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This Is What Covert Hidden Abuse Looks Like [Episode 26]

This is What Covert Hidden Abuse Looks Like

Today we’ll meet an emotional abuse survivor who has perfectly captured what covert hidden abuse looks like in an incredible poem. After she reads her poem, we’ll talk with her about how she was able to realize her confusing experience was abusive.

The article that she mentions in the podcast (The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages) is HERE.

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Hi. This is Natalie Hoffman of, and you’re listening to the Flying Free Podcast, a support resource for women of faith looking for hope and healing from hidden emotional and spiritual abuse.

NATALIE: Welcome to Episode 26 of the Flying Free Podcast. Today I have with me a beautiful butterfly named Brenna. 


NATALIE: Yes, I realize that’s a lot of alliteration, but I just couldn’t help myself. I had the privilege of getting to meet her face-to-face a couple of weekends ago at our second annual Flying Free Retreat with about fifty other beautiful butterflies. When we got home from that retreat, we wanted to be able to connect and continue building those relationships, so we started a new Facebook group. Inside of that Facebook group, Brenna shared a poem that she had written about what it’s like to live with covert or hidden psychological abuse that nobody else can see on the outside. All of us were just flabbergasted! 

I asked her if she would be willing to share her poem with you guys because it is so good. (And also, I wanted to hear her read it again.) Brenna graciously agreed to do that, and also to just sit and talk with me a little bit about what it’s like to live with covert abuse, how she figured out that’s what she’s dealing with, and what she’s doing now today with that understanding and information that she realized has happened in her life. So welcome, Brenna. 

BRENNA: Thank you, Natalie. I’m super excited to be here with you and very honored. 

NATALIE: Awesome! I think we’ll start with your poem. When we’re done with that and people have blown their noses and recovered, we’ll talk about what that poem actually means, okay? 

BRENNA: That sounds good. 

NATALIE: Alright. 

BRENNA: I just have a very simple title for this. I just called it “Hurt.” Right after I moved out, I sat down and wrote this. I didn’t share it with anyone until the retreat. I actually read this to my roommates, who I have gotten to know through Flying Free, at the retreat. They are some of my very good friends, and they encouraged me to share it, so I did. That led me here, so here we go: 


