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:


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239 responses to “Leaving Your Spouse Because Of Abuse

  1. I have been with my partner for almost 14 years and have 3 kids. 4 years ago I become a believer of Christ. Throughout our years together, I’ve had a lot of issues with him. He has been with many other women some of which I caught, some I haven’t. He used to be a gambler, he almost molested my younger sister and lastly he hit me in the face. I have begged him that I want to get out of our relationship but he won’t leave the house. I don’t have anywhere to go and my children go to school near our place. The business that I have is located in our home in which it not possible relocate. I don’t know how to ask him to leave.

  2. My husband is a nice person to others but he is violent towards me. He calls me ugly in front of my kids; just this morning he pushed me out the room with a glass jar pushing it on my chest just because I didn’t have sex with him.

    I feel like I’m more than that! I don’t want much in life, just a nice person. He calls me a ho when all I do is stay home. In the past we both cheated but that was seven years ago. I have changed because I felt guilty.

    He continues to be aggressive to the point were he has kicked my leg where I can’t hardly walk. I feel trapped. I don’t have anyone to help me – no family. My mother was in a mental hospital when I met him; he was so nice to me but he did bring women in front of me and hurt me emotionally. I though, well this is how men are, but as of now 16 years later I’m tired of it.

    He talks about my dead grandmother who never did anything to him and I feel like I don’t know what to do

  3. Hello I got married with my husband 8 months ago but we have been together in one house for 2 years. My home is too far away from him, like 10 thousand miles away. First time he hit me on my face because I threw away his cd because I got jealous because it is written in his name and ex wife. But after he hit me he asked for forgiveness. That time we were not married yet. I forgave him. The second time he slapped me again on my face because I told to his grandchild that he’s crazy and course him because he not listening to me every time I told his grandson something he’s always talking lies. He said I must remember that he’s 8 years old. So I say Im not hitting anybody I used my mouth. That time also I’m 18 weeks pregnant with our first baby. Im so hurt of what he did. I told him I’m going leave because I cant take what he did to me. Pls advice me.

    1. I don’t know which of you is more screwed up. Then again… WE ALL ARE. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Does he? If you don’t this is piddling stuff. God means for each of us to live FOREVER, so the little cruelties you guys pile on one another don’t amount to a hill of beans. take him to church. Treat him well, even if abused. Let God worry about the rest… and yes, if things don’t change… dump him.

  4. Are you guys blind to the angst of men?? Sounds like a rant straight out of the Women’s Studies class I took. At least use gender-neutral language… even if you personally think it’s only men who can be abusers. At least please don’t rub more dirt in the face of the abused who do not fit your own definition.

  5. I was wondering if anyone knows of who can help me leave the country. My abuser is so mean and crafty. He finds me no matter what or where. My only option now is to leave the country. I’m in another shelter again. Please somebody, anybody help me before he kills me.

    1. So sorry Jequetta… what a horrible place to be — to sense that your spouse will kill you and yet you don’t know of a way to protect yourself fully. How I wish we could help. The only help we know of is at abuse shelters, or calling an abuse hotline (which you can find in the “Recommended Links” part of this topic. I wish so badly we could do more. Our thoughts and prayers are with you but sadly (even though we wish we could) we don’t have the means to help you more than this.

  6. After another New Year and what could have been a restful day I find my spouse underfoot cleaning and inciting discord. She speaks and belittles me in front of the two step children that live with us most of the time. One is in college the other works fulltime and has two children who come and stay about 3 nights a week. We have been married 13 years and during that time things have never been easy.

  7. My husband could be verbally and sometimes physically abusive. He hid his chronic drug addiction from me but we had to endure his alcoholism. He has remained a liar and a chronic manipulator..The flip-side of all this is that he can be really kind, perceptive, understanding, reassuring and has similar goals and interests like me.

    I separated from him for our child’s protection with the hope of his taking action and later being reconciled. We have been apart many years without seeing each other. I still love him and don’t want to let his good side go. He might be clean of drugs now but he has still shown small signs of being abusive on the phone.

