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Why Do I Feel Like I’m Going Crazy in My Marriage?

by | Oct 21, 2020 | Emotional Abuse, Flying Free Podcast, Learning, Listener Questions | 0 comments

Have you ever wondered if you’re going crazy in your marriage?

What happens when your partner sends you two totally different messages? One message says he loves you and will do anything to make things right. The other message says you’re making a big deal out of nothing, and you’re actually the problem. Which message is true? 

In this episode, Daphne, Natalie, and Rachel talk about:

  • What your partner is really communicating and how you can know for sure. 
  • How religious teachings like “your heart is desperately wicked, and who can know it?” and “assume the best” perpetuate domestic abuse.
  • Where conviction really comes from.
  • A simple way to reframe your experience so you can get unhooked from the lies.
  • How authentic love doesn’t bind people but rather sets them free. 

Oh, and by the way…if you feel like you’re going crazy in your marriage, it’s because your instincts are telling you there is something dreadfully wrong.

Click to Play:

Do you have a question related to emotional or spiritual abuse that you’d like answered on the Flying Free podcast? Head over HERE!

Listener Shout-Out

It’s incredible how similar abusers are across the spectrum of relationships. I’m so grateful the podcast has given you words for your pain and validated your experience, emzee! Thanks for leaving a rating and review on iTunes!

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Why Do I Feel Like I’m Going Crazy in My Marriage? [Transcript]

Hi. This is Natalie Hoffman of Flyingfreenow.com, 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 89 of the Flying Free Podcast! Today I have with me Daphne
and Rachel, and we’re going to have a conversation about something that takes place a lot
in the separation stage of people’s journey when they are trying to get out of an
emotionally or spiritually abusive relationship. When I say separation stage, I mean not
necessarily that you are physically separated where someone is living in a separate home,
but it could also mean where you are starting to set some boundaries and separating
yourself emotionally. Or perhaps you are starting to separate yourself from his imaginary
world of what he says you are and how he defines you. Sometimes in that stage you will
get communications from him that are confusing. On one hand, he will be saying things
like, “I’m so sorry. I’m ready to cooperate. I shouldn’t have done that. What can I do to
change myself?
” Then when you say what changes you are interested in seeing, then he’ll
turn it back on you and accuse you of all the things he’s always accused you of. He’ll blame
you, he’ll define you, and do all those things. It’s really confusing because you don’t know
which message to believe. Does he want to work on things? Is it really your fault? Are you
just making a big deal out of nothing and need to be more forgiving and more
understanding and give him lots more chances? So welcome, Rachel and Daphne. Are you
ready for this discussion?

RACHEL: Yes. Looking forward to it.

DAPHNE: Yeah. Let’s do it.

NATALIE: First, I’m curious to know if either of you experienced anything like this when you
were going through your getting out journey?

RACHEL: Yes. I was just thinking…This has been a few years now, so it’s good to be able to
look back. There was a situation where we were separated. I think I had served him divorce
papers. He sent me a text message. I had sent a boundary where he was to communicate
with me via writing because I was done with the circular conversations that always sucked
me back in. I recommend that because it’s so easy to get pulled in, but when you have
some space and can see it in plain text, it’s powerful to be able to get clarity. Anyway, he
sent me this text message that was a little mushy and was using one of the pet names he
had for me when we were dating, yet he hardly ever used after we got married. He was
basically proclaiming his love for me. I didn’t answer it at the time, but the next day I found
out in a really embarrassing fashion that he was running a smear campaign with my
workplace because my boss came in and talked to me about it. Thankfully, my boss is really
understanding, but it was so mortifying. I texted him back and said, “If I really mean this
much to you, why would you do this?” He then of course came back with all these excuses
and reasons why it was my fault. That was the clearest I could have ever been that I hated
the fact we were having to get divorced, but that was unfortunately what it had come to.
There were all sorts of mixed messages even before that, but that was really the final one. I
do believe, but I can’t believe this is what was really happening. I was right all along when I
started waking up.

