Helping women of faith find hope and healing after emotional and spiritual abuse

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Episode 53 – The Underlying Beliefs That Keep Women of Faith Stuck in Emotional Abuse

by | Feb 12, 2020 | Flying Free Podcast, Healing from Spiritual Abuse, Learn with Natalie, Survivor Identity, Survivor Stories, Waking Up | 20 comments

In today’s podcast episode, I share my own story of how I got into an abusive marriage, why I stayed, and how I got out.

I kept journals throughout the course of my marriage, and in this episode I will share an inside look into my heart and belief system while I navigated the relentlessly painful circumstances of my marriage.

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Read the transcript HERE!

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Episode 53 Listener shout out

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  1. Julie

    So much I can relate to here. This makes me so sad. As Natalie was reading her journals, it reminded me of Susan Powell journal writings in the podcast ‘Cold’. It’s amazing how similar these abusive men are and the effects they have on us. I guess the devil has no originality.

  2. Vezza

    Thank you so much. I NEEDED to hear this podcast tonight, and I’ve only ever listened to one other of your podcasts, so I really felt the Lord led me to this. The way you met your husband and were attracted to him .. almost a snap copy of my situation, so impressed by the hard work behind the scenes etc. Ugh!! And yes I’m recognising that I‘M now waiting to be saved, when actually the Lord has given me abundant resources to see clearly what’s happening and I need to act. God bless you Natalie xx

  3. Kathy

    This was my story for 25 + years…it’s so encouraging to see this kind of abuse brought out into the open. Thank you for going against the grain and speaking out for thousands and thousands of women who have suffered in silence. I too was brought up in a very conservative, legalistic environment and kept thinking everything was my fault and all I needed to do was just try harder and my husband would be happy. He had a very strong narcissist personality and demanded perfection and obedience. So much so, that when we were first married he spanked and grounded me for weeks, thinking it was his job to make me holy. It sounds ridiculous now, but he was a very controlling, dominating husband for many years. My story is somewhat unusual though, because I have decided to stay well, and set boundaries…it’s been a long journey, but slowly I have seen change and healing in our marriage. My husband is a Pastor and I think over time the Lord began to deal with him and when I began to heal emotionally and not need him so much, he began to realize that I was not going to let him walk all over me any longer. It was hard, because when he began to lose control, things got messy for awhile, but he has truly changed and now stands up for women who are being abused. We have since come out of that legalistic environment and both see things so differently now. I grieve to see how the church has played a role in this and how so many men have used the Bible to push their controlling agenda. I am praying that because of programs like yours, we will begin to see changes in our churches and our women will truly be set free. Thanks Natalie, you are a true gem and I am praying for you and your ministry!!!

  4. mamabear

    Natalie, I am two years into a “high-conflict divorce”, trying to protect my two minor children from their dad, who groomed and entrapped me in order to abuse my two boys, who are now adults. I’ve done LOTS of reading and thinking and although people like to say that childhood abuse produces abusers, I think not. I think that, like Don Hennessy seems to say, it is entitlement and sexual-control-addiction/perversion that produces abusers. What do you think?

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I think it’s different for different abusers. It’s not a one size fits all. But all abusers, regardless of how they got that way, do have a sense of entitlement and lack of empathy for the perspectives of others.

  5. Wendy Oliver

    Natalie, I so appreciate your vulnerability and honesty that you shared in your podcast about your abusive and most difficult loooooong marriage to your first husband. I first heard you speak about abusive marriages and spiritual abuse on an episode of Give Her Wings Academy that I have been enrolled in these last several months! I love that God has risen you up TO be such a BOLD mouth piece to the TRUTH of spiritual abuse and what I call “the religiosity” of the leadership in many churches and their very ILL EQUIPPED platform that they take in GIVING guidance in struggling marriages!! I have my own story of emotional and spiritual abuse in my marriage and when I traveled the road of becoming aware of what was happening was in the years or 2008-2010, when there was NO RESOURCES for myself to get clarity… answers!
    I’m now in my 10th year of my healing journey!!! YAY GOD!!
    Divorce was final in Nov. 2011 but several years of a “sex crimes journey” of my NOW EX with our own children TOOK UNTIL 2013 to walk out with a criminal trial and jury finding him guilty and sentencing him to 8 years to LIFE in a Colorado prison !
    THROUGH the years of 2010-2013 God was waking me UP from the numbing and dumbing down of what I would come to understand through intense counseling and awareness from God … that I was married to a HIGH END NARCISSIST with spiritual, psychological, emotional, financial and sexual abuse mode of operation.. COVERTLY and OVERTLY!
    As I walked THROUGH my intense healing journey in those early years, I sensed God saying…” I love you Wendy, yet what clarity, understanding of many things such as gaslighting, power and control, narcissism, sexual addiction… is NOT just for you! Turn around and pull other women out of this prison, these shackles!” That is what I have been doing since 2013. Since finding you through GHWAcademy and FB you and your VOICE are a tool …a GIFT I’m sharing with the women I am walking out their journey with and come in contact with every week! This truth of your story that you share is a healing balm too many! As you know we are usually isolated and feel that this is only happening to us… But of course we know that’s not true! Keep up the truth telling, the vulnerability and the knowledge!! God is using it mightily!!

