The Smear Campaign Abusive Churches and Husbands Launch Against Christian Women

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After decades of dealing with your husband’s covert control, silent treatment, criticism, passive aggressive behavior, lies, and refusal to take responsibility for anything, you have made the terrifying decision to get out, and now you are on your own. Either your husband has left (and told everyone you abusively kicked him out) or he has forced you to leave (and told everyone that you have abusively abandoned him.)

The smear campaign begins even while you begin the life-long process of picking up all the pieces. You have eight kids living at home. You get to pick up their pieces too.

The Smear Campaign Abusive Churches and Husbands Launch Against Christian Women

Day One

  1. Get up and get older kids ready for school. Deal with three melt-downs, a bowl of Cheerios on the floor, and missing shoes. Also missing homework. Also missing brain.
  2. On the way to school deal with child who is screaming and throwing her shoes at your head. One hits the mark. When you get to school, she gets out and smiles at the teacher holding the door open. Your heart is racing, your skin is perspiring, and your head hurts.
  3. Get home and clean up the breakfast mess while also feeding your youngest child who has autism.
  4. Get dressed – skip shower and make up because you don’t have time today.
  5. You make an orthodontist appointment for one child and another Dr. appointment for a child with chronic stomach pain (you find out later from her counselor that stomach pain is a sign of anxiety in children). You also make an appointment to have your oil changed in the car.
  6. Fill out a stack of paperwork from the clinic that is evaluating one of your older special needs kids.
  7. You work out of the home – so you answer emails, pack orders, and replenish your product stock.
  8. Make lunch for yourself and your youngest child.
  9. Take him to his therapy appointment. While you are there, a church “friend” calls you on your cell phone to ask you why you’ve “kicked your husband out” (because that’s the kind of person you are) and to tell you that they love you so much that they need to let you know you aren’t obeying Christ, forgiving, or loving as you ought to. You haven’t tried hard enough. Your life will go to hell in a handbasket, and again, if they didn’t love you so, so, SO much, they wouldn’t say so. You fumble around trying to defend yourself, but your words fall short, and the conversation ends. It will be the last time this friend who just loves you to pieces will ever talk to you. You fight tears waiting for your son to get done with his appointment. Your heart is pounding again, and you feel sick in your stomach. You think if you didn’t have kids who needed you so much, you’d like to just die.
  10. When your child is done, you go get your other kids from school.
  11. You drop them off at home and take one to get his tooth filled at the dentist.
  12. You get home and make a quick dinner. The kids don’t like it and complain. You clean up.
  13. You help three of your kids with their homework and deal with two meltdowns. Your special needs older child puts another hole in the wall and screams for 75 minutes.
  14. The shower drain is clogged. You make a run to Menards to get some drainer, and you pick up some groceries at Target too.
  15. You get back and get your kids ready for bed. Four more meltdowns.
  16. You stay up late getting the drain unclogged before morning showers and you work at your home business.
  17. You go to bed exhausted, but you can’t sleep because you have an appointment with your attorney the next day, and you don’t want to be here doing this. You don’t want your kids to be going through this. If only your husband would tell the truth. Would get help. Would love you. Would care. Would meet you halfway. Would see what he has done over the years.
  18. Speaking of him, he texts you and lectures you about how you are ruining your kids’ lives with your ungodly choices. How you don’t trust God. How you won’t forgive and just move on. Also how much he loves you and has miraculously changed in the last five days, and what is your freaking problem that you can’t see that and give him a “second” chance?

The week will continue like this as you do the laundry, plan the meals, make the meals, clean up after the meals, run errands, fill out school forms, go to an IEP meeting, go to three parent-teacher conferences, take your kids to therapy, answer scathing emails full of judgmental hate, take your anti-anxiety meds, get your car oil changed, work 40 hours, have dozens of emotional conversations with hurting kids, and deal with their normal kid stuff like sibling rivalry, school issues, homework, boundaries, discipline, etc., deal with texts from your husband telling you how you’ve victimized him, you scare him, you don’t care about him, you don’t care about your family, and you don’t do anything right.

And it goes on and on and on.

