Message to a Baptist Church: You Preached Death to the Hearts of One Hundred Women Today
(Update to this article: When I originally wrote it, I didn’t mention the name of the church or the pastor. It wasn’t important at the time. Two years later it became important because that pastor, now pictured above, was accused of having inappropriate sexual relationships with girls in his youth group when he served as a youth pastor. Then I came out in this article HERE to talk about my interactions with the pastor (Wes Feltner of Berean Baptist in Burnsville, MN). I talk about this further in Podcast Episode 43: “When Your Husband and Pastor Demand Reconciliation and Forgiveness” if you’re interested in a better way of understanding what reconciliation actually entails. Because it’s not what the abuser says it is.)
Message to a Baptist Church: You Preached Death to the Hearts of One Hundred Women Today
I came to worship within your walls this morning. I came to worship, and I left with one hundred other women—every single one bleeding.
I began my worship journey within the walls of another, smaller church when I was seven years old. I fell in love with Jesus that day. I wanted to be a missionary. I wanted to be a pastor’s wife (I was aware that girls couldn’t be pastors). I wanted to be like Corrie Ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot and Ann Kiemel – my heroes. I wanted to share Jesus with everyone I knew. I wanted to live and breathe and die for Him. I loved him as much as a girl possibly could.
I did share Jesus with everyone I knew. I got in trouble for it at school with my peers. You hit a certain age, and it’s not cool to share Jesus anymore. But I did anyway. By the time I graduated, I was affectionately voted “Most Likely to Become a Nun.”
I had a reputation for loving Jesus.
I went to a small Christian college in Roseville, MN and held leadership positions there, working with other college women in the dorms doing discipleship. When I graduated, I taught English in a small Christian school and listened to the teenaged woes of my students after school hours. Later, I raised support and went into full time ministry working on the University of Minnesota campus doing what I loved. Sharing Jesus with women.
I loved my life. And then I got married, and everything changed.
But this letter isn’t about me.
This letter is actually about 100 other women who were sitting inside those same walls with me this morning.
Did you know that among those who claim faith in Jesus, the vast majority of divorces are initiated by wives in their 40’s-50’s?
Did you know that the top three reasons these women give for initiating divorce are 1. Spousal adultery 2. Spousal addiction 3. Spousal abuse?
Did you know that of the men who initiate divorce in “Christian” marriages, the number ONE reason is infidelity? Their own?
What does this communicate to you? I hope it raises your awareness of a massive epidemic in the church and how it destroys women and children.
One out of three women sitting in your auditorium this morning are being emotionally, spiritually, and (sometimes) physically abused by their intimate male partner (“Christian” husband) when they go home.
I’m just taking a wild guess, but let’s say there were 300 women in there. That means 100 of them are in one of the deepest, darkest, most hidden and prolonged sufferings of the human race.
Many of these women have been enduring emotional and spiritual abuse for two-three decades. I recently wrote about the strength that enables them to continue supporting their abusive partners in spite of being dehumanized and used by them. But you need to know they are wiped out physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many of them are on prescription drugs for depression and anxiety. They’ve got hormone imbalances, and their immune systems are shot. Most of them suffer from C-PTSD.
Because long-term covert abuse does that to a person. It messes with their bodies in unseen ways.
I want you to keep that in mind as I recap some things you taught them today.
- You taught them from the book of Jude that when people get tired of their marriages, they want a change, so rather than staying committed, they decide to “do it their own way.” They say, “I’ll be my own authority.” And they discard their marriages in pursuit of their own selfish desires.
When you said that, 100 women who are regularly begging God for mercy on their bathroom floors, begging God to end their lives so they can find relief, experienced paralyzing terror and despair. They may have even heard from an abuse hotline or secular counselor (Bible counselors tend to re-abuse them so they do eventually find real help from the secular culture which is more educated about abuse dynamics) that they should get to a place of safety.
But they love Jesus, they are committed in ways most folks can’t fathom, and they are far from selfish. They’ve sacrificed everything on the altar of marriage. Their girlhood dreams of being in a safe, loving relationship. Their careers. Their desire to use their gifts and skills. And they know that if they were to stand up and tell the truth about their marriage, they would be accused of being selfish. Of “doing it their own way.” Of “being their own authority.”
They believe they are earmarked for a lifetime of abuse. Why? Because God says so. It is His will for them. If they were to “rebelliously” believe otherwise, they would be accused of not knowing God. (Ask me how I know.)
2. You said, “If what I’m saying feels offensive to you, you are identifying with worldly captivity instead of biblical reality.”
When you said that, one hundred women were offended. Not in an angry way. But in an utterly hopeless “I wish I was dead” way. Because they are damned for “identifying with a worldly captivity” and also damned for being forced to be in a position to be damned.
It is the quintessential catch-22 of abuse.
3. You said there are consequences for this selfish autonomy. DESTRUCTION.
When you said that, if any of those 100 women had been considering getting to a safe place, they are now terrified to make any moves. Because what is unsafe now is AT LEAST FAMILIAR. But this nebulous “destruction” the church speaks of? That is an unknown terror they can only guess at and have nightmares over.
Perhaps it will involve her children, and she can’t let that happen. So even though the long term consequences for children growing up in abusive homes are devastating, and statistically they do much better when Mom is safe and emotionally well, the unknown “destruction” that could come upon them is not worth getting them to a place of truth and safety.
Better to sit in church and smile. Keep pretending all is well. Better to deny and enable than to risk losing everything.
Besides, if they were to get out of their abusive relationship, they would have to initiate the end of a marriage. They would be labeled a “covenant breaker.” A “marriage-destroyer.” They don’t realize yet that it is their abuser who has broken covenant with them. That their abuser has destroyed the marriage, but more importantly to Jesus, he has destroyed the human lives within the marriage, including his own.
If they were to initiate the end of the abusive marriage, they would be forced to pay a heavy price. They were reminded of that heavy price this morning. It lay like a cold, threatening mountain in the depths of their being.
4. You told them their bodies didn’t belong to them. You told them their lives didn’t belong to them.
When you said that, you reinforced the message they get every day from their abuser. They exist for one reason only. To service the abuser. Their bodies belong to their abuser. Their lives belong to their abuser.
For them to rise up and make any other choice would be rebellion against God, their abuser, and the church. Why? Because they’ve been taught that God speaks through their authority. Their authority is their husband and the church.
They have no choices. They have no autonomy. They are only one hundred hidden women sitting next to abusers in the pews of your church.
And unlike their abusive husbands who didn’t hear a damn word you said, these women took every. single. word. to heart.
Let me back up a minute now. I get what you were saying. I get it, I really do. I’ve been going to church, reading my Bible through every year, doing Bible studies, listening to sermons online, and reading bazillions of non-fiction Christian books for 40 years. Everything you said is true unless you are talking to an abuse survivor and an abuser.
Here’s what you need to understand:
An abuse survivor…
- believes there is grace for everyone but her.
- believes she is only worth love when she is making her abuser and her church happy with her.
- believes she will not be heard or believed.
- is scared
- is exhausted
- is hiding to survive.
- feels crazy
- feels hopeless
- feels unloved
- acts as if he is entitled to whatever he wants, when he wants it.
- demands grace and forgiveness without repenting or asking.
- ignores his wife’s voice.
- blames his wife for his sin.
- minimizes his sin.
- expects submission.
- expects unquestioning support.
- expects to get his way.
- is intermittently kind and then mean depending on his agenda.
There is a world of difference between the sheep and the wolves. Shepherds who love the sheep need to get this straight.
I’m asking you – no – I’m BEGGING you to keep those 100 women in focus when you preach. Because if you knew who they were when you looked out over that sea of faces, and if their upturned eyes were looking into yours, you might phrase things more carefully.
I don’t know if the problem is that you don’t care about those 100 women—or if the problem is that you aren’t AWARE of those 100 women. Bear with me, and I’ll explain my unwanted confusion.
You see, I was excommunicated from a church that, for many years, I assumed just wasn’t AWARE of me and others like me. I assumed it must be a lack of awareness because I absolutely could not FATHOM anyone so flippantly not caring. It was so foreign to my thinking and so unlike the Jesus I knew.
But now I know they really and truly didn’t care. And it was more than just a lazy apathy, it was a deeply rooted misogyny that was so thick, I could feel it.
But you know what? I don’t know anyone in this new church of yours that I’ve been going to for a couple of years now. I’ve kept my head down. I’ve desperately wanted to go back to my innocent belief that “church folks are good folks who care.”
Assuming you do care, and this was just a matter of being unaware, I have some ideas for how you can preach and teach while keeping a large, wounded segment of your church body in mind.
- Instead of saying “Your body doesn’t belong to you. Your life doesn’t belong to you,” how about saying “Your body and your life belong to Jesus, your Ultimate Authority. As long as you are connected to the Vine and seeing Truth and living out the law of LOVE (which trumps the law according to the gospel of John), you are doing well. Sometimes following Jesus’s authority means disobeying worldly authority (which can also be found in a church and home setting.) An example of this would be a woman being emotionally and spiritually abused in her home. Her body belongs to Jesus, not her abuser. And by the way, not only does YOUR life body belong to Jesus, but your spouse’s life and body belong to Jesus as well. So if you’re not treating your spouse’s life and body with loving honor, then you’re missing the point of grace.”
Now THAT’S a message that would speak living truth to BOTH the victim of abuse AND the abuser. It would deliver hope to a victim and truth to an abuser. (Abusers almost never repent. It’s part of what makes them abusers and not just your average Christian sinner. Getting a personality-disordered individual to repent and change is not your job. That’s God’s job. Telling the TRUTH is your job.)
A victim needs to know that while her life and body belongs to Jesus, her Creator has given only one human being full stewardship over that life and body. And that’s HERSELF. This is not selfish autonomy. This is common sense responsibility and personal accountability. And it saves lives.
2. Instead of saying “If you make a decision autonomously, you are rebellious and will reap the consequences which will be DESTRUCTION!” How about saying, “We need to make decisions before God. Sometimes other people won’t like our decisions, but we need to obey God rather than men. When we make a decision with God’s guidance, we can rest assured that He will bring good from that decision. Maybe not right away, but down the road. He is always working things for our good when we obey Him.”
Now THAT’S a message that communicates FREEDOM to a victim. Freedom to look to GOD as her authority, not fraudulent authority. It also communicates to an abuser that HE IS NOT GOD. And his wife gets to look to God for direction and help. She is not to be controlled by the selfish whims of men.
3. Instead of saying “If you’re offended by my message, you are operating from a worldly perspective,” how about saying, “This message isn’t meant to offend the sensibilities of those who are hurting here today. There may be folks here who are fresh out of battle and bleeding out. This message isn’t meant to shoot another bullet through your chest. But if you are confident you have the right to do whatever you want, whenever you want, with no accountability whatsoever, then this message may offend you. It SHOULD offend you.
Now THAT’S a message that communicates LOVE to a victim. Love that says, “we are here to bind up your wounds, not carve out more bloody places in your heart for us to suck.” It also sends a message to abusers. It lets them know that you actively care about victims. That you don’t pussy foot around covert abusers, hoping to keep their tithe. You hold them accountable even if it means they leave your church.
4. Instead of saying “When people get tired of their marriages, they want a change, and they rebelliously discard their vows and find a new partner,” how about saying, “There may be people in this room who feel tired of their marriage and want a change. They may be having an affair. They may be considering discarding their spouse by filing for divorce. Or EVEN MORE COMMON they may discard their spouse every day in the way they emotionally or spiritually or physically treat them. To be clear, I’m not referring to those who are forced, through no desire of their own, to initiate a divorce to end an abusive marriage. Divorce for the purpose of protection and safety isn’t what I’m talking about. We want our women and children to be emotionally, spiritually, and physically safe here at our church. Always remember there are more ways than one to discard your spouse, and abuse is far more common than divorce.”
Now THAT’S a message that communicates HOPE to a victim. Hope that says she is SAFE to tell the truth in your church without being accused of gossiping and slandering her husband. Hope that says you will support her if she decides it is in her best interest to make legal what has already been destroyed. It also communicates to those 100 abusers that you have zero tolerance for their behaviors. You will not harbor them, enable them, and encourage them. They will repent and turn toward the Living God for mercy, or they will reap the consequences of their behavior.
Why am I so passionate about this? Because I spent 25 years begging for help from the two churches we were members of, and nobody heard or helped me. In the end, I was forced to initiate a divorce on my own with very little support from anyone at my church. Going through a lengthy separation and lengthy divorce was, by far, the most hellish experience of my life. My church not only refused to comfort me through it, they excommunicated me for it.
The destruction came from one place only. The church. Praise God, He is NOT a destroyer of women. I am now in a healthy marriage relationship, and I sat in the front row this morning with a man who loves and respects me. That is part of His redemption story for my life. I trusted Jesus when I was bullied for my faith as a child. I trusted Jesus when I was in my abusive marriage. I trusted Jesus when I separated. I trusted Jesus when I divorced. I trusted Jesus when my church betrayed me. I trusted Jesus when I remarried. And I will trust Jesus as He gives me a platform to advocate for others.
Jesus is the air I breathe, the food I eat, and the Savior I trust.
But I will always hear certain types of sermons through the ears of an abuse survivor. I will always see those one hundred women in the room. I’m asking one simple thing.
I’m asking you to see them, too.
P.S. If you are a pastor or religious leader, I recommend checking out my resource page created just for you HERE.
P.P.S. If you are an abuse survivor who has also suffered harm from your church, I invite you to share a little bit about your experience in the comments section in case any pastors are open to hearing your voices. May God use your testimonies to bring repentance and compassion to this very broken table.
- Wes Feltner's Character is Exposed in His Sermon and His Abusive Response - - […] two years ago I wrote an article HERE exposing some problems with a sermon I heard at Berean Baptist…
- The Podcast: No Wonder Abuse Victims Don’t Speak Up! | To Love, Honor and Vacuum - […] Message to a Baptist Church: You Preached Death to One Hundred Women Today (the article I read an excerpt…
- The Most Beautiful Man: On Being Sad and Finding Hope – LA Through His Eyes - […] Hoffman, N. (2018, April 30). Message to a Baptist Church: You Preached Death to the Hearts of One Hundred…
3 years into my 1st marriage, my “Christian” husband decided to leave the church after a falling out between many congregants and the pastor (he was an “untouchable”) and the last 15 years I went to churches alone and sporadically. The last couple of years I didn’t attend at all. I found no help in church, and boy did I need help! When I’d try to open up, I was told to “not uncover your husband” or scripture was thrown at me with an “Ill pray for you”, give him more sex, and submit more.
It’s actually a bit of a blessing because, due to the severe addiction I’d had for people pleasing, if I had had the church questioning my decisions while guilting & shaming me….I probably would have never left!!
Thank you Natalie! I love the fire and passion God has put into you!!
I appreciate your article. I have been reading “A Church Called Tov” and found this post by googling this pastor’s name who is mentioned in the book.
As a male pastor, I’ve been thinking a lot about (1) what I say and (2) how I say it and (3) how to minister to abuse victims the more I realize how many fractured lives are concealed by the victims because of expectations created by church cultures.
As I read your article, the Holy Spirit put on my heart a struggling wife in my church. I have not comprehended her issues. But maybe that’s my problem. I’m too concerned with understanding issues instead of first seeing and empathizing with her pain.
I know God wants me to call her today and check in with her. I’m praying the Spirit intervenes and we can have a breakthrough.
Forgive me for invading your sisterhood! 🙂
Please, Natalie, could you tell me where you find statistics such as the ones you cited? Specifically the stats about Christian women divorcing in their 40’s – 50’s and the reasons. And the reasons “Christian” men give for divorcing (their own cheating)? Thanks.
All of the stories here are so analogous with my own. But these stats are good pieces of info to back up the plethora of individual stories.
The idea of Christian women divorcing in their 50’s comes from my own observation and working with thousands of women. No stats. The information on the survey of Christian divorcees was provided by this organization in a Vimeo video I took copious notes on several years ago that has since been removed from Vimeo. You can contact them for further information.
Thank you so much!
this is the sermon he preached against others but was really about himself
I am thankful that the Lord helped me to have the courage to finally walk away 6 years ago. I lived in this for 35 years..
It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
I also found a church with a pastor and his wife that loves people..
Thankyou for your desire to help those who don’t see a way to help themselves.
Wonderful sermon! This was such a great series. I enjoyed hearing it again.
Thank you for this. I’m truly struggling with knowing how to handle things. I recently told my husband, “I feel like I’m dead and all I can think of is suicide” he just shrugged and said “join the club”. He pouts when he doesn’t get his own way and the children don’t want to be around him.
I am torn because I think sometimes he does love me but these behaviors are baffling.
When my daughter died he refused to let me hold her. Pulling me away, and telling me I had other children.
I am sick often. I think it’s related to the situation.. but it just makes him angry when I’m sick often.
Intimacy is a struggle and has always been. I don’t feel loved or cared for. But it’s my “Christian duty”. As a young bride I was told I was not allowed to deny my husband even though intimacy itself was a huge trauma to my body making me sick.
I can’t leave the house without being told how to dress, and although I believe in modesty- I don’t understand why I can’t make simple decisions on my own. I am treated like a child-
But then, like others have said, some weird form of mother figure. I’m so confused.
My mother was in an abusive relationship being told to submit to abuse. It took her 25 years to leave. She delved into Christian marriage books and radio that told her to stay. She thought her children needed a father. I didn’t need that sort of a father. I never knew how damaging abuse is on a daughter until I married a loving man. I unlearned so much garbage. Get out is all I can say.
You are very manipulative person. You said “You taught them from the book of Jude that when people get tired of their marriages, they want a change, so rather than staying committed, they decide to “do it their own way.” They say, “I’ll be my own authority.” And they discard their marriages in pursuit of their own selfish desires.”
You are wrong in saying this is wrong. It’s an accurate statement. He never taught that women who are being abused should stay in an abusive marriage or that women are cheated on should stay in that marriage. 100% if you would have asked him, he would have said- they need counseling and she needs to get protection from abuse immediately.
You are extremely divisive with your words and adding things that just weren’t there. He was saying- if they want a change they walk away- like as in bored- not as in- I need a change from the abuse or cheating. This was very cunning and manipulative of you. Yikes.
He offered to meet with you, an elder, your husband, and a wife to address all your concerns- just as the bible says to… Yet you only wanted it in email to manipulate. That is wrong. You aren’t smarter than God – why should you be able to do things against what the bible says? Why is it wrong to use the bible as God says to? You say it’s manipulation abuse, or hiding. That’s not true. Using God’s word and hiding behind it, that’s probably the best place you can be. I’d rather hide behind God’s word then hide behind any human words- especially yours here. The pastor used God’s words, and his commands, and he was willing to take action- and address your questions. But you weren’t. Only in a way that you saw fit your benefit. Your actions here will be exposed.