    My question is…Is there anyway you can still be married to a man like this without putting yourself and your child at risk? Is there any road to reconciliation albeit a very long one? He says he knows he was abusive and has changed and does not need to have long term help from abuse specialists (one of my requirements)… I am in the unusual position of wanting to stay married to this man, wanting to find anyway forward for us to be together and have tried everything… what should I do?

    The limbo is sooo painful and I am pulled in two directions… thanks.

    1. Yes you can reconcile but you have to work on you too. Separation was the best thing for you! Congratulate yourself; not many women have the courage to leave. But please go to counseling, learn boundaries and be assertive. People treat us how we allow them to! I’m learning just like you, I’m with an emotionally abusive hubby and boundaries are KEY.

  8. I just left my husband because of the physical and verbal abuse that I’ve been getting for the past 4 yrs of marriage. I felt like I was in a cage, walking on egg shells making sure that what I say to him was right and that I wouldn’t upset him. I didn’t know how much of a change I went thru by shunning my friends and family, just so he’d get all my attention. I don’t know why I let him do this to me.

    Both his parents and my parents had an abusive relationship and it was natural for him to hit and cuss at me just as it was natural for me to accept it, as well. This past 4 yrs he has threatened and left me before, tonight. I made my first move and told him it’s over. No one knows that I left him, and there is no one for me to ask for help or advice. My heart loves him and wants to be with him but my mind is fed up and just wants to move on.

    It’s hard because I have no one to share this with, so now I’m posting on here, I guess venting, letting out my emotions that I’ve held in for so long. Tonight I read something that highlighted everything when it came to walking with Christ, and it was my faith in God that he will continue to protect me thru this abusive relationship and that if I constantly pray, my ex husband will change. The first line changed my perspective and gave me peace… “Candy thought that, until Glen shot her”… I mean, WOW! I don’t know how far my ex-husband could go as far abuse but I didn’t even think about any of these circumstances.

    Thank you for this post. I have to read encouragements online to get through my emotions bc I have no friends. Thank you sooooo much again for this, PLEASE PRAY FOR ME. PLEASE. :( please pray for my ex-husband… I can never rejoice that I left him bc he is ill. I can never rejoice that he is suffering with anger because he really is a nice guy. He is romantic at times, but he needs help.

    You see, I have hope in so many people that even all the wrongs they’ve done, I can still see the positive side in them. I just hope God understands and forgives me for calling quits on a marriage. And please pray that my emotions of being alone will be filled with Gods love… I really don’t know what to ask for, I just need prayers. Thanks.

    1. I’m so sorry that you were abused by your husband. The Bible is very clear that you have the right to divorce your husband for abuse. For more help, feel free to visit http://www.marriagebuilders.com and click the Forum button. The website has been recommended by Marriage Missions and is founded and operated by Dr. Bill Harley. You can receive help from experienced posters on the MB forum utilizing Dr. Harley’s methods. Hang in there and remember that Jesus loves you!

  9. I’m married to a man in which I have not lived with for the past 2 years. We separated 2 years ago under a horrible break up in which he was taking advantage of our finances to buy whatever he wanted and was taking it to his parents house. He barely paid the bills and wasn’t there as a husband for some time.

    He got heavily involved in pornography and promised he would stop. He went to our pastor many times. However, it would still come up. It made me so angry that he would choose these images over his family. So whenever the pornography was found of course we would have a big fight. It drove me insane to the point I felt so belittled as a female. Felt very down graded as if it was an assault against me. I finally gave it to God.

    He got mad when I confronted him about a girl he had been working with and was texting her so much. One of the texts said to her that she could stay with him and he would lend her a pair of his jersey shorts to sleep in, which I felt was way over the line for a coworker. He had just started this job when he was failing out of school mostly because of the involvement of the pornography. I was the only one supporting the family but I allowed him to still try to be the man of the house and manage our finances.