I think 

I might 

Be going crazy 

I never was before 

But now I am I think something is wrong 

The something must be me 

I must be going crazy 


There’s nothing black-and-white for me to rest my finger on 

Nothing cut and dry that will explain my sense of dread 

Instead there is a litany of good that I have memorized 

He has always bought amazing gifts 

Remembered my favorite drinks 

Made sure there was plenty in the bank 

Which he never kept from me 

Never cheated on me 

Never screamed in my face 

But yet 

I think something is wrong 

I must be going crazy 

After all 

It’s not like 

He’s ever really hurt me 

I can’t quite wrap my heart around the shock 

The searing pain 

Of hearing those cruel words about my body 

I can’t quite grasp how to respond 

When he turns away with sorrow in his eyes 

For himself 

To be stuck with a wife 

As ugly as me 

For a second I am angry 

That he can grieve for himself and then go to sleep 

While I am left in the dark 



I realize he just hates himself for hating me 

It’s not his fault I gained those pounds 

A size 8 is far larger than the 4 he married 

So I comfort him until he falls asleep 

And try to silence my heart’s screaming 

I catch sight of myself in the mirror 

And I understand his pain 

Now I see it too 

How awful I am 

He is right, just trying to help 

So why can’t I shake this unending pain 

I think I’m too sensitive 

Or maybe going crazy 

After all 

It’s not like 

He’s ever really hurt me 

He tells me with tears in his eyes 

That he uses videos of other women 

To make up for what I lack 

He is so sad 

So grieved about his failure 

There is no allowance for me to be angry 

I must offer grace and forgiveness 

So I do 

At each new confession; each new failure 

Year after year 

But his words ring in my ears 

The comments about my weight 

my size 

my looks 

They cut like a knife 

His eyes above me looking down 

Disgust pouring out 

My body lying there exposed 


Found wanting 



But later the cruelty taken back 

Never meant; should be forgotten 

Promises made 

Promises broken 

A cycle repeating 

If only I could be better 

If only my skin could bring him joy instead of pain 

I cringe at every glance 

Cover up 

Switch to the guest bathroom 

So I won’t have to wonder 

If his gaze will hold desire, indifference, or disgust

I hide myself 

I hate myself 

I think I am going crazy 

After all 

It’s not like 

He’s ever really hurt me 

I do my best to be the best 

To be what he knows he deserves 

After all he is better than me 

At life 

at looks 

at knowing me 

I cook but make a simple mistake 

Now he won’t look at me 

Won’t speak to me I wander around, anxiety pulsing in my veins 

Trying to figure out the best way to be the best wife 

Stay quiet or try to talk 

Walk away or stay near 

The minefield I tried to avoid 

Has exploded 

The eggshells 

I so carefully tread across 

Are slicing my feet 

But he tells me he never wanted me to walk across them 

He never asked that of me 

So I wonder why I am 

I think I might be going crazy 

After all 

It’s not like 

He’s ever really hurt me 

We have fun together 

Laugh and talk 

Go out with family 

And to our friend’s homes 

But then I catch that tightening around his lips 

The way they get a bit taut 

And white around the edges 

And suddenly I am on edge 

I cannot think clearly 

I must have said something stupid 

Or my double chin is showing 

Or this shirt is too tight 

Or this dress is all wrong 

I should have remembered that swimsuits are a no-win option 

I cannot relax 

I can no longer have fun 

My legs begin to bounce 

And I pull my shirt to loosen it 

And silence my laugh and my voice 

In case they are the problem 

Because if I don’t 

Then I will be ignored 

Not touched 

Not loved 

A disappointment not even worthy of a goodnight kiss 

But why is my heart racing over a simple tightened lip 

A shade whiter around the edges 

No one else would ever notice 

I think I might be going crazy 

After all 

It’s not like 

He’s ever really hurt me 

My breath comes faster 

My heart beats quicker 

And as I listen to him cry and pour his out heart 

About how much it hurts him 

That I am this way 

That I do not match the hope in his mind 

The expectations he knows I can meet If would stop being lazy 

And just try 

My nails press into my arms 

Deeper and harder 

Cutting skin but grounding my mind 

I must stay focused 

I must not become emotional 

I must not be hard-hearted 

I must face my own short comings with humility 

I must care for him 

I must not be angry 

So my arms are dotted with crescent moons 

That won’t fade away 

Permanent reminders of how 

I am going crazy 

After all 

It’s not like 

He’s ever really hurt me 

He works so hard 

And he needed that pillow 

I was trying to be strong for myself 

But strength doesn’t seem to work out in my favor 

I gave it to him 

But it wasn’t enough 

I tried to cuddle up and make the tension go away 

But I should have known that he needs space when he’s been angry 

I thought he said before that he likes to be comforted when he’s angry 

I must have been confused 

And now that soft touch 

Has been used against me 

His arms 

Once so trusted around me 

Locked down 


I think I must have exaggerated 

It really wasn’t bad 

But it hurts to take a deep breath 

It hurts to turn or lift or bend 

Not terribly though 

And he is sorry 

Terribly sorry 

He truly just didn’t know he had the strength to hurt 

He asks me to forgive him 

Demands that I forgive him 

I cannot bring myself say the words 

And so 

I am branded an unforgiving wife 

Who does not love him 

At least, not as much as he loves me 

But I have always forgiven 

And I have always loved 

I have always tried so hard 

It doesn’t seem to be enough 

I think I’m going crazy 

After all 

He’s just barely hurt me 

I don’t want a tight hug 

Last time that brought pain 

I’m learning about boundaries 

So I simply say no thank you 

But he doesn’t like that answer 

His body doesn’t match his face 

His smile is genuine and kind 

His voice hurt and confused 

His body tall and overpowering 

Step after step 

Walking into my space 

Wondering, asking, kind, curious 

Why I don’t want his hug? 

Why do I seem scared? 

What has he done to deserve that? 