Whatever this pastor has said or done wrong whether now or in the past, no one has given him a chance to actually talk about it. That’s also wrong. You’re basically trying to make him a prisoner in your jail. God calls us to love one another in spite of our sin, and not to judge, but to to listen to and forgive one another, to allow each other to repent of any wrongs. Has anyone done this for him? I say this because I know that’s where you’ll go with it.
Why are only women the victims? What about writing the story of all the men that are victims too? Male abuse happens more than you think. It’s equally as bad. Our friend was abused by his wife in such a way that he ended up becoming so depressed he took his own life.
Abuse in any form is wrong. I would encourage every woman and man who is being abused to seek help immediately and get yourself out of those situations. Not every Pastor is bad. Talk to the church they can help. Most churches have programs now for abuse. Many spouses still want to be with their husbands or wives that have hurt them. There are programs to help those spouses get better, to become the wives and husbands we hope they would be. They have to be willing to change though. If they aren’t, then that is a marriage that needs to be reassessed. This is exactly what our pastor would have said too. And yes I go to Berean. I love my church, I love the people in it, I can forgive my pastor of what things he’s done wrong in his past because I know he can forgive me of my past, but more importantly that doesn’t matter because God forgives me and God forgave him. I’ll be interested to see if you don’t allow this post to go up, or if you delete it. That will say a lot.
Rachael, you’ve completely missed the point and the spirit behind this article, and you’ve missed the audience of this website. It was so crystal clear, that there isn’t any point in trying to clarify it more.
If you are looking for help for abused males, you can check out shrink4men.com – but this website is for Christian women. (On the sidebar: “Helping WOMEN of faith find hope and healing from emotional and spiritual abuse.)
Jesus wasn’t about placating abusers. He was about comforting the abused. I hope you haven’t made a man your idol. Idols have a way of failing us, but Jesus never fails. On this website I give a voice to victims of abuse. If that makes you uncomfortable, please visit other websites. But while I have focused on the ideas being taught in a sermon and what their effect is on true victims, you have chosen to focus on attacking me as a person on my own website with name-calling and bullying. (Your first and last comments are good examples of this.) I recommend the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend for help with this.
I’m leaving your comment up, not because you dared me to, but so your words will be online when more of the truth about Wes Feltner comes out into the open. [UPDATE: After an investigation, the allegations about Wes Feltner were found to be credible, and they uncovered more sin on his part involving the handling of finances in the church. He was asked to resign, and he has since started a new ministry where he continues to deceive Christians.]
I believe in accountability for the things we all say and do. Forgiveness for it – yes. Plus accountability. These are not exclusive realities.
I hope one day you will put as much passion into helping victims as you have today in assisting a perp.
This was SO good– I too filter sermons thru the years of an abused woman, desperately trying to please her Lord, but feeling trapped by the voices of men. Thank you so much for writing this for all the women cringing in the pews!!
Natalie, I really admire how you are not afraid to defend yourself against such negative comments. My instant response is to curl up into a ball until the punching is over and then cry. I hope I can be brave like you one day.
You can. Their punching is a sign that they are losing. All they can do is punch. Bullies are scared, shame-filled, small creatures. If you are on the receiving end, that is a sign you have made some badass decisions. That is how we change the world, my friend. Not by punching. By taking the punches and marching forward.
My first visit to Natalie’s blog — my first read of this amazing article that she posted two years ago — and this ten-gallon jug of partisan ignorance is the first comment I see on this thread? Sheesh.
Natalie, you have amazing patience, courage and resilience. This article, and the one where you call out Feltner by name and take us “behind the scenes”, make up a one-two punch he can’t get away from. Please keep up the great work.
Natalie, This is my first visit to your site. Thank you for this article with all the useful ways to communicate the same scriptural truth with increased clarity over the canned emotional phrases that make rich tithing abusers happy.
And thank you for leaving this abusive comment from the woman with misplaced emotional bondage to the pastor in question. We all have to navigate conversations with people who defend the sinful actions of an abusive without considering that the most loving thing a person addicted to abusive speech and reviling is to “have nothing to do with them, do not even eat with such a person” 1Cor5.
It is humbling to be called out for the sin of reviling. Pastors are sinners just like the rest of us. Love tells the truth about sin and does whatever it takes to communicate the dangers of continuing in that sin.
God bless the work of your hands.
Its by God’s great love I found Natalie on YouTube the other night. It was exactly where God guided me. I needed to hear her message. My story sounds like many of yours, sad contents but a very good ending.
I’m only 7 months away from my abusive marriage. I actually divorced him 7 years ago but he kept using God, because he knew I loved the Lord, his charm, and manipulation to keep me hoping. He secretly drank, watched pornography, and took movies of me when I didn’t know. This was my third marriage and I already felt much guilt about that and wanted so bad to stay committed like I told God I would. I was his second marriage and he would tell me how crazy his ex was. I had this dream God would put our relationship together if we worked hard for change. I had huge insecurity issues, low self esteem and was easily confused. He used that along with my kind heart to his advantage. He would say I just can’t handle a tough guy or at least I don’t hit you. He charmed others to make everyone like him, tell them just enough about his sins so he could get their sympathy. He then gave them a totally different impression of me than the charming messages of me he would relay to me. He was building his private army and I didn’t know it. We counseled with our pastor who married us but my ex was successful at making him feel sorry for him too which caused me to receive very little support. When we split up it was because he started being physically abusive along with the emotional abuse. His son found out and was so mad at him for physically hurting me it hurt their relationship. But it wasn’t long and his son – a young adult-no longer wanted anything to do with me. He charmed and manipulated his way out of that situation like he did alot of others. 7 months isnt long but its long enough to feel freer than I ever have. I am calmer in my spirit, I’ve surrendered my life, lemented, relinquished my dreams, forgave myself and my ex. God told me I will never be alone. He promises to be my Husband and I am His beloved Bride. I cherish those words! God is always showing me how important I am to Him in many different ways. I am free to see and hear Him do this and hear less of those lies….they are diminishing more and more every day. Thank you Natalie for sharing your story, for being brave. That’s been my prayer too to be brave and I see it becoming my reality. I want to come through this a warrior so strong for my Jesus and support hurting woman who have no support. God be glorified in the wounds and restoration.
You ARE brave – and God will use your voice and your life to love others with His love. That is how we change the world. (((HUGS)))
Natalie, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for writing. Thank you for posting openly where everyone can read what you have to say. Thank you for your advocacy. My cage is only just opening and I don’t really know the way. Reaching out and finding someone to talk to is unbelievably hard – no one really understands (or seems to want to learn to be able to understand.) But I read your blog and appreciate you so much. You get it. You really, really do. You are making a huge difference in my life and I’m sure I speak for hundreds or thousands of other women also. I pray that God blesses you. Abundantly.
With all my heart, thank you.
You’re welcome – and I’m so grateful to have the honor of walking with you.
Something I wanted to add: I no longer trust pastors to handle things correctly.
The first pastor I went to verbally berated me (after I was told by another pastor I could lose my salvation any minute). I told him about that conversation and the fact that my husband is partying and drinking and smoking pot. On top of all that I was put on extremely high birth control after having discovered a pre-cancerous polyp in my uterus. I was losing sleep and losing my sanity. This second pastor looked at me incredulously and said, “How can you expect your husband and kids to support you when you’re acting like this?! Look at you! I can’t BELIEVE someone would tell you you would lose your salvation! Now you need to go back to him and verify what he said!” Completely tore me down.
Another pastor I went to a couple years ago said, after hearing my story, “I am frustrated that you hid this from the church.” I again felt socked in the gut. I told him I was not being deceptive and that I didn’t know what to do!
I have been married 33 years this year. I was initially attracted to my husband because he was so serious about his walk with Christ. He courted me and wooed me and we were married within ten months. I was convinced this was the man God wanted me to marry.
In the first years of our marriage, even though he could be harsh, we were a team. We walked in the Lord together, we faced the same direction. We were convicted about the same things. Then we adopted two kids. He let me do a majority of the work. Gradually he became more and more harsh. One day when our youngest was a newborn, he verbally slashed me for not ironing his shirts just right. He told me I was slipping.
Within just a few short years, he was out drinking and partying with some new friends that were obviously bad influences. I found out during that time he was also smoking pot. This went on for years. I raised the kids myself. I was tired, scared, and overwhelmed. No amount of talking or fighting would change his mind about what he was doing. He didn’t care. He even started to call Christian music “gay”.
He lost his job and ended up having to take another one in another state, so it was our plan to sell our house so the kids and I could be with him. While away he was arrested for a DWAI. I thought that was the end of that and the pot. It was not. To top it off, he told my siblings about his two months of having fun and being a “bachelor” all by himself, but then he started to miss his family. I was crushed as I sat there and heard that.
The drinking continued until he almost killed himself in a drunken rollover. He was arrested with a DUI and is now on probation. The pot continues. He justifies it by insisting God said it was ok. He is nice for a while and then verbally SHREDS me. It hasn’t happened for several months but I am always on my guard.
In the meantime, he is into his own time, his own things. He is disrespectful and moody and the kids and I have to catch him at JUST THE RIGHT time to have him hear us out. He attends Bible study with me on Wednesday but will not attend church with me on Sunday. People see this, they see the discrepancy and I am embarrassed. I will no longer make excuses for his lack of attendance. When people ask, I just tell them he doesn’t want to come on Sundays.
Like so many, I have contemplated suicide. I have thought about moving out but I have no finances and no place to go. I have BEGGED God for deliverance. Somehow. Some way. I don’t know what’s around the corner. And I no longer expect things to change, to get better. I have resigned myself to the fact that this man will never change without a miraculous intervention from the Lord.
My dad was a deacon or elder in every one of the churches we attended. He taught Sunday school, bible studies and preached sermons. He also abused my mom, my sister, and me. It was after my mom passed away (medical complications, not dv) that bits of the truth came out. It still rattles me the number of church folks who made comments like, “We always knew there was something wrong with him,” or “We figured he was abusing your mom and you girls.” One of these people was a Bible school graduate, and the same person who told me as a teen when I confided about my struggle with depression that Christians don’t get depressed. That it’s just a lack of faith. If they suspected we were being abused, why would they ever say that to a teen who was depressed?
I am grappling with my attitude towards the church and people in ministry. I don’t know how to reconcile some of these things, and I sure am not inclined to trust anyone in “ministry” at the moment. I still hold tight to my faith and the Gospel, I just don’t know what to do with some of the rest of this. I hope that churches become the first place someone can go to for help, instead of the last place they dare to.
It’s heartbreaking to read all the stories here about so much abuse. I never in a million years would have thought my former church would add to my abuse, but they did. I felt so alone and at times felt like I was going crazy . At the time I didn’t know I was in an emotionally and psychologically abusive marriage for 20 years. I don’t think my ex-husband was ever really faithful to me. He lied about his double life from the very beginning when we were dating. I believed his lies when I’d find some damning evidence about his double life. He always seemed to have the right thing to say about what I found out or he’d turn it back on me and make me the bad guy. October 2014, I caught him out on a late night drinks date with a just days divorced women that he used to work with. He said he went out with her to “be a good friend to her after her divorce”. He had been meeting her out for before work coffee dates for the previous nine years after she left the company they worked together at. I would not be the least surprised if they met out for other things too.
The next day I went pretty much crawling into my former pastors office. He seemed to be very understanding and I tried my best to tell him what had been going on our whole marriage. I never ever said anything bad about my husband to anyone. Not even my sisters. I kept it all to myself, because I didn’t want to be the type of wife that talked bad about her husband. My husband knew this about me as I told him this many times over that I never spoke bad about him. I felt like I was betraying my husband by talking bad about him to my pastor, but I was desperate for help and thought the pastor could help us. My husband went to see the pastor later on in the day on his own and the pastor didn’t tell him that I had been there that day, so that my husband felt free to speak openly and to see all he would say. Supposedly my ex confessed to going to Canadian strip clubs over ten times and getting lap dances from 100% naked women. I knew about this as he confessed it to me and seemed broken by what he did. This all happened in 2000 when I was pregnant with our second child and also at the same time that I’m now 100% convinced he was having an affair with a co-worker. I forgave him for everything and never brought it up again; it was in our past.
My husband was with the pastor for four hours that day and when he came home from that meeting, the pastor did not call him out on what he did. The pastor tried to “understand” why he would want to help a newly divorced woman. The next week we started couples counseling with the pastor. He asked us both to write out a list on things we could do to make our partner happy and marriage stronger. Also write out things the other partner needed to stop doing. I struggled so hard trying to think of more ways to make my husband happy. I spent our entire marriage trying to make him happy and was constantly doing everything for him and constantly working on myself to be a better wife and mom.
The next two months of counseling were pure hell. I could give example after example of the pastor justifying, rationalizing, minimizing every single thing my husband ever did. I felt like I was the one to blame for everything. I wasn’t doing enough. Being enough. Or I was too much. I felt like I was going crazy! During this time I felt my husband pulling away from me and he started saying he wasn’t sure “we were going to work”. I was devastated as I thought before all this happened we had a very happy marriage. I can now look back and realize that I was the one putting in all the effort and he was just taking, taking, taking. December 17, 2014, he sat me down and read me a very long Divorce Letter and said he was divorcing me because, “I want to be in a marriage that I can be trusted. You can’t give me what I want. Trust.” He said I had “trust issues”. He said I was controlling and had “black and white thinking”. He said a lot of other stuff that came out of nowhere. I felt like I was going crazy and in all honesty, I did go crazy. My brain felt like scrambled eggs for well over a year after this day.
Within a half hour after my husband reading this letter to me, I went to the pastor and let him read the letter. He said, “Jenny, you need to forgive him or you will become bitter.” I was like “WTF?!!” to myself. Sorry for swearing, here on your blog, Natalie. Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be any other words to use. My ex-husband is a leader in the Royal Rangers and those men supported him and loved on him. He was never asked to leave the church. The pastor said, “I only love. Not judge”. My now EX-pastor lied to me three times and then gaslighted me by saying, “I never said that!” There is much, much more. And guess who my ex-husband is married to? The woman I caught him out on a late night drinks date with. His “healthy female friend”. The pastor even went so far to say to my face, right in front of my husband, “Steve was brought up by mostly women. He feels more comfortable around women. That’s why he has to have so many female friends.” Ugh, no!!! He’s a lying, cheating, serial adulterer predator of vulnerable women. Oh, and he’s a snake too for pretending to be this holy Christian man!
What my ex-husband did to me was traumatizing, but what that pastor and church did to me just added to my trauma. I thought I’d be safe going to the pastor for help. He and those men just made everything worse. And when I talked to the pastors wife she said and I quote, “Just trust the men. They know what they are doing.” Nope! Never again! I wish I could get my butt back to church, but I feel ill just thinking about it. I don’t feel safe. I feel so much of church services are a big act for mens big egos. I feel stuck and I don’t know where to go. 🙁 Thanks for your blog, Natalie. I don’t feel alone when I come here.
In the past couple of years I have started reattending church. I am in my mid-twenties. Previously to this I was in a 6 year abusive relationship, and before that I ran away from home when I was 15 to my mums from my dads from a toxic situation. I now have BPD and CPTSD. All these things together, and the judgement that comes from all of this, means I don’t feel safe attending church any more. I did for about 12 months, however, that church and its leadership became toxic. At this church I feel like there is something holding me back. I also know that my testimony has been used and abused at my previous church. I’ve had people tell me to pray away my pain, and to not attend psychology sessions. BPD means that you are more emotional and feel more exposed, but I hate feeling like that, but I feel that the church and the subsequent judgement just rips it apart more and more. I have been in the 100, I am not anymore, but I am still suffering the consequences of having my entire life chomped up and disposed of and being made to feel that nothing is ever enough. I know God is there and has the power to heal but when there is so much else going on, its hard to get past what you have known for so so long. This is what lacks in Christian settings, that someone could be suffering, but the judgement, particularly around sex and relationships is astronomical.
It took me 3 different churches–and 4 pastors among them–to finally get the help I yearned for. I would still be in my destructive relationship if it weren’t for the last church finally realizing the situation I was in, how I wasn’t to blame (at least not as much as my abuser said), turning up the heat on him and not backing down when he pushed back. I filed for divorce and received the help of my church–they finally knew and could see that I was abandoned and I needed to seek safety for myself and 7 kids. (They ultimately even excommunicated him. Reading your words reiterates how thankful I am that they took their responsibility seriously and were not fooled by his grandstanding nor scared by his threats.) It took many years to verbalize what I felt was wrong. I feel silly hanging on to the relationship and trying to fix myself for those 15 years. But, I’m grateful it was *only* 15 years and while I never was strong enough to seek help outside of the church until the end, I’m thankful that God surrounded me with a church family that did what they should have done. It wasn’t too little/too late…well, it was late–but was not little.
I’m almost free. I have been separated for more than a year now and hope the divorce will be final sooner rather than later. I am already so much better emotionally, as are my children. They are in school now (my church is helping me pay for a private xtian school), in my primary custody, and we are surrounded by an amazing support system.
Thank YOU for writing what you’ve written. My children aren’t home this weekend and I’ve spent the time pouring over your words. The things you have written have validated my experiences and verbalized those experiences in ways that I could not. Especially resonating with me is your “Who Burned the House Down” post–I can’t believe how you’ve written what I’ve felt so clearly but been unable to say.
Twenty years ago my husband became angry with me and grabbed me by the throat. I realized in that moment that he could just as easily kill me in his anger as treat me and our children with disdain. His abuses toward me were seldom so physical, and him putting his hand around my neck happened only once, but it was enough to scare me into reaching out for help. I called our then pastor with shaking hands. Hos answer to me was, “What did you do to make him angry?” A piece of me died that day. Never did this pastor speak with my husband and never did he once ask me how things were going at home. I knew right then there would be no help for me from the church.
I’m so sorry this happened to you. Their theology teaches that women are the cause of sin (Eve caused Adam to sin) while also teaching that women are responsible to help men be good. It’s a crazy theology, and it isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. Just in the imaginations of men who love power. I hope you were able to find others to support your efforts to get safe.
Thank you for your posts. I have been a Christian for over 30 years and having grown up in an abusive environment and encountered many erronous beliefs in church (and until recently, participated in them myself) have never been married. I know now that unless I do the hard spiritual work to counter the damage and wrong thinking, I will continue to be both a victim as well as a well meaning inflictor of the abuse you so passionately stand against. I also want to learn about healthy romantic relationships in a Christian context. Do I have to join a closed group for active coaching? Thanks in advance.
