have kids. A few a week. He is sending average nmore than 10 a day. That really seams pretty excessive at me. Hoping if he gets slower response, he stop sending so much.

    • Well done, Scared Momma, and I like the way your are seeing the big picture of how many messages he sends you and how abnormal that is. 🙂

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