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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Filed under: Abuse in Marriage

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239 responses to “Leaving Your Spouse Because Of Abuse

  1. I am engaged with two kids to a non believer. He has warned me several times to be strangled by him if I don’t leave. I am confused that I will be sinning, and worried about where I am going.

  2. Similar to Ben, I myself, have recently been the victim of a violent woman. She is a foreigner who claims to be a Christian, but was raised in a culture of violence, where it’s okay to be abusive to your husband. I suffered with this woman for 4+ years. I tried to show her the correct (biblical) way a marriage should operate.

    Due to her violent temper I lived in fear and I was constantly being physically, emotionally and verbally abused. I kept trying because my only son lives in her country. I didn’t want him to grow up without a father. So I kept going back to her country. But after the last time I warned her never to put her hands on me, she couldn’t stop herself. So I had to swiftly depart.

    Now she is begging for another chance, but I heard that false promise many times. I love my son with all my and I want to visit him there, but she stole my passport several times and threatened to kill me, so I dont feel safe going there anymore. All I can do is pray and send money to ensure my son is taken care of. I haven’t seen my son in 5+ months, so I’m suffering now, but one day God will allow him to visit here.

  3. This article helped me a lot. I left a very abusive husband and daughter who was cheating on me with each other together. I was being abused by both of them yet I thought in my mind I was there to keep my grandkids safe, until we lost our home.

    I came home one night from work and got dragged out of the house by my own husband and daughter and stabbed by my own child. I said enough, what do I do Lord? He took over and someone called the law and now three years later my daughter won’t let me see my grandkids. But I still love the Lord and thank God for everything he is doing for me. He set me free from abuse, and just now as I was reading your article I am now free from the mental part of it all too. THANK YOU JESUS!!!

    1. Be blissful you’re out now. What do you suppose is going to happen when your daughter lays up with another man when she’s though with that loser? He means nothing to her, visa versa. What good or healthy could ever come out that relationship if your own child helps throw you out? As her mother just sit back and wait to see what they do to each other when there’s no substance abuse MONEY. It’s unfortunate about you not seeing your grandson, BUT you might even have custody of him one day. They too are ABUSERS of their own selves. Go on with your love for our FATHER; let the dead bury the dead.

  4. Well said. I needed to hear this. One person’s opinion on this subject before I read yours, believed that the wife should stay in the negative situation no matter what. He or she can do that! Love your take on the subject. You are a God-sent, to my situation.

  5. I just read this. Never have read anything like it. I know the relationship is at an end. It has been physically abusive in the past. He seemed to improve. But it is back to one put down after the other. I was quietly singing to the Lord just because I was happy. He started singing/chanting to Satan. This is after I was ready to leave. He became ill and I decided I didn’t want to leave him like this. I gave up affordable housing (luckily putting it off, but it means 3 to 5 years before I will be at the top of the list again). Now that he is improving in health a bit it is back to the same bad treatment. With one exception, I am in the red financially with no where to go, and no one to go to. Confused and feeling trapped. I haven’t the money to afford normal rent. Searching for answers on what a born again Christian opinion was is what made me find the site. I knew the Lord was teaching me how a relationship should be. This article was a shock to my system, but attitude is same as article. I can’t believe I have been so stupid.

  6. I have just left my husband of 13 years after being physically, mentally, financially, emotional and sexually abused. He always told me that he feels like infecting me with HIV; he would have sex with prostitutes until he acquired the disease and infect me. He told me he would kill me and no one will know what happened to me. He is a soldier. He would call my family, cry and beg for forgiveness. He would tell them how he loves and respects me. My family will hold family meetings and beg me to take him back. How can I leave such a loving husband?

    He convinced me to pay for the mortgage, the car. He accidentally forgets to pay for my daughter’s school fees until, out of anger, I settle the bill. We’re blessed with two children; a 19 year old who is also showing signs of abuse and a 13 year old daughter who screams at the brother most of the time.

    Having read this article and related comments, I applaud myself. My husband is curently alone at our home where I am still paying the mortgage and miserable as well. I am out there and happy to be free. Free at last! ??

  7. OK, it took a lot out of me to write this but here goes. My mom, a woman in her mid 40’s, is in an abusive relationship. It isn’t physical abuse, but mental/emotional abuse. My step-dad constantly puts her down by saying things like, your family doesn’t love you. She finally has told us, my little brother and I this and it took a lot out of me not to result in violence. She told us that she was going to take my brother and leave to Pennsylvania. My step-dad knew her intentions and talked to her about it. Now, he will let her leave on one condition…to leave my brother with him. We now don’t know what to do. Can somebody please help us on what to do? Thanks.