Thank you for being so brave and breathing life into 100 women, I am one of them.
These stories are heartbreaking to read and I can relate totally. I was married for 23 years to a cheater, liar gambling and porn addict. I stayed because I simply didn’t believe in divorce and couldn’t imagine putting my 3 sons through the agony of divorce. My ex is extremely charismatic and handsome. He behaves like a committed Christian when in those circles and even started a Christian youth organization in our city….all for show. I have never seen him pray once, he has never even cracked a bible, and sits on his phone in the pew. He is obssessed with Image and status, and me and the family were a huge part of that. I was constantly told how lucky I was to be married to him ; such a wonderful man! He had everyone convinced. I was forgiving and supportive at first when I discovered the gambling addiction and the first affair. He seemed so sincere in his efforts to change. But the behavior continued and worsened. It’s such a long story but eventually he gave me an STD. I told him the sexual part of the marriage was over and that we could wait a year and cohabitiate so that my youngest sone could turn 16, but that in essence the marriage was over. During this time he was still sleeping with many other women. He never stopped trying to have sex with me. He would wait until I was asleep and grope me and try to insert himself etc. and would NOT stop. several times I would get up and leave the bed. I would talk to him about it the next day in tears saying please respect my boundaries and he always denied that he remembered any of it due to his being asleep! There is so much more to the story but basically this man is an abusive narcissist , highly manipulative and a total fraud in every area of his life. I divorced him six months ago and it was the best decision of my life although I struggle with depression, shame , ptsd and massive anxiety still. I’m slowly healing and God has never left my side. I just want to leave a bit of hope here…my church is ELCA Lutheran and when I told my pastor he was enormously supportive and still continues to be. There absolutely are denominations who won’t further traumatize women. If your church is doing this to you GET OUT. Much love to all the women in these comments who, like me tried so hard to forgive, extend grace etc to our husbands only to be totally exploited. There is hope and freedom on the other side and it is not your fault!
I married a man while in church and we had 3 children.
My exhusband got into pornography after we had been married 10 years! He became very verbal abusive! I endured it for 16 years more mainly because of our children. I finally reached a point were I was so depressed I was contemplating suicide!
God sent a good friend just at my lowest point! Because of medical training he realized where I was. He began to talk with me and try to help me. He even tried to talk to my exhusband. They had been good friends.
The night before I was going to kill myself I heard God tell me He released my from my husband. I left him and divorced him.
My friend continued to talk with me! We fell in love and married 2 years later. My hubby brought so much healing into my life! He made me feel like I was worth something. He treasured me.
I lost my sweet hubby a year ago to a brain tumor. But before he passed he and my exhusband became friends again. We had Thanksgiving with my ex and the children and grandchildren. We also had Christmas with them. My exhusband gave my sweetheart a flashlight for Christmas.
When my sweetheart was so sick I came into our room where he was lying on our bed, he had the flashlight my ex had given him in his hand and it was on, I tried to turn it off but my sweetheart wouldn’t let me!
I am grateful the Lord sent my sweetheart into my life. I am a stronger person because of it. I have stayed at my exs house to help my oldest daughter (she lives with him) when she had surgery on her foot that she broke. I no longer have fear of my ex. But i still have no respect for him!
To tell you the truth I have been angry at God for taking my sweetheart, but I am discovering that God brought him into my life to make me a stronger person.
I am now facing surgey because I have endometrial cancer. Why all that has happened in my life I don’t understand, the abuse as a child, teenager and adult, then finding a true love only to have him 9 years. But down deep I still trust and love God.
Thankyou for sharing this, I thought I was alone.
I had three churches tell me it was my fault and I needed to be a better and more submissive wife. But in the end I sought help elsewhere, Focus on the Family. the pastor on the phone explained some of the truths you shared and I had hope for the first time in 9 years that God would not hate me for getting to a safe place. Churches need to be educated on how to deal with abuse. I now attend a church that I found during my separation and when I went through the divorce they supported me instead of condemning me. Thank you for sharing.
A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM with divorce: the remarriage. So many ladies have traded in one husband who has big problems for a second or third husband who also has big problems. Then the abused or mistreated wife: What does she bring to the second or third marriage? Her own wounds. So many women going thru divorce swear; they will never remarry, but actually they will. And the guy they remarry will have his own baggage/wounds plus hers. So though I am more than empathetic for a lot of wives in very difficult marriages; divorce and remarriage is generally not a great fix as statistics have shown over the last decades.
It’s tough as is being a single divorced woman. No easy answers.
I’m remarried to a wonderful man, and God has used that relationship to heal me deeply. I also personally know several survivors who are happily remarried, some for decades. Remarriage is definitely an option!
I’m happily married the second time as well!
The key is getting the help you need for your part in the marriage before taking on a new relationship!
My husband and I were considered the perfect couple, and the model family. We have 7 children. We both served faithfully in our church, and held many high callings. Everyone loves my husband. He is charming, charismatic, and has a great sense of humor. These qualities are what drew me to him. We were friends for 6 years before we married. After marrying him, I saw a side of him I had never seen. He was angry and explosive. He did not respect my body as my own. He did not stop when I said No.
Nine months into our marriage, I was 7 months pregnant. We were vacationing with his parent. We shared a hotel room with them. A few minutes after tucking into bed, my husband wanted to have sex, I didn’t. His mother’s head was three feet from mine, his father’s maybe 5 feet! I told him No! at least 7 or eight times. I held my underwear on as he tried to pull it off. I pulled away from him and curled up around my large pregnant belly, in the fetal position, to protect myself, but he would not stop. He raped me, as his mother and father lay there in the bed next to us. I knew they were listening because we had just turned out the light a few minutes earlier, and all the commotion that we were making as I struggled to stop him, surely had aroused their full attention. I felt completely humiliated. I felt violated and betrayed. Why would he do this to me? I was too embarrassed to get up and go to the bathroom and clean myself up.
Over the next 19 years, I would struggle to understand how the man who was supposed to love and cherish me, a man so loved and respected in the public eye, could use and toss me, at his discretion like an old discarded rag. I would wake broken and frightened by the things he would do to me in the night. I was not safe in my own bed.
My husband, on the other hand, would wake and carry on as if nothing had happened. After years and years of this abuse, I began to suffer horrible nightmares. I would dream that there were hands all over my body, touching me under my clothing and I could not pull them off of me…. The nightmares were so terrifying, I would wake the next morning feeling completely exhausted and traumatized. Over time, I began to wake during these horrible dreams to discover that it was really happening to me, and it was my husband doing it to me. When I stirred and pulled away, my husband would instantly stop and pretend he was asleep. I asked him to stop doing this to me, and I explained how it was causing me nightmares. He denied doing it. He didn’t stop. He later told me his behaviors were normal and I shouldn’t be bothered by them, that there was something wrong with me.
He did not respect my choice to decide what happened to my body whether I was conscious or unconcious.
To our church and community, we appeared the perfect family, and were constantly told we were the perfect family. Behind closed doors, I lived with a completely different human being than they saw. I dealt with all the family crisis alone, because my husband was just “checked out”. He pretended what was happening, wasn’t. When I called him in utter distress from the ER to tell him our son was threatening suicide, he took the information and hung up. He did not come to support me or our son. And later it was discussed, because he didn’t want to talk about. When I called and told him our infant son was being sent from the doctors office to the hospital, that they wanted to arrange for an ambulance to take him there if I could not drive him directly there without stopping, my husband took the information and hung up. He made no attempt to come and support me or our child. I dealt with everything alone. When I was broke down on the side of the road in distant city with 5 small children in the car and it was getting dusk, he told me I could try to get it running or find a motel room. He stayed home in our comfy warm house and made no attempt to come and help us. When I became pregnant with our sixth child, he was so upset that I was pregnant, that he did not hardly speak to me the whole pregnancy. He refused to acknowledge that I was pregnant, and refused to talk about the baby. I felt banished in my own home. Thirty six hours before my water broke and I went into labor with our child, he drove away with our other children, after telling me there was no room for me on the family vacation that we had planned on taking together. When I called to tell him my water broke, he took the information and hung up. I called him two more times, giving him updates on my labor. Somehow I thought he would still come, that he would want to be there for me and the baby. The last time I called, I told him my dad had picked me up and we were on our way to the hospital. He told me the kids needed him, and hung up the phone.
Something inside me broke that day. Parts of me died. I have never quite recovered from those 9 months.
The world sees the man I married. I see the man I live with. I want to be with the man they see, the man I married. I want to run from and hide from the man I live with. He hurts me, without any sense of remorse. He uses and discards me. He pretends what is happening, isn’t happening. He tells me I shouldn’t feel what I feel. He tells me I am oversensitive, that I make a big deal out of everythjng. He tells me I make him feel unloved. He tells me lies even when he knows I know the truth.
I am afraid of him. He gets in my face and stares through me to intimidate me. He yells if I question his actions. I worry about my children. If I divorce him, he has implied that he will fight for custody just to spite me. It’s about looking good and winning to him, if he smears their mother’s reputation with unthinkable lies and gains custody of the children, it must mean he is a good dad, right? He will look good. His image is everything.
He does not see me as a living, breathing, human being. I am of use to him only to fulfill his needs, and if I am not fulfilling his needs as he desires, I am of no worth to him. I did not deserve basic human rights as I WAS fulfilling his every need, now that I am enforcing healthy boundaries, I am certainly not deserving of any form of human decency.
I have been seperated from my husband for more than a year now. People still cannot believe I left him. They ask me why. They tell me, surely you will work this out…you are the perfect couple, you have the perfect family….He is a good man.
This good man plays the victim. He admits no wrong, takes no responsibility for his behaviors, feels no remorse, continues to use intimidation, and verbally and emotionally abuse me while we are seperated. He spoils the kids whenever he can. They love him, as any child would.
It took me 19 years to break my silence.
I never told a single soul what was really happening behind closed doors. I thought I was protecting my family and my husband. I truly thought one day he would wake up, realize he was hurting us, and he would stop, and the man I had married would come back to me.
That never happened.
I suffered terrible, agonizing PTSD from the trauma I lived through at my husband’s hands….for years. The last couple of years, I cried every time he had sex with my body. His pillow was soaked with my tears. He knew. He didn’t care. He got what he wanted.
Two weeks before I left my husband, I remember pleading with God to end my agony. Death felt like a welcome release. I could not see any way out of the darkness. Divorce, or leaving my husband, had never once crossed my mind. I was in an ETERNAL MARRIAGE. You work through things, you don’t divorce. That is how I was raised, and that is what I believed.
I felt death was imminent. I was going to physically die, or mentally die. Either way, I was going to die.
Then, and only then, did I find the strength, and will, to break my silence. I felt speaking about my husband’s behaviors would mean betraying him, and I did not want to do that. But I was literally dying, and the thought of leaving my 7 children motherless in this world was what helped me realize I needed to live, and unless I found help, that wasn’t going to happen.
I reached out to a trusted friend, who also happened to be my bishop. I cancelled 2 appointments I had made with him, before finally finding the strength to break my silence. He listened. I thought he understood. Then a few days later he told me men and women are just different, their needs are different, and we each just need to just give a little and meet in the middle.
I had told him I felt raped and violated by what my husband did to me. I felt used and tossed. I felt abandoned and betrayed.
I realize now those words were too strong for him. He could not wrap his head around the image of my husband that he saw, and the words I was telling him. They did not match up. The truth was too strong for him.
I felt the door of the Lord slam in my face that day. The words of my bishop echoed the words of my husband….I was over reacting, my perceptions of these events I lived weren’t accurate, there was something wrong with me.
That was very hard for me to swallow. A church I had been faithful in for 42 years of my life had just sided with my abuser,
had extended and then almost immediately pulled their had away and brushed me under the rug, because what I had to say was ugly, it was monstrous, it was extremely uncomfortable to hear about, and certainly not representative of the man they knew.
I felt utterly alone.
Luckily, my faith in God remained, though my faith in the leaders of his church was lost. Two weeks after I told my bishop I felt raped and violated by what my husband did to me, the bishop asked my husband to address the congregation of our church on Christ like love. My husband gave a moving sermon. I remember thinking, If I did not know what I know, I would look at him and think, That is the kind of man I want to be with.
Having the door of the Lord shut in my face woke me up to one great reality. No one was going to save me. No one was going to rescue me. Only I could save me.
And that is what I did. I packed some clothes for me and my children and left.
Something happened inside of me when I chose to rescue “Me”. I let go of the dying “me”, the rotting carcass the abuse had left, and I grabbed hold of the nearly lifeless “me” that remained, and I willed it to live…..To take a breath AND LIVE!
To those bishops and pastors of the Lord’s children I would say,
For a believing woman to come forward and speak the unspeakable, to own the ugly truth of what has been inflicted upon her against her will, to admit the man she trusted her life with has no regard for her life, to admit she has seen and has tread a world of secrets, silence, terror and shame, while smiling to the outside world in order to protect all that she loves from certain destruction, keeping up the appearance of roses and sunshine, knowing it is not real, it is a painted picture only….for a woman of faith to come to you and admit that she is a victim of abuse by the hands of her chosen eternal companion…..This very act alone of breaking that silence, of piercing the darkness with the light of truth…uttered in her very own spoken words…..this action is excruciatingly painful, EXCRUCIATINGLY PAINFUL, as it means owning the truth, when you want desperately to believe it is not the truth.
I felt I spoke those words to my bishop with my last breath. It took all my strength to utter those words. Just to hear them come out of my own mouth was horrifying to my own ears.
You who watch over the flocks of God, remember this the next time a faithful woman who once stood tall and strong crawls into your office, broken and bleeding. Just remember, the things she she tells you did not happen once, not even once a year, or once a month. She crawls, broken and bleeding because she has fought the dragons of darkness day in and day out, year after year after year, always with hope that one day the dragons will disappear, and leave her with the man she fell in love with, the one who loved her. She is broken and dying because she has loved unconditionally, she has held out hope in a hopeless situation, she has forgiven and forgiven and forgiven, and she never gave up believing. That is why she is so tattered and worn. She was faithful. She never left her post even when the cost was great, and the darkness tore at her soul until all that was left was shreds….She stayed through the darkest of night, and terror of days.
She gave everything.
BELIEVE HER. You very well could be the only person she ever finds strength to tell.
Your story is heart breaking and all too common. Thank you for your willingness to share it here so others can read it and know they are not alone, and there is hope. You’ve been through hell on earth. I pray God will heal you and give you a taste of His goodness in the land of the living.
This is a great article. I can’t tell you how many churches tote around a certain type of counseling that is so detrimental to the spiritual, physical and emotional well being of people and do it in the name of God. Thank you for being a voice and teaching people they do not have to live like this and there is nothing biblical about it.
P.S. women can be pastors.
So many stories of Christian women in pain. My former husband was at seminary (to become a marriage counselor) when he decided he needed to “create himself” so he left. later I found out he was having two affairs, one with one of my friends who was also a seminary student. The other was with a woman he worked with. But that was just the iceberg (alcoholism, numerous affairs, embezzlement, pornography). What was so painful is that I lost all my Christian friends. They scattered and disappeared, as if I were contagious. The seminary gave me and my son 3 days to get off the seminary campus once my former husband left us. no money, no place to live, not even a car. The shame, guilt and loneliness were almost unbearable. His ability to con people was amazing. I thought I was going crazy. To this day I struggle to trust others.
Thank you for this article.. my words escape me right now so I’m not able to share my story as of yet.. I’m still finding my voice & strength to share. Some days it pours out, other days I can’t even… This article is spot on.. thank you so much. I’m a Covert Narcissistic abuse survivor. Today is world narcissist abuse awareness day, June 1st.
I’m currently in the middle of a divorce. No one from the church I was at- where my ex preaches- reached out or visited me. My own parents ex communicated me and disfellowshipped me. I am
Thankful to God who is faithful and because of him my Children and I are now safe and happier than ever after moving to a new house and a new town just two weeks ago. I was physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually abused. I refuse to stay in any toxic relationship anymore. I’m sharing here to give hope
That even if no one supports you and even works against you- you can break free with Gods help.
II have been in an abusive Christian marriage for 24 years now and still am. It has taken me years to realise what was happening. I spent years doing research trying to find a reason for my husbands vacillating behavior varying between autism, bipolarité, narcissism to just plain rebellion against God.
I know I should leave but I fear loneliness and financial hardship and also making life awkward for my now nearly grown children. I have always had God hâtes divorce drummed into me and I want to be obedient to God. I feel like the victim of a weird mind game alternating between you husband being nice (not usually for longer than two days) then back to using his annoyed disrespectful tone for no reason which destroys me inside. He doesn’t take my concerns seriously and they are just left unresolved.
I worry about being left on my own even though I know I am a fair attractive woman. But I am nearly 50 and all but one of my three children still at home. My loving female certain friends have been very supportive listening to me pouring out my woes for years. But even they send mixed messages from leave him and get out to see his good points and make it work that way, honour tbe husband you have. And I am left feeling confused like a rabbit in headlights not knowing which way to move.
At the end of my tether last year, I wrote a letter to our church pastor outlining the situation and at first he was sympathetic however he quickly seemed to want to wash his hands of us and did nothing. He suggested counseling for me with a woman from church who has never even bothered to say hello to me and he would met my husband for a discussion from time to time as my husband refuses counsof any sort. Needless to say I declined. And then nothing from our church. Not even a How are things? Like there was never a problem. I continue to feel like I live a lie and now my husband has eve n been given a preaching slot as a precursor to bing asked to become an elder I think! It’s like he is being rewarded ! While behind closed doors he talks to his family like you wouldn’t talk to your worst enemy ! He is charming and funny at church and everyone seems to think he is marvelous ! I am sure people think I made a fuss about nothing and everything must be fine as I am still here!
How do I find the strength and resolve to leave ? I am not physically abused and some would say I have a good standard of life. But I don’t feel cherished and really truly loved. I only feel loved when I don’t challenge my husband on anything or when I am toeing he line in his view. I long to return to the early days when we seemed do in love but were we ever REALLY ?
I see myself as a strong capable woman yet why am I so paralysed when it comes to making a stand and actually divorcing him as I have threatened so many times to do?
You might be helped by the book: Steps to Freedom by Don Hennessy. https://amzn.to/2wBZNN8
Many women aren’t able to get out until they decide not to make decisions based on what everyone around them is saying – including their spouse. They need to “come into their own” and take responsibility for their own lives, to the point where it no longer matters what all the opinions “out there” are.