My voice still speaks 

No thank you, please listen 

But it’s shaking 

My hands outstretched 

Trying to hold my ground 

But they’re shaking 

My back reaches the counter 

Suddenly his face matches his body 

He is furious 

But calm 

Demanding to know 

Why I’ve pushed him across the kitchen 

Why my shaking hands 

Hit him in the chest 


I’m so confused 

What just happened 

I don’t understand 

I think I’m going crazy 

Really truly crazy 

Something is wrong 

But he stands by his version 

Maybe mine is wrong 

Maybe both are right 

Perception is reality 

That’s what they say 

I have mine; he has his 


It doesn’t make sense 

I think I’m going crazy 

After all 

He’s just barely hurt me 

The crescents on my arms grow deeper 

I know what the carpet 

Covered in old dust 

At the back of the closet 

Under the clothes 

Smells like 

It’s a place I can escape and breathe 

I think I’m going crazy 

I plead my case to him 

The nearest glass meets its fate 

splintering crash 

Against the wall 

I plead my case to him 

The corner of my cake is smashed 

My birthday night ruined 

I plead my case to him 

He is sobbing on the floor 

while I am standing numb 

Not knowing what to do anymore 

I think I’m going crazy 

He is sorry 

I have to believe him 

This is hurting him 

I am hurting him 

I think I’m going crazy 

I have forgotten how to breathe 

I go to a doctor, and then another 

I try a medication, and then another 

I cannot sleep 

I cannot breathe 

My heart will not slow down 

My hands shake and fidget 

My eyes dart and jump 

My mind cannot find paths to solutions that work 

I do not know what to do 

I want to run out of my skin 

But I do not know how 

If I did, I would have done it long ago 

10 years ago 

5 years ago 

Last year 

I don’t know 

Good and bad tangled together 

A Sinister twister of confusion and pain 

Leaving nothing but chaos in my brain 

So much good 

So little bad, really 


Always an apology 

A reason 

And it doesn’t make sense 

I am going crazy 

After all 

He’s just barely hurt me 

I try to tell him I am hurting 

But I only wound him in the process 

I reach out to comfort his sobs 

But he shies away 

Not wanting my touch 

Because he can’t see that I still love him 

I am so confused 

I thought we were talking about my pain 

But now I’m just causing him more pain 

I start to imagine what it would be like 

To fade into the black 

To fall into the sleep 

That comforts and heals 

And stay there 

But it doesn’t make any sense to feel that way 

There’s no logical reason 

I think I’m going crazy 

After all 

He’s just barely hurt me 

With tears in his eyes 

And grief in his voice 

He confesses to me that he doesn’t like who I’ve become 

That he thinks our decade together 

Should have been as only friends 

I have hurt him too deeply 

For him to see a way forward 

Before I left 

I filled up the fridge so that maybe 

He wouldn’t hate me 

I hung up new pictures on the walls 

And scrubbed the toilets 

So that maybe 

He would see that I still cared 

I didn’t want to walk away 

I’m not sure even now that I did the right thing 

I broke his heart 

But mine was already broken 


So it’s beyond that now 

It is crushed 


Barely alive 

He returned to our home 

His home 

With our dog 

And our beautiful yard 

And our comfortably worn bed 


He did not see that I cared 

He did not see that I tried 

He simply saw that I left 

He never meant what he said 

About being friends 

I should have known that 

I should just come home 

I hurt him so deeply 

I should just come home 

I’ve been unforgiving and imperfect, too 

I should just come home 

I’ve misunderstood and misjudged 

I should just come home 

I’ve been led astray and misguided 

I should just come home 

I want to go home 

But I cannot go home 

I’m hurting so badly 

Ripped and destroyed 

Damaged to what feels beyond all hope of repair 

I am sure that I am crazy 


As I sit on my bed in my new sparse apartment 

Looking around at the shards of my life that are left 



My phone lighting up from text after text 

Begging and accusing in turn 

Deepening the agony 

I glance at my arms 

Fit my nails onto the reminders 

Of life before medication 

Remind myself to take my pills 

That somehow now I cannot function well without 

Try to sort through the fog 

Wonder how I got here 

And for just a second 

Half a second 

I wonder 

If maybe 

Just maybe 

I’m not crazy 

I wonder 

If maybe 

Maybe he has hurt me 

If maybe 


This is what hurt looks like 

NATALIE: Wow! That’s the second time I’ve listened to it, and it is absolutely phenomenal. It really is. You have captured the essence of what this is like. That poem is absolutely beautiful, painful, and profound. 

BRENNA: Thank you, and yes, very painful. 

NATALIE: Yeah. I think, gosh, how do you even follow up from that? I think there are many, many listeners out there right now who are staring out into space thinking, “This is my life.” I remember that moment. It wasn’t a poem for me. It was doing a search online, but I remember that moment when the truth hit me. It was literally like a physical punch in the gut because the next step is, “What am I going to do about this?” 

BRENNA: Right.

NATALIE: It immediately goes into, “If this is really true, now what do I do?” Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what that was like for you, when you first realized that you weren’t actually going crazy and that maybe you were just living with crazy? 

BRENNA: Well, I will tell you that it definitely is a cycle for me. I have those realizations, and then it kind of circles back to, “Maybe I am crazy.” Then I come back to, “No, no, I’m not,” and then, “Maybe I am.” But as time goes on, the “I’m-not-crazy” gets a little stronger. It’s two steps forward and one step back sometimes, but it’s still progress.” 

NATALIE: Exactly. 

BRENNA: The way that it really started for me, I have now been married ten years. I am still married, but I am separated. About two and a half years ago I had a friend who killed himself. The surface level reason for that is that he was with a girl who could not make up her mind if she loved him or not. According to some of our mutual friends, he would find himself on his knees begging her to say that she loved him. I thought, “Man, anybody could have told him this is a messed-up situation.” Then I remembered nights where I sat on the edge of my bed sobbing and asking my husband, “Please, can you even say you love me?” and he would just go to sleep. I thought, “If I would have told my friend that this is a messed-up situation, why am I not telling myself this is a messed-up situation? Why am I doing this?” 

I took about six months. (Nothing in these cycles is very quick – at least, not in my experience.) I took about six months to start processing that. I tried to talk to him about things that I was not okay with, and it didn’t get any better. So in August of 2017, I really started searching for answers. Google was my new best friend. 

The biggest turning point for me was an article I found. It’s very hard to find. I’ve only found it a couple of times. It seems like it’s been taken down off most places on the internet. But it was an article from 1998 called “The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages” by Amy Wildman White, and it talks about emotional abuse. She identifies this husband who is a good father, never had problems with alcohol or drugs, always a good provider, and never harmed her physically, but yet, there is still something very wrong. 

Honestly, Natalie, the part that stood out to me the most, the part that caught my attention was this one short paragraph that said, “The wife in these situations experiences intercourse as an indignity, almost as rape, because the physical and the deeply personal, loving aspects of sex have been torn asunder. Intimacy and trust, which lay the necessary foundation for a woman to respond sexually, have been removed from the relationship.” I thought, “Oh my gosh, yes! I’ve never actually had somebody put words to that.” 

The rest of that article goes on to explain emotional abuse. They didn’t really talk much about narcissism and things like that, much less multiple types like covert narcissism, in 1998. But this woman framed emotional abuse as bad and bad enough to be worthy of splitting up a marriage over. I thought, “This is like reading my life.” That’s where my journey started in 2017 with this article. 

NATALIE: We can put a link to that in the show notes so that people can access that themselves. I’ve seen that article too. I don’t know when, but I’ve read that. I know I’ve seen it at least twice. Where are things at for you now? 

BRENNA: Currently, I am separated. My husband works out of state, so a couple of months ago when he was home, he told me that he thought we should just be friends. I don’t know how you tell your wife of ten years that, but it was kind of the release I needed. I had already been working towards exiting the marriage anyway, but I took that as my cue. The next time he left town for work, I moved out. I told him that I was moving out, so he didn’t come home totally shocked. But I think I still have a lot of fog that I have to fight through on a semi-daily basis. I have my own apartment. I have an attorney who is excellent. 