NATALIE: What a horrible feeling to realize that he’s blatantly lying to you in a text. The
mortifying thing is that we fall for it in some ways. There’s a part of us that is holding back
because of our past experiences with them, but there’s a part of us that leans into it and
wants to believe it and buy into it. It’s kind of a gross experience. I’m glad you had that
experience so you could see it real clearly.

RACHEL: Yes. And writing – I can’t recommend it enough to keep those boundaries strong.
If they are wanting to talk to you, they can put it in writing.

NATALIE: Yeah, I totally agree! I was talking to someone recently who said she had put that
boundary up, and he was pig-biting mad! He said, “I should not have to write to you. We
should be able to talk. We’re husband and wife.”

RACHEL: Okay, well unfortunately this is where we are.

NATALIE: Exactly. What about you, Daphne?

DAPHNE: I had a similar situation towards the end. Part of this happened when we were at
the retreat. I don’t know if you remember, Natalie. We had a retreat a couple of years ago. I
was having y’all read some text messages that I was getting. But yes, I had a similar
boundary in place that we weren’t going to be communicating over the phone because
those conversations weren’t going anywhere. The retreat was in Charlotte. I went to North
Carolina early and went to the Raleigh/Durham area and was visiting friends there. When I
was married, that’s where we lived for the first little bit. So I was talking to some friends and
telling them what was going on. I hadn’t told my ex that I was going out there. I got some
texts from him. He was desperate at this point, I guess. I got some texts saying, “Please call
out all my sin. I know I’ve wronged you. I want to do better. Regardless of whether you stay
married to me, I know I need to do better. Call my sin out.” A few days later, some of the
friends (or who I thought were friends) who were biblical counselors told him I was there,
what I was there for, and who I was talking to. So he found out and texted me, “I heard that
to people about me and saying the word ‘abusive’ in connection with my name. You need
to stop doing that, or I’m going to file charges against you.” That was the last
communication. I blocked him after that. That was our last communication, but it was crazy
to see the side by side. First, he said, “Call my sin out. Tell everybody.” Then he says, “You’re
telling people. I’m going to file charges.” It’s like – what?

NATALIE: Those are two perfect examples of what is going on behind the scenes. I mean,
“Call my sin out?” That’s what I’m doing over here. I’m over here learning what your sin is so
I can call it out. But he didn’t really want that. That leads into my next question. What are
they really communicating? When they are going back and forth, what are they really
saying? And can we know what they are really saying?

RACHEL: I think, obviously, there is the abuse cycle. It goes around and around. But the
way I think about it is that they are using whatever means necessary, whether it is charm or
giving you what you’ve always wanted, to gain power back over you. They want to get you
back under their control. Unfortunately, it’s so tricky because if they do start to act in ways
that you’ve always wanted – you’ve always dreamed of having a husband who did these
certain things – then it’s easy to want to believe that. But you must be honest with yourself
and look at what is truly going on. If your instinct says something is not right, you are
probably correct.

DAPHNE: Yeah. That’s great, Rachel. Ultimately it is about power and control. I was trying
to think why is it that those are things we want to hear? What are these scripts that are
playing in our head that when we hear certain things we start to believe? I was thinking that
a lot of us are raised in Conservative, Protestant, Evangelical environments. I feel like it
starts there. We are taught from an early age that we need to hear certain things. There’s a
lot of emphasis on saying the right thing and having the appearance of doing certain
things, but we’re not taught a lot about what does this look like practically. What do these
actions look like? What does this life need to look like? Either we’re not taught about it or
we see that the people who are supposed to be leading us have lives that are
contradictory to what they are teaching us. It starts from this early age of grooming that
you should be trusting what this person is saying. What are you looking for? I think we
don’t get great relationship education in the church.

RACHEL: No, we don’t.