And on.

You won’t get any meals from the meal committee at church. You won’t get a pastor coming over to pray with you and your kids. You won’t get your small group from church coming over to love on you and your kids. You won’t even get an encouraging phone call.

BUT. Your husband will get free Bible counseling from church, phone calls, and invitations to homes for meals and empathetic ears itching to hear the scoop on what a scary, abusive woman you’ve been to him all those years.

He will get the kids on Saturdays and take them to go swimming and to the park and to an outdoor concert in the city. He will cry in front of them and tell them how he would love to be with them more, but mommy won’t let him. She’s so mean, plus a liar, plus she kicked him out, and he’s so confused. He doesn’t know why she would act that way when all he’s ever done is love her and put up with her abuse. They will cry with him, and he’ll feel better. (You’ll pick up more pieces of their shattered and confused hearts when they get home.)

He will go to work and come home to his apartment where he’ll have conversations with beautiful women on Match.com. He’ll write them love letters and then jerk off to porn.

He’ll have time to go around and let everyone who ever knew you understand what a nightmare it was to live with such an abusive woman. That you’re unhinged – and he just never saw it coming. Maybe you’re in menopause? Maybe you have BPD? He’ll have time to stalk you on social media.

This will go on for as long as you share underage children. You will work and work and work and work and spend every cent you earn to protect your children and rebuild your life, and he will do everything in his power to undermine you. He will hide money and tell the kids he is as poor as a church mouse. “Ask your mother to buy you some shoes.” He will use the kids to triangulate. He will threaten and antagonize you behind the scenes, but to everyone on the outside he will present as a poor victim. He will tell them you stole everything from him. You are bitter and angry, and he is the sweet man who got the bad end of the stick. You are a rebel and he is a godly man. You are a bad mom and he is a skilled father. You are a taker and he is a giver. You are Satan and he is Jesus Christ. Okay – maybe he won’t go that far, but you get my drift. You can add your own in the comments section.

You know what the most galling thing is about this? The most horrible, disorienting, painful thing is about this? Of course you do. But I’ll write it out in black and white here:

EVERYONE BELIEVES THEM.

At least, that’s how it feels, right? Of course, this isn’t true. Discerning people with experience dealing with narcissists and manipulative liars will not believe them. Unfortunately, the percentage of the population that falls into the latter category is small. But I’m hoping you’ll know at least one person like that.

Here’s what I say: WHO CARES WHAT THEY BELIEVE ABOUT YOU. Their opinions are irrelevant to who you really are. You work on YOU. You take care of yourself, get help, heal, find hope and joy, and live your life with your eyes on Jesus. His view of you is accurate and true, and His love for you is tremendously powerful, steadfast, and eternal.

You may not know or feel this, but you are a powerful person. You are emotionally intelligent, hard working, discerning, kind, loving, forgiving, long-suffering, and generous. And people find you pleasant to be around because you genuinely care. But in your abuser’s twisted way, he both needs your light and hates your light. He is both jealous of it and desperate for it. And because you are a loving soul, you are drawn to help this poor, emotionally and spiritually sick and stunted man. The only problem is – his sickness is killing you slowly from the inside out, which is why you finally and reluctantly and sorrowfully cut it off.

Hence the smear campaign while you are in the midst of just trying to survive the next hour of your life. It’s like you’re wearing a yellow post-it note on your back that says, “Please kick me here. I’m already down, but I’d love one more kick in the back from someone I thought I could trust.”

Getting out of an emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship with a “Christian” man who is respected in your “Christian” community is hell on wheels. But women of faith do it all the time. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. You are definitely not alone. And while you may not believe me now, I can tell you that there is healing post-abuse. It just takes time and effort. And patience.

One day at a time.

 O Lord, have mercy on me in my anguish. My eyes are red from weeping; my health is broken from sorrow. I am pining away with grief; my years are shortened, drained away because of sadness. My sins have sapped my strength; I stoop with sorrow and with shame.  I am scorned by all my enemies and even more by my neighbors and friends. They dread meeting me and look the other way when I go byI am forgotten like a dead man, like a broken and discarded pot. I heard the lies about me, the slanders of my enemies. Everywhere I looked I was afraid, for they were plotting against my life.