NATALIE: Oh, good. 

BRENNA: That’s kind of where we’re going from here. 

NATALIE: So have you filed? 

BRENNA: I haven’t filed yet. There are a couple of things I was waiting on logistically, and I think for the sake of taking the moral high ground, maybe. My husband has not cut off finances and things like that which is a good thing, because I have family living in a house that we jointly own. So I’m trying to work through that before I officially file. But I am expecting to within the next month. 

NATALIE: Okay. Do you have kids? 

BRENNA: No. That’s actually a product of knowing that something was wrong for a really long time. I love children. I’ve always desired to have a family, but I kept telling myself, “We can’t have kids until my husband gets better. He just needs to get better. If we just try a little harder or talk through it little more, then things will get better.” Ten years later they haven’t, and I don’t have any children. 

But also, I knew that I didn’t want my sons to grow up with the same mindset and the same entitled, narcissistic attitude, and I didn’t want my daughters to be shamed or to feel like I did. Honestly, I was terrified that if I got pregnant, I wouldn’t be able to handle the comments about how my body would look after that. I have been told a lot of really cruel things – always taken back, always said that he didn’t mean it – but those things stick with you. I thought stretch marks and loose skin… I didn’t know if I could take it, honestly. 

NATALIE: That’s so sad. 

BRENNA: That’s why I don’t. 

NATALIE: But you know, it’s wise. I can’t tell you how many women wish that they hadn’t had children because that is probably one of the most painful aspects of getting out if you have kids: The fallout with them.

BRENNA: Absolutely. I’m a child of divorce, too, and went through that. 

NATALIE: Yeah, it’s excruciating. A lot of people think that if they have a child it will help fix the problem. 


NATALIE: I know, it’s crazy. But we think crazy things, though. You start thinking irrational things because you are so desperate to fix the problem and move on. “Maybe if we have a family we will look like a normal family or we will be a normal couple.” 

BRENNA: My grandmother actually suggested that to me. When I told her recently that we were going to be separating, she said, “Well, have you thought about having children with him? It might make things better.” I said, “No, Grandma! I don’t think so.” 

NATALIE: Yep. That really is an old-fashioned way of thinking, though. Back in the day, divorce wasn’t as common. You would stay with your abusive spouse, and women just thought that was part of their lot in life being a woman. You should just be glad that you have someone who is putting a roof over your head (if they are being a good provider), focus on your kids and your life, and just make the best of it – that stoic kind of attitude. 

Then, of course, if you bring Christianity into it and some of the twisted ways of looking at scripture and what scripture says about divorce – it doesn’t really say those things, but that’s what we’ve been taught, and most people don’t want to research it out for themselves – that also keeps us stuck. We think we are doing what God wants us to do by enabling that abuse to continue. Anyway, I am really relieved to hear that you don’t have kids. By the way, if you are listening, you can’t see Brenna, but I have to tell you that she is cute as a bug’s ear, okay? 

BRENNA: Well, thank you. 

NATALIE: I love you to pieces. I think you are absolutely gorgeous. You’re adorable. It breaks my heart to think that someone that is broken could have come into your life and shattered your life that way for ten years. I say this all the time, and I will say it again: Emotional and psychological abuse IS physical abuse. It’s physical abuse, as you know by looking at your arms. You can see that on your arms, but a lot of people – some people cut. 

I remember a time when I actually threatened my husband that I was going to start cutting notches in my thighs every time he did something mean to me so that I could keep track of it myself because there was nothing that I had to prove what he was doing, and he dismissed everything. There was a lot of gaslighting. “No, that never happened. I never did that. I never said that.” 

BRENNA: “And if I did, it wasn’t that bad.” 

NATALIE: Right! Exactly! But I wanted proof. I thought that maybe I could go with my legs full of cuts and scars and go to an abuse shelter and say, “Hey, look at how my husband is treating me.” But someone talked me down. They said, “Natalie, no. He’s going to say you’re crazy. They will look at your legs and they might think you’re crazy.” But that’s not crazy. That’s actually a rational response to abuse when you think about it. Think about it! You know what’s an irrational response to abuse? Denying and pretending it’s not there is irrational. I think it’s Patrick Doyle who said, “Denial is the root of all pathology.” All psychological pathology is rooted in denial of some kind. 

BRENNA: I haven’t heard him say that. I’ve listened to a lot of his stuff, and I haven’t heard that one. But that makes a lot of sense. In my own life and in some of the conversations I’ve had with other people, with myself, and with my husband, somebody is always denying something. “If it’s not me, then it’s him. If it’s not him, then it’s me.” 

NATALIE: Right. Exactly. When you think about what denial is, it’s basically not acknowledging reality. What is crazier than that? You know what I mean? Not acknowledging when something is real? When someone tells us something that is real to them and says, “This really hurt when you said this to me; this really hurt,” when we dismiss that and say, “I don’t care about that experience; that’s not true; I never did that,” we are denying that they are a human being who had an experience with us. We are denying responsibility. That’s pathological. 

When you are being abused like that and you are experiencing maybe an eating disorder, you’re experiencing mental trauma, you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations, you are cutting – your body is reacting. Bessel van der Kolk, who wrote that book
The Body Keeps the Score,” says we store trauma in our physical body. So it is going to come out in our body. That’s why emotional abuse is physical abuse. 