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you, Wendy. I’m honored to be shoulder-to-shoulder with you on this battlefront!

  6. No Longer a Patriarch's Wife (Thank God)

    Oh, Natalie. How I love you as my sister. I loved you back when you ran your soap company and Visionary Womanhood, and I remember when you began to write about difficulties in your marriage. I clearly remember the Patriarch’s Wives and Titus 2 women criticizing you, and saying you’d left the path and gone the way of the world. NO WAY! You began to walk in the truth, rather than in the lie of a “marriage” that was anything but.

    I listened to your podcast today with tears streaming down my face. Like you, I kept journals over the years, but rarely wrote about any of my ex husband’s sins. I thought it was my responsibility to cover the sins, to love him well, to suck up my pain and loss and sorrow and loneliness, and to die to self. Your book, your podcasts, your blog posts…these have been life-giving for me.

    I’m thankful that your “marriage” lasted so long (even though I am so very sorry for the decades of pain) because mine did, too. Decades and decades of pain, sorrow, anger, grief. Wanting to die. Praying that God would take him out, because God took Nabal out for Abigail. Not understanding that I was being abused, too. Not understanding that he was a narcissist who was adept at gaslighting and manipulation. Not believing that any human being could lie, all of the time, in big ways and small ways. It boggles my mind.

    I am free now, but suffering the consequences of my choice to stay in a bad marriage that allowed him to be abusive to my children. This is my responsibility, and it hurts.

    I’m also thankful that you and Tom were married so quickly after your divorce was final. I remarried just a few days after my divorce was final, and because of that, we were condemned by our church and asked to repent publicly in front of the congregation. We dared to be engaged before the divorce paper was in hand, and this was considered a grievous sin. So, I’ve lost family, church family, friends, home…but I’ve gained a new perspective, a new freedom, and a great and godly husband who actually understands how to love a wife.

    Because of my new marriage, I am more and more aware that the “marriage” I endured for decades was never a marriage at all. I loved the idea of marriage, the idea of a godly husband leading and loving his family, etc., but the reality is that I was trapped in hell on earth, and now I am free.

    Thank you for all you do.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Yes, we are kindred spirits. I believe that with time, perhaps another lifetime, or maybe in eternity, all the things abuse stole and destroyed will be restored a million times over. Including our kids.

      THAT is the loving and powerful GOD we worship. We do not worship a petty, vindictive, lying, powerless abuser god.

      Hang in there. So glad you have a man who is the hands and feet of Jesus in your life now.

  7. Clarity, Freedom and Joy

    It’s exactly two years since I discovered your blog. The week before, I had watched an interview on CNN with a woman who described in words I couldn’t find for myself, what her emotionally abusive marriage had been like. I was horrified, terrified, grief stricken. I immediately began hunting for resources and yours was the main one I used. It gave me accurate descriptions of his behaviour that I couldn’t pull together in my numb and confused brain. It listed the possible physical effects of EA, I had all but one. It foretold what to expect getting out, but I couldn’t believe it would be that bad for me. Of course it was.

    The last two years have been the worst hell I could ever have imagined. No, actually I could never have imagined things being as terrible as they were. But in December my divorce was final. Quick in comparison to many other women’s experiences, but in those months of fighting for it, it felt like it would never end. I would never be free.

    Today I pulled out my journal from two years ago. I’ve been having so many emotional flashbacks the last couple of months of the time leading up to and the actual discovery of the truth of my marriage. I wanted to see if the timeline was in sync with my flashbacks. Oh yes. They are. Like to the day. And then I saw this post, referencing your old ones.

    I’m so glad I kept journals for all those years. I read one several months ago from three years into our marriage. I was beyond shocked and grief stricken to read what had been happening even then. I had no recollection of it until rereading those entries. I had to stop because they were too painful. But like you wrote, all the responsibility that I was accepting. The fasting, the begging for humility, the confessions of resentment, crying out for forgiveness. Letting go of offended after offence. Refusing to keep a record of wrongs. Quoting bible verses to myself. Going to the pastor for help. Not speaking of my pain to anyone. Never bad mouthing my husband. It sickened me.

    Praying almost all my waking hours for help and healing in my marriage. Of course those prayers were never answered. Why. Why wasn’t God hearing me. What sin of mine was in the way of Him drawing near and working a miracle. It nearly destroyed my faith completely.

    Now, I’m seeing a trauma therapist. My health is still terrible. I have three main diagnoses; chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and recently diagnosed, a functional brain disorder. Every single one is the result of the abuse I endured. I no longer use the term emotional abuse. It’s far too benign. It’s psychological abuse and physical abuse, even though I don’t have a specific memory of him being physically violent with me. Although I’ve begun to sense there may be something there that I’ve buried.

    My faith has been almost completely deconstructed, and I’m tiptoeing around the edges of reclaiming and redefining it. Pastor Sam Powell, whose name and comments I first saw on your FB page has become my online pastor. I’m not ready to find my own local faith community yet.