    So when he got a part time weekend job 2 hours away I supported him. As time went by he got meaner and real cold, very dispondent and admitted being far away from God. We didn’t have any intimate relations and he felt no need to justify and support our marriage. So one day he left on his last adventure to rank up the credit cards to purchase things for himself to take to his parents house and he saw I took him off the card. So he wanted a divorce.

    When he left I had a lot of healing to do and realized how trapped he was into pornography. Right now he is in a relationship with a younger girl with 2 young children. He has not wanted to once work things through and his parents support his behavior. So I pray for deliverance for him. I had concerns about him being so involved in pornography that it would affect the children. We had 4 children… 3 were mine… 1 girl was his. So he has kept me away from my step daughter and he has not seen the daughter he adopted with me, nor has he made any attempts.

    I have had to undergo a lot of personnel healing from the issues he battled and how he was. In this time I’ve healed greatly but God is still fixing me. I didn’t realize a lot of the damage that was done to me because of his addiction. I know he’s sick and needs help. I also know that only God can fix him and that I’m not him. So now we’re going to court for our divorce. I just pray God’s will be done and that no matter what that he truly, truly gets help and that God delivers him. I know when my step daughter is able to, she will look for me, and when she does God will fix those years we were away. I look forward to that time. Pray for me. It’s been along battle.

  10. I have to say that I thought that no one would ever treat anyone like my husband was treating me, it has helped me so much and has given me hope to know that other women have left and stayed away from the monster, devil, demon, evil, etc., that had terrorized their lives.

    For 18 years, I have been in a mentally and physically abusive relationship, it has been so chaotic and me being from a Northern Utah small town, never seen abuse, to come to Vegas and meet my husband that started abusing me in less than 3 months into our relationship. He was my first love, my first real relationship. I was 19 years old when I started seeing him; he was 32. Now I sit here 18 years later – that’s half of my life – that has been wasted on someone that has been destroying me from the beginning to hopefully the end.

    Its been 3 weeks since I had the police escort him out, and even though at the beginning of those 3 weeks I felt like someone died, like I was mourning; almost like I was saying goodbye, but not so much to him but to all the crap he has put me through. The 2nd time he hit me and was screaming at me calling me every bad name in the book I had said no more and flew back to Utah only to find out I was pregnant. My mom not really knowing my husband and not really knowing that I was being abused (I did not want anyone to worry, or say anything) told me that David and I should get married for the baby; that the baby deserved that (she will tell you that saying that was one of the biggest mistakes she has ever made). So I went back, told him I’m pregnant and my goodness it gas been crazy ever since, and even now I’m looking back at things and I’m like, well that situation is similar to the this one. I am starting to think I was a fool from the beginning.

    I could tell you loads of awful stories things he has done to me, but I will never forget my son’s 1st birthday and it just so happened it was Easter. I was out in family room hiding the little Easter eggs and baskets he had bought the kids (by this time I already could not work, he had given me a black eye when I was walking out the door to my new job as a hostess. Yeah, that did not go to well, especially when that job was on the Las Vegas strip, so of course he had control. Anyhow he has literally ruined every holiday, birthday; never has celebrated our wedding anniversary, and I would be lucky If he would spend 20 dollars on me. Anyway it was early and I dont know why he decided to pick on me this morning, maybe it was because he has had this weird grudge since my kids were born, after my son it was worse I was not allowed to breast feed, they were not allowed to cry, I for sure was never allowed to cry.

    Anyhow I will never forget that day he came in the room and went to punch me I stuck my foot up to block that punch oh my goodness he came back with the most powerful punch in my thigh I screamed and was turning in my bed, of course it gave him reason to leave, but I was so much in pain in had a hard time picking up my kids, walking down the stairs; man, you could put your hand 6 to 7 inches away from that spot and feel the heat, it was so sore. I still have broken blood vessels wherever he hit me. My daughter got the RSV virus and in a day she got pneumonia. I took her to the hospital and stayed by her for a week. I never left her, not even to the cafeteria. Anyhow we were living in these weekly apartments and I guess because someone called and hung up he assumed it was for me, well let me tell you my father in law came to get us from the hospital, take me home, oh man it law started to go across this little bridge thing to our place and bam he dropped a cocked gun on my head, I fell and cried because I have not been home for a week. Then when I reached upstairs he took 3 of those thick glass beer mugs and shattered them on me, I was covered in glass splinters.

