A Cry For Justice

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

For the Kingdom! – A survivor of domestic abuse tells her story

There was an unhealthy dynamic in our marriage. But generosity, forbearance and patience are not sins, while unkindness, unjust accusations, lies and selfishness are.

This guest post is by our reader ‘Gaining Momentum’. Many thanks to her for writing it.

This feels like it’s been a long time coming – writing down what I want to say. Now part of me just wants to close the book on that chapter, but I know it will always be a part of me like every other struggle, or intense joy I’ve experienced. I do so value all those experiences and the lessons learned; they are part of my story, and part of what I can contribute to the present and future.

I’m writing primarily to my fellow Christian survivors of intimate partner abuse perpetrated by professing Christian spouses. We worship God and Him only, not anything in His creation or His institutions, and we remain disciples first and foremost when we marry. Marriage does not annul that, nor should it render us vulnerable to be treated less well than other human beings. Marriage does not allow that our spouses be able to treat us treacherously without culpability or expectation in the Church that we can biblically end the marriage for their abuse.

God was present in my life from before my earliest memory. His existence was accepted and unquestioned in my family. As a child I heard we each need to make a personal decision to follow Jesus, and I chose to follow. Gradually all of my fears and all my insecurity found answers in the absolute truth, love, trustworthiness, faithfulness and power of God, and His value for each one of us.

I was diligent, but stopped short of embracing singleness to live an undistracted life of obedience and worship of my God. I was also inspired by the awesomeness of God’s plan for men and women to marry and live lives of obedience to God together, raising their children to love God, and love others, and raise their children likewise.

After experiencing singleness for some time, I believed God finally answered my prayers and blessed me in marriage, and I was married to a long-time, long-distance, Christian friend. My friend had been separated for a couple of years after a brief marriage before being divorced. He told me his wife had committed adultery and I had full trust in him at that time. We started courting a matter of weeks after the divorce was final, and were married several months after that.

I adored my husband, and enjoyed loving and serving him generously in every respect. I was patient with some lack of generosity and consideration toward me, believing I should take care of my own conduct and leave his to God. I trusted my needs to God, embraced an attitude of gratitude and chose to think the best of my husband. We enjoyed each other’s company and were affectionate toward each other. I felt very blessed.

Later my husband was increasingly depressed, anxious, and discontented. I suggested we ask God for answers to his concerns, and he consistently expressed that he did not know how to hear from God despite years of good teaching. He was active in the church and had done some study with a bible college.

At times he would become so anxious that he would appear to ‘lose it’, and be very disparaging about oversights and misplaced items, though there was no evidence to suggest who might be responsible. He called me names and berated me in front of our children, also blaming them for misplaced items.

I was quick to forgive, putting it down to his anxiety, and though concerned kept praying for him, suggesting medical investigation, and assuming there would be resolution in time. When he started resorting to treating finances with a gambling mentality, and I discovered several deceptions, my trust in him was significantly impacted. I was surprised, and wondered where things would end up if he continued to make such choices.

My trust was gradually broken in various other ways, particularly by his unjust accusations during attempts to resolve differences, re-writing history to find fault with me, and using psychological terms out of context to indicate the problem was with me. His unreasonableness and his unkindness caused me to feel unloved and essentially unsafe. I could not depend on him; trust his word, depend on his being rational or reasonable, or be assured any more of his affection. He was crossing lines I would never have imagined a Christian man, devoted to God, could possibly cross.

His gambling behaviour was having an impact on my ability to feed the children adequately, causing me to decide to separate so that I could care for them properly. The sheer waste of time while he asked me over and over to explain my position and share my concerns, followed first by his expressions of remorse, and then further recriminations toward me, also impacted my ability to take good care of the children. The wasted time caused everything to be more frantic and rushed, increasing the tension in the home and undermining my sense of being able to cope. There were further bumps and turns along the way before I finally made concrete plans to move out.

I found help personally through counselling, particularly when I started seeing the counsellor as an individual. I had begun to see that the relationship counselling was not going to change anything in the relationship while the real problem was unrecognised, and the relationship counselor had a ‘shared blame’ focus, which I found unjust. I had been diligent in my relationship choices and was not responsible for my husband’s behaviour. There was an unhealthy dynamic in the marriage, but generosity, forbearance and patience are not sins, while unkindness, unjust accusations, lies and selfishness are. It didn’t alter anything when I attempted to be assertive about reasonable requests. Nothing altered until I left.

While the self-compassion recommended by the counsellor would have been supportive for a self-aware individual prepared to make changes in their life, it just gave an abusive individual further licence to make it all about him.