God gave your life and your body to YOU. You get your mail from God, not people. I recommend reading some books to help you identify emotional abuse (another good one is Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas) in your own relationship, some books that teach the TRUTH about abuse and divorce (Divorce, Remarriage and the Church by David Instone Brewer), and listen to some resources that will help you deprogram from lies (Patrick Doyle’s Youtube videos are excellent for this.)
Also, my private support group, Flying Free, is notorious for helping women who are in exactly your shoes. 🙂 It’s opening up in a couple of weeks, so be sure to get on my mailing list to find out more.
What a flood of confirmation to so many! I am grateful for this site, and that I was referred to it by a friend who regretted not being more supportive when I wanted to flee with my four children. I knew she needed to do what she had the most peace with, and I accepted it. However, the next year and a half was the worst, of our 26 year marriage, which was not unlike most of what has been shared on Flying Free Now.
I am grateful to be out now for 6 years. My former has been dependent on anti depressants, anti anxiety and to some extent sleeping pills since my 3rd pregnancy. In his case, these strengthen his inability to empathize. I have my view, and I cannot change him, but I was somewhat ignorant, and very gullible. SO much was lost, and I do often wish I had gotten out much sooner….he probably does too,) but I started over at 53, with a 7 and an 11 year old still at home with me.
God has blessed and directed and been very gracious, in spite of my breaking away from conservative Christianity…the whole home based type., and my theology in general. My faith and walk have been changed. I am learning…and FEAR IS MUCH LESS OF A GUIDING FORCE. There are times I cling to my simple roots, and my Heavenly Father, and others when it’s hard to not have all the answers about so much….when I feel like I am saying say, “Why?” to empty space. But God is so faithful and loving and gracious and liberal about it all.
Recently, I ran into a gal I knew 37 years ago. We had not talked for 20 years. GIrlfriend has been a counselor in a very respected group, for many years, and remains strong in her Christian faith.
In 1981 we were both part of a young, contemporary church, in its infancy, being lead by a dynamic Jesus loving man, My friend was happily married, I was a single from a divorced family, wanting nothing more than to follow instructions and get it “right.” I was known for my commitment to the Lord and the fellowship there. GIrlfriend was the “parent” in her divorced family, and grew up much faster that I, who had been “set up” by a mom with her own deep issues leading to a lot of narcissistic behavior.
Anyway, what I WANT TO SAY HERE is that Girlfriend and I sat under the same teaching for 3 years. There was something that that dear pastor started teaching us all back then, and STILL TEACHES, the now largest church in my town…it is his definition …”LOVE IS A COMMITTMENT YOU MAKE, TO DO WHAT’S BEST FOR THE OTHER PERSON, NO MATTER WHAT IT COSTS YOU.” Along with all my single friends, I had this memorized….and it was my goal for my married life.
I had opportunity to meet with Girlfriend last month, and I quoted this definition to her, expecting her to remember it well. Instead, she shook her head in utter disbelief, and said, “I don’t remember that! NO..,”. Her jaw had dropped….but she believed me. We deducted that it had a lot to do with her being married to a good, healthy, godly man. “Submission,” was never an issue in their marriage because he valued her, and she him. She said, with her therapist, and her Christian “hat” on, “THAT SORT OF TEACHING IS VOID OF HEALTHY BOUNDARIES WHICH NEED TO BE TAUGHT….,” She also said it was very, very grievous (in her profession,)for her to see so many women out of so many churches, who felt they had no voice, ….SHE KNOWS. She said she was sorry that I had to endure so many years…..with a lot of bad info.
That definition of love , “sounds” kinda good, kinda Christlike and selfless…but when things really started to light up for me in my marriage, I realized, I DID NOT KNOW what was “best” for the other person. All I knew was how to avoid chaos…sort of. NO SOLUTION. NO substitute for truth. I was NOT doing what was best for my husband, …and I definitely wasn’t doing what was best for myself and the four precious children that were being raised in such unhealthy “normal.” No no no.
I attend A.R.M.S. Classes. These are great. Books, solid counsellors…and learning to trust the gut GOD gave ME! What Natalie is sharing is to be trusted. We need this to help us LEARN . It’s not about being rebellious and bitter, but wise and strong, with dignity. Being healthy is the best hope for me, AND my children. I can only be responsible for ME….Lordy, that’s enough!!!!!
My husband was youth pastor at our church of 1800 members. He had an affair for 2 years before I found out. For years I suffered emotional abuse. No matter how great of a person or how much I did, I was never enough. When I began to sense something was going on he cut me off emotionally and refused to ever take responsibility for his actions. Everything was always my fault. After I found out about the affair he became spiritually abusive as well. He refused to move out of the house and kept telling me I was controlling, negative, hateful, and how could anyone be married to me. He manipulated scripture to support his reasons for the affair and blamed me for everything. He accused me of slander and spreading lies about him. He turned his family against me and they refused to help me at all. They kept telling me I was being difficult and should just be patient and wait it out. They avoided me and his sister, who was a church member and who claimed to be a godly spiritual leader, yelled profanities at me and told me I was a horrible person in rather colorful language. I begged the church for help and I was passed off to an associate pastor to “deal” with me. They “appeared” supportive but didn’t want to do anything to tarnish their image to the public. They helped from afar but kept trying to convince me that my husband was rational and if I would just talk to him we could work things out. Everyone in our church kept saying that my husband would “do the right thing”. They refused to practice tough love and call out one of their own for his blatant and continual sin. They sent us to a marriage counselor who only continued the emotional abuse and every visit brought me lower and lower until I “roared” and said “ENOUGH”! He finally moved out as he told me to my face that he was pursuing the relationship, never apologized, and then proceeded to tell me how he wanted me to live my life so he could still have his kids and his mistress. This began a spiritual journey that changed my life. I began to recognize through scripture how I had lost my voice and my identity in Christ. I filed for Divorce praying he would change–he didn’t care. I clung to Psalm 46:10 that said “Be still and know that I am God.” I trusted and prayed like I’d never done before. I begged and pleaded with God and continued to take steps forward in blind faith. I continued to fight the “grey area” that my church kept living in. They kept saying he wasn’t so bad and refusing to call adultery for what it was. My life was hell on earth and I never thought I would ever get out of it because of my kids. I finally did the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life…I filed for relocation and full physical custody of my kids. God continued to ask for me to trust and be still. I waited for deadlines to pass and made plans that required 100% leaps of faith. I took a job trusting I would win custody, I packed boxes, trusting God would bring things to pass. I bought plane tickets and booked moving trucks…all the while enduring persecution, hatred, and indifference by my church, friends, family, and of course my husband who just laughed and scoffed at my idiotic craziness. I finally had a court hearing that after 4 hours of enduring more lies and abuse was awarded full physical custody of my kids. God won! The next day I moved 1500 miles away WITH my 3 children. For a few days I received texts and calls from my husband apologizing and begging me to come back. He changed his song and dance and said he wanted to work on our marriage. Ha! He admitted that he hadn’t broken up with his mistress. I said if you love me, prove it…move. He didn’t. No surprise there. It’s now been one year since I filed for divorce and he still won’t sign papers. He has not only walked away from his so called faith (that even now question if it was ever real), he abandoned his children, and continues to push at my boundaries and spew hatred and lies at me. He won’t do anything to support his children beyond child support which we all know barely covers rent. His entire family has cut me off and only believe his lies. But—GOD IS GOOD! I have an amazing church family here that sees sin for what it is. They have embraced us and loved our family and I have never felt so FREE!!! My own family has given me a place to live for free, they have supported me in so many ways. I have a Christian therapist who is helping my kids and I to find hope and healing. There are days it’s hard, when my broken heart is crushingly painful. When I see my husband living against God’s rules and continuing in adultery and in the eyes of the world is winning. When the emotional abuse is taken out on my kids, when the rejection and cruelty from my husband doesn’t stop. When my kids ask hard questions about Dad and understand his choices as going against the Bible. Days when I want to say like the Psalmist “oh that I had wings of a dove that I could fly away and be at rest…”. But I have an amazing job, a Christian kick-butt lawyer, and the belief that God rescued me from a horrible marriage and has set me free to find my identity in Christ. I no longer live in fear and with the futility of trying to achieve the approval of my husband. I’m a work in progress but am SO FREE!! Thank you so much for how your blog has encouraged and validated so many thoughts and feelings. You are an incredible blessing!!! Would love to hear/read more about other Christian women who survived a marriage broken by adultery.
Sherri! Please tell me how you got full custody!!! I am almost there and desperately need that to get them away from their father. My kids are 5,4 and 3 months. The only chance they have at being successful in a single home is with me in a stable loving environment and away from their narcissistic, alcoholic, porn addicted father!
I’m currently in a the middle of a divorce. My husband has abusive for years, physical, threatening and emotional abuse day in and day out. We got help initially but strangely enough it was all turned on me. I need to be more loving, more submissive, more gracious less nagging, let go of my family, support my husband and my husband was just to say nice things to be and be understanding because woman are emotionally weak. I was told the fact that I spent more time in my bible than my husband was a shame on me.
Long story short, we stayed together and the abuse got worse. It turned me into a person I didn’t recognise and it resulted in me in a desperate attempt to find relief and freedom, running about it the wrong way. Things got ugly, I confessed, repentant and laid my soul bare. Unfortunately the minute I started speaking about the abuse things turned ugly. Pastor tried to steal (my husband was the son) I was told I needed to submit and put others as more important even unto death to glorify God and then when I said no more, I was read out of the church. Told I wasn’t saved, I was deceived by Satan, unloving to a gracious husband and awaiting God’s punishment.
Of course the church supported and defended my husband despite the abuse and affair (which he hit and lied about still to this day)
Thankfully I have moved back home to Australia a good 100,000miles away from him and their poisonous lies. I am in a great church now that values and appreciates woman. I have 6 more months left before I can file for the divorce, which thankfully can be done online over here.
But the undoing of what I have believed about myself is deep rooted, it’s going to take some time to be released from that.
THANK YOU. For this über-safe and completely empathetic place to come to affirm I. Am. Not. Crazy. And I am still lavishly loved my my Heavenly Father. Reading this article and thought, “This has been my life the last 6 years.” I’m 4 month’s post-divorce. 12 month’s post-separation. I was dead inside. I made the very, very traumatic decision to divorce when my abuser, my “covenant husband”, looked me in my eyes and said, “I know what the Bible says; I just don’t want to be married to you anymore.” I am SO thankful to have found this blog. Thank you. Thank you.
My story written by you Natalie. Abused women wrestle mentally and emotionally with the decision to leave their marriages and their churches. It wasn’t until the pain of staying in my abusive marriage outweighed the fear of leaving did I make the decision. And I have to make the decision to fight for me everyday or I will go back the relationship as I did in th past. Now that I’m divorcing the hellish psychological games continue. Speaking of the churches lack of understanding recently I went back to our former church of 18 years to see our children, who still attend with my ex, be baptized. The very same pastor that I cried out to about the abouse hugged my ex abuser and barely waved at me. I was mortified and the cool treatment I received from other parishioners as well. I left holding my head high. If they could have walked a day in my shoes then more understanding and live would have been present. I felt so alone that day. I felt so unloved AT CHURCH! It was so painful. Thank you Natalie. My appreciation for your courage and advocacy cannot be measured or expressed. I spent 18 years in a relationship like this and I also homeschooled. Our stories relate in so many levels.
My marriage was not great but I always had a belief that it was going to be wonderfully used by God. I found out after 11 years of marriage that my husband was leading a double life. We were extremely active in our church and they were very involved in helping me and trying to help my husband after we found out about the alcoholism, adultery, and partying. They have supported me with everything from financial needs to counseling and everything in between. They continue to check up on me even though we had to move away. My parent’s church has also gone above and beyond for me even though I just started going to their church.
I was a Pastor’s wife for over 25 years. My husband was an emotionally, mentally and spirtually abusive man. I stayed married for 39 years, we were separated for the last 3 years, and I filed for divorce. Everything, and I mean everything that didn’t go “his way” was my fault. There wre days when I could not even say hello right, according to him.
I prayed with him, asking that we go to counseling, but the answer was always, there is no money for that, or that he didn’t need any counseling. After beig married from age 19 to age 56 to the same man, I left. I was beaten down emotionally so badly, I shook, was very jumpy around loud noises, and my blood pressure was stroke levels.
Staying with an abusive spouse doesn’t make us a Godly person, it makes us a shell of a human being. The church leaders were rude, and down right mean to me, and I walked away from that denomination. Praise God there are churches who love you through the pain, the scars, and the loss of “friends” who turn the other way.
I came into the marriage with 3 children from my first marriage (to a pathological liar). My new husband and I added a child together. It was his first marriage. Serious problems arose within the first year – I attributed it to his not having children before. Our first counselings with the ministers were helpful, but as time went on, and the problems became more severe (I didn’t recognize the gaslighting and blame-shifting for what they were) the ministers turned against me, saying that I “hated authority” and that I needed to “submit the more perfectly”. At one point my husband counseled separately and came home to tell me that the minister said I could not attend services for awhile – later that minister said he had only meant for me to stay home and rest, as my health was being severely compromised. Eventually that minister grumbled that I kept coming back with “the same old drivel”. There was a change of ministers, and the new minister seemed understanding at first, but as the problems continued, he too, turned and began attacking me. My husband had a clever trick – he would say that he didn’t understand why I was unhappy, that he thought we had a good marriage. The minister would then ask me what was going on, and when I would tell him, my husband would say, ‘I don’t know why she says these things”, which led the minister to attack me more viciously, blaming me 100% for the marriage problems. I won’t go into all that my husband was doing to the children and me, but after his father died suddenly and his mother had serious dementia issues, I now believe that my husband determined that he had to get rid of me, because he stood to inherit a sizable amount of money when his mother died, which would have been considered in a divorce after her death – in other words, he had to get me out of the picture before she died. I am leaving out many details of a nearly 15 year marriage, but I filed for divorce and moved back to my home state with the children who were still at home. He did not ask for joint custody of our child (Thank God!) The ministry of the church were very hostile toward me over the separation and divorce, and began harassing me to “work toward reconciliation” while at the same time, inviting him to participate in Singles Activities and Singles Bible Studies. I even received a hostile letter from the Pastor General of the denomination, scolding me for causing all of the problems in the marriage and chastising me for being unwilling to reconcile. In all of this, my husband expressed no interest in reconciling, saying that he could see by my attitude that it wouldn’t work. During this time, the church (Worldwide Church of God, headquartered in Pasadena, CA) went through a major breakup and changes in leadership, doctrines and name, with many offshoots and now offshoots of offshoots. Long story short, after the changes in the church, they stopped harassing me, and left me alone. Eventually I stopped attending the services, and tried out other churches, but found that a middle-aged divorced woman is not usually welcome in many churches. There is so much more I could write in telling of the tortuous attacks I received, including a late night phone call from the wife of one of the ministers at “Headquarters”. While ministers who didn’t know the whole history were kind to me, and many years have gone by, it saddens me deeply to hear and read of other women still being treated the way I was. It is long past time for churches to recognize abuse in all forms, for the Satanic crime that it is.
Thank you for this I just left a 20 year marriage ~ I am the mother of 7 children & this perfectly describes everything about my life. I am now in a good church and am dating (6 months) a wonderful Christian man who is respectful and loving towards me!
Wow, you sure hit a lot of nails on the head. I was married 25 years to an emotional, spiritual, and financial abuser. He was very covert, and I see now, a narcissist. I spent years wondering why I always felt pretty much off the bottom of his list of priorities, in spite of his words and promises to the contrary. I finally went to my pastor with my confusion and concerns, and was listened to in a positive way. I thought I he actually got it. Then, my husband went and talked to him, and what I had shared all went out the window. After then I didn’t have a chance. Shortly after my husband walked out on us, and did not return to the church. I was always worried he would come back, and asked what would happen. I was told my ex was just as welcome as I was. I now knew it was no longer safe to share anything with my pastor. He always acted concerned for me, but I understood he was just as “concerned” for my ex, if not more so. Because we were separated and heading for divorce, and because the pastor chose to think that it was a personal decision and had nothing to do with abuse, the church members were told to stay out of it, not to help or sympathize or anything. However, though my ex wasn’t attending at the time, he was still in contact with many of the members, and he talked freely, and they listened. People en masse started pulling away from me, and I found myself very alone. Then, the inevitable happened. Three years after he left, he showed up with his fiancee. She had come a few times, lying about who she was, spying on me and my children, so I had been watching the door for weeks. Because it is stressful in the extreme to be anywhere near him for myself and my eldest daughter, we promptly left. I emailed the pastor detailing my concerns about my ex’s evil character, using scripture and examples, and said that if he attended I could not. Less than 24 hours later I received an email from the pastor telling me very coldly that he had tried to be a help but as this was how I felt then do not come back. Just like that, I was without a church, and remain so to this day. My ex was welcomed with open arms, and I felt so stabbed in the back it was almost more than I could bear. But, God is more than faithful, and He has been so wonderful to me. I am so much closer to Him and just long to be in His presence more than anything. It still hurts, and I feel for the people who are allowing themselves to be deceived (not a single person has contacted me since I was outed) by such a despicable wolf in sheep’s clothing. I so wish I could forward this post to the pastor, but it would be pointless, and probably just earn me more hard words and pain.
Thank your for writing this. I am an abuse victim still undergoing the struggles of divorce, custody all while trying to be a single parent and full time student. This post was very triggering but also encouraging to know there are people who care about this message as I do.
When I was in my marriage I reached out to so any people, seeking help, comfort, and a way out. All I ever found was peoole encouraging me to be patient with my husband and to pray for him. They said they would pray foe me when prayer was the last thing I needed. One lady from church even drove me back to my house after I had come to her with my bags packed. That alone is a difficult thing to do for someone in a DV situation. I just remember that after that I felt utterly alone and rejected God and even tried to kill myself because I saw no other way out.
Thankfully God made moves for me and took me and my son out of that situation. I am now attending Biola University where I am learning the true meaning of freedom IN Christ and His love. I hope to one day find what you have found in a healthy relationship.
I counseled with my pastor for 8 years, I told him countless stories of abuse and neglect against me and my children. I was repeatedly told I had no biblical grounds for divorce, he held a “softer” view of abuse than I did, this sounded more like disrespect and I should do this, this and this. My ex was not held accountable for any of it due to the fact that he was not a member and therefore could not be disciplined in the same way I could. The pastor insisted on following the Matthew 18 principle, at least 6 times with no finality. I was told I would be disciplined by God after I filed, that my life would be extremely difficult. Much harder than it was at that moment. Members of the church were encouraged to not speak to me unless they were dealing with my sin. After 8 years of attempting reconciliation and healing in my marriage I was told to consider whether I should participate at the Lord’s table until I reconciled. The final straw was after a meeting with 5 men, my ex included, the absolute most horrible hour of my life. They didn’t even have the decency to look me in the eye. Except for one precious man who responded to the Holy Spirit’s call and heard me. He didn’t just listen, he heard. Praise God. I left that place and have never looked back. (My ex currently attends this church with his “new” girlfriend) I am divorced one year today, God has poured out his grace on me. He has blessed me beyond my wildest imagination. Don’t get me wrong, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Brutally hard but Jesus showed up in every second of it and I am now “flying free”. My life is filled with joy and peace. Praise God!