They’ve done brain scans of people’s brains after trauma, after long-term trauma such as emotional abuse, and their brains are different. There’s pathology there. There are problems in those brain scans because the brain changes when you are being traumatized like that. My point – bringing it back to cutting, pulling your hair out, or sticking your fingernails into your arms – that is the head banging reality of, “There is something so wrong and I can’t fix it.” Anybody put into those circumstances would do something. Not always the same thing, but we are going to do something with that trauma. That is not the victim’s fault that their body is reacting to the trauma. That’s just a natural outcome of trauma. 

It bothers me when other people come in and make judgments about victims, what they’ve gone through and how they react (maybe they are super angry). Come on! If you were living in that, you’d be doing the same thing. Let’s not judge what is happening in the lives and bodies of other people who’ve been traumatized like that. 

BRENNA: It’s very true. It’s also hard to rationalize that within yourself while you are still in it, though. It makes you feel like, “Why am I doing this? This is crazy. Why am I curled up in a ball in the back of the closet under the clothes in the guest bedroom? Why do I have nail marks all over my arms? Why am I doing this stuff? Why am I suddenly needing to take anxiety medication? Why am I having these panic attacks when I didn’t have them before?” Especially when you’re first trying to get out of that, hearing other people say they went through that too really helps, and hearing the rationale behind it. 

I remember one time last summer I was sitting on the bed with my husband. He was crying and feeling horrible for himself about how horrible I was. I was trying to stay in the moment, stay grounded, and stay focused in the conversation. Without realizing it, I was digging my nails into my arms to just try to stay okay. He glanced over at me and said, “That looks healthy.” I thought, “He’s right! This isn’t healthy. What is wrong with me?!” It just adds another layer. 

When I started taking medication, to him I was being fed pills by a pill-mill doctor, and suddenly I was crazy. So for anybody listening, you are not crazy. Just like Natalie is saying, that really does affect our bodies. Even if the people around us don’t understand the reasoning behind it, it doesn’t make it wrong. It doesn’t make you crazy. You’re not going to understand it if you haven’t lived it. 

NATALIE: Right. Exactly. For listeners, the first step on the road to healing is just waking up, acknowledging that there really is something wrong and, “It’s not me. I’m not the problem here.” You are so used to hearing that from other people that it’s difficult to wrap your brain around the fact that it’s not. Just because it’s not you and it’s not your fault, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this is happening to your life and you are a victim. Nobody wants to say, “I’m a victim.” But until you recognize that and wake up to that fact, you won’t be able to make decisions or do anything to help yourself, to be an advocate for yourself. 

You have to be the first advocate for yourself. We can help children who are victims of abuse. Oftentimes we can get outside help for that, but we can’t always help adults because they have to make their own decisions. We must make our own decisions for our own lives. This is also why I encourage people not to judge the decisions that people make for themselves, because they are the ones that know their lives. They are the ones who have to live with the repercussions of the decisions they are making. It’s not anybody else’s right to say which choice is going to be the safest choice for them at any given time. 

I’m so thankful that you came on here and that you were willing to be vulnerable and share your own story. I think it’s very brave. I think what you are doing is brave. I do believe that as you continue to extricate yourself from your abusive situation that things will get more and more clear. Like you were saying, it is two steps forwards and one step back. But it will get more and more clear and solidified in your head. 

Your testimony, even today hearing your poem, it was the first step for somebody out there. There is someone out there listening, and this poem was just for them. It was written for them so they could have that lightbulb moment, and this is the very beginning of their journey up and out. 

If you are listening and this is the first time you’ve ever heard this podcast, welcome. You can listen to other podcasts as well as read articles on my website,, and I think we’re going to end it there. Thank you so much for joining us, and Brenna, thank you for being on this episode with me. 

BRENNA: Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Natalie. 

NATALIE: And the rest of you, fly free!

Natalie is a formerly emotionally, verbally, spiritually abused spouse that “gets it.” She understands “why she won’t leave” because she’s been there, too. Starting her own online recovery group for Christian women, she hopes not only to help them free themselves, but she also hopes to educate the Body of Christ about abuse. Check her out under “Flying Free” via her Facebook page, too!!!
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The Comments

  • Avatar
    January 9, 2024

    I spent an hour prior to listening to this, crying, hating myself, hating my husband. Then I clicked on ‘play’… my hands are cold, I’m shaking. I think I may throw up. This. Is. My. Life. I spend nearly every waking minute in tremendous anxiety, thinking I am crazy. 30+ years. I am a master sufferer!! Am I really not crazy??

  • Avatar
    July 8, 2023

    Brenna!!!!!!!! Your poem!!!! You articulated so many relatable aspects that have been so difficult for me to spot, let alone make sense of, let alone speak—-even if I had been in front of people who could identify the hidden abuse. Thanks for your courage, and God bless you in your continued healing. Natalie, thanks for another GREAT episode! Xoxo

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Katy
      July 8, 2023

      Thank you for your kind words, Katy!

      Aimee, Flying Free Community Support

    • Avatar
      Sthembile N
      → Katy
      October 8, 2023

      I relate to this so much, I am praying for more healing over your life Brenna, I am at a point where I also don’t know what I can say it’s wrong in my marriage but a lot is not right and I am slowly letting go, I am no more angry at him for the emotional abuse I just feel sorry for him until I am strong enough to leave

  • Avatar
    Sonia Argueta
    April 26, 2023

    Wow, what an eye opener. Heartbreaking and breathtaking. Thank you for the courage to share your story.