Hearing each other’s “perspective”, without any consideration given to objective fact, felt like an exercise in futility – one cannot gain a better understanding of another’s perspective on something that didn’t happen. After counselling commenced, my husband consistently complained I wasn’t ‘hearing him’ whenever I had an issue that needed resolving, essentially resulting in my not being heard. I patiently listened to his perspective and responded with active listening skills. Then when it was my turn to share my perspective, he would complain that he was allowed to have his opinion. This essentially resulted in my opinion being shut down and the course of the discussion becoming about my errors.

Eventually there came a point where I felt God was saying, ‘it’s time now…you need to let go and leave him in my hands’. The gravity of the situation caused me to think how it would be if I didn’t leave, but my conscience was not easy. I was so certain of God’s response to my cries for help, and His wishes for my husband, that to fail to make active plans to leave now would be an act of disobedience. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew it was the right thing to do. I did not want our children growing up thinking our marriage was normal: thinking that was an acceptable way to treat a wife, or that being treated that way as a wife is acceptable.

I was aware that my husband would not have the opportunity to push past his maladaptive coping strategies if I stayed with him. My remaining meant he had no reason to do the hard work required to work through his issues and learn to respect the reasonable boundaries of others. Rather than recognise the wake-up call provided by the counselling, my husband continued his counter-productive power and control tactics to try and regain control. (His strategies were counter-productive for him at this point, as I was clearly waking up to his game-playing). I had made it abundantly clear that I needed to see different, respectful behaviour, but he continued to confirm by his actions that he is abusive, and confirm my choice to separate was the right decision.

I decided to apply for a divorce when he started to insist I reconcile within a time he specified, on account of the fact we were married. I didn’t want there to be anything left to control me with. He insisted on a maximum time for separation, whereas I needed to see consistent behavioural change over a prolonged period of time before trust could be rebuilt, and before I could consider reconciling or remarrying.

The simple fact that while he insisted on ‘his way’ on this issue, I was never going to come back, appeared to escaped him. He needed to accept my terms, when I was the one with the grievance. I was asking for my welfare to be considered, that I be heard and respected. However, I was only hearing loud and clear that he was not capable of considering me, hearing me, having empathy towards me, or able to respect my reasonable boundaries, while he dictated terms to me, ignored my reasonable requests, invented my many sins, and minimised his own.

When he finally accepted I was serious about divorce, he consistently treated me as an enemy and became nastier in his abuse of me through texts and emails and in front of the children. Suffice to say, it has been difficult and sad – and it confirmed that my decision to leave was the right one. We have since agreed (after a gradual process of trial and error) on care arrangements where the children are not present with both parents at the same time, unless for school awards for example, in a public place.

The man I had adored, and served willingly and generously, whose “I love you” endearments I had taken at face value, long after recognising his actions were not loving (leaving me in confusion for some time) was now treating me worse than any other human being had ever done before. I had long sensed that if given the choice between his life or mine, he would save himself before risking his life for me. We had two very different concepts of love.

Even before I left he had threatened that if his needs weren’t being met he would move on to another woman. I now had the evidence that he was indeed prepared to cut his losses and move on, rather than ‘go to the ends of the earth’ to find help in learning how to treat me with respect and with equity. He has made it patently clear that he thought it was too much effort to make healthy choices, and no real value for me as an individual. I had served a purpose and was now not performing as expected or required. Out with the old, in with the new!

I planned to remain single, as my sense of faithfulness led to my leaving room for that ‘hope’ that my former husband would have a revelation from God, do the hard work of restoration, and come back a changed man. I would be found faithful with my unconditional agape love intact, ready to be courted again and be remarried to him if it made sense to me at the time, and I believed God wanted it.

Later however, pondering his revelation that pornography and masturbation had been an issue through our entire marriage, I came to a decision that I would not risk a second marriage to him. Because I could not trust his word and I had no idea where his lust may have taken him while we were separated, I had no reassurance there would be no more nasty surprises again, maybe years into the future, appearance of a changed man or not. I wished for him to find peace with God and be happy, as I always had, but it wouldn’t be with me. I had no wish to risk going through everything all over again, either for me, or for our children.

Back to the beginning – I’m a disciple of Christ. I shall have no other gods than the One True God. I am responsible for my stewardship of my time, energy, talents, resources and health. Living with an intimate partner who was abusive did not allow me to use my time, energy, or resources according to my own conscience, preventing my stewardship of my talents and health also. I was essentially enslaved to a human being who worshipped himself, prioritising his own comfort and gratification, not the God he professed to worship.