    1. AJ, If this is indeed a mental/emotionally abusive person your mom is married to (which I have no reason to think otherwise), then leaving your brother alone to live with the toxic things your step dad could say to him about family and others, would not be a good thing to do. Your brother would need family, who is healthy, to be active in his every day life to give some balance. That would be especially challenging to do that far away.

      AJ, I can’t tell your mom to leave her husband… that’s not for me to say. That is between her and God. But I can say that if your mom feels she MUST leave, and even though she may feel she has more support in Pennsylvania, it may be better for her not to go that far away, while she still has a son who needs to live with a parent. What she does when he is no longer a minor, is another thing. But at this point in your brother’s life I do encourage her, at the very least, to consider not moving so far away. He needs her and he needs you to be active in his life beyond just talking on the phone and Skyping.

      I don’t know the all of the circumstances, but with what you have stated here, all I can say is, if he can live with your mom and with you in some way –that would seem to be best. But if that is not possible, then at the very least, for as long as your brother must live with a parent, then live as close by to him as it is possible so she and you are continually in his life, giving love, and investing positive values into him. … I hope this helps in some way. I hope your step-dad wakes up and chooses to stop his toxic talk. But if he won’t, then stick close to your brother and do what you can to help him see a more positive side of family interaction.

  8. I am praying and believing that my husband will find the love and hope that only Jesus can give through my witness. I do understand now that it is ok to leave if he refuses to change his abusive ways.

  9. My wife asked me to short sale our house to her father, which she said in 2 years we would put it back into our names; in 2 years and we wouldnt have a mortgage. She was a real estate agent and at the time I didn’t know this was illegal but I did it anyway. In 2 years she said she was keeping the house I paid for for 17 years and I was out of luck.

    I was angry and upset over this and called her names I shouldn’t have. She used this to state mental abuse as a reason to leave me and take my kids, home and everything of value I had… but she’s using this article to say I mentally abused her. When I spoke to her about saving our marriage, saying I mentally abused her and now she feels totally obligated to marry someone else religiously and marry a rich man.

    I always did my best to hold onto my marriage even though when this happened and my health got worse I went into a midlife crisis. I’m over that now and trying to move forward to save my marriage and become a Godly father and husband. I’m sorry for the mistakes I made but honestly the things done to me were 10 times worse. I won’t state them all here but I’m willing to forgive her and try to move forward in our marriage. I don’t want to be a part time dad or a defunct husband. Am I wrong? I have made many changes to improve my life and continue to do so.

  10. I like this article but would like to add that women can be just as abusive. I live with an emotionally abusive wife who will not let me leave the house. She will start fights and if I push her away she will threaten to call and report that I hit her. We have a 6 year old kid so I tried staying for him. This article helped me.

    1. I’m glad you found this article to be helpful. Yes, you’re right that woman can be abusive too. The author wrote it for women, but we include a note in the beginning of the article that states that both men and women can be abusers. Also, you will find that we do have articles that address the fact that both men and women can be abusers. And we have a lengthy article that addresses husbands who have wives that are abusers with many links to additional insightful articles and helpful web sites. You may want to glean through it.

  11. I’ve been in a relationship for 12 yrs married for 2. It’s a very long story. Here goes as short as possible: he had been mentally, emotionally, and at times physically abusive. I was separated from him for a couple years. He was in jail and I was recovering from a severe head injury. We then got back together. I did not realize the manipulation for quite some time because of addictions in and out of house. Anyway he was not as bad these past couple of years. He has not insulted any where like he used to and says he wants to keep working on it. But I feel so done I cannot honestly tell him I want to work on it. I don’t know what else to do.

  12. Hi, my husband thinks that I am nothing to him such as name calling, staying out with friends and many more things; won’t help with the bills; is on Facebook all the time so I just move my self from around him.

  13. If your husband professes to be a believer but is in every way abusive, he probably is not a believer. If the wife leaves is she free to marry again?

  14. I read this article with crying eyes. The situations that were talked about were things that I myself have been dealing with for 10 years. I have had all of those things happen to me and have felt all of the same things about why I stayed and all with my 5 children watching, hearing and sometimes dealing with it happening to them also. I have recently left a marriage to a man that quoted the Bible and confessed on many occasion to be a man of God. But would cheat, leave us for days (sometime without a car, money and food), would curse and tear me and the kids down every chance he got.