    So here we are 16 years later (2 yrs ago) and my son is like mom I want to be at real family. So I decided to put my whole heart into it, try to be more understanding. I was not going to run away, and with the recent death of his youngest brother I wanted to be there for him, not to mention I just want to be a mom to my kids. Well let me tell you all those years of hitting name calling could never prepare me for what I was about to endure.

    It was awful – this now almost 50 year old man I think is going thru midlife crisis, he decides I’m going to cheat on my wife and maybe he did the whole time he just did not care to hide it anymore; in fact he threw his cheating in my face quench he hit me he no longer apologized, in fact was my fault and good for me. I found myself trying to please him and gain his acceptance I felt like nothing I did was good enough; he turned my son against me, my son disrespects me, called me names and talks back still to this day, and his father eggs him on. I did not want bad between him and the kids as they love him. Oh man that was all bad; now when he gets mad he goes and cheats on me; on our 16 year wedding anniversary he cheated on me told me out of his own mouth, it’s just too much, it has to end now.

    It really, really hurt me I all got lost took my life all got lost couple times I have no family here all got lost d vegas I have not the best place to have good friends, so he would take this to his advantage, I can’t tell you how it is to be alone and not have a person is the world. It is so painful, you just want to die. It was so awful but now I’m so happy he is gone finally. All that crying and finally I’m able to see sunshine. I just pray I stay strong and don’t need him so I won’t go back. So please pray for me, I don’t want my granddaughter to grow up in such hatred, evil, selfishness.

  11. Thank you. This excerpt is very helpful; it answers many of the difficult questions I’ve been dealing with and in many cases it confirms the conclusions at which I have arrived at, as I read the Bible.

    However, I believe the author could (and should) have been more accurate in addressing this issue of abuse between spouses. While the title does utilize the inclusive term “Spouse,” it then proceeds to only speak to the plight of certain women; it does not mention the fact that men are also subjected to the same injustices at the hands of some women.

    A man also deserves peace after “Leaving’ his ‘(female) Spouse Because Of Abuse.”

    1. I agree Ben. I wish that authors would address both wife and husband abuse because we hear of both, so both need to be addressed and dealt with. All we can do is hope that men will change the pronouns and glean through the information, to use whatever fits.

    2. I agree but what about God fearing men in emotional abuse, because the wife never talked about her abuse as a child and that has taken a toll on their marriage and children?

  12. Thank you for this. My parents are deeply religious people yet I grew up watching my father beat and verbally abuse my mother. He also did this to me and my brothers. Growing up I was depressed and felt that I couldn’t do anything right. It wasn’t until I moved out and began seeking therapy (as the relationships I had were also with abusive men) that there was a part of me that felt that this abuse was OK, when in wasn’t.

    I’m now 30 years old and will be having a child this year. My father still disrespects my mother but now my mother disrespects him in return. Anytime I bring up the fact that my mother could be happier; she often refers to the fact that God does not allow divorce and that she must put up with this.

    They have been married 33 years now and she still refuses to see the kind of man she is. She has gotten used to it. I wish she realized that there was better out there.

  13. Excellent article! A whole lot of love within the words. And it comforts those of us who got lost because of mind games and abuse. Thank you. God used you as an instrument. I can’t explain how exactly, I just feel it. Again, thank you! Keep writing! You give people hope.

  14. Thank GOD for this site. I thought I was alone. I am married to an unbeliever who verbally and pyschologically abuses me. He humiliates me in public by calling me names and belittles my faith and blasphemes the name of GOD. I just wonder sometimes if GOD will ever intervene, answer my longstanding prayer, and change the course of my life by leading my husband to repentance unto salvation?