But I am trusting you, O Lord. I said, “You alone are my God; my times are in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.  Let your favor shine again upon your servant; save me just because you are so kind!  Don’t disgrace me, Lord, by not replying when I call to you for aid. But let the wicked be shamed by what they trust in; let them lie silently in their graves, their lying lips quieted at last—the lips of these arrogant men who are accusing honest men (women) of evil deeds.”

Oh, how great is your goodness to those who publicly declare that you will rescue them. For you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.

Hide your loved ones in the shelter of your presence, safe beneath your hand, safe from all conspiring men. Blessed is the Lord, for he has shown me that his never-failing love protects me like the walls of a fort! I spoke too hastily when I said, “The Lord has deserted me,” for you listened to my plea and answered me. (He is answering you even now.)

Oh, love the Lord, all of you who are his people; for the Lord protects those who are loyal to him, but harshly punishes all who haughtily reject him. So cheer up! Take courage if you are depending on the Lord.”

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Wow! I didn’t have nearly this much to deal with. I’m sorry that this happened to you all. I thought i was alone in this kind of crazy. This year I had the realization that his smear campaign was going on long before I left and it was eye opening. No wonder I couldn’t connect with most people at church. He was telling everyone how abusive I was in whatever manner would elicit sympathy from that person. When his affairs became public knowledge, he told them I cheated first. It took me years to realize that some of my confidants were actually feeding him information that I shared with them. And when his family posted on Facebook, Happy Birthday to a wonderful father and Godly man, I lost it. Knowing about all of the affairs, many times before I did, and keeping it from me. It it hard not to feel like everyone is against you in the midst of it. This Psalm and one’s like it sustained me though many a dark day.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    This happened to me with a pastor and the leaders of his church in the USA, one that my husband and I listened to online from Australia, only I was the stepmum of his mostly adult kids and am now a stepgrandma. After emotionally and financially abusing me for years, I finally left him after he hit me. His abuse didn’t stop there as he lied to our pastor, my current pastors, his family and some of our friends about how he was abusing me and as I later realised, started financially abusing me 6 days after I moved countries to be with him and marry him. My husband sadly and suddenly died 3 years after I left him of his alcoholism. His family wants nothing to do with me, so much so that when my stepdaughter had another baby after he died, she and her family didn’t tell me. This shattered me into a million pieces, so much more than I could tell you! I very much long to be a stepmother and stepgrandmother to my beautiful step family and consider them to be my family, and always will. Thankfully, my current church and pastors believe me and are very supportive of me and did not treat me as the pastor from the USA did, who still does not talk to me or reach out to me, nor do the leaders of his church. Despite the challenges and pain I have faced since leaving my husband, it was one of the very best decisions I have ever made and I am so very thankful the Lord gave me the strength to leave him and a loving church family and extended church family to be a part of.

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Right now is a year since our mediation. The damage is so long and far reaching. My ex would have been this dangerous if he was any deeper and not so lazy. I pray for you ladies that have been hurt this deeply by narcissistic, covert abusers and the people who didn’t listen to you afterwards. I’m so very sorry. I know what it’s done to me and my children and, like I said, my ex was mild compared to the true and devastating stories here. Thank you Natalie for your bravery. You, women like Leslie Vernick, and men like Patrick Doyle are standing in a very, very difficult but highly important gap. I pray for you guys. You truly are setting Christian women free from bondage. It’s so hard, but eventually healing can begin. Your ministry is so needed and will bring awareness to those who want to recognize there’s a major problem. It will anger those who don’t want their Christianity challenged by truth. You are doing the real work of Jesus Christ. Please don’t stop. Don’t let the pious stop your important ministry. You are saving lives and families while pointing women (and men) to Christ. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you for your prayers. May the love of Jesus win.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    I was reading a comment above and they mentioned , “Or abuse (more of the “I love you so much”)”. Is this considered abuse? I recently, 11 months ago,divorced my verbally and physically abusive husband and to this day I receive weekly rants and raves of how I broke up the family and then the next day I will receive text messages, declaring his love. I have blocked him on my work and personal email but he will just continue to make new email accounts. I have been feeling hopeless and my energy drained because I feel like I am being constantly harassed. He seems to know everything about me, about my new house, about my trips or things that I am doing on a daily basis and mentions he “saw” me but didn’t want to approach me, because he would not be able to handle the encounter. However, I have NO idea of where he is working, or living or even doing. So again, I feel like an idiot if I would try to get an order of protection against the ex-husband and tell them what? That the ex is constantly emailing me, “that he loves me and he wants to make things work and he has changed his ways, etc”. Anyways, I never thought of categorizing this as a form abuse…..