    He would have us so scared we were scared to walk too loudly in the house. He would also be physically abusive to me not only in private but also in front of the kids and sometimes to them. And even thought I left knowing full well that I needed to get us out of that situation for good it has been so hard. I am still dealing with everything and still feeling like I did when I was there. It is hard to deal with everything when ou have no way of getting any help. And even harder to live with everything you are dealing with and now on top of that having to worry about how you and your kids are going to survive on your own with no car no job no where to stay for a long period of time. And you are doing these things for the first time by yourself in over !0 years and with % young children. I can only hope, believe and pray that God will give me a way to do it. Please keep me and my kids in your prayers.

    1. Krystal, I’m so sorry that you and your children are having to suffer in this horrible way. Husbands are supposed to be the protectors and providers of the family, not abusers and accusers. Your husband is distorting the Bible and is in NO WAY showing himself to be a “man of God.” There is NO WAY Jesus would do that to His bride. According to the Bible the husband is to treat his wife like Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her. He isn’t giving himself up for you, but is doing the opposite. So please don’t even start to pay attention to those types of accusations. That comes straight from the pit of hell.

      We looked up your area of the U.S. and see that they have a number of shelters and abuse centers available. I don’t know if you have checked out any of them or all of them (sometimes one is better than another as far as the help they can give and the ways in which they can connect you to the resources you need… so check them all out). If you haven’t, please consider it. Also, the Salvation Army churches may have contacts available that you can use. Yes, you will have to get a job to support you and the children, which will be tough –especially with 5 children to take care of, but living with a husband (I won’t call him a “man” because a true man would never do that, and neither should a husband) who treats you and your children the way he has is definitely worse. I pray you are able to eventually find a job that will meet your needs. Also, please make sure you get into a good fellowship of a Christ believing, following church. You really need healthy people around you in which, you can be in community.

      I pray for you and your children, and I’m sure many others will who will read your comment. I pray for help, wisdom, confidence that you can do what you need to do, safety, good people who will enter your life, and peace. You are probably suffering from PTS (post traumatic stress) –just as soldiers do who are thrown into the midst of combat. You have suffered from combative abuse. That’s where some of these abuse centers can help. You just don’t recover from this type of injury physically, and emotionally easily, just because you WANT to put it all behind you; it takes time and effort. This type of deep hurt can haunt you for a long time. But talking to a good counselor at an abuse center or church can help you get past it a lot sooner, and become a survivor, but also a thriver –where you do better than you ever thought possible at first.

      I also pray for laughter for you and your children. Find ways to infuse laughter into your life, trying to put the tears behind you and looking forward to a safe, peaceful home. Home is where you and your children are together safe and sound. You and your children deserve to laugh. Find ways to do so… it’s healing. I know you haven’t had much reason to laugh in the past, but by breaking free and looking forward to what CAN be, hopefully, smiles will come easier. I pray so :)

  15. This is very helpful to me I am in a very bad situation I really want to stay with my husband he’s not physically abusive but he is mentally abusive he’s on drugs real bad and we’ve been here before I will have 5 years clean this year versus just not even 24 hours. I don’t understand support him but me being a recovering addict I know in my heart that he’s going to need more than 72 hours of detox. I have taken all of my items that I can and put in storage unit he asked me what, I said the house this weekend until he gets out of detox Monday.

    He is under the impression that I am coming back home but he just doesn’t know I am doing this because I have no where to go but when you come back I am leaving if I should even if I have to sleep in my car. I love my husband dearly but my husband don’t love me like you should; it’s hard living with somebody that’s on drugs and alcohol and that was your drug of choice – I know in my heart it was nobody but God that delivered from drugs and alcohol and when God delivers you from something you are delivered; and if you go back you go back on your own free will so I’m claiming today that my husband will get right. I don’t want to be married anymore because I’m tired of the mental abuse. I’m tired of worrying about if something’s going to happen to him or if he can bring trouble to me on Monday owing money he knows he can’t pay. I pray for my husband all the time and nobody can tell me their friend doesn’t work but my thing is this – do I have to stay in the relationship until he decides to get his stuff together because who’s to say that he will never change?

    Some people will be on drugs to the day they die. So my question to you is do I have to send this relationship even though he’s not a cheater, even though he doesn’t put his hand on me but he did what you had to alcohol and to me that’s abuse, especially when you’re selling my things, you sold all your things and now you make an outstanding debt that you can’t afford to pay. I really don’t want to be around him; I don’t want to jeopardize my sobriety, so can you please help me? God bless.