    1. I go through the same thing. I’ve been married for 16 years, and we have kids, grade 6 and under. We began our walk with Jesus in 2002, and after awhile, he left me standing there on the God-path alone. He had father issues, and became angry with God. Since then, we have has nothing but problems. I feel satan is able to easily use my husband as a puppet to destroy my personal and spiritual growth. I don’t bear more fruit of the Spirit over time, I become more and more hard-hearted. His heart is clenched like a fist, and he will not permit himself to be emotionally vulnerable to anyone. He is extremely regimented and rigid, being a former Marine, and tries to run our family like boot camp.

      Our marriage and family life are joyless. And he has systematically rejected me, as a person, for the majority of pur marriage. I found myself alone on a regular basis with the kids, and him out the door. He said I was the reason he drank. When pregnant with our 4th, he stopped touching me for most of the pregnancy, and I cried myself to sleep every night. I even spent many daylight hours crying. I have a new diagnosis of Adult ADD, and he now has an explanation as to why I was so “incompetent” during our whole marriage.

      Every time he hurts me, I tell him he offers no validation for my feelings, and I get enraged! Then he says I need to “get on medication already,” says he’s sure there’s “something wrong with” me. Says he carries all the weight in our life, and I behave like an adolescent. He says things like, “SHUT THE F UP!” when I’m upset. There have many a hundred times when we were riding together in the car, and though I felt happy and joyful, he was visibly agitated, looking like he smells something bad. When asked what’s wrong, he said, “I’m not quite sure. I feel grouchy, but not sure why.”

      He has told me on one occasion that I favored our oldest daughter (a lie, which broke my heart for our son… I knew how much I tried to make everything equal, and that this was untrue), and once he said out of left field, over a nice lunch together, “You do realize you failed our son, right?” (I was in the middle of a toileting behaviour modification regimen with him, when we moved from our upstairs apartment to downstairs, and the regimen for briefly interrupted secondary to the move. This made me so angry, I threw my just-bought cheeseburger at him. It missed him, slid down the wall, and slipped into his laptop. He yanked all my clothes out of the closet and screamed at me to get out. I was a bawling mess on the floor, my heart tormented by how little he valued me.

      He has since insinuated by casual and covert remarks that “we’re old,” (only 40), told his bachelor buddy – who’s seeking a woman who is a 9 or 10 that “they’re out there.” What does that make me? I dare not ask, I couldn’t bare the answer. Over nice steak he was cooking us recently, he shared a conversation he had with the same friend. He told his friend not to seek a 9 or 10, because “they won’t be hot forever. They lose their butt, boobs sag,” etc. I took this to heart. Yes, he mentioned how men’s bodies age too, but who cares? The damage was already done.

      Two weeks or so later, at the table enjoying more steak he cooked, he spoke about a co-worker, Chris, who’s having a relationship problem. Chris has a so-called platonic female friend from childhood. New girlfriend is jealous. Platonic friend wants him to go visit her. She’s having marital problems, and wants Chris for emotional support. I told my husband just watch, Chris will drop new girlfriend for platonic chic. My husband said with conviction, “No he won’t.” I said, “Don’t be so sure.” He said, “You haven’t seen Marissa.” (New girlfriend’s name.)

      Instantly, my female brain bristled. He has hung out on occasion with Chris and Marissa, and never before mentioned that he found her attractive. I saw green. He could tell his comment bothered me, but acted like I was being insecure and irrational. Didn’t apologize, didn’t try to reassure me. The dinner was ruined. On holidays and other random says, when our family was enjoying a peaceful time, he dropped a toxic bomb on me out of nowhere, spewing contempt at me out of nowhere, leaving me standing there with my eyes wide as saucers and my jaw on the floor. We are high school sweethearts, but don’t belong together. He was the jock, popular guy who showed an interest in me, the pretty but shy wallflower, and he rocked my world. From day 1, I spent my life chasing after his affections, in vain.