DAPHNE: I feel like the extent of it is that you should want a godly person. You shouldn’t
be unequally yoked, so they should be a Christian. You should want a godly person to be
married to because obviously being married is better than being single. You also shouldn’t
have sex before you get married, and then once you get married you can’t get divorced. So
that is the extent of the relationship education. We’re not taught what this looks like in
someone’s life. We’re definitely not told to trust our gut if our gut is telling us, “They might
be saying that, but this isn’t the truth.” We are not told that. If they are quoting scriptures, if
they know all the right words to say in the right situation…That’s why I feel like they say
these biblical things – like, “Call my sin out. I want to repent.” Those words are supposed to
trigger in us, “Oh, that means they are godly, so we should listen to them.”

RACHEL: Yes, that is so true, Daphne. You’re right. There is no education on what godly
character looks like. There is this impression that we just trust the words. I know I did. My
ex-husband told me he was a Christian. His family was Christian. They all went to church.
His mom worked at a church. I knew that was an important thing, and I had no way to
discern that some things were not adding up.

NATALIE: What’s fascinating is that…I’ve recently been learning about how our brains are
programmed from the time that we’re a baby. It takes in all this objective information, all
this data, that comes in through our senses, and then it turns it into a program that tells us
how we need to live our life. It dictates to us what is real and what isn’t and what we need
to believe. If you’ve been raised in a Christian environment and steeped in it as an adult for
many years, your brain is taking in all that kind of teaching. Some of it is good and some of
it is not, but your brain doesn’t know the difference. It just takes it in objectively and
records it. Then that programming turns into thoughts that are in your head. When you get
a text like that which says, “Call my sin out,” or some other Bible verse, “The heart is
desperately wicked and who can know it,” you immediately go back to, as you said, Daphne,
“That must be true.” That’s your thought. You don’t even know this is a subconscious
thought you’re having because your brain’s programming is running on automatic. You’re
thinking, “They must be telling the truth,” “I need to listen to them,” or, “This is a Bible thing,
a God thing, so I need to perk up my ears and pay attention.” Your brain will look for
evidence of what it believes, and it will overlook or ignore evidence of things it doesn’t want
to believe. That’s why, when our husbands or exes or whomever, is showing us who they
are with their actions, if our programming doesn’t want to believe that, if our brain believes,
“They’re a Christian. They’re a good person. They’re my husband. They’re my authority. I
need to submit. I need to be open to reproof. I need to be humble. I need to be willing to
suffer.” If those messages are going through our brain, we’re going to look for evidence for
all of that. The evidence for that is plainly in front of us. All these negative things are
happening so we will think, “This is my life. This is good. This is my Christian life.” But it really
lies in changing our own thinking about…Take that text for example. He sends a text. What
are you going to think about that text? Are you going to think all the religious thoughts you
have always thought, or are you going to think, “Wait a minute! Is this really true? Are these
thoughts true? Do I really want to hang onto these thoughts, or do I want to think
something different about this?”

DAPHNE: That’s good.

RACHEL: Is that confirmation bias? I think that’s what you just described.

NATALIE: Yes. I didn’t know that’s what it was called, but yes.

RACHEL: We look for things that confirm our view or what we want to be our view – what
we think we must believe. But then there is always some cognitive dissonance because
there are two separate things we are seeing, and it is so confusing. That’s where the
confusion always comes in.

NATALIE: Right. That cognitive dissonance can be resolved in time, but it does require you
to feed the new thought that you want to have and ignore or discount the thought that you
are used to thinking. The thought you’re used to thinking is big. It feels real to your brain.
Your new thought feels like, “Is this really true? I don’t know. I feel insecure about this
thought.” So you want to feed that new thought and not feed that old thought. One of the
best ways to do that is as soon as the old thought comes up, such as, “He’s my authority; I
need to listen to him,’ your new thought could be…You’d want to connect the synapses in
your brain that whenever you think that thought you are going to think this new thought,
which might be…I don’t know. Do you guys have an idea of what could be a replacement
thought for, “He’s my authority, and I need to listen to him and obey him in all things?”

DAPHNE: A new thought could be, “I have as much authority over myself, and I can decide
what I want to believe and act accordingly.”