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Andrea, he is harassing you, and the police can help you if you file a complaint. My daughter was being stalked – they told us they have ways of tracking down stalkers on the Internet. So please do get help. Yes – this is absolutely abusive behavior as well as illegal.

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    Natalie,

    I have been absorbing your blog and now your awesome podcasts for awhile now. You’ve helped me so much! I’ve always wondered how in the world you managed every day life under this hellish nightmare with all of the stress of 9 kids! Thank you for giving us a clear window into your reality back then. It brings me to tears! I have so much respect and love for you from afar. You are a brave, kind, strong, wise, amazing woman!

    This part was absolutely sickening:

    You won’t get any meals from the meal committee at church. You won’t get a pastor coming over to pray with you and your kids. You won’t get your small group from church coming over to love on you and your kids. You won’t even get an encouraging phone call.

    BUT. Your husband will get free Bible counseling from church, phone calls, and invitations to homes for meals and empathetic ears itching to hear the scoop on what a scary, abusive woman you’ve been to him all those years.

    You were deprived of the most fundamental care a pastor and church should provide. Even if they believed him, a pastor could have provided prayer and care; they did nothing but harm. They didn’t even love on your children!?

    To quote a friend “If the church can’t be the REAL church then it can just go to hell.” Strong statement but we need shaking up. There is revival coming…I can sense it can you? More and more women standing up. A reckoning. Natalie, you keep on! We are so behind you 100% and thankful you make the time to mentor and encourage us!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you, Kim. I agree. A reckoning is coming. I’m hoping to go back to school and do research on the links between spiritual abuse and domestic abuse in religious environments.

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    He’ll have tome to stock you on social media. When you block him, he begins stalking your friends. Depending on the friend, this either results in you dealing with messages of concern (“why did he send me THIS?”) Or abuse (more of the “I love you so much”).

    He will finally get a job (why he couldnt do that before he left to support his family will remain a forever mystery), but he will do everything he can to make sure you don’t find out about his job. He never offers child support, and manages to spend $8,000 on his own selfish “needs” (like new tools to replace tools he already owns, tools YOU are trying to organize and clean up since he left – think “Hoarders” the tv show) before you ever find out he has a job. Even then, he refuses to tell you where he lives or works, and refuses to cooperate with basic things like giving you paperwork in his possession that you need to clean up his messes.

    All the mess he walked away from falls to you to clean up. Years of financial abuse and chronic hoarding becomes “why didn’t YOU take care of that/pay that/clean that.” He walks away to avoid the consequences of his behavior and (in the eyes of many) that absolves him of any responsibility because “you are the one who lives here, not him.”

    If you are one of the moms who did not have a home business, he will agree to watch the children so you can go to a job interview, but not show up. When he sees the kids its all fun and games, but “games” is the operative word because he demands to see the kids whenever he feels like it (not on a schedule you can plan for) and makes all kinds of accusations that you are keeping his kids from him if you don’t drop everything, cancel long-scheduled doctor appointments, and accommodate his demands. Half the time, he ends up not showing up anyway. The kids are devastated when this happens, but when you try to set boundaries for their protection, he loses his ever-loving mind and threatens to commit suicide. He then vanishes – no contact for days (except for the call you get from the county looking for him because they have reason to believe he is a danger to himself). You spend the next week and a half waiting for a call that they found his body, and trying to figure out how to tell your children the father they adore is dead. 2 or 3 weeks later, you will notice he “liked” something obscure on facebook. He apparently unblocked you. But the threats of suicide are constant, and you can never escape the humming in the back of your mind that one day you will be responsible to plan his funeral too. It’s another component that sucks up energy.