      I know he loves his family, and he is a stellar father on many important ways. But he doesn’t know how to love *me*. I’m always going to seek HIM out, he doesn’t come seeking me. Yet, he’s committed and won’t leave us. So, do I leave? I ask myself this, war with myself, every single day now. He has poisoned me against my blood family (at least, he tried to). They have been so welcoming to him, but he acts like an arrogant snob and they’re not worth the air he breathes. My mom has been the best to him, always encouraging me to try my best to please him and honor him, and yet He said this year that he can’t stand her, that she’s a “depressed blob.” He has made her feel unwelcome in our home, and his makes me furious. He is also icy to our nieces who live downstairs. He doesn’t LIKE *anybody.*

      He has also made it clear to me that I can do nothing right. No decision I ever make is the right one. I’m never perceiving a situation accurately or wisely. My most innocent intentions toward our kids, namely wanting to buy them a $5 or less set of Crayola paints, he says is out of “selfish motives. Are the paints for them, or to satisfy some selfish need” in me? When our oldest daughter was in kindergarten, she wanted a Disney princess folder her friend has. A friend said it came from the dollar store. I wasn’t working at the time, have none of my own money. I told my husband I wanted to get one for our daughter, and he said no. Absolutely not. We’re both artistic, and we’d “make one.”
      This was preposterous to me, because I knew, based on our mutual track record, she wouldn’t see that handmade folder until her 18th birthday!

      This scenario felt super controlling, and I fought him on it. He fought back. About two weeks later, I got him to agree -he said, “You buy her one, I’ll make one, and you’ll see she prefers the handmade one!” I bought her one, and he never made her one, despite already having her choose her printed pictures and where she wanted them laid out. I hurt on her behalf, because he hasn’t kept his word to her. He said I should mind my own business, I didn’t know what I was talking about, and she “doesn’t even remember it. She never mentions it.” He’s always in a rotten mood.

      Can you imagine living with a man who is in a bad mood for 15 years straight???!!! I can’t even SPEAK TO HIM until he has had his morning coffee! He attempts to adjust how I speak, bc he’s a wordsmith and grammar is important to him. If he asks a question, but I answer in what he perceives is too much unnecessary information, he interrupts me with annoyance. He hates being around my family, but this Thanksgiving he agreed we could go Upstate and spend the holiday with them. My sister was there too (we have has tremendous problems with her, she and my husband are as bad a pair as kerosene and a lifhted match). She was there’s with her fiancee and kids. She was on excellent behavior, said nothing instigatory. He didn’t either, but he opted not to come sit and eat at the family table beside me. Instead, he hung out on the sun porch in solitude. He was out there for 99% of the evening, watching movies on his laptop.

      When we got home, I shared that his lack of seeking me out to come eat beside me hurt my feelings. He said it was because my sister was there. I tried to explain that I need him to seek me, because I have years of him rejecting me. He insisted it was his prerogative to act as he saw fit, he was a grown man. I became furious because of the pain he was causing my heart, and he resorted to his “You need to get on f***ing medication already!!!” This will never stop. He won’t convey that he valued me. He says all will be fixed once I “treat my ADD,” but I can’t get beyond the fact that even if he begins to love me ON medication, I will always remember he didn’t accept me off of it.

      I feel as though there may not be anything wrong with me at all…that I’ve been involved in a 16-year head trip, and he is driving me insane! I’m starting to not be able to discern which way is up, doubting all my own perceptions and opinions. He told me he can’t praise me for a job well done, until I’ve shown him a job well done. He even said it with a warm and peaceful smile!

      My husband is half black. Skin color never mattered in our relationship, we both thought each other’s skin color beautiful. But this past year, when I was Upstate, we has a text fight. I mentioned that the kids weren’t obeying me and settling down for bed (husband stayed home from trip to lay down laminate flooring, as we had agreed). He said I was laying in the bed I had made for myself. My lack of being a firm disciplinarian had led to them thinking me a joke. This made me bristle. I was sharing my frustration with him, not asking for a lecture. I didn’t want a fight to escalate, so I replied in what I thought a light-hearted way. I merely said, “I feel you, Brotha.” He blindsided me with, “Wtf did you just say? Make that the last time you ever come out of the side of your face with a comment like that!” I questioned why it has bothered him so, he told me to drop it. I pressed, saying I wanted to understand so I could avoid offending in the future. He replied angrily, in capitals, that it was “pale faces like me” who have “his people down for decades…” I couldn’t believe my eyes! This is what I’m dealing with.