Like so many of you, I’ve survived 30 years of emotional abuse, erratic and unwarranted rages, guilt trips and manipulations, restictions and dictatorial punishments, and walking on eggshells into the deafening silence of my personhood. All from the man who claimed to love me as no other. It nearly killed me.
Organized Christianity has compounded my pain and prolonged my suffering. I will never go back to it. I am sure in my faith and trust God has my heart in a safe place. I know i can confidently stand before him and say I gave my all to that marriage. God gets it. Dogmatic misogynists don’t have a clue. Well-meaning people dont get it. Its beyond their comprehension. They preach a lie made into an idol. Divorce is not the enemy, hardened hearts are the real problem.
Many abusers are personality disordered narcissists. The term is not an excuse for their behavior. They know what they are doing and derive pleasure from it. They are emotionally immature individuals with adult rights and power. They wreak havoc on the lives of those closest to them, all the while presenting a well composed fraud to friends and colleagues. The suffering of women and children under this tyrannical captivity is enormous, unto several generations.
Continuing to deny this horror or blame those torn and battered hearts in their crisis is just too damn cruel.
You hit the nail on the head. Personality disordered narcissists , while many people have no clue what that means, you have described it perfectly. It is very hard to walk away from all you know and start over as I have in my late 50s, but life is much better.
Thank you!!! I tried to seek help from the church we attended… i was told in front of my children that everything that he was doing to me was BECAUSE MY prayer life and MY quiet time with God wasnt good enough. I had to do better if i wanted my (now ex) husband to treat me like i was a human and NOT his slave… also that anyone who gets a divorce will go to hell. This is beautiful and i hope and pray that it touches the hearts of those who can help victim’s of abuse!!!
My church is currently working with us so its hard to say what the outcome will be. Without the ability to “ step back a bit “ have the information that I have about emotional abuse I would still be in it. Confused, I have the checks and balances because of partipating in some forums that Flying free amd the professionals that Natalie has links to. ( Leslie Vernick, Patrick Doyle ) have enlightened me to see my reality and I am blessed for that. In the first few meetings I was told I have “ no rights” but sin and death. I was asked what I was doing to “ provoke” him. They still are not accepting of the word “abuse” I use to describe the years of threats, name calling, belittling, screaming down, and willful neglect. To get along I will say mistreatment and that seems to go better. They are working on him on trying to recognize the sin of pride and humility in his life, but are not taking sides and of course want me to practice submission which I cannot with an abuser. I can submit when appropriate . I was counceled on this first which ended up being extremely damaging to me and was strong enough to stand up for
Myself and say I can work on respecting his position in the home but I am not goimg to be submissive to an abuser. God is first. They dont see the mistreatment as something I shouldn’t endure because of how Jesus took on death and surely I can too. I think this is the opposite of what a loving Father wants. Thats why he took it on so I dont have to- that is only my thoughts and will need to keep praying, enduring, until I know that is truth. I keep learning and looking within. Change what I must. If I do all of this and he still had tantrums, little self control, ect I will have to divorce.
I got married when I was 19. We went to church together twice a week before we got married. Shortly after we got married I was told that he had not had any fun lately and needed to go out with the guys and stay overnight because he planned to drink a lot. He regularly went to strip clubs to be the designated driver after all, “You don’t want one of my friends to get killed driving himself, do you?” Then I started finding porn. We fought constantly about money. I worked 12+ hours per day and was still expected to do all the “wife’s work” while he relaxed. I asked to meet with our pastor who was the Marriage and Family Chaplin at the base where my husband worked. He was supposed to be an expert on marriage. He told me that I was not forgiving enough and I just must think I am perfect. He told me that I should be concerned about my own sin and let God deal with his. Shortly after this I found that my husband had cheated on my while he was away on temporary duty and had given the woman his email so they could keep in touch. He didn’t know that I knew the password.
Since my husband was in the military we moved around a lot. We went to a small church in Savannah, GA next. My husband became vary involved in the church to try to show me that he was turning over a new leaf, but it was also a show for others so they would not see through how he really treated me. He became best friends with the pastor and was later appointed as an elder. I wanted to tell them the truth, but I knew they would not believe it. At some point I did ask for counseling with the pastor because I found that on another temporary duty my husband had ordered a porn movie to his hotel room. I had proof so he couldn’t say he didn’t do it, instead he told the pastor that I was on a dating site. He showed no proof. When I told the pastor he was lying, I was told he never lied to me before so I believe him. What I heard was I think you are lying even though I have never been lied to by you either. He took sides. He told me the devil was trying to get to our little girl through me.
After this I was reluctant to talk to pastors but then we went to a church that had a Pastor who’s only job was to counsel couples. He said that he could tell that I was being abused by my husband and that he wanted to meet with him too. My husband came in and acted remorseful and said he would change. The pastor told me to give him 6 months to change before separating from him. By this time I had been married to him for 11 years. I told him that I did not believe my husband and I did not want to wait 6 months. He told me that I would go to Hell if I didn’t and when I got up to leave he blocked the door. I had to agree to it so he would let me leave.
We started going to another small church and I was in a very emotional state because I had 3 children under 5 and still dealing with this husband who was abusive in every way. The pastor several times let me know that he thought I was ridiculous for being emotional at church. I called one day to talk to him and tell him about how my husband was treating me. He started asking about my childhood and I told him that I was also abused in my childhood. He told me that I was looking for chaos because there was chaos in my childhood and I was creating it, not my husband. He did ask his secretary to email me some resources that they send to women who are having difficulties in their marriage. One of these was a link to the ministry, Abuse Recover Ministry. I found one of their bible studies and with the help of the leader, determined it was time to file for a divorce.
Unfortunately my ex husband continues to use the children against me and has turned my oldest so against me that she has made false allegations of abuse more than once.
If you keep looking for support it is out there. You don’t need a church’s or man’s permission to do what you know is best for you. It is God speaking to your heart that lets you know that this treatment is not right.
My husband is the most Christlike man I have known, yet he won’t set foot in a church other than weddings and funerals due to growing up in a spiritually abusive environment. However, he supported me in taking our children to church, and it was there and in our home-school co op I was verbally, emotionally and physically abused by the pastor’s inner circle and underlings. It began when I made a very mild criticism of the pastor and was told I “shouldn’t question.” When I disagreed with that counsel, it was ON, although it was all done in a gas-lighting manner, so that I did not realize what was going on. Including the pastor, at least four men directly attacked me psychologically and/or physically, and many more were in on planning and executing my public humiliation and “shunning.” When I woke up to what had happened and looked for answers in The Bible, I saw it all right there…the Pharisees, the whitewashed tombs, the leading many into sin, and so much more. Jesus told us it would be like this and His words have been such a comfort to me. Thank you Natalie for your blog, so many of us now know we are not alone.
Abuse is a cancer on the Body of Christ. Jesus loved women and he showed men how to conduct themselves toward them. Thanks be to God he gave me a husband in this mold as a gift and recompense, because God knew this would happen to me. There is no excuse for any type of abuse in the Church.
Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, “I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, may ruin overtake them by surprise may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35
I’m so glad I found your blog. The begging God to let you die…. all of the post is SO right on!
Looking forward to reading your other stuff!
Gosh… powerful and God ordained.
I sobbed reading this.
My decree absolute should come through this week!!! After 2.5 years of the ‘hellish’ divorce battle with my ‘church leading’ husband!
His church refused to question my claims of spiritual, emotional, financial, mental and physical abuse. And they continue to refuse to bring him into accountability.. even with the evidence of a gambling addiction that thinks nothing of losing hundreds of thousands in just 5 weeks! (Statement disclosure via court process shows it!)
It’s been shocking to me how Christians have shielded the man I once called my husband but now call a wolf in sheeps clothing.
As I walked this divorce, after 28 years of marriage… he manipulated everyone but a handful of brave women against me.. inc my two adult daughters. But GOD!!!! Wow… but God! Father God took me into a deeper intimacy than I could imagine. Through my divorce I came to know God in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Rather than feeling Gods ‘hatred’ for my divorce, I felt his deep love and presence as I chose to finally leave my abuser.
I have a passion to tell the world, esp the church my story. I believe one day I will.
Thank you for your story., God is rising up those survivors of the most cruelest abuse to expose this disgrace that riddles the church.
Thank you Natalie. I *want* to have hope that your words fall on ears ready to hear. :-/
After two decades of extreme emotional and mental abuse, financial abuse (it’s a thing for those who aren’t aware — look it up), sexual abuse (yes it can happen in a marriage) and finally physical abuse, I went to our church counseling staff. Large (actually huge), SBC church, with a full counseling ministry.
They became aware of ALL of the above. Including the physical abuse. After 11 months of circular, non-productive “counseling” (during which time my husband continued to be physically abusive, as well as the other and did not do a single measurable thing they asked him to do), I finally met with the counselors alone to beg, weeping, for help in separating. Before I lost my ever-loving mind.
I was told, “The Bible does not support separation in cases like yours.”
Thank God. THANK GOD, that He kept me from disintegrating into a thousand pieces. Because I’ve never in my life known despair like I experienced that day. Even now, some five years later, I know it is by the grace of God that I am still alive and have survived what is essentially a cult of marriage.
No, our marriage itself has not been saved, because my husband hasn’t changed, not one bit. But what I have learned is that God’s love for me, my usefulness to His kingdom, and my worth as a simple human being is not based on my marital status, but on Christ himself. My husband’s sin is his own. And he’ll get to answer for it. I don’t have to continue to enable him to sin, which I did by even staying in the marriage.
AND, if I’m wrong, and am just blinded by this world and my desire for an easier life (as it seems Natalie’s pastor would claim), then that’s covered by the blood of Christ, just like every sin I’ve ever committed or will commit. Because God’s promise to me is that nothing, not even myself, can separate me from His love in Christ Jesus.
Yes!!!!!!! Amen sister!
Amen! So many amens!
Story of the last 4 years of my life 3 times over since realizing my ex was abusive and asking the Church for help. I was married to my ex for almost 10 years. The only thing he didn’t do was hit me, though he got close and I don’t know how many times in the last 4 years I’ve wished he would have. Maybe people would have listened. Maybe the CHURCH would have listened. Instead, when I said:
– He is slowly murdering me with his words, with his eyes,
– He is messing with my mind,
– He is telling me I am crazy,
– He is raping me,
– He is watching porn with me and our 3 young children IN THE ROOM,
– He is angry all the time – he yells and screams at us all the time,
– He is undermining my parenting,
– He is physically abusing our children in how he disciplines them…
Three different churches in 2 different states said:
– You just need to submit more,
– You just need to have more sex with him so he stops looking at porn,
– You need to be nicer to him,
– You need to try harder,
– You just don’t have enough faith. God would heal your marriage if you just had enough faith.
– You’re bitter and unforgiving,
– You’re expecting too much of him,
– You’re expecting too much of the church,
– You’re double-minded for saying you forgive him but then say evidence of true repentance requires a long-term change in behavior,
– You’re not allowed to say the Church needs to do better, only God can do that.
The first church just ignored me when I asked for help. The second church told me it was my fault. The third church half ignored me and half gave me hope that maybe they’d help. But, when I finally laid all my cards on the table and said,
“I feel like the Lord is calling me to help the church become a safer place for abuse victims and I’m the test case.”
I was told that I was not allowed to act like an Old Testament prophet. That I could not tell the church/Church that we can do better. I was bullied by the pastor who told me I was double-minded and that he was deeply troubled for my soul. That because I thought that true repentance requires specific, long-term behavioral change I did not really understand the Gospel and had a very shallow understanding of the mercy and grace that Christ has extended to me on the Cross. I was told that if I want any sort of help, that I need to sit down and stop having opinions.
But I can’t. I can’t sit down and shut up. And so I have lost my church, though I’m coming to realize that they were lost the moment I said the word abuse. I continue to be extremely socially isolated and struggle with massive Complex PTSD issues around walking into a new church and trusting anyone, especially leadership. I am a single mom struggling to find a high enough paying job to live in a very expensive housing market. All 3 kids are in therapy for PTSD and attachment issues. I can go a week or 2 without having any adult interaction with anyone. I love the Body of Christ with all my heart because she is loved by our Savior. But, we are failing. We are failing to DO justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God when it comes to abuse.
I was married to a man for 25 years who abused me and my children. When I finally left him the first thing my councilor asked (because my children and myself were so badly damaged) was, “whyyyyyyu did you wait so long to leave?” I simply said, “the church told me I had to stay”.
I am not Baptist, but in my church marriage is a sacrament, and not something I walked away from lightly. To give you some background info…my husband an his family were Christians. Yet one of the first things he did was stop me from going to my church. At first it was snide comments, so I would sneak on my lunch break. Then he forbade me. When he finally caught me, he beat me so severely I did not go back to my church for eleven years. He even had it written into my divorce decree that I could not baptize or take my children to church. It was a good 5 years after my divorce before I got up the courage to go back to church. For the first year, I had panic attacks every single time. I had to sit where I could see the doors; in case he were to show up. An irrational fear but one I couldn’t get out of my head. After about a year, I decided to have look into having my children baptized. I had a hard time because my kids had no concept of God or religion, and the faith formation classes are always on Wed (their father’s night) so they could not attend. I remember once explaining why my children did not know what their peers did at bible study, and their teacher looked at me disgusted and said “home is the first teacher to the faithful.” I stood there in disbelief; I was trying to explain that something as simple as saying grace (something I had grown up doing), was dangerous in my marital home. At church, people who knew I was divorced, would sometimes get up and move when I sat down. Some would refuse to give me the sign of peace (shake hands and say peace be with you). All of these things retraumatized me, I started to feel shame at church over “not bringing my children up Godly.” What my fellow parishioners did not know was that I had gone through the annulment process, and that a tribunal of priests had decided that my marriage was not sacramental and I was justified in leaving due to extreme abuse. I am free to take communion and even date in my church. I am writing this because any church should be a place of refuge and not judgement. I never stopped loving God for myself, or my children. I simply decided to love Him quietly so that I could live to see my children grow up. The greater evil to me would be to leave my children all alone in this world with only their earthly father to guide them.
As a man and a pastor who grew up in a somewhat idyllic home it is mind warp for me to read this stuff. I kniw it happens, of course, and in my hyper-conscientiousness I wonder if I am guilty. By the grace of God, no, but I want to be a better man and husband. Simple integrity means we live what we speak, and our live for Christ requires a very high road in how we treat our wives. Help, Lord!
I married my husband at a time when I had quit God and the church. I grew up in a spiritually abusive and neglectful environment. After having 3 of 4 of our children, I returned to church for their sake. My Faith grew and they were being spiritually fed. I came to know the love of The Father in a new way and I prayed tirelessly for my unsaved spouse. He would get angry when I took time with the Lord and my bible or Christian books, so I honored him and did none of that when he was home. God was faithful to my request and my husband was saved. For two years, things began to change. He really began to love me in a new way. Then things abruptly changed. I had a friend who was going through a serious situation with her husband. It was emotionally abusive and physically abusive. Her husband would go to people who supported her and try to disparage her and prove how awful she really was. Well, he came to our home and had a private conversation with my husband. His stand was that as husband, he had full authority over her. This made her unsubmissive if she resisted the abuse. Which she did. Now he told these things to my husband and he began to tell me that I was disobedient, unsubmissive and that I needed to repent. He text me scripture to back up his stand. He began disrespecting me and undermining me around the children. He gave me the silent treatment for weeks and in bed at night demand I sleep on the edge, away from touching him. He was intimidating at times and eventually, it became physical. All this time, I spoke with our pastor about what was happening. I sought out counseling from another pastor and his wife. They quit us after 8 weeks saying if WE stayed in our sin, we would end up divorced. They said enough to me that he would repeat it frequently, proving how sinful I was. Another Christian counselor looked me dead in my face and with all seriousness told me, in front of him, that I was a horrible wife, a terrible mother and I had singlehandedly destroyed my family. More proof I was to blame. I went back to our pastor who then offered to counsel us. I refused. The reason was that his wife told me that she didn’t understand where I was coming from. She told me she thought more like a man. So once again, I looked like the hardened one. I prayed and finally began seeing a women’s counselor from the local pregnancy center that I volunteered at. She lovingly heard me, counseled me to be a good wife, but she also recognized the abuse. It was after this that I had to call the police to remove my husband one morning after getting physical with me in front of our youngest son. Our pastor picked him up down the street, kept him for a few hours, then called me to demand that I let my husband return home before the children arrived after school. He insisted, even after I told him I was afraid. I left this church, not out of offense, but fear. My new pastor tried to bridge a gap and met socially with my husband and me. But he saw what was evident. My church supported me and loved me through my separation and divorce. They didn’t punish me, they invited me to put my gifts to work and I have been on the praise team ever since. Even through my divorce.
I have met other women like myself since then and I am so grateful for this article. My pastor brought to my attention the scripture in Ephesians that also says we are to submit to one another in love. It was the first time I had heard this. It blew me away. Pastors need to know these things and be taught how to handle abuse counseling. It’s far different than the usual marriage counseling. My Ex husband always appeared to be a loving man who only wanted to keep his family safe. It made me look like I was insane, temperamental and emotional and ungrateful. That was so far from the truth. More than anything, I wanted to honor God, to be obedient and in his will, even if it meant sacrificing myself.
The more I continue to read the comments on this post, the more a single word comes to my mind: Millstone. These false shepherds will be held accountable for the damage they are doing. How long, oh Lord? How long?
Yes. How long Lord? and yet I believe he is asking us to do something now. Now is the time.