  • Avatar
    April 8, 2023

    Thanks Brenna for sharing such profound thoughts and feelings of painful reality for many. I am a woman in my mid 60s and was in a Christian marrIage over 40 years. Now separated and only now can see the years of emotional abuse, denigration of my appearance in public, gas lighting and eye rolling. I now am emotionally set free, told I am radiant, have lost much weight and I am the happiest I have looked in years. It is a hard road but the Lord has brought wonderful people into my life despite my ex ostracising me from most of my family. Praise God and thank you for Flying Free.

    • Avatar
      Deborah Simer
      → Eve
      September 6, 2023

      Thank you, Eve, for this comment. I have just found this group and wondered if I’m too old to be here. Yesterday was my 42nd wedding anniversary. I know this is what I’ve dealt with all these years. All of my friends and family know this is what I’ve dealt with. I am hoping this group will help me make decisions that need to be made.

  • Avatar
    February 22, 2023

    The ROOT problem for men “abusing their wives” is SIN!

    #1. their unfaithfulness to God in their life choices. (not faithfully following the two laws of Christ’s love,
    1. to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbor as themselves)
    #2. Their unfaithfulness to their marriage vows to “LOVE their wives like Christ loved the church.”
    I will list some of the ways men are in sin, which results in abusing their wives.
    -ADULTERY: virtually in the use of porn, actual physical adultery with other women, spending time alone with women they’re not married to engaging in a social emotional connection, which is mental and emotional adultery.
    -ADDICTION: Porn, sex with other women, drugs, alcohol, they’re addicted to their own ego, addicted to power, food whatever else.
    -ENTITLEMENT: Their pride tells them that they’re entitled to have their addictions satisfied or overlooked by their wife. They create a master/slave relationship, in an effort to force their wives to satisfy their addictions in whatever way he feels she can & should.
    -SELFISH PRIDE & OFFENSE: They are offended if their addictions are not satisfied by their wife and they feel ENTITLED to be: cold & cruel, in ANY abusive way they feel their slave/wife deserves for not complying dutifully to their demands.
    In my past two marriages, the last one that was 12 years that ended in 2001 and produce two children now 28 & 33 this year & my present marriage that will be 11 years this June, I experienced MANY of these kinds of severe mental and emotional abuses.
    -Until these men REPENT of these sins, STOP doing those things and get delivered from the (narcissistic) evil spirits they invited into their flesh, through open doors of sin, the abuse will continue.
    As Jesus said, “you can do nothing without me!“
    In first Corinthians chapter 13 it says “if you’re not functioning through the love of Christ everything you do is worth nothing.”
    Bottom line: these men are in SIN (many in multiple ways)& not operating in the LOVE of Christ!
    And worse, they DENY every SIN they do and the forms of denial they USE is to USE their WIFE to blame and scapegoat for all of it! It’s absolutely diabolical! From the pit of hell!
    The Lord told me when I left my children’s father 20 years ago. I was hurting so badly and I asked him for support and help and He said, “it isn’t YOU your husband doesn’t love Helen it’s ME, so stop trying to be good enough to be loved, you already are!“
    Jesus did say, that none of us can do anything without HIM! That is, without “the love of Christ” it will NOT be a blessed relationship!
    Women are in the subordinate position in the marriage the husband is the leader!
    Therefore the men are commanded by God to LOVE her like Christ loved the church! She’s “due benevolence” from her husband because she’s put herself in such a pitifully subordinate position under his Lordship!!
    Therefore, for a husband to miss use his leadership role over his wife, to selfishly manipulate, control, enslave and abuse her is IN SIN!! They need to REPENT of their sins! They need to be delivered from narcissistic evil spirits!
    They need to follow the two laws of Christ love!
    I hope this helps!

