Leaving Your Spouse Because Of Abuse

Leaving Spouse because of Abuse - Pixabay key-949094_640The following article comes from the book, Beloved Unbeliever, which is written to women with spouses who are unbelievers. However, the principles outlined in this article apply to every spouse who wants to leave because of abuse. Please prayerfully read and consider what the author Jo Berry has to say, about leaving your spouse because of abuse. (Afterward, please read the linked article written by Leslie Vernick, which is important to also consider.)

Jo Berry begins this portion of the book by citing the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 7:15. She explains that letting the spouse “leave” goes beyond physically leaving the marriage. As you read the article you’ll better understand the scripture:

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  (1 Corinthians 7:15)

God Understands

Rather than demanding that an unequally yoked wife stay in a situation where she is abusively oppressed, our Lord gives her an option. He does this because, Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). He understands her humanity and takes pity on her.

A Christian woman who is facing emotional or physical abuse needs to understand both the terminology and the implications in this verse. She can then act on it within the dictates of her own common sense and conscience. The word “leave,” as it is used in 1 Corinthians 7:15, means to depart or let go. While this most obviously refers to a physical separation, the concept of letting go embodies more than physical absence.

Thought Precedes Action

Since thought always precedes action, I believe we can assume that abuse and cruelty are outward manifestations reflecting a mental state of abandonment of the essence of the marriage. So, although Paul is dealing with physical separation, certainly there can also be a psychological severing, an emotional letting go, that is just as devastating and real as a mate’s actual departure.

Scripture does not deal specifically with this problem of abuse, but Christ’s attitude and certain biblical statements can help us draw conclusions about how to respond to it. The Gospels are saturated with statements about and examples of Jesus’ compassion. He was especially tender toward women and children. Think of how gently He approached the woman at the well, how respectful He was to the woman caught in adultery. Consider also how He met Mary’s needs by teaching her as she sat at His feet. And then think of how, during excruciating agony on the cross, He committed His mother to the care of His friend, John.

Christ’s Example

In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul commanded husbands to love [their] wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25) and to “love their own wives as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28). Christ, in love, sacrificed His life for the church. This example is the antithesis of abuse.

It appears, then, that any man that constantly mistreats and maligns his wife, who wounds her psychologically and/or physically, has “let go” and departed from the intent of his marriage vows. He may be living under the same roof and sleeping in the same bed with her, but if he neglects her needs and destroys her as a person by attacking her body, soul, or spirit, mentally he has left! If he is cold, cruel, and uncaring, he has already separated himself from her, even if he shares a house with her. In his sick mind, the relationship is over.

Act of Leaving Spouse

The idea of leaving, then, can legitimately include the unbelieving husband mentally and/or emotionally abandoning his wife. The final act of “leaving” may mean he will physically remove himself, but the psychological process leading up to that moment may manifest itself in ongoing abusive conduct.

The Bible says that when this happens a Christian wife is to let him leave. The Lord does not expect or want her to suffer mental or bodily harm at the hands of a husband who is supposed to sacrificially love her. God does not want her to be oppressed or incapacitated by fear. Quite the contrary, the sister is not under bondage in such cases (1 Corinthians 7:15), and any woman who is physically harmed or verbally belittled, insulted, or harassed by her husband is under bondage. Any wife whose husband controls her mind and activities with threats or brutality is enslaving her.

Freedom in Christ

In this same chapter, Paul reminds us, You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23). God did not buy an unequally yoked wife out of the slave market of sin so she could be under bondage to another human being. He purchased her with the blood of Christ and freed her so she could voluntarily become His bond-servant.

She has to draw the line if her husband consistently oppresses her, by whatever means. In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate[the comparison of her love for Me, her] own father and mother and[husband] and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even [her] own life, [she] cannot be my disciple.” She has the right and responsibility to choose freedom impossible for her to fulfill her Christian calling.

Submission is Voluntary

We have already seen that submission is voluntarily choosing to yield or surrender to someone. When God instructs wives to subject themselves to their husbands, He is asking them to surrender to their husbands’ love and God-given position. Nowhere does Scripture imply that the Lord expects a wife to accede to verbal castigation or physical assault.

Many times women who are in this position convince themselves that they would be unsubmissive if they fled. So, instead of retreating and protecting themselves and their children (who may be scarred for life from exposure to continual abuse), they become passive; but passivity is not the same as submission. Whereas submission is voluntary, passivity is forced oppression. Whereas submission allows for individual dignity, passivity breeds self-hatred, and eventually a wife who subjects herself to abuse starts believing that she deserves it!