My emotional well-being was most noticeably deteriorating, as well as some physical impacts that have resolved since I left. Staying with an abusive husband impacted some of our children noticeably also, requiring counselling. My leaving (though sharing care of the children with their father) reduced the pressure they were previously under.

If I stayed, I was concerned I would lose my sanity and end up a mental health inpatient, unable to care for my children. In that case, I would have failed to take care of the life God had given me, and my responsibility to parent my children well. I could not stay with my husband without failing to ensure my children’s general and emotional well-being. I have accepted a shared-care arrangement with respect to finding balance with their desire to, and prevailing opinion that they need to, have a significant and meaningful relationship with both their parents. They have adjusted to the separation fairly well, though some have been affected by the reality of their family life more than others.

Now God has rescued me again, I’m His alone. No more ‘distractions’ as Paul mentions in the New Testament regarding a married person’s divided attention! I’m thankful He heard my prayers to be married and have children, and I’m thankful for the lessons learned through the heartbreak. God in fact blessed me with a large family, and I was blessed to birth them naturally and breastfeed them. That period of my life will always stand out as a most beautiful time indeed. My body working as God made it to, and my experiences in trusting God with all our needs, was a very encouraging and confidence-building period in my life – ‘empowering’ for the task of parenting and the times ahead. God was always first, and always will be – it could not be any other way after all He has done for me.

I understand my freedom to remarry after divorcing my husband for constructive desertion and abuse (many thanks to Barbara Roberts for her book, Not Under Bondage). I wish anyone brave enough to remarry after an abusive relationship every blessing of a truly healthy and happy relationship with their new spouse. At this point in my life however, I strongly identify with Paul’s recommendations for singleness.

My eyes are more heavenward than ever before, because of the distress I have experienced, and because of my gratefulness to God for his snatching me back from harm. My primary goal for my mortal life is to parent my children prayerfully and diligently, that they might all wholeheartedly follow Christ, walking in Truth; and to cherish the freedom I have to use the life left to me with good stewardship, to love God and love others, sharing the good news of freedom through Christ, to His glory – “For the Kingdom!”

I can see Mel Gibson shouting “Freedom!” (in thankfully the only image I can remember from the movie “Braveheart”) as I exhort myself and other survivors of intimate partner abuse, including spiritual abuse, to remember their standing in Christ, and the discipleship He called us to. He is the one to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61: 1), to give recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed (Luke 4: 18). What your journey should look like right now, if a disciple of Christ, or a year from now, is between you and God, not me or anyone else. He is hearing you, and He is unfailingly loving and faithful. To God be the Glory.

34 Comments

  1. Susan

    Excellent! I am so grateful to this site and those who share their stories of both hurt and healing. I’m alone in a cheap hotel this morning waiting til 9am when I can hopefully confirm an apartment in town. I have learned this past year to be grateful to God for everything- which disolved the bitterness, anger, jealousy, and self-pity that I had wrestled with for so long.

    • Anonymous Woman

      Saying a prayer for you, Susan. Housing is crucial and often why abused stay as they have nowhere else to go.

    • Gaining Momentum

      I too am very grateful for this site, and for the internet that helps us find someone who understands when many don’t. I’m rejoicing you are moving forward and with a sense perhaps, through what you have learned this past year, that God is in everything with you.

  2. Phoebe

    This is one of the most concise best reply to an abusive relationship. I applaud this careful considerate documentation. She is right on. God be the glory here. Prayers

    • Gaining Momentum

      Hi Phoebe,
      I appreciate your affirmation and prayers. Thank you.

  3. Danielle

    This spoke to my situation and heart exactly. Thank you dear sister for sharing your story of heartbreak and hope! May God Bless you and your family eternally. I look forward to hugging you in glory one day:)

    • Danielle,

      Welcome to the blog!

      We like to encourage new commenters to read our New User’s page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. After reading that page if you would like me to change your screen name you can contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

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    • Gaining Momentum

      Hi Danielle,
      Thank you for the encouragement to me that your feedback gives. I pray you will know the blessing of God’s faithfulness and unfailing love in your own situation.

  4. Helovesme

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! What an incredible testimony. It’s so wonderful to hear such a thoughtful and honest reality of living with an abuser, escaping him, and growing so much in His grace despite such a difficult trial.