The following comment came to me via email. She asked to not have her name revealed:
I was married a year or two when I first went to my pastor. My husband was bullying my son, his step-son, raging at him, and tearing him down emotionally. This started just a couple of months after we got married, 18 months after my first husband, my sons dad died, and this son was struggling with depression and adjusting to a major move and a new stepdad. When I stepped in to the abuse, he turned on me, and then would storm out of the house, not returning for hours or days. And when he would return he didn’t talk to me for weeks. And continued his abusive behaviour to my son. I told my pastor about it. He seemed concerned at my husband’s extreme response and suggested that I must have him backed into a corner for him to respond so strongly. His advice was to let my husband do whatever he wanted to my son and not interfere. In my heart I knew this advice was horribly wrong but I was desperate and figured it was worth a try. He was right. The raging stopped. What I failed to notice is that it’s all that stopped. My son was still blatantly ignored and ostracized by my husband, and this son who already lost one parent, now felt like he had lost his mother as well. He started to cut, and make poor choices. Thankfully God intervened and has brought my son through a healing journey. However, the abuse continued down the line, from this son to the next. Fast forward a few years and another move, and another pastor. A year ago my husband left in a fit of rage and moved into our camper and didn’t communicate with me for over a month. Again I went to our pastor. Not for advice but to simply ask for physical help. Unfortunately he had lots of advice and I never got the help I needed. And again I was advised to allow him to parent without interfering. It wasn’t until I sought counseling with a counselor who knew about abuse that it was clear I was most definitely in an abusive marriage. It took me 9 years to hear that and to get the help our family so badly needed. Unfortunately this help didn’t come through the church and was definitely slowed down by very bad advice. The church has been the hardest place for me to be through my separation, and forgiving them has been a difficult process for me. I feel like I’ve been abused twice, first by my husband, then by the Church who didn’t acknowledge it as abuse and minimized what was happening in my home. It was already so very hard for me to come to terms with what was really happening, that when it wasn’t acknowledged by those we told, it made it so more confusing and kept us there years longer than we should have been. I hope to some day see the church gain a better understanding of abuse and how to help the victims/survivors. Fortunately I have God, and he has given me a small tribe that has supported and encouraged me through this difficult process. But I am waiting for the day when the church is far more capable of helping those who need them most.
Thank you so much for writing this! I can’t tell you how many women I have talked to within the church dealing with an abusive relationship. They feel helpless, without freedom. Thank you for the hope you are communicating!
How did you just voice every word and not leave out one thought, experience, misguided assumption, and ultimate end of a cycle that is by definition the same words /behavior/blame, et al. of my experience, vocations, efforts & results now at 57?
amazed. I’m currently standing at some scary crossroads.. waiting on Wisdom to speak. these are my honest words I still have to give.
I renewed my vows with my ex husband following our second separation, being told the renewing was “prophetic” to the way the Lord wanted to restore other marriages and even back sliders and Israel. We were promised counseling, but as soon as the vows were renewed, the church leaders no longer had time for us. Serious issues began to show up almost immediately. The church leaders told me I did not submit enough to him (my ex) and that I should ignore some pretty serious signs of abuse. They went so far as to declare I had a spirit of insanity and he told the men at the church in everyone’s hearing I had a Jezebel spirit. Ultimately, he got offended with the church and we moved on to a Baptist church. The pastor honestly tried to help us. However, after the third separation, our pastor told me I was not being a submissive wife, that my ex was just a hurting little boy inside. When I questioned that, he began quoting scripture to me. The obedient, take it to heart Christian I am…I went home and called my ex and begged him to come home. Three weeks later, he was offended with that pastor too. And we moved on again. Finally at the end of that year, the emotional abuse had taken a decidedly physical turn. I took the kids and left, begging the Lord to catch me if I fell. All that time I thought I was giving my children a bad testimony if we went thru a divorce. And now I see that holding so tightly to an emotionally and physically abusive marriage did the most damage of all. I am also feeling the love and compassion of the Lord in a very deep and abiding way…He truly cares for the widows and orphans, the defenseless and helpless. I don’t have anger at the churches by the way. They did what they thought was right, just like I did. But I am so thankful that abuse in Christian homes is finally being exposed and talked about. Enough is enough. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. That doesn’t happen in a home where abuse thrives.
I was married to an abusive husband for 7 years. We have 2 children together. I sought help from the church I attended and my husband refused to participate in any counseling they offered because he did not like my church. I finally appealed to the pastor at his parents church, where he had grown up attending) who then brought over a pre-marital counseling video course to our house that basically said we had gotten married for all the wrong reasons and the abuse intensified after that. I finally left when he became violent to the point that it endangered the children. His parents stood by their son (his father is an abuser too and his mother has never left, due to the reasons listed in the article above.) and I was told by my father-in-law that because his divorce (before he married my mother-in-law) happened before he was a “Christian” it was forgiven, but because I was already a Christian, mine would not be. No doubt he had used the same reasoning and manipulation on his own wife.
As it is, I often hear sermons about marriage that are quite good but do not apply to abusive relationships. Thankfully, my pastor has made the effort to make it clear he does not condone abuse and does not condemn those who have left such relationships.
I spent 29 years in a marriage that was hallmarked by emotional abuse by a man that struggled with homosexuality, alcoholism, multiple personality disorders.
I finally decided to do something and asked him to leave. My husband said I must talk to our pastor, I agreed to speak on the phone to him. His response to my plea of wanting 1-2 years separation to heal, was that I could have 30 days, couple counseling and we will be restored shortly after that. In fact he said we will call it a “sabbatical”. He was patronizing at best and tossing me back into the abuse at worst!
I was raised in the church and very involved. Directed the choir taught a Sunday school class etc. After 24 years of marriage and countless trips to the alter asking for help I separated from my husband. We both had scars but no one wanted to know or deal with anything. Not once to this day has the pastor ask me what happened. I was immediately taken off any leadership roles. No one called or inquired where I was or what happened. It’s like if they acknowledge it happened to you it could happen to them. All there was was judgement and isolation. Even now 20 years later the divorced and remarried are the new Lepers of the current day. Still can’t have leadership role . The Lord forgives completely they say , it as if you never sinned. Really ? Then why does the church remind you every time you turn around? I hope the church wakes up because you are right 100s of women walk away bleeding every Sunday from a place where there should be healing. Love this article.
I went to the church for help to escape our abuser. They told me to stay there with my abuser and pray. They told me that THEY would decide if I and my children were being abused or not. They said they would ask him! “Mr. Wonderful,” (our abuser) – a church leader and friend to all pastors – ask HIM to find out if my abuse was real! (Like an abuser would not lie to cover his abuse…) They told my teen-aged abused children what happened to them was their fault because they needed to improve their communication skills. “Biblical counselors” told my kids they just misunderstood his death threats. The “Biblical counselors” gave them “counseling” materials about improving communication and told them to go back, reach out to him, love him. They told us repeatedly we just misunderstood. But, my kids and I understood abuse, death threats and dead pets very well. We weren’t misinterpreting things.
When I finally sought secular help, that day (!) the shelter helped me file a restraining order. They took me seriously. I was terrified to do it, but they walked me through, and right over to the courthouse. I shook and was sick the whole time, but I finally felt brave. However, I went to church for “biblical counseling” later that same day. A pastor burst into my counseling session, handed me the phone number of the county sheriff, and told me to call it so that the restraining order could be cancelled. He said they needed Mr. Wonderful to be at church that night to continue leading his children’s group. He and my counselor said that I had received *secular* advice, and that had corrupted my thinking. They told me that the shelter had confused me and had derailed all that the pastors and counselors were trying to do. Afraid, cowed, abused, compelled to comply with authority, I did call. The judge said he would not change his mind. The No Contact order stood. (Yeah! Thank God for a wise judge!) The pastor then called me and told me I and my kids would have to stay home from church so that Mr. Wonderful could come to church that night and lead the children’s Bible study.
Months later, the season of ministry ended for the summer. Mr. Wonderful now had no group to lead, no little children and parents loving on and praising him, so he stopped coming to church altogether. When finally confronted with Matthew 18 steps of discipline, he threw the pastor and elder out of the house and pulled his membership. However, (with him gone) because I was still there at that church (my home church all my life), I was brought up under church discipline. I was removed from all ministry. And they said if I did not go home to my abuser soon, and if I continued legal separation and eventual divorce proceedings, then… “well, your children would still be welcome here.”
However, the youth pastor and a Sunday School teacher publicly shamed and humiliated my youngest for her now-“broken” home. The pastor lied publicly that no one at that church had ever had a restraining order taken out against them, all the while looking right at my daughter’s face. We left my home church after that. It was one thing that the shunning by almost everyone and the church discipline was raining on MY head. But it was intolerable that they hurt my children. We had already left one abuser. Now we had to leave a whole church full. And somehow, that was as difficult. I had come to expect terrible abuse from Mr. Wonderful. But to be betrayed so vilely by the “Body of Christ,” who I thought were my friends (they really were the only circle of friends I had. We had built our lives around that church…), to be betrayed by the people I thought I could turn to for help – they simply stomped and smashed out what little flicker of hope that I had tried to keep safe. Mr. Wonderful worked diligently to destroy us. The “body of Christ” completed his mission.
Good heavens but this is heartbreaking. I am so, so sorry.
Indeed. I was told that I wasn’t praying effectively, and that if I only prayed harder he would change; it was my fault and there must be sin in my life if God wasn’t hearing my prayers and changing my husband. I was also told my place was at home with him, despite desperately needing space. When we tried counseling, the very well-meaning pastor believed his lies and was fooled by him and I was told that I was not a grateful woman for all he did do for us, that I needed to focus on being more thankful and that I must not be communicating well because it couldn’t be “that bad.” The onus was put on me to take responsibility to manage him spiritually and emotionally and my husband went “see, you’re the problem if you would only dance when I tell you to then everything’s fine and the church agrees with me,” which further emboldened him to up the abuse. Sigh. Just for starters.
I received severe negative behavior against me for over five years: the entire time of my short marriage to my husband, by my previous church that I was a tithing member of. Not only did my controlling Narc/ Jezebel husband accuse me of the very things he was doing to me, but the Pastor (who admitted a history of porn and adultery) sided with him and slandered me behind my back. There were other men, who also had a history of porn and adultery who also were in agreement with the Pastor and spouse.
These men claim to have apostolic and prophectic anointing, but their actions don’t line up with the Word of God. Because they ignored me until I finally attempted a meeting with the Pastor and continue to enable my spouse and cover for him. My spouse claims to be a prophet. The Lord has shown me that he is a self-proclaimed prophet. Several other men have accused him of being lawless and in total rebellion. The Lord told me that it is not whether a prophecy comes true or not that matters, but the character of the person and if he is following the Lord by living a lifestyle of holiness based on the Bible.
I have been studying and researching narcissism, Jezebel and porn addiction since 2014. I have found in The Word, and ministries who work with victims of spousal abuse, that Narcissism is the secular word for the Jezebel network of spirits. Jezebel is very selfish and self absorbed. It (non-gendered spirit) loves constant attention, both negative and positive. It seduces folks into idolatry (anything can be an idol), and uses sex to pretend love. The so called love is temporary, because Jezebel demands total obedience and worship. Otherwise, the “slave” gets punished in many creative, devious ways. These are my words based on experience and much study.
The other devious aspect of Narc / Jezebel, is the need to use words and mind games, and trauma bonding to change the spouse from who they really are in Christ Jesus, to a puppet / slave so they can control them without question. We literally have to murder our own soul and identity and conform to what they say we are, so they suck the life out of us and destroy us.
The hatred from these demon possessed folks is very obvious. It’s like a black-widow spider on steroids. My husbands personality change began as a young boy. He was exposed to a father who was into porn and constantly leaving the marriage, just like my spouse did to me. Then, my spouse began porn and later made women into sex objects and trash. The porn addict is always angry and seeking more perversion to satisfy his lust. His personality is changed into a selfish, ruthless, narcissist who lives a fantasy world where he elevates himself into something he isn’t. He wears a mask and we have to agree with his false identity or get punished.
Another area we need to seriously look at is: “What is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ?” Much of the American church today is based on lies from the enemy of our souls. My spouses background from another country, is Santaria, covered over to look holy, the Catholic religion. His great grand father on his father’s side was a 33 Degree Mason. These are things that cause curses in our lives and must be renounced and repented of.
After meeting with the ex-Pastor, and not being allowed to say much, and being told “you’re demon possessed,” I left that Church last December. That was always my husband’s goal: to get rid of me, so he could go on to his next lover. He prefers both male and female lovers. The Pastor believes I should forgive and allow him back to continue his mental, emotional and physical abuse (and get diseases from him). This also means getting demons in our defiled marriage bed. The Pastor asked me if I had apologized and never stated that my spouse needs to REPENT and never sin again.
This Pastor has done this to other wives and women in the church. There was another young lady who left because her husband was a porn addict. She was sent away broken hearted, while he was allowed a divorce and remarriage. There were also other women, like me, from other countries (Hispanic-black mix, myself: Asian European mix) who were told we are demon possessed even though we are devoted and sold out to the Lord Jesus Christ. They also left with a broken heart. Anyone who stands up for themselves, presents the truth that lines up with the Word of God, is expelled. These men will be dealing with the Lord himself.
Olga Erika Barany (“holy-warrior-Lamb”) May 1, 2018
Bravo!!! Thank you for your courage to post this! This is so right on! The church must hear this over and over until it realizes we have a huge problem!
I have been deeply harmed by other women in a conservative Christian church (not a baptist in this case) who saw my suffering and told me to do better and try harder and if I behaved more like them, disciplined my children more agressively…and on and on. In that church there were so many women who had mental breakdowns and it was the teaching that women had to do whatever their husband’s wanted, that you were to remain silent, even about stupid stuff. It was drilled into us that we are not able to make good decisions, that we are sinful ect. I believe that heavy emphasis really destroys Jesus loving people who do not have a firm understanding of who They are in Christ. I could see clearly that these women teaching us had complete freedoms in their homes to do whatever the pleased while putting the over conscious women of their church in bondage.
They did not point me to THE ONE who can heal hearts. The just put their hand on my drowning head and pushed me under.
I insisted we leave that church and my husband agreed. I struggled for a long time for many reasons. It did not seem like my husband could hear me. I cried out to the Lord wishing I could indeed die and HE heard my crys. My husband, though misguided, does truely love the Lord and me and has changed and we are no longer under the influence of people who will so willingly harm women and children. it is a long road to healing, but i am much stronger now and I have confidence that the Lord will care for me no matter what men or women may say or do.
Thank you for pointing out the way leaders can say things TRUTHFULLY while not harming someone who is already hurting. Jesus loved women and children and he did not shun them or beat them down. Matt 23:13-36
After over 10 years of Christian Marriage Counseling, I approached our church leadership and told them that I had filed for divorce, for my own safety and the good of my children. I told them I thought I was living with a man with a personality disorder. They asked if I knew of someone in the church I could turn to if I felt uncomfortable or in danger. They convinced me and my husband to meet with them despite the fact that years of counseling had resulted in no change and in fact the abusive cycle was escalating and the cycles were more frequent. Although they had expressed my concern for my safety initially, they told me that if I were to lose my life at the hands of my abuser, it would be to the glory of God to die quietly and submissively. They encouraged us to keep attending church as a family, to set together every Sunday and to act like everything was OK. Because you need to fake it till you make it. But all my children knew it was fake. The pastoral counseling sessions would begin at 7 or 8 in the evening and last 3 or 4 hours. I found myself emotionally spent and spiritually abandoned at the end of each session, at which point I was supposed to hold hands with my abuser while the pastor prayed over us. I asked for prayer and help for one of my children and was told that what was wrong with him was that he needed Mom and Dad to repent on their knees before him and to reunite in marriage. Instead of getting better, things got worse at home. Finally, after 6 months of pastoral counseling, I chose not to go anymore. All I can say is that at the hands of the spiritual authority in our church I felt betrayed and abandoned – they did not help matters, they only gave him permission to be worse, even to the point of taking my life. Now that I am alone, I am rejected by my family and community; but in the evening I climb into bed at night, and it is quiet and I feel at peace and no longer afraid; and I thank God for watching over me, for showing me in big and small ways that He sees me, knows my needs and daily provides for me – to the point of providing at time my daily bread, literally. I don’t want to hold a theologically debate over abuse and marriage. But I do know that God loves me when my spouse and my church did not.
You can add somewhere in there that I attended a Sovereign Grace church where I loved the pastors and the teaching until I went to them in my desperate time of need for wisdom and protection.
Until someone has walked in your shoes, they have no right to assume and judge. You made a courageous decision that likely saved your life and your children’s lives. Your actions have stopped the abuse pattern and hopefully your courage has modeled healthy behavior for them. If you have daughters, it was vital that they know and understand at a deep level that abuse is NOT NORMAL and not to be tolerated. If you had not left, your children would have continued to see evil modeled and had to endure the lie and the hipocracy; and they might have walked away from their Faith. (If they do walk away it is not your fault…you made the right decision to speak the truth and reject the life. They may still be disillusioned with the Christian church because of but what they’ve been through, but Your strength TODAY will speak volumes!) Two of my kids are not walking with the Lord and the outcome is still to be determined…all three have been through divorces and I blamed myself and finally worked through the shame and blame. The ripples of consequences from sin effect so many people. Just know the outcome would have been MUCH worse had you stayed in such a dangerous, negative, hopeless, ungodly situation. STAYING AND TOLERATING ABUSE IS NEVER GODLY….never forget that fact!
What a tragedy that the leadership people in church become the second abusers and the women of the church who don’t “get it” can also become abusers with their rejection and criticism and “holy advice.”. I had women walk away from me, refuse to look me in the eye and it only drove the pain deeper. Feeling abandoned by those you trusted is a heart wound that only God can heal. Hope you have a good support system now.
The fact that church leaders advised you to stay in a dangerous situation is inexcusable. It is a BIG FAT LIE that they advised you if you lost your life to this abuser that it would be “to the glory of God” if you died quietly and submissively. Being a martyr for your faith does NOT involve submitting to marital abuse. A husband is to model Christ…PERIOD. In your case, the leadership only enabled the abuse to continue and that is not good shepherding by any estimation.
I was also hurt deeply by church leaders. I disturbs me greatly that many pastors REFUSE to become educated about domestic violence and the mental health issues involved (even from Christian ministries helping victims. My leaders refused to attend free classes and held fast to all twists in the issue of submission.) All I can say is that they will stand before God and made to account for their lack of understanding and compassion, their misguided interpretation of scripture, and their abandonment and failure to protect those in their flock.
How interesting that you mentioned the kids when I left that part out of my comment. In the end, what pushed me to take action was the kids: I realized I did not want my kids to grow up thinking it was a OK for a man to treat a woman the way their dad was treating me, If my sons did that to a girl, or if somebody treated my daughter that way, my heart would break in a million pieces. Thank you for your works of compassion and encouragement.
I hope and pray more churches & their leadership read this and re-evaluate how they’re preaching God’s word! I am a survivor, PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GRACE! After being told that I said “I do” – that I was to be told to be more submissive… after all, “he hasn’t hit you”. Repeatedly I was told “God hates divorce”… what about what else God hates? What about the rest of the Bible? Church leadership needs to read the ENTIRE BIBLE instead of tailor-making a message to suit themselves. Thank you Natalie for helping to shed HIS light on this issue!
