Ten Christian Women Who Got Out of Their Emotionally Abusive Marriages
Do you ever get the feeling of total hopelessness? Like you’ll be stuck in your toxic relationship for the rest of your life? That you’ll never know what it is like to feel emotionally and spiritually safe or have the ability to think clearly, share with vulnerability, and have hope for the future?
To live the rest of your life in your current situation feels like a living nightmare. But to get out feels totally impossible.
Recently I read an article that said this about getting out:
“You want to avoid the pain. You may rank your relationship as a five out of ten on the happiness scale, but breaking up will temporarily bring you down to a two or three. Even though eventually you’d be happier (let’s say a nine), you stay with a five because you don’t want to slip down to a two or three.”
Ten women made the choice to break up even though the process took them down a black hole of horrific pain.
In the end, they had no regrets. They could testify that it was worth it.
Here are their stories, and I hope they will encourage you. God doesn’t marginalize women who are divorced. He doesn’t cast you out as a reject. He loves you, regardless of your marital status or past. God isn’t like people. If you decide to make that Herculean effort to cut loose, He will NOT abandon you. He will help you make it through hell to the other side.
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life…
It was totally worth it. Filing for divorce was the hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t understand that my 26 year marriage was abusive until I read “Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft, but once I read it the scales fell from my eyes and I could see my life clearly. I wanted a divorce, but I didn’t have the courage to do it. I didn’t want to experience that much pain. I knew what was right for me, but I still worried about him and my children. I was sleeping on a camping cot in an unfinished basement when my 17 year old daughter snuck downstairs and asked me when I was going to file for divorce and kick him out. My children were just as miserable as I was. In his attempt to win me back, he treated me like a queen, but he shifted his anger onto the children. He told the kids that he would do anything to keep the family together, even if that meant that he went to prison and the kids went to foster care. My children were scared and I was terrified, but I knew we could not live like that anymore. I filed for divorce on our 26th wedding anniversary. I have now been divorced for almost 2 years. I lost every friendship that we had together. I lost family members and my church family took his side. I was pretty much alone. The first 6 months after the divorce were the hardest, because I was so lonely. Today, I am a full time college student and I have new friends. My life is wonderful. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. Yes, going through the divorce and picking up the pieces is hard, but the living on the other side is worth it.
It was worth the peace and tranquility we now have…
Yes, I too was afraid to make that first move. I was afraid I was stepping out of “God’s will” by leaving my husband of 20 years in hopes that he would recognize his part, repent, get help…and reconciliation. That was my hope as I packed my bags, packed my four children, packed a moving truck…and left TX and journeyed to CO. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know what the next step was. But enough was enough. We all needed healing. We needed safety from the ‘un-noticed’ abuse that was taking place. The abuse that the pastor labeled as ‘me being un-submissive.’ ‘If I tried harder, he wouldn’t make the decisions he was making.’ Even though I was the one who faithfully showed up to church every Sunday, with my children and served in several different ministries.
So we moved. And he never changed. He didn’t care. It was all my fault. And always would be. But, he “still loves me” he claims. His empty words no longer affect me. They don’t pierce my heart anymore. And I’m not confused as I try to figure out why he would say he loved me yet he would purposefully hurt me.
We no longer have to live like we are walking on eggshells anymore. We don’t need to worry what his mood will be like, or if he ‘left’, would he come back again. The constant state of confusion is gone. And in its place, is FREEDOM, PEACE…and despite everything, a joy that has prevailed through my steps of courage to break through the unknown and the what if’s. To dare to pass through living a life of 2…to live in 9. I love coming home now. I am at peace. I am free. I’m discovering who I really am, as I became lost through the 20 years of broken marriage I covenanted to keep.
It was scary, but IT WAS WORTH IT. It at times may be lonely, but the truth is, I was always alone, even when we were together. IT WAS WORTH the peace and tranquility we now have. The journey is not over. It is just beginning. And now, I get to live as a free person, and be who God has truly designed me to be!
Be courageous. Have a close group of sisters who love the Lord and love you. And BE BRAVE. IT IS WORTH IT.