    When you spoke of “believing I should take care of my own conduct and leave his to God” early in the marriage, I can totally relate. That is something I think many Christian women are taught and encouraged to do. It is not a bad thing to understand that you cannot control his conduct, but it is something different to brush it aside and “leave it to God.” Living with someone means you live with his conduct. And it DOES impact your life, and your own personal conduct (in responding to his conduct choices) It’s foolish to believe otherwise!

    I also appreciated how you did try to help him at first, because that tends to be the first and most natural response when abusive behavior is recognized. Over time, as the behavior becomes consistent and then unbearable to deal with—-that is possibly when the wife understands that something very serious is going on. It’s unfair to blame a wife for not “heading out the door asap” at the first sign of trouble.

    I also love how you make it clear that trust is the foundation of any relationship, and he damaged it beyond repair (NOT you!). It is such a simple truth, but often overlooked! If you cannot trust your husband, something is seriously wrong. If your spouse lies and won’t take responsibility for himself, you have every right to not trust him. If your spouse behaves more like your enemy and not your loving partner, something is very wrong indeed.

    I am so sorry that he “moved on” to another woman, after it seemed to dawn on him that he could not control or manipulate you anymore. That must have been very hurtful, but I am very sorry for whomever he is lying to now.

    You ended your story wonderfully. Those verses from Isaiah are some of the most powerful and precious to the hurting. I’m so glad you are shouting “freedom!” And your story was painfully honest and SO encouraging!

    • Gaining Momentum

      Great explanation about the impact on others being relevant! I have met with quite a few blank looks when speaking of a child’s suicidal thoughts, and a spouse maintaining their own mental health, being reasons to consider separation from an abusive husband and father, like those issues aren’t relevant? Narrowing in on traditional views at the expense of viewing the truths of God’s word as a whole, is law not love. Common sense would otherwise tell us that we need to ask more questions and dig deeper. I’m so grateful Barbara did that for her book “Not Under Bondage”. Now for that message to be picked up and run with, like the abolition of slavery and other injustices.

      At the time before I left, my husband was just threatening he would move on to another woman, but he has since. I also am sorry and pray for that woman, whom he met online; a very big risk she is taking.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  5. Lily

    Thank you for sharing your story. I felt like I was reading my own as I read yours. I had such a hard time divorcing as I was told many time, “God hates divorce.” I thank God that I found this site and the stories of other women who found the God-given courage to leave an abusive marriage and claim a life of service to HIM alone. Lord bless you and keep you in His care.

    • Anonymous Woman

      Yes, people don’t seem to realize that some women are indoctrinated into the misbelief that if you are truly a Christian and you stood in God’s House and vowed to God ’til death do you part’ then you’re going to hell and not a true Christian if you divorce and break your vow to God. And that misbelief keeps you trapped with a child of the devil. ‘God hates divorce’ is such a powerful misbelief. And the abused wives don’t know any better and just seek to follow God and to do as they’ve been wrongly taught is God’s will.

    • Gaining Momentum

      God-given courage, I agree. Abusive men who target kind, loyal, diligent and truthful women (according to what we read in the Don Hennessy Digest on this site) don’t seem to recognize that a passion for justice and God-given courage may also be present in women whose character is kind, loyal, diligent and truthful.
      May the Lord also richly bless you, Lily. Thank you.

  6. Sandra

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for writing the words down that I still can’t. The sentences are true to my life but I am not free to express them yet. Or should I say I can’t express them due to emotions still healing.

    • Gaining Momentum

      Tears come to my eyes remembering when I couldn’t put the words down either, and from gratitude that the healing does keep coming; when we recognise those emotions and give ourselves time as you are, and when we seek support where possible and from online sources such as this site. Not wanting to assume too much from your comment, I pray God’s whispered encouragement to your spirit will bring that healing you need.

  7. bluebird

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope and pray that you continue to enjoy the freedom you have gained. Best wishes to you!

    • Gaining Momentum

      Thank you, Bluebird.

  8. He Delights in Me

    I appreciate your honesty and I am encouraged by your love for God and your joy in following Him wholeheartedly. I once had great joy and closeness to the Lord, but have struggled with bitterness and a gaping whole at the misinformation (about marriage, submission, a woman’s place) that have inadvertently permeated my life through pastors, Bible studies and counselors. “He’ll change… Pray harder, respect more, be patient, etc.” I still am trying to find my path. Trying to mete out what’s true. I’m even still hoping he’s got a good heart. I am so grateful for this site and for you brave ones who walk through the fire and still say God is faithful and good. I don’t feel so brave.