NATALIE: Yeah, exactly. I believe that. I believe that our first authority is Jesus Christ, but
then our earthly authority is ourself. He gives us responsibility, authority, and autonomy
over our own selves. That’s called responsibility – the ability to respond. If we renege on
that and give it away to other people, we will be controlled. We might not even think it’s a
problem if the person who is controlling us is very benevolent, kind, nice, fatherly, and
nurturing. I think most people probably aren’t that way. Most people aren’t going to take on
that responsibility and be entirely 100% in your court. Most people are 100% in their own
court. I don’t know – maybe I shouldn’t say most people. But a lot of people are going to
use other people to get what they want. We all do that in some ways. We want to feel
happy and we want to feel good. Even we who are living with men like that, we’ll try to
control their behavior, try to get them to change, or stop something so that we can feel
better about our own lives. We don’t have any authority over their own behavior, only they
do. But we do have authority over our own behavior – and they don’t!
DAPHNE: Right. I love how you brought up the idea of shifting your thoughts and how that
can help you get out of some of these confusing interactions. You brought up the Jeremiah
17:9 scripture – “The heart is deceitful above all things and is desperately wicked. Who can
know it?” That scripture was used so much to teach us to discount our emotions and our
feelings, which I think goes a long way in perpetuating the system of spiritual abuse. I know,
Rachel, you mentioned that you didn’t have a way to discern what things were true and
what things were not because of what we were taught. What I found is that I always had
this gut feeling that things were not right, but I was always told that you shouldn’t trust
your feelings. You should say faith over feelings or facts over feelings as if those things
aren’t important, as if feelings don’t matter, as if God didn’t give us those feelings, or as if
God can’t work through that to tell us what is going on. One thing I’ve observed is that that
part is less able to be molded than the intellect or the mind. A lot of this is an intellectual
exercise, and you need to think the right thing. But in all of that being groomed
intellectually, that feeling or spirit never waivered in telling me what was wrong and what
was right. I feel another way to get out of this dynamic is leaning into that space and
trusting…Think about a situation where you knew something wasn’t right, but you decided
to go along with it anyway. What happened? Lean into that. I think there’s a lot that can be
said for that gut feeling, trusting that feeling and leaning into that.

RACHEL: Daphne, that’s such a good point because that was a big part of my waking up. I
was reading the Bible, really trying to plug into the truth of what God would say about my
situation. I came to the realization that I had been living my life by formulas and trying to
have a good marriage by inputting submission or sex. That’s what a lot of the Christian
advice is. “If you do these things, you’re going to get this out.” It’s the prosperity gospel. I
had to switch my thinking from that to what God actually commands us to do, which is walk
by the Spirit. That is hard to do when…You must stay plugged in to God. You must be truly
humble and actually seek after Him instead of just saying, “Well, this is what God wants.
This is what God says, and there’s no flexibility here. There is always going to be this same
answer for these really complicated and difficult situations, etc.” Walking by the Spirit
requires us to chase after God and ask Him to be with us all the time. Sometimes I think
Christians say the right things, like Daphne was saying, like it is an intellectual exercise, but
they are far removed from the heart of God. I’ve lived like that in the past, and I had to stop
that.