I feel compelled to paint a more detailed picture so others reading and asking, “is it or isn’t it?” might have a better understanding of what’s going on. The mind has to “thaw” to the idea of being abused sometimes.
So since the get-go, the honeymoon, the minimization began. “You’re lucky you married me; you might be back in your little hometown in Kentucky working at a used car lot.” Nevermind that he was unemployed when we married and I was paying his rent. We agreed to write vows–I agonized over mine, he showed up at the altar with NONE. But I was so glad he would have me as his wife that I overlooked it. I was forbidden to take my kids to the doctor when needed. I was forbidden to get a biopsy on a mass that showed up on a suspicious mammogram (my grandmother died of breast cancer)…that time I DID stand up for myself. I went. No cancer, thank God. I was told I was “usurping his authority” when I dared step in on his discipline of our kids, which left bruises. I was told that at ages 2 and 3 my girls were “grown” (I kid you not) and did not need me anymore and I needed to work to make $ to float his lifestyle. He cut up clothes of mine that he didn’t like. Threw glass objects at me in anger and told me I had to clean it up. Continuously told me it was my job to make sure he had a good time if we were out and about. Locked me in a bedroom at his parents’ house on Christmas Day because he thought I was being inappropriate around his brother in law (I bent over to pick up something on the floor…in pants…not a skirt. Nothing inappropriate about it). He put a stash of marijuana in a sofa I bought and accused me of hiding it so I could smoke it. He refused to let me join any of the churches I visited, and never joined me in attending. He said I couldn’t go to Sunday school or join the church because if he ever DID decide to go, he would look like a schmuck because I had been plugged in and he wasn’t..so I could not be a part of it. I drove a 23-year old truck and shopped at Goodwill (which, by the way, I love, but still…) while he drove a new Jeep and shopped at high end clothing stores. “When you get a job you can have nice things!” is what I was told. When I did get a job, paychecks went to him. He forced himself on me sexually (by legal definition, rape), and called me messed up/told me I needed to seek therapy when I didn’t like it. He raged at my girls (now 13 and 14) and threatened to beat their bedroom doors down if they sought refuge from him, and I was told I was being “an authority unto myself” when I would step in. He was out of the home weekend after weekend after weekend for the last 5 years of our marriage, getting drunk and high with his friends. But he is a “Christian” man. And I was not perfect either. I let it continue. It was the bed I chose and by golly, I was gonna sleep in it. Till death do us part. The only problem was, I began wishing and planning for my death. Because the stigma of being divorced was more than the weight of death looming ahead. Or so I thought.
I decided that any God who desired this for me and my girls more than wholeness was not a god we could serve.
So I gathered up every shred of courage I had, hoped and prayed God was far better than how He had been portrayed to me for my entire Christian life, and I JUMPED. I took my girls, some things from our house that we would need, and we left while he was at work on March 5…about 8 weeks ago. AND GOD HAS BEEN THERE. HE HAS BEEN SO GLORIOUSLY PRESENT in it all. I think that is what shocks me most…He. never. left.
I have filed for divorce. I am still scared of my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I still have faulty thinking. I still beg God not to make me return. But each day it a bit brighter and brighter.
If any of this sounds even remotely familiar to you…please, start to educate yourself…thaw your thinking. There is help. God is your rescue. God, and no one else.
Carrie, what a testimony!!!! God IS that good! I’m so glad you got out! Stay strong in the Lord and surround yourself with women who understand what you have been through.
I am married to someone VERY much like yours! In fact, I was sure we had married the same guy! Lol
Stories like yours help me feel there is hope and I can find the strength to leave him when I finally have my finances together.
God Bless You on your journey!
When my ex and I renewed our vows…I wrote his. I also wrote his letter to our kids of how he was going to be a better father, following God’s example. Then I bought the watches he gave the kids to symbolize his promise. They saw thru the lies a lot quicker than me, that is for sure. One child refused the watch, another broke theirs within days and the other gave theirs to me within a month and said they wanted nothing to do with him. I dragged the kids thru that marriage for two more years. My oldest wants nothing to do with the Lord now. A big reason for that is because I justified staying in that marriage for so long using scripture and saying “I just know God is going to change him.” It was all lies. We are divorced now…one year later, and the kids and I are still picking up the pieces with the Lords help.
This comment could go on and on with the many mean and damaging things said to myself, my children (who are now adults) and the many women and children that I have come into contact with that are survivors of Domestic Abuse.
You could add to the 100 women by adding in the children and pets that are also victims of the abuse. Abuse is about power and control and what better way to maintain control than using those that she loves.
Secondary abuse by those in the church seems to be another piece of the processing that they need to get through in the path to healing. It is abuse to blame someone for being abused, to turn a blind eye to the abuse and to support the abuser while casting aside his targets of abuse. Not taking a side is taking a side and it isn’t on the side of the abused.
Within the church I was told I was unforgiving, hard hearted, manhater, unsubmissive, gossiping, among other things. The only comment that somehow put some blame on the abusive man was that we deserved each other. Yep because I spoke out faintly about being abused I somehow deserved it.
The children when they spoke out what was going on the girl was labeled a problem child and the son was labeled a follower of the girls and one of the three musketeers going after the abuser and picking on him. Not obedient children because they said not only was mom being abused that the verbal abuse was directed at them and the son was picked up and pinned against the wall yet we were at fault.
Abuser husband invited to be on and remain on the Deacon board. Good Godly man that would never do those things wife and children must be lying or at best exaggerating.
As I said I could go on and on about specific instances of what has gone on but I think you get the idea.
Back a couple years or more I wrote something that was published on a Cry for Justice website and I will link it here. You may remove it if it is not allowed. https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/08/08/i-am-a-liar-a-message-from-the-heart-of-an-abuse-victim/
In 2000 I left my husband of 28 years in order to heal, with little understanding from the church. We reconciled 2 years and 9 months later. The church dropped me on my head twice…once when I left home and then again when we sought counsel after I returned. They decided they couldn’t help us and refused to develop an accountability relationship with him. Mental health awareness in the church is often as non-existent as the understanding of the components of domestic violence. I was “battered without bruises,” as I dealt with verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse. It has been a hard road and we have grown and are doing better. Mentally and emotionally I still struggle, so I’m considered the “weak” one….actually my children’s pediatrician once told me, “Do you know how strong you are?” Only through the Lord’s strength can one stay in this kind of relationship. Some cases are worse than others and for survival some MUST separate and divorce for the physical and mental safety of themselves and their children. I fully encourage and support that. A woman MUST find a supportive church with a pastor that DOES understand so she can heal. This is a poem I wrote under my pen name when I was still separated. I chose the name Taffy Pullin, as my life feels like taffy; I’m pulled and stretched to the limit, but God is faithful and will not abandon me.
Where Were You?
By Taffy Pullin
Where were you when I was hurting
Broken and bleeding inside?
I needed mercy and compassionate understanding
Totally broken, unable in God’s love to abide.
The years of conflict and turmoil
Mistreatment, neglect, judgment, and pain
Caused me to crumble into hundreds of pieces,
No longer strong enough to handle the strain.
When I needed the strong arms of comfort
And understanding that I needed time to heal,
All I heard was tough love and accountability.
But where was God’s love in the deal?
I collapsed in tears from rejection
When I asked for shelter from life’s storm
I was told “No, because that would enable you,”
And judgment and confrontation became the norm.
I saw a double standard
The church and others weren’t able to see
That I had said “no more” so as not to enable
They only saw it as an attempt to flee.
Their judgment and assumptions
Caused them to see me as rebellious and strong.
Fortunately the Lord could see all the shattered pieces,
He knew my reasons for leaving were not wrong.
I ended up at a Women’s Crisis Shelter
Their support was a gift from my Lord.
Their counseling and programs allowed me time
I saw God use them to heal and restore.
I’m still troubled by my church’s counsel
To return to the fire so soon,
Without allowing time for the healing process
To equip me with relational survival tools.
It still hurts that the church saw no need
For counseling to repair, rebuild, and reclaim.
Just “turn, be whole, and walk forward with Jesus”
Is a simplistic answer to a bleeding heart, badly maimed.
To expect someone to quickly heal
From long-standing wounds that finally took their toll
Is like prodding a sheep with a broken leg to “run the race”
When I needed a shepherd to carry me ‘til I was whole.
For instead of walking beside me
To help me heal and strengthen faith’s bones
They abandoned me in the heat of the battle
Pressuring me, insisting I return home.
I sunk deeper into despair and depression
When I wouldn’t agree to fit into their legalistic mold
I was told, “You will not be allowed to bring division,”
So I quietly left my long-term fold.
It seems I was quickly forgotten,
Labeled rebellious because I wouldn’t “obey.”
So I found a church with mercy’s love and acceptance,
Equipped to facilitate healing in the Lord’s gentle way.
The road to healing was steep
A journey the Lord allowed me to take.
I finally found out who I am—
A person of worth, with contributions to make.
I’m still learning to let go of control and fear’s bondage,
Not to be paralyzed by perfection, guilt, and fear of rejection;
I’m still amazed at God’s love and provision for healing
I’m now free to blossom and grow as I accept my imperfection.
God’s given me a grace gift of mercy and understanding,
I’ve learned that another’s perspective can be much different than mine.
I chose to forgive those who didn’t understand my motives and decisions
As I allowed Him to touch the pain, His unconditional love was my lifeline.
I know love and grace are the answer
You can’t command or demand someone to “be whole.”
Only God can see the whole picture
Our job is to “be there” to encourage and console.
I’ve learned the “spirit” of the law brings life and healing
Walking in the Spirit taught me to wait and lean on the Lord
The condemning, legalistic spirit of the “letter” of the law kills.
I praise Him for the healing journey and my marriage being restored.
I pray my situation has taught you
To show compassion and patiently walk alongside.
I hope no one else feels the pain of legalistic expectations
I’d still like to ask, “Where were you when I felt like I’d died?’
I love Jesus I am an emotional abuse survivor. The Lord has taught me so much through my marriage. I THOUGHT He was teaching me humility, faith, endurance, submission, forgiveness and long suffering. I was so wrong! It was really fear of man and deception and denial I was learning. My marriage was so painful that I did reach out to a pastor at our church. At that time we had four wonderful sons. The pastor told my husband and I we had a wonderful family and needed to work together. I left the office that day thinking I was a failure at being a Christian in general, but mainly a failure as a wife. I thought I was crazy because I was crying and losing my mind while my husband was really just fine. He told me I was crazy. He told me everyone thought I was crazy. I went home and worked harder. I had sex whenever and however my husband wanted. I cooked (I am a great cook) kept the house, homeschooled our kids, as well as gave birth to three more. All of my older kids are in college or graduate school. I was no joke. I made serving my husband and kids my life- my husband and kids-not Jesus. Everyone who knows my husband loved him. Everyone thought he was a great guy (and he definitely was) as long as you were not me or his kids! I went to another pastor and asked for help. He suggested maybe my asking my husband for help in working on our marriage was taken as disrespectful. He asked what did I really want out of my marriage and told me my husband didn’t have to be my “perfect soul-mate” as so many movies and books romanticized these days. I didn’t want flowers or romance. I wanted to stop being ignored, made fun of, belittled, and hated by my husband. When I was at my absolute lowest something amazing happened. My pastor believed me and helped direct me to God…….JUST KIDDING!!!!!!! God moved so mightily in my life I HAD to obey Him! I put up some boundaries that caused my husband major pain. I told him I could not have sex with him any longer because the emotional disconnect did not computer with the physical connection and it was killing me. It felt like rape. I did offer to be his faithful roommate, mother to our children, and well as faithful financial manager. He told me he was sorry I felt that way and then went on with life as usual. I left him daily before God in prayer. I turned my attention from worshiping my husband and followed the Lord with my whole heart. I didn’t ask anyone at my church for counsel or help because I knew I had heard God speak and direct me. Very long story short, after about 7 or 8 months, the pain that was caused by my God-directed boundaries and the complete drawing from the Holy Spirit, something miraculous happened in my husbands life. He repented and begin following the Lord. Yes, every time a sinner repents it is miraculous!! But he had been in church for 20 years and was an abusive man! Because he was so well-liked and a tither, no one wanted to believe me or help- even when my husband was completely blinded and abusive. I was corrected about my “possible disrespect “when reaching out for help and my husband was still the great guy. Praise God he has changed my husband and given him a miraculous new life. My husband admitted his abuse (very rare!!!) and has completely submitted to God and me to be the husband God wants him to be. I can safely and correctly submit to my husband as biblically described. Mutual submission, mutual trust, mutual care. God blessed us and has changed our lives in spite of the church! Please listen to these women and help them. In God’s great mercy perhaps in helping these wives a husband might repent and enter the kingdom as well. A 2-for-1 deal! Instead of losing whole families to darkness, whole families might be added to the iigsom instead!! God cares about marriage but He cares about those in the marriage so much more. He didn’t die to redeem marriages-He died to redeem people .
My husband was psychologically/spiritually abusive from early dating on. I didn’t see it for years because he wrapped it in religion and bible verses spun in some of the most hurtful ways. He used Rebecca Brown (Jack Chick) teaching among some others to “convince” me I was demon possessed and had spiritual proplems. Our relationship was built on “me needing help and exorcisms”. I started being a replica of his beliefs so as to not have or rather not be accused of having what he called spiritual proplems. The pastor at the Free Methodist church we were attending noticed something was off with my husband. I didn’t take it seriously. We changed churches. My husband made thousands of Facebook friend with women between 14 and 50 and would stare at their pictures for hours. He also joined some dating groups. I discovered this and decided I needed to follow Jesus for myself and that I needed to be myself to cope. Our pastor from our new church a Calvary Chapel sent us to counseling. The only reason my husband agreed was because he thought the counselor would say I was demon possessed. I went back to counseling by myself. I found out during that last session with my husband, he only lasted three, that He was psychologically/spiritually abusive. He became even more overt and said these things – “God’s going to kill you” “If I were Islam I’d take care of my problem of you” “I’ll kill myself if you leave me” “You have a stomach ache because of demons”. “God hated Esua and He hates you” and…. much much more . I managed with help of my counselor, an attorney and my pastor to get separated/divorced.
My pastor and church were helpful and supportive. I thought most churches were suportive since my former pastor and church were and now my current was/is. I find it heartbreaking that support and space and empathy are not the norm.
I approached our Marriage counselor at our Baptist church (he knew I was staying in a shelter for domestic violence victims at the time) and He knew this wasn’t a one time thing. He flipped the bible open and discussed what the bible said about divorce. That’s it- nothing was said to my husband about his abusive behavior and nothing about safety was discussed. …. 2 years later my husband attacked me with a machete and left me to die. He wasn’t going to sign divorce papers!! The counsel pertaining to d.v. or lack thereof is a major problem within “the church”.
We were attending a fundamental independent Baptist church. I had someone’s child for a day, who was throwing a royal fit. My husband drove truck long haul and was home sleeping. He came out of the bedroom with his belt in his hand and beat ME on the backs of my bare legs, my bottom, and lower back in a sweeping wave. I am grateful he did not beat that child. I should have left him that day. He also pushed me when we were standing on the stairs of the home we bought. I went sliding down several steps to the landing and almost went out the window. The absolute worst was the daily emotional, mental, and verbal abuse we all went through. That stays in my brain permanently. He ended up cheating and left us for a woman he met at the gas station. I was completely done and NEVER asked him to come back. It’s been 12 years. I had to dig deep in my Bible to see what God had to say about me when all was over. He tried to convince me it was my fault he left and that I was a terrible wife who would not meet his needs. He tried to destroy me. I was not about to be mistreated and misused. I shut down towards him. I would be sleeping and wake up to him having sex with me. He did not even bother to wake me up. I should have left, but I did not have options. The kids were in Christian school and I had stayed home to homeschool them. Our Pastor was not equipped to counsel us. He gave us videos to watch, but that that never happened. After it was over, I dated someone who was a narcissist and he tried that whole dynamic on me. Once I figured out what was going on, I stopped seeing him. I don’t believe anything a man says to me now. I will probably be alone. It is better that way for my mind. I have since went to the university and got my Bachelor’s in Human Services. I do Service Coordination for those with physical disabilities. I wanted to do DV, but decided as I was about to hit the send button on the email with my resume to the DV agency here, not to live through that every single day. Listening to others who have lived through it and can’t leave or who finally get that courage to leave would have been damaging and infuriating for me. It was still in my head after 9 years still. Verbal, mental, and emotional abuse needs to be recognized by the courts and dealt with as well as physical and sexual abuse.
My abuser was enabled by the church for over 3 years.
I was told by the pastor get over it and move on.
I was told to step down from leading a single women’s group 6 years post divorce, the group had recently doubled in size and was bringing in women from the community. I was told they were looking for a female Jesus to lead. I was also forbidden to take further education classes. I responded by saying I can not turn my back on the calling of the Lord. I am furthering my education to help women, and God continues to bless me with placing women in my life to serve and walk beside. To God be the glory!
Please note, on a positive note, my church did send us to marital counseling for nearly 9 months and did validate the filing for divorce due to the continued abuse and my ex husbands lack of repentance. However, they did accuse me of lying about his dual personality and narcissistic tactics. I was nearly excommunicated from our church and had to continually prove to them what his “other” life entailed/entails. (Via his self naked portrait on Instagram that sadly my daughter found, homosexual activities and etc…). It is sad and grevious.
Much grace, forgiveness and mercy continues to be poured out generously both to the church and many prayers are offered up for church leadership and prayers continue for my ex-husband as well.
My heart is sad and aches for all that he has missed in the lives of his children. I have moved from hate to pity for him. How can one not? The man who said “I do”, turns to the man who then threatens to take my life rather than honor and cherish it. I pray the Holy Spirit touches him and there can be a true repentance, a turning from the yuck to a turning of the grace, forgiveness, peace and joy that is abundunt in Christ Jesus.
There is a place in my heart that still does not understand why the church ever allowed him to make reconfirmation of his faith, this again is place of struggle, but again, I had to prove his true colors. Again, pouring out of grace and mercy and forgiveness on my part, if I don’t, it only hold me shackled to bitterness and a root of bitterness that will grow deep within me and keep me from living a productive life and furthering God’s kingdom. God is the judge, not me, to him I relinquish it all. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation, but it does set me free to live an abundant Life. Are there still some hard days? You bet there is! But this is when Jesus meets me daily pouring out his love, mercy and Grace abundantly at the foot of the cross. In God alone do I put my identity.