    • Thanks for your comment, He Delights in Me. 🙂 You might find this post helpful—

      When we want to see good in everyone — a lesson from Pride and Prejudice

    • Gaining Momentum

      Thank you for your honesty, likewise, He delights In Me. Sounds like you are considering all the information you have, and seeking truth, to put the puzzle in front of you together. God does delight in you, He is patient and compassionate. Self-compassion has merit where, like yourself, a person has the capacity to be honest with themself, or self-aware. We need time to put the pieces of the puzzle together, which requires us to be patient with ourselves too. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at these times as seasons. I hope a season of renewed joy and closeness to the Lord, will not be too long in coming for you.

  9. Comforted by God

    Thank-you! Your post resonated with my situation in so many ways! I too, had that moment where God spoke very clearly to me. He said this: “You can never love him as much as I can, no human ever could and for this too, I died.” At that moment, like you, I felt the strong urge to give my professing ex-husband back to God. I emotionally and physically could no longer bear the burden that belonged to our Savior. I was striving as a Christian woman and left the comfort and love of His Grace. For a time, I forgot what was done for me and for all of us.

    God bless you! May we continue to pray for all women who still remain in the fog of abusive marital confusion.

    • Hi dear sister and welcome to the blog!

      We 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.

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      As a precaution for your safety, I changed your screen name to Comforted by God. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain). Her address is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

    • Gaining Momentum

      Thank you for your feedback, Comforted by God. I appreciate your wording, that you could, “no longer bear the burden that belonged to our Saviour.” I will continue to pray that the fog will lift for spouses in abusive marital confusion, and for all of Christendom who remain in a fog of human traditional views, that do not bear up against all the truths of scripture.

  10. Annie

    @Sandra, you have expressed my sentiments precisely.

    • Welcome to the blog, Annie 🙂

      We 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.

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    • Gaining Momentum

      Thanks for that, Annie.

  11. E

    Dear Gaining Momentum,
    I so appreciate your concise, detailed explanation of a long, hard road. May it be used by God to open many, MANY eyes as to what abuse is, and how it can be hidden in the home of a “professed Christian.” May pastors and counsellors be humble enough to learn from this, and to realize that just because they do not see abuse from whatever “nice man” has them hoodwinked, that it does not mean it is not there.

    • Gaining Momentum

      I appreciate your feedback and affirmation, E.

  12. susan

    This is a very important and powerful post. It needs to be told. Can we share on facebook?

    • Hi Susan,

      Yes, please do share this post! There are FB and other social media buttons at the bottom of the post for posting.

      And Welcome to the blog! We hope you will continue reading our posts. You may want to subscribe to the blog to automatically receive email notification of new posts. See the side menu bar.

      And we like to encourage new commenters to read our New User’s page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      Again Welcome!

    • Gaining Momentum

      Thanks for the humbling encouragement of your statement, Susan. I felt honoured Barbara posted the story, and I have greatly appreciated all the comments from ACFJ readers as I venture to add my voice to the many others crying out for justice.

  13. NG

    So glad that you had the courage to leave, and that you are enjoying your freedom in Christ.
    Many paragraphs resonated with me, but especially these lines .. ”
    “His unreasonableness and his unkindness caused me to feel unloved and essentially unsafe. I could not depend on him; trust his word, depend on his being rational or reasonable, or be assured any more of his affection. He was crossing lines I would never have imagined a Christian man, devoted to God, could possibly cross.”

    That’s the exact sad truth for many devoted Christian men I have met .. crossing those unimaginable lines. It leaves one numb in shock and gasping for air. (These days, I’d like to say I pretty much am not surprised at anything, but no guarantees in life.)
    Your eloquently put-together testimony reminds me to be thankful for the fact that I never got married to any of those ‘super hero Christians’… Even if I am disappointed for being single, I am grateful for not being considered good enough to marry by any of those men I could see exhibiting this kind of arrogant, cold behavior. Glory to God!

    Indeed, we live and worship Him alone, no other gods! In Him we live, move and breathe 🙂

  14. Gaining Momentum

    Thank you for your perspective NG. I am hearing that you are both honest with yourself about the disappointment you feel being single, as well as grateful you have been spared the distress of discovering behaviour in a spouse that is unimaginably (as you say) inconsistent with his profession of Christ. Your comment puts me in mind of Paul saying in I Corinthians 7: 28, “…but those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” Whatever God has in store for your future, it seems from your last two sentences, that He has a loyal and devoted child, servant and friend in you, and He will most certainly continue to love you faithfully and unfailingly.

  15. Finding Answers

    …. But generosity, forbearance and patience are not sins, while unkindness, unjust accusations, lies and selfishness are.

    That.

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