Why Victims Stay

She convinces herself there is no way out and that she is only getting what she has coming to her. This is especially pronounced in cases where Christian women knowingly married unbelievers. Frequently they stay to punish themselves, to pay the penalty for their sin. Their attitude is: I got myself into this, now I’m stuck with it. So, they become passive. It is vitally important that a woman who suffers maltreatment in her marriage draw the distinction between submission and passivity.

Also, some women stay because of guilt. They believe that their faith in Christ is the reason for their husband’s abusiveness, so they think that staying is a cross they must bear —part of their suffering for Christ. They need to realize that there is an immense difference between being persecuted for the Lord and for righteousness’ sake, and being physically or emotionally abused by a man who is a tyrant.

Although, an unbelieving husband might use his wife’s faith as an excuse for attacking her, that is not the real reason. Men who batter or consistently demean their wives are emotionally ill. The emotionally yoked wife who is being vilified by her husband does not have to submit to his tirades. God does not ask her to yield to outrageous attacks.

False Assumptions

Sometimes a Christian woman who is being harmed by her mate stays with him. She believes the Lord will protect her no matter what her husband does. Candy thought that, until Glen shot her. Eleanor thought that, until Ed fractured her back and skull when he threw her down the stairs. Emily thought that, until Howard burned down their house. He was spaced out on pot and booze and fell asleep on the sofa with a lighted cigarette in his band. Their three-month-old daughter suffered severe burns over 30% of her body and was in the hospital for months.

Claudia thought that, until she had a mental breakdown. Her children had to be put in foster homes while she recovered. That happened because the court ruled that her husband was not a fit father.

Like Begets Like

If there are children involved, the repercussions of living under such disparaging conditions can leave them with lifelong scars. Scripture teaches the importance of example. We are warned not to associate with fools, liars, fornicators, idolaters, blasphemers, or hot-tempered people. If we do we may end up imitating their behavior. Statistics show that many parents who are child abusers, and many batterers were themselves mistreated as children. Many abusers came from homes where one or both parents were abusive. Like begets like. Removing herself and her children from danger isn’t selfish, isn’t sinful, isn’t unsubmissive —it’s smart.

God hasn’t called the wife to live in a spirit of fear and instability but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind(2 Timothy 1:7). He hasn’t chosen her to live in a state of confusion, not knowing what to say or do next, or what tirades her well-intentioned responses might bring. God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33) and has called [her] peace (1 Corinthians 7:15).

The above article comes from the terrific book, Beloved Unbeliever: Loving Your Husband into the Faith by Jo Berry, published by Zondervan Publishing House. This book could truly help those who are married to unbelieving spouses. Jo knew what it was like to live with an unbelieving spouse. She also interviewed dozens of women who are married to unbelievers. In this book they share the greatest difficulties they encounter(ed) and practical ways to handle the problems.

— ALSO —

On Leslie Vernick’s web site, she answers the question on whether or not scripture leaving your spouse because of abuse. I highly recommend you read it:

SCRIPTURE SUPPORTS SEPARATION FROM A DESTRUCTIVE SPOUSE

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213 responses to “Leaving Your Spouse Because Of Abuse

  1. Can I survive as a Christian wife and mother through Christ even though my husband is (mostly) verbally abusive? How does a person overcome the abuse and stand strong through Christ? Is there a way for that to happen? I don’t want to leave my husband, but I’m so confused from the abuse. I don’t know which problems ARE my fault and which ones are not; I can’t seem to control my children from lashing out at me when they get angry at me either, (this is a huge battle for me) because they see their father abuse me. They think it’s ‘okay’ to do it too; they’ve learned its ‘no biggy’.

    But, I don’t want to leave and hurt him, no matter how much he’s hurt me. I still have compassion for him. God loves him too and I feel like I’m turning my back on God and “belittling” His power and the power of prayer by leaving. Can I survive as a believer in an abusive home? Can I raise God fearing children in the midst of an abusive husband and father?

  2. I’m married and have a son of 3 years. We married only at the register office but not yet at the church. We are both Christians. Since my son was born my husband has changed completely. He abuses me emotionally and mentally every time he has something to tell and hurts me. He never appreciates what I do. One day he raised his hand on me in front of my son. I don’t have access to his money. If I ask him for something he always says he doesn’t have money.

    Before having my son I was working and it was for us. But he always says it’s his money or I buy this with my money. I’m hurt you know. He misbehaves with many people. He doesn’t have respect for me.