NATALIE: Yeah. Which is love. When you think about it, the heart of God is love. I think
whenever you see a movement of people who are seeking to listen to other people, really
hear them, understand them, not try to define them but let them define their own selves,
not put their responsibility onto other people but let other people take responsibility for
themselves, and to just care about people and love them where they are at in their own
journey, that’s where I think you see the Holy Spirit of God. This whole idea…Here’s the
message you get from these texts. If you get messages that are condemning or that are
using the Bible to shame you, you know that is not the heart of God because only God,
only the Holy Spirit, can convict a person of sin. That comes usually from inside that
person. (That’s how true transformation takes place anyway.) Whenever we go around and
say, “You’re doing that wrong. You really need to change that.” That is not the Holy Spirit
working through us. That is our own flesh wanting to control somebody else, and that is
not love at all. That’s us being selfish, and it’s also us not trusting God – that God is fully
capable of convicting someone else of their sin. Now I’m not saying that we don’t give
feedback to people. I’m not saying that if someone is hurting you that you don’t say, “Stop
kicking me in the shin.” What I am saying is that we don’t go up to someone who is doing
their own thing in their own life and say, “You need to…” Or let’s say that someone is doing
the dishes (I’m just giving weird examples,) and you don’t like the way they are doing the
dishes. “You’re not supposed to do the dishes that way. That’s not how my mother taught
me to do the dishes. You need to do the dishes the way I say. If you don’t, you are stupid,
ignorant, and you are unsubmissive.” That’s wrong. That’s not trusting God that if they’re
doing the dishes wrong, then the Holy Spirit can convict them. If the Holy Spirit never
convicts them of the way they are doing the dishes…” Let’s just take this. (We won’t get into
politics, but I’ll just say this.) “You’re not voting for the person I’m voting for, so therefore
you’re not a Christian.” That’s not the Spirit of God at all. Everybody gets to vote for
whomever they want to vote for, and that’s not our job to say who everyone needs to vote
for. I don’t care if you believe morality is on your side or whatever is on your side. Love is
letting people be who they are. Unless they are coming at you, attacking you, and hurting
you, then of course you can put up a boundary. Love is also putting up a boundary and
saying, “No, you can’t. I love you, but no. You can’t do that anymore to me.”

DAPHNE: Yeah. There’s two sides to that same coin. Letting someone be who they are and
acknowledging that they have the autonomy to do that but also defining who you are and
not letting someone else define who you are. I think a lot of times in this dynamic what
happens is that we get caught up in trying to argue about what our thoughts, intentions,
and beliefs are because what is coming at us are mischaracterizations of that. They are
trying to tell us that we are wrong or whatever. I feel one of the lightbulbs moments I had
was, “I just don’t agree, and that’s okay,” and I can leave it there. We don’t have to agree on
that. We don’t have to agree that your way is the best way to do the dishes. My way has
worked fine. What makes you more important than me, more of an expert than me in this
thing, to decide how I want to do it? We are the only people who walk in our shoes. We’re
the only people who have the thoughts and beliefs that we hold and can change and mold
those. I think a practical take away in terms of how you think about these conversations is
knowing that you get to decide what you want to believe, what you think, and how you
define how you are feeling. It’s okay if someone doesn’t agree with you. You don’t have to
bend to that perception.

NATALIE: Yes. I was just thinking about parenting as you were talking. I was thinking that
there are dysfunctional people who will try to raise little Lego characters – the characters
that they want their kids to be. People who will do the dishes exactly the way that they did
them. What inevitably happens is that kids begin to grow up, and it turns out that they have
their own universe between their ears. They may or may not believe all the same things
that you believe. In the homeschooling community, I think this is kind of a shocker for most
people because they were told that if they raise their kids… (We’re kind of going down a
different rabbit trail, but I think this is a good topic though.) They were told that if they
raised their kids doing A, B, C, D, and E that their kids would grow up and be these perfect
Christians. They come to find out that kids grow up and they have their own ideas, their
own universe, their own perceptions. They end up having their own experiences outside of
the home, which is another reason I think some homeschooling communities try to keep
the kids inside the home to try and control the narrative and control the life that they end
up living. It’s just so wrong. That’s not love. Love is sitting down with your kids and teaching
them the way that you would like them to go, teaching them what you believe, and listening
to what they are learning and what they believe and having conversations. That’s love.
You’d be surprised at how much, for me as a mom anyway, how much I learn from my
older kids.

RACHEL: I’m looking forward to that. My son is fifteen, and I can already see the little seeds
of adulthood that are sprouting up in him. It’s a good season. But that is so off topic.

DAPHNE: I don’t think so. I feel like I can tie it together.

NATALIE: Awesome! Do it.