    People “help” the situation by encouraging him to keep “doing the right thing” and wait to see if you will eventually “come around.” They encourage him to be uncooperative with a divorce so you end up perpetually trapped in hell without the tens of thousands of dollars you need to “hire a lawyer” to help.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you for filling out this picture even more. There really is no end to their tricks and their cruelty – all hidden and endorsed by people you thought you could trust. The betrayal and pain is horrific.

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    Thank you!
    This is so realistic, it’s scary! Encouraging, in some way 🙂 !
    And then they also use Facebook as a PR staging tool to show every happy time at the restaurants….

    (I am a man, but your homepage is as useful for guys as it is for ladies, e.g. it changed my life to find through your homepage David Instone-Brewer, and lately Patrik Doyle etc. Keep up the good work! )

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m glad it’s not too off-putting for men. I know abusive, narcissistic women, and they are no easier to deal with than abusive narcissistic men. A great website geared toward men is shrink4men.com.

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    Was there a trigger warning on that post? Such a long time ago now but nearly triggered my PTSD remembering! A few more….Your ex’s family will post memes on his Facebook wall of loving generous men noticing the hungry eyes poor children in grocery stores and paying their bill at the checkout (with his last dollar) and label it with a note saying, “thought of you when I saw this.” ❤ You’ll remember the last time he bothered to see your children he had them for 5 hours (through the dinner hour) and bought himself a burger but let 4 hungry kids watch him eat without buying them one because, “it’s your Mom’s decision to get this divorce, not me. Eat her food when you get back to her place.” Spend the next 7 years trying to convince them they DO have value, even if their own Dad considers them a financial liability. Spend the entire day in the Neuro Psychs office while they do another evaluation on your child for his IEP and listen to her professional opinion that his disabilities appear to be trauma related. Hear her compassionately but ignorantly say that “divorce is hard on kids.” No, no actually that wasn’t the traumatizing part. Silently curse every Christian who convinced you to forgive 70 X’s seven and give him another chance. Hate yourself for not rescuing them sooner. Go to the church food bank and suffer judgemental looks and a lecture when you ask if there’s dishwashing detergent; apparently poor people shouldn’t have dishwashers or if you have one you shouldn’t use it. Have one of the women explain about how to manage a home and a food budget because (I’m poor so) I must not know how to do that, if I were managing my home well I’d be able to feed 5 people on $350 month! (She does it with no problem). Nevermind that she has a husband who works and does all the repairs and chores and bill paying and errands and can pick up milk on the way home. Nevermind that she can cook from scratch and doesn’t need to buy a pre-baked chicken so her kids can eat before 9 PM. Suffer the indignity of comments suggesting perhaps your “spontaneous” decision to dump your “perfectly good” husband wasn’t well thought out. Sigh. Never go to church again and start hanging out with “Godless liberals” who think buying yourself an occasional bar of chocolate with your food stamps isn’t being an entitled government free loader; particularly since that bar of chocolate convinced you that you might be able to muscle through another day even though dying still hovers around the edges of your consciousness as the best option… But those kids! You’re not sure they’re ever going to recover from all the crazy and incongruency and having your mom die would be the blow they wouldn’t recover from. You tell yourself that every day, every day, every day.
    There’s no end to the humiliations one could recount and not one of them alone (or combined) could equal the misery of the “long suffering “Godly” wife I used to be”! Free, free, free!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you, Karen, for adding more to this picture. It’s exhausting. I hope the reality of our lives while getting out of abuse will be recognized and validated one day.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      Oh wow. Yes! Exact thoughts. Amazing how we all are experiencing the same thing!!

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    This is so true unfortunately in many cases. Thank you for all you do to help others. It makes me literally sick to my stomach how victims are treated!!
    God bless you Natalie.

    Reply
  10. Avatar

    You are a Jezebel and he’s God’s gift to women.

    Reply

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