  • Avatar
    Helen Bingham
    February 22, 2023

    The ROOT problem for men abusing their wives is SIN: #1. unfaithfulness to God & 2. unfaithfulness to the marriage vows to FAITHFULLY LOVE Their wives like Christ loved the church! Ephesians chapter 5.
    PORN: sinful sex (virtual or actual) outright physical adultery with other women, socially..(Jesus said just to LUST after a woman is adultery!) and mentally or emotionally: selfish, cold, cruel, prideful, ENTITLEMENT attitudes, which are ALL “master/slave” mindsets, addiction: causes people to ENSLAVE others to THEIR fix DUTIES!: OFFENSE: feeling entitled to be resentful because of “feeling offended.” Especially if the SLAVE has not fulfilled their obligation by fulfilling their needs for those sinful fixes they’re Entitled to and addicted to.(this is scapegoating and blaming)
    Has A LOT to do with men abusing their wives.
    Men SCAPEGOAT, BLAME their INNOCENT WIVES (UNDER their authority to LEAD!!!) for their SINFUL actions, including their anger & hateful ways towards them, which is also sin! Because men are commanded by God in the Bible to LOVE their wives like Christ loved the church as a spotless bride! Wives are DUE BENEVOLENCE from their HUSBANDS because they are PITIFULLY UNDER their authority! It’s a “fixed law” in this physical realm until their husband is dead!
    These multiple SINS attract evil spirits (who are narcissistic personalities) That enter their flesh, through those open doors of sin. If they don’t REPENT and get delivered and go the right way in Christ, these evil spirits have the power to BLOCK any TRUE LOVE from coming in or going out of that sinful person. But the WIFE IS FULLY BLAMED!!
    I have lived this my entire life! My parents, the father of my children, and in my present 11 year marriage.
    Their wives are shattered over & over by their husband, leaders SINS!!! Against God, themselves & their wife!!!
    Until people come out of their DENIAL of ALL their SINFUL choices, resulting in “evil spirit influence” and ABUSE towards those closest to them, REPENT & GET HEALED & DELIVERED from these evil spirits & AGREE to STAY deep in Gods Word & communion with Holy Spirit DAILY (that’s walking in the two laws of Christ LOVE) for their own sake & the sake of their wives, this demonic abuse WILL continue!!
    I’ve been studying this information over 25 years!
    It started when I wrote a Bible study book called “how to pass the test of your flesh” it was given to me by the Lord when I asked him 25 years ago, “WHY doesn’t my husband LOVE me?” (I was devastated because I was the most PERFECT wife I could possibly be! But he still was a cold robot! Who REPEATEDLY cheated on me with other women over our 12 year marriage! Which produce two children a daughter who’s now almost 28 and a son he’ll be 33 this year)
    The Lord showed me WHY my husband “didn’t LOVE me” in that bible study book, because he COULDN’T because of UN-REPENTED SIN & evil spirit influence!!
    The Lord told me 2 things when I separated and divorced the father of my children 20 years ago, “1.It isn’t you he doesn’t love Helen, it’s me! 2. stop trying to be, good enough to be loved, because you already are! ”
    So you see, if men are not walking in “the two laws of Christ’ love” they CANNOT LOVE their wife like Christ loved the church! Jesus said Himself, “you can do NOTHING without ME!“
    I hope this helps.

    • Avatar
      → Helen Bingham
      February 27, 2023

      This is my very first reply.

      The reason I am replying is because I have had years of experience of abuse. What your saying here really seems to be the very best answer to some of my questions.

      I was raised in abuse. I have an ex spouse whom I was with for 6 yrs. and two children from that marriage. The abuse continued long after I left him. It was through courts, custody battles ( multiple) and anything he could to get me back into court. He brainwashed the children that I was a bad parent. He wouldn’t comply with court rules set in place for when it was time for children to spend time at my house.
      I could totally camp here…but at the damage caused. But, you get the picture. The abuse has been installed into my children to fire at me whenever they so desire and they forced me to to watch my grandchildren when they were babies, until school age. Because, that was the only way that I would be allowed to see them at all. I couldn’t seem to get them for anything else. No fun activities. No pay except for one of my children who gave me a whopping ( sarcasm) $70 for getting up at 5:00 am. on weekdays. But, also drove home the idea that I should just want to watch my grandchildren for nothing. Because, I never did anything for them…my two children with ex husband. Which is what he installed in them, that I never did anything for my children. Etc…etc.
      I lost my third custody battle… he lied to the courts. He made it look like he could take care of children’s financial needs better. In reality…he couldn’t stand on his own two feet.
      I exposed his lies to the court..with proof.
      But, his mother knew the judge. He was for men’s activist and was head of group. I believe it was a fixed deal.
      Because, no one could find fault in me. But, also the the magistrate ( woman) who was forcing my ex to pay his past due child support and medical insurance per ordered or he would go to jail…disappeared. She suddenly was no longer working in that court or any court.
      After that we were scheduled with a male magistrate…and he ruled. But, not in person. Of course. We were sent a letter…it stated that I was NOT an unfit mother. But, the court believed he could provide better financially!!! Yet…he was in arrears. All of that got tossed out.
      He lied about owning a home. Which, I did the research and it was only a rental. Not even a rent to own. And the address was 666 and there was fists marks in the doors and walls…which he was famous for doing to gain control.
      His mother before dying told me she was sorry for what she did. That she should of left the children with me and not helped him. His father also apologized after she passed away.
      But, the damage is irreversible.

      What you stated in your comments seems to be very true about the whole not being saved and not loving God and wife… because my ex was not saved, nor are my children. Except, I was told my son did get saved and baptized after his grandma died. But, no proof. He was so grieved over his grandma dying…and doesn’t go to church. He stopped coming around after he was 15 years old. But, then when he had children wanted me to watch them again while infants until school age for free after he told me he would be glad to pay…paid 0 $.
      Every day weekdays. Getting up super early to watch kids and then they don’t come to get them so I can cook dinner or do the things I needed to do with the children I have at home still ( from current marriage) that needed to go to activities sports etc.

      Sorry this is sooo long!

      Ok…now this brings me to my current husband. He used the Bible to keep me in check. To keep me period. I was manipulated in a way that was so clever. He showed me the proverbs verse of the virtuous woman. My fear was him leaving to work out of town all of the time…and let him know through crying that I couldn’t take that kind abandonment. My dad worked out of town and was gone most of my childhood leaving my mom depressed. So .. what I thought was a sweet gesture and made me feel loved that he would think of me like a Proverbs woman ( considering we weren’t married yet! ) who was cherished.
      In fact it was that very scripture that drew me to want to read the Bible. Wasn’t long after that I got saved. I wanted to be a virtuous woman and still do. He told me he was saved. Yet…he wasn’t. Until recently he just got saved at a revival! Still unsure of that.
      I didn’t know he was an addict and alcoholic etc. But, in the lasts years he’s quit everything… even before he got saved. That was my prayers being answered from God! Thank the Lord!!!
      I still believe in God’s power to restore. I’ve seen a lot of changes.
      But, also have suffered a lot of abuse.
      So, your comments about loving God and wife…seem to fit here.