DAPHNE: When you are talking about what a healthy dynamic looks like, it is people trying
to understand one another. So if you haven’t seen that in the dynamic, in your relationship
dynamic, and you are trying to figure out what is going on with these conflicting messages,
we talked about looking at what the person is showing you versus what they are telling you.
Look at the history of the relationship and what is going on. Have they really been trying to
understand your point of view? What things hurt you? What things you would like to see in
a relationship? Or is it always a manipulative thing? It’s funny because with my ex there
were a few moments where he was honest about what his motives were. I think it is when I
just started asking those questions and drilling down to see what his goal was. I was
starting to see we don’t have the same goals in these conversations. There was a time
before we were separated for a couple weeks where he was really hard to live with.
Everything was a conflict. It was a lot. He wasn’t willing to resolve anything. It was just bad. I
was planning to spend some time with my godparents. I had packed up and was ready to
leave. He had this whole heart-filled speech about how he understood the things I was
telling him about how what he was doing was hurtful. He said he understood how things
from his childhood were causing him to act that way, so he wanted to change and do
better. So I decided not to leave at that point. This was earlier on in our marriage. Things
were okay for a little while, but of course they fell apart. I asked him specifically about that
moment. I said, “You said all of these things. What happened to that?” He admitted, “I just
said what I needed to say.”

NATALIE: Wow!

RACHEL: Oh my gosh!

DAPHNE: Yeah, crazy right!

NATALIE: He just admitted it.

DAPHNE: Crazy. So I was like, “Oh, okay. I see what’s going on here. You’re just trying to
manipulate me to get what you want, which was for me to stay so that you can continue
having these crazy conversations and this dysfunctional arrangement.” That’s what he was
wanting. That’s what I’d think back on when he would say these conflicting things. I thought,
“No! He’s already told me that he’s just saying what he needs to say. He’s not really trying to
understand me. He’s not really trying to care for me. He’s just trying to manipulate the
situation.” That was something I could always think back on and say, “That’s what his motive
is.”

NATALIE: Yep. I was just talking to Patrick Doyle yesterday. He did a session for the Flying
Free Sisterhood. He said that the salesman’s job starts when the customer says, “No.” So
you said, “I’m going to set a boundary,” and then his job kicked in. He tried to sell you on a
seat next to him so you could have more of what he had already been dishing out to you.

RACHEL: Yeah. My ex-husband would always talk about how he tricked people. I didn’t
really know what to say to that. I would just always project who I thought he was onto him
and say, “No, you don’t do that. You’re such a good person. You’re so smart.” All these
things. He would say, “I just trick people into thinking that.” I wish I would have believed
him. He was telling me who he was.

NATALIE: But your brain was so wanting to believe something different. You were having all
the thoughts saying he was a good guy; he’s just doing his best; and he’s smart. All those
things you were telling him, your brain wanted to believe those things. It wasn’t until you
were willing to say something different and say the truth.

DAPHNE: I was going to say, it’s because…That’s another grooming thing. We’re supposed
to assume the best and believe the best about a person, right? Not necessarily what they
are showing us. So we do start to develop this. We’re projecting our good motives onto
them because we wouldn’t try to trick people, so why would they do that? That wouldn’t be
assuming the best about them.

RACHEL: Right! It’s scary or unsettling when you wake up and realize people don’t always
have good motives. I can’t trust all these people. I look back and see how naïve I was. That’s
a whole other story. But we must be smart and understand that some people really do try
to take advantage of other people. All three of us were married to people like that. Yes,
crazy.

DAPHNE: And they were honest! That’s how crazy it is. They were honest about it, but we
just didn’t believe it!

NATALIE: That’s what I was going to say. I don’t think mine was ever honest. I don’t think
mine ever said anything like that. But yours – woah! That’s interesting. There are people
who do have that level of psychopathology where they purposefully do things on purpose,
and they admit it. That’s absolutely crazy! Well, I think we’re going to wrap it up here. This
was a really good conversation. Thank you for joining me for it. Thanks to those of you
listening. Until next time, fly free!

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