    He likes sex and force me to have anal sex. He masturbates when I’m not at home and I know this. I’m fed up I want to go. He doesn’t like to help people or me. He doesn’t like to go to the church. He always talks rubbish.

    Honestly, I have got someone in my life he’s not a Christian but ready to go to the church. He respects me loads and loves me. I don’t know what to do…I’m hurt when I think how is my husband has no love, no respect and I have love and respect, even financial help with the other person.

  3. My husband abused me for years but now he’s sayin I’m the abuser. I only put my husband in the system one time but now he keeps getting restraining orders on me. He lives in the house I got when I first left him. Then he got sick so I let him move in. The name calling and the disrespect got worse so the abuse program got me a studio cause he had me removed from the house and then he didn’t come to court so they threw it out.

    Well now he has another order cause he has moved a woman in the house that I rented and left him in but never gave up my keys. Because my husband had heart surgery while doing his so called healing process he found his old girlfriend and put her in the house. But yes I reacted to him telling me he got another woman and he’s seeing her in the house that I got. Please help; she’s not supposed to be there because I still have keys and the landlord told him to change the locks isn’t that illegal?

    1. Lost, we are not legal experts and have no counsel for you about your legal rights. You could perhaps contact Legal Aid in your community to see what they say. Other than that you need to protect yourself from him and what he is doing to you. It’s toxic and it doesn’t appear he is going to change. If you continue to pursue him right now, all that is going to do is leave you angry and frustrated.

  4. Where, and what can a wife do to get help living in a verbal violent abusive relationship? Can she leave because she’s scared for her life and if she leaves will it hinder any legal rights in favor of her?

  5. I am in this situation due to alcohol and drug use on my husband’s part. He claims to be a believer and can quote scripture but never applies it to live. The term talk the talk but not walk the walk comes into mind. I have been in this relationship for 5 yrs and over the years the drinking comes more often and the abuse has become more and more unbearable not just to me but my 14 yr old son from a previous relationship. I have been choked, punched, yelled at, called names, he has gotten in my son’s face and has made him very uncomfortable and now the law is involved.

    He has gotten away with this behavior long before I was even in the picture and his family has continued to blame me for not dropping the charges that the state has placed on him. The elders of my church are pushing reconciliation and my thought on this is if my husband was a god fearing man he would have never put his hands on me to hurt me. He also would not put our family second to his own wants and needs but would provide and be the spiritual leader he proclaimed to be and never has been. I am struggling with all of this and I just need to know that God will not be mad at me for leaving.

  6. This must have been put here for me. I found this by accident. I believe I was meant to read it. Thank you, an emotionally, psychologically, verbally, sexually abused wife.

  7. Reading this has helped me a lot. And reading some of the comments, I know that the abuse that I’m going through is little compared to some of the comments I’ve read. But being 31 and my husband being 40, as well as living such an innocent, peaceful life, the least level of emotional abuse breaks me so much. His parents divorced when he was young, and suffered abuse from his father and I think that has affected him a lot. But he refused to see that, mocking my ideas, or rejecting me emotionally, and deliberately telling me continuously that he’ll never show me love is okay. He’s hurt me to my core, and I’ve never had to experience this before and so being a very sheltered Christian lady before marriage; I am totally confused. From what people tell me,sometimes it makes me feel that maybe this is how marriage is suppose to be and so I live with it. But I know if I don’t do something soon, depression will eventually kill me.

  8. Reading this has helped me a lot. And reading some of the comments, I know that the abuse that I’m going through is little compared to some of the comments I’ve read. But being 31 and my husband being 40, as well as living such an innocent, peaceful life, the least level of emotional abuse breaks me so much. His parents divorced when he was young. He suffered abuse from his father and I think that has affected him a lot. But he refuses to see that, mocking my ideas, or rejecting me emotionally, and deliberately telling me continuously that his never showing me love is okay.

    He’s hurt me to my core, and I’ve never had to experience this before and so being a very sheltered Christian lady before marriage, I am totally confused. From what people tell me, sometimes it makes me feel that maybe this is how marriage is supposed to be and so I live with it. But I know if I don’t do something soon, depression will eventually kill me.

  9. I’m happy; then again not too happy to have found this post. I’m happy to know that this post shared some deep, realistic stories of previous unequally yoked marriages. I’m not happy because I still truly believe in these types of marriages spouses (ex-husband) did NOT want to leave or let go until I’m dead. I know, I’ve lived it. So it’s not as simple as implied to just “let go” or live separately.