Jumping off that cliff is just jumping into love’s fresh air…
It got to the point where I felt like I was wrestling the Enemy in my own home… every…single…day. I just never was able to agree with the notion that my husband was everything and I was nothing. During one of our daily disagreements, my husband responded to my statement that things didn’t have to be this way by asking me, “Why? Are you going to change?” Something in my mind snapped. In that clarifying moment, I knew I would no longer dig deeper into Christ to change myself for the sake of our marriage, as I had already done for years. Instead, I silently put our marriage on God’s altar. Whatever He decided to do with it, I would follow Him.
Behind me, there was this roaring lion seeking to devour me and my kids; before me, there was a cliff. It’s been over a year since I jumped off that cliff. Incredibly, I didn’t fall to my death. To my surprise I flew! Flying in fresh air feels marvelous compared to twisting in tangled knots each day, desperately struggling just to catch a breath. Being a single mom is actually easier than being a patriarchal tyrant’s “wife.”
- I no longer waste hours every day wrestling the enemy.
- I enjoy my time with the Lord now. We only have to ‘process hurts’ occasionally.
- I have energy to care for my kiddos.
- I am free to meet my kids’ needs. All of them.
- Zero arguments. I don’t have to persuade Christ to see me as God sees me or to meet our family’s needs before personal greeds. Refreshing!
- It feels so good to be free!!!!!
As it turns out, jumping off that cliff is just jumping into love’s fresh air. Love catches you and enables you to fly. Anticipating death, I found sweet Life instead. You already know His name. And He knows how to love you like Christ loves the Church. Submitting to Him is no trouble at all.
I would never go back into the bondage of abuse…
It took me a long time to realize that I was in an abusive relationship. It didn’t click when he continued to threaten to kill himself because I wouldn’t agree to the long list of faults he kept telling me I had. I didn’t realize it when he didn’t care when I started bleeding during my pregnancy. Not even when he was content to see us all out on the streets weeks before the baby was due. When he physically assaulted my oldest I knew something had to change.
I was afraid to change but also afraid to stay the same. I had quickly realized that my church had joined him in the abuse. I was the unrepentant and rebellious wife for wanted a man to provide and protect his family. One day I knew that if I didn’t do something I was going to either die or go crazy. I couldn’t do either. My boys needed me. So I took a stand … alone. And never once looked back.
It has been a long hard journey. And there are times when I’m still afraid, but I would never go back into the bondage of abuse and control. I’m working on getting healthy and safe for myself and my boys. I want them to see that no matter how hard things got, Mama never gave up on God.LaToya Edwards
You don’t need to be with someone who treats you horribly…
During my senior year of high school, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, He used to control what I said, wore, and did. He used to call me every name in the book and call me down for every little thing. I was always glued to my phone or the computer because if I did not respond to his messages he would get paranoid about it. If I tried to leave he would say If you Love God love me and he used to threaten to kill himself if I tried to leave. He made the relationship to there was no way out. He caused me so much stress and heartache that I had a seizure two days before his birthday. A close friend of mine helped me break it off with him.
As I look back on the experience, I decided to end it because if I stayed it would have escalated into something far worse than what I was in at the time. It took me a very long time for me to learn how to love again and how to love myself because after the relationship I felt broken and worthless. When people ask me if leaving was worth it, I say yes because all of us deserve to be loved and treated with respect. You don’t need to be with someone who treats you horribly. An important message that all survivors can take from their experience is you can find hope in the ashes of pain and suffering if you dig deep enough to find it. Transitioning from victim to survivor is difficult but it is totally worth it. All of us are worthy.