      In our 16 years, we have been a pair who can’t take one forward step together. We’ve never had our own home, and rent has never even been paid on time. Where we live now, my dad charges $500 a month, which husband isn’t reliable with. Yet he supports his pack-a-day smoking habit, and drive-thru takeout most midnights, after already having had dinner. We have never has a family vacation, nor one just the two of us. We’ve never had a pet. The kids and I have PINED for one, but he insisted for years it wasn’t the right time. We have NO mutual friends, and he has favored his bachelor buddies over me. He tells me this month that it was because of my ADD inconsistencies, and that he had every right to choose time out over time with me. He told me I never finish anything I start, have never proven I can hold down a lob without getting fired, blah blah blah. Yet during all of this, he hasn’t seen the good I do, the warmth and beauty and nurturing I bring to his life. He has been putting out my light, and I have had enough.

      1. I told my Pastor recently I’ve been putting up with emotional abuse for 15 years on and off and didn’t even notice it. I think we can stay in denial way too long because we don’t really know what to do. Some Christians like to give their opinions, but seriously I think to myself, hey, even the Pastor would not put up with this, so why should we? I have been googling a lot obout Christian marriages and emotional abuse. Well, what an eye opener! If I was in denial before I sure ain’t now. Take care people, and remember God never intended us to stay in a covenant Marriage that is abusive.

        1. Hi Bec, Perhaps you should define the term “emotional abuse” before taking the risk of splitting up a marriage? Perhaps you can share your experiences here that lead you to this conclusion? God did say “What God has joined together let no man (person) separate.” I also recall that the only recommendation for divorce ever given in scripture is adultery… (= “being physically intimate with a person other than our spouse”)

          Please don’t misunderstand me… My intention is NOT to make light of this…and I believe there is such a thing as “emotional adultery” …but again, that has to be defined carefully. I see divorces happening so often. I will summarize all that by the following comment from a friend who went through a failrly “typical divorce.” She said, “Never in my wildest imagination could I imagine the horrific stress, emotional upheaval and expense of a divorce.”

          “Emotional abuse” is no light matter to be sure. But neither is divorce. I certainly hope you can figure this thing out… and especially that you two come together instead of growing apart.

          I have been married for 36 years. I personally think that MOST problems are in a large part, a result of MISUNDERSTANDING, rather than WILLFUL intention to hurt the partner. You take care Bec. I hope and pray the very best for you, WP (Work in Progress)

          1. It sounds like these spouses might have narcissistic personality disorder and/or are sociopathic. My husband of 12 years was diagnosed with this disorder and their characteristics are very textbook. Unless you’ve experienced being married to someone such as this, then you have no idea what it’s like. It’s WAAAY beyond a “misunderstanding”. Trust me, it’s ALL intentional…that’s why it’s a disorder.

    2. My husband of 41 years is the same way. I sometimes ask God if he loves him more than me because he is lost sheep. I am crying as I write this because last Monday night he blew up about some spicy food I was making for my lunches. I told him I couldn’t take it any longer and I wanted a divorce. Now he is in the hospital because he tried to commit suicide and is blaming me for it.

  15. What a great article, and what great responses as well. So very comforting to hear the Christian perspective from women who have been through abusive marriages. So much of the posts are about women who wish they had left their abusive spouse sooner, or who have left them. Horrifying to read that this killing of spirit could last decades as some have posted.

    My strange story is that I put up with an emotionally abusive husband for five years, because I took vows “til death, sickness, worse, poorer….etc”. I truly never considered leaving my husband; I prayed for things to get better. I was “stuck” with him, because that’s what God said!

    Strange thing is that my husband “left” me! Sixteen months ago out of the blue he said he was “through”, and was divorcing me because I “didn’t make him happy.” I stood by my marriage and my vows, and I obeyed him — at his direction, I showed up to the divorce mediator three times (he stood me up each time). He threatens to divorce me “next week” and “next month”. He leaves for months at a time.