    In my case, my marriage to my ex-husband was literally hell. Satan had a complete hold of him through his drinking and drugs…not to mention perverted sex. Though, I prayed, and prayed for God to help my husband, the marriage literally turned more and more abusive that my ex-husband displayed more of Satanic characteristics so he completely hated me, even though he will say “I love you” he deeply hated me with pure hate. I could see it in his soul all the while I stayed in the word and stayed in prayer. The marriage was so dark that I had no choice but to take the initiative and divorce him.

    Though, I spiritually died after divorce, God healed me as I stayed in the word. I didn’t at first, only because the more I cried out to the Lord to help me…I was abandoned to his distorted love for me which was to keep me isolated and under his complete control. Satan himself said to me I will die soon. That was a lie and I’m here to share my story. Dark clouds were over me, I felt so alone, trying to reach out. People; especially Christians turned their backs on me literally. In one church I invited my husband to attend, he was offered a position in the men’s ministry this stroked his ego to bring farther harm to me again. I reached out to the Lord and he sincerely left me to my ex-husband’s desires whatever hatefulness he wanted to act upon was committed without consciousness.

    I was severely damaged emotionally, mentally, and spiritually broken that Satan demonic activities succeeded. I was scared and tormented. Eventually, I repented to my Father in heaven because I did not want to disobey and divorce. However, this was the best remedy in circumstances such as Ive endured. Not only did I pray for God’s healing, I was disconnected emotionally, and mentally due to losing a baby girl at five month into my pregnancy…I became very angry with God and my heart was numb…though, over time healing took place.

    God understood and didn’t hold it against me for divorcing my ex-husband. God granted me inner peace and joy to freely worship and be in love again with my FIRST love and that is Jesus Christ of Nazareth! I want to remarry again but I know it’s a sin…God bless all survivors who share their experiences of abuse and touch others lives..CM

  10. Helpful to you if you are women… but what about a man and daughter who has suffered greatly at the hands of their wife and mother? She is hitting my daughter on numerous occasions …calling her nothing …constantly making negative comments and has an out of control temper. There is a denial of affection. I have separated from my wife and have to trust God’s spirit. I have not left for selfish reasons except to save my daughter and myself from this unacceptable abuse. I will continue to seek God on this. Reconciliation is unlikely. Please pray for me and my daughter.

  11. I left my children’s father after nine years of marriage. He was mentally and emotionally abusive toward me and the children, but both have autism spectrum. And instead of accepting their difficulty and wrapping it in bubble wrap, I’m trying to encourage them not to allow that stop them from living a better life. But no excuses. It hurt me emotionally and so does my abusive mother.

    I am 34 and having difficulty making friends because I’ve been abused for so long in my life, not just from my ex partner, but my mother. My mother would chastise me on everything from what I wear, what path I want to follow to make a career. I want my kids to see if I can do it they can too. I even hated to do sports to keep myself out of trouble. When she played cupid matchmaker and expected me to be with a police officer I said no. Ever since then she utterly despised me. She give more time to my sister and her kids than to me and my kids.

    I don’t ask for help only to abused by her later. My ex husband abused me emotionally and psychologically and tried to do the same with my sister. My sister punched him and that was the first time I realized that something was wrong until our daughter was born. Then what he said utterly destroyed me to the core.

    He ordered me to murder and dump her in a gutter or sell her like a child bride prostitute to an elderly Indian man as soon as she would begin bleeding. I was mortified. I fought five years to leave him. It wasn’t until the Australian government officials for children assisted and protected me and my children from my ex husband as the justice system failed us. Even though I’ve tried to get some closure to make my mother realize how abusive she is, she is fixated in her self righteous world that she thinks she is God.

    1. Dear Depressed, I can well imagine why you would feel depressed over all that has gone on in your life and is going on in your life. Who wouldn’t? But I know deep in my heart you can get beyond this with hope, help, and God’s love. How I pray for you that God will wrap His arms around you, and give you a peace that passes understanding. Don’t look to your mom, or to the men you have had in your life who have abused you. They are completely off-balance and toxic. Love your mom, but don’t look at her as an example and as if she will give you anything that is good. She doesn’t have it in her. Only those who have good inside–Jesus, can give you good. A bad tree produces bad fruit. Love her as your mom, but not as your helper. You are setting yourself up for more hurt if you place your expectations upon her.

      For right now, don’t look to people to help you. Look to God to be your helper. The Holy Spirit is your helper–God is “a very present help in a time of need.” Find a good church. Yes, there are imperfect people within the church, but don’t look to them as much as you look to God to have Him grow within you. A good church can help you in that way.