    The good news, is that I have so much clarity now. I remember an incident and see it through a lens of truth. I have freedom in some areas. Nowhere near where I’d hoped would be by now. I experienced moments of actual joy this past Christmas. I’d honestly forgotten what that even felt like, and wasn’t sure what I was feeling at first. Those moments are still fleeting, but as I process the fear and grief and rage I feel going through therapy, I’m making room for positive emotions to be felt again.

    Those words are my goals and my theme. Clarity, Freedom and Joy. I started a Pinterest board for pins relating to these words specifically, but also ASPD, grief, boundaries, self care, etc. Extremely therapeutic, and helpful reminders for my hard days that still come often. And, I hope that maybe someone who is struggling with the same confusion we here all did, will stumble on a pin that gives her that lightbulb moment, or at least cause her to look more deeply into her situation.

    Thank you for your work. It is truly life and spirit saving.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you for sharing some of your story here. It’s tragic how many of us were going through this and had no idea and no help.

  8. Mary

    Can relate to these stories in so many ways. My first H cheated and left me after 25+ years. I remarried a Narcissist and went through another 19 years before I left myself. I am fighting to find out who I am at 68 years old. I wanted to be a Godly woman and mother and see now that I failed in many ways. We didn’t have the info women are having today and I am glad for the younger women and mothers. Churches did NOT step up to the plate for women. I believe it was FEAR based similar to the racial movement, as my own Mother related the fear in her generation of change. Bless you who are helping others.

  9. many years

    I am not putting my real name at this time. What you have shared today, is my life completely. Even to the times I also miscarried, and also, the one time I saved the baby in my womb, with being flat on my back in the hospital for nine days, and another two and a half months, basically in bed, having my son one month premature. i went the home school route too with my four children. Today, my oldest son, the one I sacrificed my time in the hospital bed for, has a bedrock of faith in Christ! Two years ago, one of my relatives asked me to ask my husband what John 3:16 meant to him. His reply was: “What do you mean?” I had caught him off guard. All he could say was, ‘You express IT better than I can.’ In the first place, he had no answer for me. In the second place my Savior is not an IT. The next day, after he had talked to a collegue at work, he came home and said to me, “I just know IT.” He couldn’t even explain what John 3:16 meant to him. My two relatives told me that my husband was religious but most likely not even a believer, not even saved. And like your first husband, Natalie, there was always the blame shifting, to make me look like the fool when he was actually the fool. I now, try not to react, or say much of anything when I am being blamed for things he won’t take accountability for. Yes, don’t speak in the ears of a fool, because they choose not to hear what you have to say. Thank you for sharing your life. I too went online for my help. I have many binders full, because I had to figure this process out for myself. When I knew something was wrong with my marriage, I told my husband that, and handed him an eleven page letter which talked about things in our life which needed to be addressed. He read one paragraph and said, ‘This repulses me’ and he promptly shredded it in his paper shredder and never talked about it with me. And your site has been the best so far, for making it plain as to what women who are in an abusive relationships (what relationship?) The non-existent relationship which one has to become strong through scripture, and prayer, and positive reinforcement from others, in order to determine which direction to take, with much prayer, and then it still isn’t easy to figure out the timing of departure. We can depart the abuse in our own heart and mind initially, but even that is excruciatingly painful to our souls. Complex-PTSD fits more marriage disasters, as abuse in marriage differs from the common garden variety of PTSD. And none of it is ‘common’ it is ALL abuse in some form.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m sorry you’ve been through so much, sister. It’s excruciating to be erased like that. You are valuable. You matter.

      • many years

        Thank you, Natalie, for your compassion to the many women, and also the men who have gone through this veil of tears. We all can truly relate to much of the sufferings of each other, and the shining reality of self-sacrifice that our Savior went through for us. He endured the shame, despising the cross, and is set down at the right hand of His place as God. Joy comes in the morning! And songs come in the night! And the comments here from others, is like reading my own story, over and over again. And my heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to each and every one here in his community.

        • Natalie Hoffman

          Thank you for joining hands with us here. We are the daughters of the Living God. And we will not be moved. ❤️❤️

  10. Amy

    This brought tears. You are a hero to me! You are so strong, incredibly brave, a survivor! Thank you for using it all for His glory!
    I just finished a bible study of the book of Genesis. You remind me of Joseph! The story is different, but what his brothers meant for evil God used for good.
    God is using your pain for good! Thank you for bravely sharing your story, and helping abused people. Thank you Jesus for Natalie!

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you, Amy. That means a lot to me. I often thought of Joseph during those years. His life inspired me and gave me hope that one day God WOULD do something good from all that pain. I’ve seen that happen – and I believe it for all of my sisters as well. I believe it with all my heart.

  11. Cori

    You were part of my own journey in understanding spiritual manipulation and lies.
    Thank you for sharing, I recognized so many similarities from my own journaling during my destructive marriage. Thankful for you and your ministry!

  12. venice

    I love your podcast today you have come a long way so happy to see you doing so much for woman . I love your honesty thank you for being a voice to many of us woman out here really appreciate your ministry .


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