    We have a second home, and I had to go there to take care of issues because he threatened to “let it go to the bank”, his way of getting rid of me. Through this all I have been depressed, crying, feeling like dirt. However, I have been doing what I thought God wanted; obey my husband, stay in marriage (there has been no adultery). I have all the Bible verses that I clung to, thinking that eventually God will work in my husband, that a miracle will occur, etc. I figured because he hadn’t made it legal yet, there was still hope.

    But thanks to this website, I realize that isn’t going to happen. He is just getting more abusive (I think he wants me to divorce him, so he can be a victim and keep more money!), and humiliating me more and more in the community. He took off his ring a year ago, and has been telling everyone we are already divorced; he is acting like he is single.

    After reading this site, it seems that HE already divorced me. It is like the manner that Moses was trying to address when he allowed divorce for the “hardness of his heart”, and insisted that at least the husband GIVE her that “certificate of divorce” — that legal piece of paper to make it “official” and not just leave her hanging. The divorce wasn’t my decision; it was his. He divorced me; the only technicality is who goes to the effort of getting the legal “certificate of divorce.”

    I still love him (the Bible says true love never dies), but I am not in love with him, and I don’t like him. I wish our marriage could be restored; I have prayed and fasted and done everything with faith and truly expected it to be restored. I now realize that, well, he divorced me a year ago — the only thing left is his abuse, and his failure to go through with the legal inconvenience of giving me the “certificate of divorce.”

    Thanks for the article. Timely as heck. As he sleeps in the spare room, my heart still breaks for what we should have — the marriage God intended — but instead, my husband has chosen to listen to the devil, who successfully came to steal and destroy.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I have been married 35 years and my husband has just left me. Your story touched me. I became a born again Christian 10 years ago. My husband remains an unbeliever. We both brought baggage into the marriage, but at the start I thought I was the only one, and had married into a “good” family. My husband was comfortable with this understanding, as it made him feel good about himself. When I became a Christian, I changed radically and that is when I actually began to see the truth in our situation. My husband’s issues began to surface. As you can imagine, his image of himself, was dismantling as I met his emotional abuse, (which often took the form of silent treatment when he felt I had said or done something that was hurtful to him) with a healthy response. He was always the victim therefore “good” and I was always “bad”.

      For the first time, (in Christ) I was able to apologize for things that I did that were hurtful to him, (even if my intention was not such), but would not beat myself up for days as I had in the past, as in Christ I knew I was not condemned, and also, I was no longer owning blame that was unfounded. What was interesting was that my husband became outwardly aggressive with me, and a man who never yelled and was always calm previously, and was now yelling and becoming quite aggressive.

      This is when it became obvious to me that he had been controlling me all along with the silent treatment and he had been playing on my guilt, to control me and consequently feel good about himself. It was Christ that freed me from this bondage! Like yourself, I am very sad because I believe the Lord wanted to save our marriage and I know that we had THE answer to a great marriage. My husband has a will. That is the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ in that He is not a controller and gives us a will. My ex husband has chosen his own righteousness presently, instead of the only righteous one and that is Jesus Christ.

      Like you, over the last year my ex husband had upped the ante, as they say, I believe, to frustrate me, and therefore catch me in anger (which is failure) and I think hoping I would ask for the separation, so again I would look like the “bad” one, in front of our children. The Lord was amazing how he came through me with much love and patience for him. (a living sacrifice) My husband has finally left me by sending me an email from California while on a business trip, where he plans to live now. I am finding this extremely difficult as you can appreciate. I know though, that my ex husband is not well emotionally, and the abuse towards me would have continued, if not escalated.

      My ex husband, unbeknownst to himself, (as he doesn’t believe he exists), has handed himself over to the devil. He has left a path of carnage in his wake, not only myself, but 3 grown children and 4 grandchildren. The Lord loves my ex husband too, and I trust that He continues to call him to Himself, in whatever way that might look like.