      Get involved in helping others. As you put smiles upon the faces of others, a smile will grow within your heart. The Bible says, “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Invest yourself in being a good mom, and a good person–one that God created you to be. You are starting in the right direction. Keep heading that way. Emotionally leave behind the bad example of your mom and the men who abused you, and look to God to teach you how to lead a good and healthy life. He can do that for you as you look to Him–you can do this.

      Don’t look at the bad things done to you in the past to define who you are today. You are not the sum of what was done to you. You are a child of God who wants to draw you to Himself through Jesus. Pray to Him for guidance on how to live your life without looking to people to do that for you. Here’s something I continually try to remind myself. It’s written in the Bible in Philippians 3:12-14. I like how it is worded in the Living Bible. It is a great goal: “I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.”

      I pray for you–that God will minister to you. Please know that my heart goes out to you and my prayers go out for you. I pray the Lord helps you, guides you, comforts you, speaks to you, and works in and through you in this situation. I also pray God infuses hope into your heart that you will eventually experience better days-–ones that will bring a smile to your heart.

      “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

  12. I’ve been married for 25 years. I’m 43 w/ 4 kids. Two boys still at home. Life is only getting harder, and so much worse! My husband is addicted to Porn, as well as rock n roll, which has been on and off throughout our marriage but the rock thing is BAD!! He lives and breathes it. He also has a spending issue like w/ guns, music, guitars, hats, tools, accessories, and more importantly talking like over $40,000 in 1 year!!! This was being snuck in. I would go to the store and get groceries and my card would get denied! He would say it was bills. One guitar alone is worth $8,000. He has at least 8! Now he has taken over our dinning room w/them. I can’t have anyone over. I’m too embarrassed due to his shrine!

    I’m very hurt! He does not give nor care for me or his children like he does for his toys. I have fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and so much more. He is sick and tired of a sick wife. He can’t touch me because I hurt, but I don’t want him to because of the way he acts. He sings bad songs w/my name in them and sings about what he wants to do to me. That’s not nice. He thinks since we are saved Christians that my body belongs to him according to the Bible so he can grope me anytime he pleases. In public, in front of my kids wherever.

    I’ve been a stay at home wife all these years and now I’m so sad and depressed. I don’t like him. I think I still love him but not like I used to. I went to a Christian therapist and he told me to pray and that divorce would hurt my boys more in the long run. I don’t know. I don’t drink, smoke; I do yell sometimes, I’m not perfect. I get mad, I don’t read my Bible like I should. I am sick a lot and in bed a lot. I don’t cook like a good mom should. I try to keep a clean house. I’m not perfect. I will tell you that, but God as my witness this is the truth. Can you help me??? Please??? I am very scared!!

  13. I left an abusive husband. We have been legally separated for three years. He is dragging out divorce for financial gain and spite. I have met a wonderful man of God but because of that legal paper I can’t even date. I give no honor to that marriage of him cheating and abusing me. I don’t feel God would either. I’m at a loss. Feel as if he is still controlling me because I can’t move on because of a price of paper.

  14. Thank you so much for such help. I am also a married woman in an abusive marriage. I’ve been bitten more than thrice, humiliated, actually all that you’ve mentioned about abusers is exactly what my husband is. Two days can’t pass by without him swearing at me,for no apparent reason.

    I am a Christian and I’ve found your information so helpful; please send more. I’ve been trying to come out of this marriage, but he threatens me with all the worst in life.

  15. Thank you for your site I found it uplifting and helpful. I live with a verbally abusive man. My husband I’ve been married to for 22 years; after we were married he began drinking and his emotional abuse has increased especially over the past seven years. His actions are shocking and confusing. He has pushed me and hit me on several occasions; recently he told his family and friends that is because of my spending neediness and that I’m crazy that he’s been doing the things he’s been doing to me.

    I love this man I’ve been with him ever since I was a teenager; I’m having a hard time letting go. I’ve read all the website information and looked at all the books and I’m feeling nothing can help me with someone that is full of negativity, outright evilness the way he is. It’s obvious that he does not love me. I should probably leave but I’m not able to. I’m afraid that leaving will be the final step to end it.

    It’s obvious to me I am a cooperative victim and allowing this to happen to me. It might be because I was adopted. Even though I came from a very good home I have fears of abandonment. I guess he knows this and seems to be playing on it. I will put this in God’s hands, stay positive and not be a doormat. I will display total and pure love for my husband and try to discover whether it is that he really wants to leave me and act accordingly. Please pray for me. Thank you.