Eleanor, age 19
I am now learning to breathe, walk, and speak…
16 years of severe psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse. My husband began to unravel – I only now know it is due to the duplicitous life he leads teaming with hidden sins coming out of hiding. I was told it was a “communication” problem. We needed more counseling… from our pastors and elders. I, wanting nothing more than to keep him happy, willing obliged. I was told I was not loving him enough (I could not possible have loved him more), I was angry (I was not, I was heartbroken and desperate to please), I did not trust him – and needed to trust him in “ALL things” (I had and I was trying), I needed to forgive “ALL” things (he had already, as a church leader, started his smear campaign, and I needed to move past it – though he took no responsibility and enjoyed watching me hurt), I was not submitting as I should – or obeying. I pressed into the Lord … I gave the last ounce of what I had to my husband … trying… trying.
Then it happened. The day I said – NO. He was not prepared for this. I had never defied him. He, in a terrifying fit of rage, lunged at me, attacking me, leaving me wounded: badly bruised all over and bleeding. THAT was the wake up… as he (TWICE my size) stood in front of me… cold, and hard … explaining that this was necessary because he “loved me so much.” I was told I was wrong – that *I* had started that. I had not… unless saying “NO” is “starting” something. He took no responsibility. I died that day. But the Lord woke me up – a new person. One who saw my two sons and daughters also hiding in fear – silenced by intimidation and legalistic chains. I knew this could not be. The Lord never meant for this to be. I was faced with a choice – to stay and continue to forget and deny the truth … and, eventually die – definitely spiritually and emotionally — but, also, very likely physically … OR … to trust the LORD Jesus, my Priest, my Creator … and step forward – trusting each step – enduring intense fear, magnified by such betrayal and loss – knowing the Lord is with me. I chose LIFE – I chose to step forward into the unknown …. WITH my Jesus. My name is Hope. And, no, the irony is NOT lost on me! I am only a few months out of waking up — and am only now learning to breathe, walk and speak.
God is enough. For all of it…
I am still healing. Still trying to figure this out. What I have learned is that God is enough. He just is. His love is like nothing else. And He does not call any of us to slavery. Not men and not women. We are not called to live up to these false expectations of manhood and womanhood. To have this ridiculous tug of war. To offer this illusion of grace when really what we are doing is aiding and abetting sin. And then no one is free. We are not meant to worship marriage. We are not meant to hang on at all costs. So through it, I have learned what God really says about divorce and marriage and remarriage. I would not have otherwise. God, in His grace, allowed me to finally see the truth of this teaching. And that was where I was able to let go. And it was scary. Because I thought that maybe I was letting go of what God had joined. And if I didn’t wait, then what?
If I did get the ball rolling in anyway, it was the day that I found, once again, “stuff” on the computer…dating websites, etc. So I just asked, “Do you want to be married to me? Because I am not doing this anymore.” And he said, “No. I’ve been trying figure out how to tell you. I don’t.” And eventually kicking him out 3 months later. But even then, I took him back 3 more times, and I was not the one who filed. It’s okay, though. I am free. And God is enough. For all of it.
It has been almost 4 years since I left home. It was a hard thing to do, because I felt God expected me to stay, since we were both Christians.. Through two trauma incidents within a day of each other, I knew I had to go. I left my home with a suitcase of clothes, and terribly upset and afraid. A lady friend took me in. For two years of waiting for a divorce, I lived with family and friends.. After the first few months, we had a meeting and he gave me a small amount of money. Twice more he gave me money again, then no more when he realized I wasn’t coming back. He lived in our house that had no mortgage and after three months was trying to date. We had been together almost 30 years. I had no desire to date. My mind was in such a state I could hardly think straight. Online I found a free course about time management given by a Christian doctor. By the end of a month, after focusing and taking notes with this course, my mind began to clear. I had no doubt that God put this course in my path. He knew just what I needed. Through family and friends, I have done a lot of healing. God provided finances and loving family to help me along the way.It wasn’t easy, but it was the right choice. I am hoping some day that God will send me the right mate. His timing is always right.Anonymous
Now I live with a lightness in my spirit…