      Sorry, this a book of in itself.
      Just…thank you. I still have hope..

      • Avatar
        → Darling
        February 28, 2023

        Sorry about having such brain fog! Ugh.

        I did want to mention this was in reply to Helen’s reply.

        Also, this is a very beautiful poem Brenna! It does describe a lot. I’ve had those same thoughts.
        A lot of different thoughts too, but can relate to this poem a lot. Thank you for allowing it to be where we can hear it and see it.

  • Avatar
    February 7, 2023

    I’m beginning to process everything that has been happening over a course of approximately 30 yrs.

    The manipulation, lies, pushing, guilting, yelling, never giving me time to think, before the next thing comes, and realizing that this feels so intrusive. Like a perpetrator who comes for his prey.

    That’s all I can type. But, want to type so much more and get this out of me.

    I feel as if I am at the point of no return.

  • Avatar
    October 28, 2022

    Wow..I had the thought about sex feeling like a “rape” but dismissed it because I felt like I couldn’t use that word for what I was experiencing. I though that was to extreme to describe the feeling but actually couldn’t figure out how to describe the feeling any other way. It made me feel like I was crazy, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one with that thought.

    • Avatar
      → Michelle
      April 1, 2023

      Exactly. So relieved to hear someone say it! The poem was beautiful.

  • Avatar
    September 14, 2022

    Brenna, so much of what you have written rings true for me. “he is such a good gift-giver” I would tell everyone. I’m apparently not, even if I was the primary–only– breadwinner for the past twelve years. He would criticize my chunky backside or ask if I had gained weight. Instead of forcing me to have bad sex, he stopped having any at all. I would parade around in front of him in what I considered sexy, cute lingerie, only to be told “not now” or “I’m not feeling it.” He made me feel guilty for being sick when I began having horrible, debilitating vertigo and migraines, pointing out how much the situation inconvenienced him, how it made his life so “tenuous.” I was the one going to work every day, never knowing when I would end up on the floor, needing someone to drive me home, pleading with the school nurse not to call my husband because I knew it would make him angry and he would probably say that he couldn’t come. Couldn’t someone at school drive me? He got angry when I kept ending up in the ER and yelled at me for the ambulance bills. He never let me forget what a burden I was to him. I did start going crazy, I guess. First it was a series of anti-anxiety meds, then sleeping pills, then more therapy because I was scratching my arms so badly, excoriating my skin until it bled. He was embarrassed by all that, too, telling me to “get a grip” and that I was probably just taking too many pills. After a thankfully and poorly-executed suicide attempt that landed me in a psychiatric facility, he became more attentive for awhile, but that didn’t last. The final straw was when he got so angry and yelled at me when I needed his help to fill my pill box with the antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, migraine meds, and never helpful vertigo drug-of-the-month. I texted a friend who came and helped me escape, secretly packing a bag, hiding it until she arrived, and surreptitiously loading into her car. He was flabbergasted and had no idea why I was gone. What was wrong with me? He wanted me to come back, to be friends, to return to the world where I could take care of him, always trying not to set him off. When I didn’t, he grew angrier, sending horrible, abusive texts and emails, followed by penitential promises to do better. Nearly six months after that day, and 29 years after our vows, I am ready to file. I never wanted to break my vows, my holy covenant in front of God and everybody, but I can’t go back. It might kill me. Thank you for sharing your story so I can feel less alone and less like a failure.

  • Avatar
    August 23, 2022

    Wow Brenna. You really are a beautiful, much needed butterfly! And It’s almost if I could have been talking, so so many similarities. Do you have a blog, podcast, anything we’re I can connect with you more?

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2022

    Doesn’t describe me at all, but my situation is intensely confusing. Self esteem for me, is not an issue. Maybe it was in my teens and 20s, but Jesus has changed that in me. My husband retreats, puts walls up, will not process pain or communicate. He had affairs for years. And thinks it’s in the past and forgiven and should never be mentioned again.. yet his shame has turned into anger and such a toxic attitude toward the family many times. I want to stay and look for ways and reasons to keep it together for our kids, but it feels like such a battle and I worry they will model this in their future marriages. For the past 6 months I have not been able to be intimate with him often at all, due to lack or rebuilt trust. His childhood trauma seems to have caused the situation but he refuses to help.. so the decision to stay or go is on me..again. so hard
    Prayers.for you ladies.. prayers for support and love in the choices…

    • Avatar
      Nicole Belfiore
      → Joy
      August 8, 2022

      Joy, I can relate. It is such a sad place to be when none of it was necessary ever. I try to press in to Jesus, and take it day by day, determine to move a little closer to expressing and standing up for truth. The truth that Jesus loves you and you are not to let the enemy use anyone (even husband) to put you in emotional bondage. You have the right to take a break from striving to be perfect and say you are needing some space for awhile. You do not have to have a reasonable explanation. I am still saying this to myself.

  • Avatar
    Ann Thelen
    February 9, 2022 have written profound reality..many women will know now they are NOT crazy.

    • Avatar
      Joy Almendarez
      → Ann Thelen
      August 9, 2022

      Thank you Nicole. It is true that much holds us back from flying free as they say here…. but in Him we are free, free to flee the same sin, free to soak up wisdom from the One who formed us, free to grow.. no matter is we stay or go.