I was tottering on the edge of a cliff for a long long time before I finally got the courage to walk away and re-establish my life on firm ground. From the outset my marriage was fraught with tension, drama and trauma. Never having been married before, I did not know that this was NOT “normal.” I thought it was growing pains/ teething trouble which would eventually get better. After about ten years I began to realize that I was not to blame for everything, and that our marriage, which by that time included two children was, in serious trouble and that our family was seriously dysfunctional. Although I was starting to realize this, I was still very much in a “FOG” (read Fear, Obligation, Guilt). We were in Christian ministry, in fact in leadership, my husband would preach amazing sermons every Sunday and then treat me and the children like dirt at home, dominating, controlling and manipulating us through fear and guilt.Things came to a head when our beautiful, feisty daughter was sixteen. One day she refused to back down to his intimidation and unreasonable demands and he ended up beating her severely on her arms and hands. The next day the school reported him and a charge was laid and he was arrested. Two days later I got him out on bail. Our daughter was removed from our home by the social workers and she spent 8 month in a children’s home. Throughout all this time, and to this day, he maintains complete innocence, interpreting everything religiously, saying that he was only exercising godly discipline, and blaming me for teaching the children to be rebellious. Eventually I left him after twenty years of marriage. What kept me so long was basically Fear – fear that I would not make it alone; fear that somehow he was right and I was wrong (I had been so brainwashed to always take the blame); fear of the stigma of divorce and what people would say – not one of our friends or acquaintances knew what was really going on because on the outside we were this “Amazing Christian Family.” One of the huge reasons it took me so long to leave was because deep down I knew that if I was the one who decided to leave I would look like the bad one – and especially that my husband would totally put ALL the blame on me for leaving (as he has always blamed me for everything) and that MOST people, especially the Church would believe him and take his side…. and that is exactly what did happen. But I can still say with all my heart “IT WAS WORTH IT” and not for one split second have I ever regretted leaving him. It is three years now since I left with my two teenage children. It has not been easy in many ways but God has helped us every step of the way, bringing Godly people into our lives who can truly help us to live God’s way, and we are all healing slowly but surely. Whereas previously I was living in a permanent state of dread/ tension/uneasiness and basically depression and despair, with the odd, rare lighter moment here and there – now I live with a lightness in my spirit, clear skies and a bubbling hopefulness, with the odd stressful day or moment when I cry out for help and it is there. I’m so so grateful to God that He gave me the courage to leave and that He is helping me to identify and reject all the lies which had kept me in despair for so long.Rosemary Anne
He took a kind hearted, carefree girlTook her and broke her
It didn’t happen over night
It happened over such a long period
of time that she didn’t even notice
She fell apart one word at a time
One action at a time
One lie at a time
One betrayal at a time
One broken promise at a time
Her heart, once so full of love,
now a hollow shell
Drained from years of neglect and abuse
Replaced with bitterness and anger
He took her gentle soul
and twisted it
Smashed it until no one knew her anymore
She didn’t even know herself
She felt lost and didn’t know why
But she was lost
Lost in a world he had created for her
She couldn’t remember who she was
She longed for the days before
Wrapped so tightly in a cocoon
Spun over the years with deceit
She thought she was doing it right
Giving, giving, giving
Never enough, never enough….
Then one day
One glorious day
The realization came
Hidden deep inside
The spark ignited a flame
The flame burned a desire
A desire to break free
And she started to remember
She remembered a time of joy
A time of happiness
And she wanted it back
The flame continued to burn
The cocoon cracked and light crept in
With each memory
The light came shining through
He tried everything in his power
to put her back inside
Squash her down again
But she struggled free
She spread her wings and found freedom
Her family saw the difference
Her friends saw it too
Some didn’t like to see her flying
They hadn’t known the free spirited girl
Others remembered her and cheered
They had loved her through the darkness
And now they loved her through her rebirth
She had discovered her true friends
She rose higher in their presence
And they carried her higher with their love
The darkness loomed below, but she soared
Her brokenness, her bitterness
Once anchors to her soul
Lost their grip and set her free
The carefree girl who danced in the sun,
returned stronger than before
And she found love
But more importantly…….
She found herself again
P.S. If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of doing something about your emotionally abusive marriage, consider joining the Flying Free Sisterhood where you will meet and rub shoulders with women just like the ones in the testimonies above.