I was married for 27 years; the abuse started BEFORE the marriage, but I didn’t recognize his screaming in my face as that, because he convinced me I did something (never knew what) that I deserved it. It. Never. Stopped. It got worse. Added to the verbal & emotional was physical, spiritual, financial abuse. I suspected that he was cheating and to this day I still believe he was. One of my children felt he was too. But guess what, he tried to frame me for adultery; was having me followed by priviate investigators; me the one who FAITHFULLY took care of him and our beautiful children, never straying.
Gaslighting, lying, rewriting history, gifts for hooks to keep me around so he didn’t have to take care of the children; these are just part of his M.O. My health has suffered terribly. I took an antidepressant to keep from blacking out from all the abuse and stress; I successfully weaned myself off of that poison, but it has done A LOT of damage to my health. I now suffer with autoimmunity.
After 23 years of the cycle of abuse I went to the Pastor and requested his wife be present. I told the truth about home life and how my then husbandREALLY was/is towards me and the children The Pastor *immediately* took a defensive position in favor of my tormentor! At the end of the session, he asked what I wanted him do, did I want to him to talk to the then husband. I said, I wasn’t sure, to hold off and don’t say I was there talking with them. He told him (but swears he thought I said to tell him). I was suffering with poor health and was caring for a family member so I was not attending church. Mr. Charmer attended every week. I was considered lesser than. The Pastor’s wife was more understanding, but in the end they did NOTHING to help me. Instead, the tormentor who put on the biggest show for their sympathy got what he wanted. Me more isolated and alone.
Recently divorced, but actually, it is a DELIVERANCE!
Mine wasn’t a Baptist church, but the message was the same.
In retrospect, my first husband was not a bad person; he was just breathtakingly unfit to be a husband. He was emotionally immature, impulsive, and could not control his mouth. His verbal abuse was more thoughtless than malicious, mostly at the third-grade playground level, but that didn’t make it any easier to take. He could never settle down to anything for very long, including jobs, and he constantly complained that there was nothing going on, this town was dead, etc. Suggestions that he start up something himself did not fly. He wanted to be someplace else, anywhere else, and when he started mooning over the girl that got away (I guess he married me on the rebound) I knew our days were numbered. I begged him to go to counseling, but he wouldn’t. I went by myself (to a secular marriage and family therapist) who helped me recognize that all these things added up to abuse.
He also could never make up his mind what he expected me to be. Apparently the girl I was, the girl he married, just was not going to do it for him, no matter how much I tried to twist myself into a pretzel to be who he thought he wanted, because whatever or whoever I was, it was never right. Thank God we never had kids. I would have ended up raising them alone.
He finally decided to go seek whatever he was seeking in the previous town where he had lived before, where he figured he could find the action he craved. (Never mind that nearly all of his former friends from there had scattered, and the ones still around were all married and starting families, so the entire dynamic had changed.) There was never any suggestion that I go with him. My family was here, and besides, I had this thing called a job. You know, the thing that keeps the roof overhead. He was not so encumbered, and thus felt free to just take off. I have no idea what he thought he was going to do about the pesky little fact that he was married, but about the time he had mostly packed up his stuff and had already carried one full carload to a friend’s house in the town 6 hours away, I decided I was done bleeding from the thousand cuts. I saw no reason to drag it out any longer, and I served him with papers. And do you know what? I never had even the slightest twinge that I might be doing something wrong. God can speak to me as well as he can speak to anyone, and I know from long experience that if I’m contemplating a wrong course, he all but jabs red-hot needles into my backside to get my attention. But in that long-ago summer, there was nary a red-hot needle to be found.
I didn’t kick him out. He was leaving, and I held the door open for him. Well, when he got those papers, you’d have thought I declared World War Three. All of a sudden, he was calling a counselor (when he had refused to go before) and he went to meet with the pastor (of the church he hadn’t bothered to go to for quite some time). I think what happened was that I was supposed to get down on my knees and beg him to stay with me, but I didn’t follow the script.
Here’s where it got ugly. The pastor summoned me to his office, and like a moron, I went. I was not allowed to say a single word. Apparently I was not allowed to have my own side to the story. His mind was already made up. (He was well known for always taking the man’s side in any marital issues that he got his fingers into.) He lectured me that one day I was going to have to stand before God and explain to him why I had rejected the man He chose for me. I was so intimidated I didn’t retort that God had nothing to do with it, I had made that choice all by myself. Nor did I bother mentioning the lack of red-hot needles. I was quite sure the pastor would not believe that God had released me from the marriage without his permission. What is it with these pastors who dare to try to play the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives? Plus, he ignored the fact that my husband had already abandoned me, and, as I found out not long after, he was already having at least an emotional affair with the girl who had gotten away, the one he thoughtlessly told me he had always known was the one, to which I had responded, then why in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks did you marry ME? To which he had no answer. But none of this would have mattered to the pastor. I HAD to be wrong, the one at fault, because I was the woman.
Looking back, I saw an awful lot of red flags before I got married, but I was young and stupid and in love. Plus, in the culture of that church, people who weren’t married were second class Christians, and there was a great deal of peer pressure to be married, because only in the context of marriage could a person REALLY serve God. Oh yeah? Tell that to the Apostle Paul. And Jesus.
I stayed out of church for the next 20 years. I didn’t blame God; I just had no use for those who claimed to work for Him. I briefly dated one guy right after my divorce. The less said about that, the better. A few years later I met someone that I eventually married, and that was another kind of disaster all its own. A few years after that I met the last guy I dated. He was a deacon in his church, gainfully employed (what a concept!) and just about perfect in every way, until I found out he had neglected to mention his fiance. I was the other woman, all unknowing. (And she still married him, in spite of the ::ahem:: anonymous untraceable email warning about what her man was up to on his days off.)
That did it. Clearly I have a broken picker. That last disaster ended well over a decade ago. I haven’t dated since. I don’t have another failed relationship in me, and have pretty much resigned myself to being single for the rest of my life. I’m still waiting to exchange my ashes for beauty, and I’m still waiting to see what will grow back from the wreckage left when the locusts went through. I never imagined I’d be sitting here alone at 62. But I’m all right. Mostly. Once in a great while, I’ll have myself a little pity party, but I’d much rather be alone than miserably yoked. God is good. He drew me to a church nearly 10 years ago that’s full of messy people, where we’re allowed to be messy and nobody looks at me funny for being twice divorced, because I’m not the only one with a dismal track record. The pastor talks a lot about the priesthood of all believers, he doesn’t try to run anybody’s lives, and is very aware that his role is that of an under-shepherd who is to guard the sheep that belong to the Good Shepherd. He doesn’t call attention to himself; he points us to Jesus. And that’s how it should be.
I actually typed out my story here , but have chosen to delete it because it’s just too painful for me right now.
What I can say is this:
Regarding the betrayal from my church leaders,
It was actually more traumatic to me than the unfaithfulness of my husband. I felt completely abandoned by whom I thought would protect me from my abusive spouse. Later that year I was diagnosed for the first time in my life with PTSD and anxiety.
I was only 28 years old and had already been dealing with my husbands betrayal and patterns of abuse for 6 years by then.
Betrayal trauma and abuse is very real and I will add VERY silent. I’m leaving out a very large chunk of details I’ve endured in the last 9 years of our marriage including sexual coercion and financial abuse.
Please- people helpers- I urge you to open your eyes to the realities of your precious sisters in Christ that are suffering silently in your congregation. I can assure you that if there is abuse of any kind going on in that woman’s marriage she is not looking for an excuse or wanting to trade in her spouse for a new one because she’s bored. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Most of my fellow abuse survivors have endured so much physical and or emotional pain and trauma that they are terrified to stand up and speak out.
God does not care more about the institution of marriage than the safety and sanity of the people in it. .
It’s amazing hearing so many stories out there so similar to mine that I could think you were writing about me. I have been married 16 years and for most of those years I have suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse but to be honest I wasn’t even aware to it until a close friend opened my eyes to the fact the way I was being treated was not OK!
Through the roller coaster ride that was my marriage I had suffered the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, the stability that I had craved due to childhood trauma was constantly denied because my husband has had 30 jobs in 16 years, I have lived on the knife edge of financial ruin for nearly all those sixteen years keeping the family home from being taken from the banks. I was denied the privilege of raising my own children because I was always the one to have the steady job so they were in daycare from ten months old.
No matter what I did it was never good enough and our predicament was always somehow my fault.
Many years of covert abuse, name calling, gaslighting, project and blame shifting brought me to a point that I thought I was going to lose my sanity, I lived a life of going through the motions but me inside had retreated to a place that I couldn’t be hurt anymore, I had become a shell of the person God had created me to be. It was my love for God and my desire to always please him that kept me in my marriage for as long as I was. It was through a Christian Counsellor and my pastors that I had the courage to take the steps to leave my husband. It was my Pastor’s wise words that set me free because I believe God can change any person and I believe in the supernatural power of Jesus Christ but if a person doesn’t want to invite God into their lives to change them then they won’t change. God might hate divorce but there are many things God hates and his love for me far outweighs his hate for divorce. I know there are many pastors out there that I wouldn’t approach about getting help and this makes my heart sad and it also makes God’s heart sad because Jesus paid too high a price for the women he loves to be treated the way they have by the church. It’s only been a few months since I have moved out and but it’s the Christians I dread most running into and telling that I am getting divorced, this should not be the case we need to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and walk with them through the dark night of the soul.
I was married to a pastor for 23 years who lived a double life. He was emotionally, spiritually and sexually abusive….the way he went about it with so much manipulation would leave me drained and thinking I was crazy. Living in abuse is so strange. I didn’t really even realize the extent of the abuse because we had good days. When he went on his tangents, I would enable the behavior by saying he was having a bad day…he couldn’t possibly mean what he is saying or doing. I have learned that covert abusers are not good people with bad days. Actually, they are bad people who pretend to have good days. This all ended with a criminal sexual investigation in which the victim has continued to be abused, manipulated and threatened into believing she will be charged. She is our adopted daughter. It is sick and it is real. Church should be the one place we can go to find help. It should not be a place of further isolation. I am thankful to be part of those who are rising up for a time such as this to bring awareness to the body of Christ of the perversion that is going on in the church. It is time to clean house. It is not a time to be silent.
I think it’s important to make the distinction that not all denominations preach submission like Southern Baptist churches do. When I read your headline I grimaced that this garbage still was going on in the denomination that I abandoned in college. I have attended numerous Presbyterian churches as an adult (as we moved), and have never encountered anything other than “mutual submission,” which I also was taught while getting my graduate degree at one of America’s finest seminaries. I applaud you taking this stand, and hope that every woman suffering abuse is teaching her children how to avoid carrying this sin over into their adult lives.
Wow. So good Natalie. I could write a novel, but the other comments and you say so much of what I would say. We have all had such similar sad experiences. This grieves the heart of God. I would say though, that the abuser listens to these messages and it emboldens him and his sin. The Pastor, unwittingly perhaps, colludes with the abuser. I agree that this hypocrisy in families and the church is what drives old and young people from the church and God. I too, I know that God is good even when his people are not.
I echo some others that the abuse from my pastor and loss of my church is shockingly painful and is still very raw. They agreed he was abusive! But did nothing.. Gave him some bible verses. “Gee willikens, if he says he is sorry, we have to keep giving him chances even if you are still being abused. You haven’t suffered unto the point of death like Jesus yet.” I too begged for death. I told them I begged for death. Nothing. Praise God that I didn’t . I’m In my fifties, with no money, major health problems and working at McDonald’s for minimum wage. I’m icing my knee right now so I can function tomorrow. Does this sound like the “ easy way? “ what this tells you is that I would rather live like this than be abused. That should be your take away. Jesus divorced Israel, by the way, so I guess you think he’s a sinner too.
I love what Natalie said -that truth brings life. Amen! My brothers, You are letting all parties involved down and allowing cancer in your church body. We WANT help for our spouse, our family, ourselves. The truth is healing! Always! The voices of His children are crying out. He WILL answer. Be on the side of truth.
When I went to my pastor about my husband’s 38-year-long addiction to porn, his first response was “Well, you aren’t very submissive to him.” When I asked him for an example, he said that I show up at my husband’s Sunday school class late.
For 25 years I believed my husband’s emotional distance was my own fault, When he said that I was angry, mean, rebellious (I wasn’t), I believed him. The first person I told about his porn usage was a female pastor. She told me there was nothing I could do but deal with it. The second pastor was the one who told me I wasn’t submissive enough. The third one told me he knew of many strong women in unhappy marriages and God gave them the strength to shine in the midst of their pain. Finally, I told my best friend, who was like a sister to me. I also told her that my husband was jealous of the time we spent together. Because of that, she believed she was a contributing factor to our problems, and she withdrew her friendship and began avoiding me and my phone calls. I had never felt so alone in my life.
So two pastors doomed me to a life of pain, loneliness, and misery, the third blamed me.
Hello Dear Sister,
My name is Kiara Alexis and I am 26 years old. I came across your page seeking help from abroad because this battle that we’re fighting is overlooked in many churches. I would like to say that I’m truly blessed by your writings as they have been edifying and encouraging. The points you bring up not only teach me what my body has endured, but it also brings back the memories that I struggle to recap. This is great because I’m actually writing a book about my abuse. This article completely hit home for me because when I reached out to this “CHRISTIAN couple ” who claim they want to keep marriages together completely condemned me and said all the things you mentioned in this article. They even went as far as to calling me a Wicked Rebellious Witch, Jezebel and the infamous un-submissive wife! I had asked the husband to read an article that was written just like this one and he claimed that this was a wicked woman who was leading other women to be rebellious as well and ultimately to hell. This was so crazy to me that he couldn’t hear the cries for help from this woman who spoke for so many other women. Instead of standing with the hurt and abused, he condemned. I also experienced something similar with another marriage group leader when my husband (soon to be ex- husband) went to him hoping to get a shoulder to lean on claiming our marriage was on the rocks. He didn’t say word for word that we were getting a divorce but he was able to read between the lines. So when I walked into the room, he went on and on about forgiveness and loving one another. He even asked me if I knew JESUS! In my mind I was thinking “If only you knew the heart you were speaking to.” I mean it was me crying out to GOD to show me how to submit just a little bit more and asking HIM to show me how to be more pleasing to my husband even when I knew he didn’t deserve it. It was me who fasted and prayed. It was me who died to myself daily. It was me who bridled my tongue. It was me who tried my hardest to show godly love. People like them don’t ever experience what we’ve survived and yet they throw all these BIBLE verses at us as if we aren’t waist deep in the WORD. It’s our husbands who can quickly recite verses that pertain to the wife but what does he know to follow for himself? All they see is the husband crying out for prayer but live like hell when they go home. Sister you are doing such a great job! Please keep this information coming. I love looking through my email at another great article you’ve written!! It’s reaching us and giving us the relief of divorcing in order to protect ourselves and our children, not just because we want something different. I love you sister!!!!!
I was lucky with my church (Baptist), which I am realizing is not the normal experience. It is VERY common for churches to re-abuse victims. This has to stop. Open your eyes, leaders, to the truth of what is surrounding you. My church leaders have been very supportive of me. Number one – they believed me! I kept quiet for sooooo long thinking things would get better . . . they didn’t. One of my church leaders was very educated about abuse, and the other one, after much prayer, was filled with much wisdom about my emotionally-abusive situation. A divorce certificate does not end a marriage any more than a death certificate causes a death. As soon as unrepentant abuse (sin) enters a marriage, it is over.
This is such an outstanding quote: “A divorce certificate does not cause a divorce any more than a death certificate causes a death.” Perfect.
When I met with my pastor, his wife and my husband for counsel concerning the crumbling state of my marriage (13 years of verbal and extreme emotional abuse) as well as his confessed sexual addiction, the pastor asked me to please stop going on and on. He said the only person I could control was myself and to focus on my faults. He did not address my husband at all. Six months later, my husband was under criminal investigation and filed an at fault divorce based on false allegations of my adultery, my delusions, my kidnapping and brainwashing my six small children. The pastor, the associate pastor and two of the members that had privately counseled me to be happy in my marriage bc my husband made a nice paycheck, wrote affidavits questioning my sanity, safety as a mother, and accused years of pursuing young men. The judge threw it all out immediately and reprimanded my husband and his lawyer in court for defamation, but my husband and church friends (were my friends first) shunned me and contacted 3 other pastors in the area to let them know I should not be allowed to attend and was unsafe for small groups.
The church has since dissolved, but the damage of reputation is huge.
Oh, my goodness… this is truth, truth, truth. I don’t feel safe enough yet to share my story, but this article is 100% truth. Thank you, Natalie, for articulating so thoroughly and accurately the truth about what abused Christian women have experienced and continue to experience at home and in the church. Come, Lord Jesus.
Eleven months ago my 65 yr old husband of over 32 yrs head butted me over Memorial weekend. He had been ranting and raving all day and its was just a really bad day. When I tried to walk past him he head butted me on the side of my head. It did not really hurt me physically as much as hurt my feelings! I cried and he made fun of me saying Oh you poor poor baby! My 42 yr old son who lives with us apparently told a friend what had happened and her mither is a member of our church and very active in our church. Weeks later different deacons and elders came up to me separately while I was sitting in church before the service started asking me if I was ok. At first I didnt catch on but finally figured out what was going on and that they must have heard what my husband had done. My husband is also a deacon. What thses people dont know is that my husband is a Dr Jeckyll/Mr Hyde personality. I believe he has a narcisstic personality disorder. Now no one at church or our pastor has talked to me privately about being concerned for me or really shown much care about it all. And I do not mean a man from church coming alone but maybe with their wife to speak to me or make a meeting at church during the day when my husband is working but no one has made any reach out to me. And it can be so difficult at church having to smile on the outside and so depressed on the inside. I am mainly verbally and emotionally abused. My first marriage of 17 yrs was abusive also until he got a divorce.
When I sat in church yesterday and my husnand is being Mr Nice Nice in front of everyone I kept telling myself But God knows the truth and that is what counts! I believe the church really does not care and may not believe me!
My church did nothing back in 2010 when my husband confessed to the deacons and pastor that he was physically, emotionally and verbally abusing me regularly. I thought for sure someone would step up and hold him accountable but no one did anything. I asked one of the deacons why they did nothing and he said no one could believe it was true. After I called 911 two years later since he had continued to escalate his rage and had to deal with a restraining order put in place by the local DA for 15 months, we finally turned our marriage around with the help of a secular batterers prevention course my husband had to take. We have been following many different programs to turn it around.
Amen to everything said. It is especially harm when the church family shuns you, but not the one who controls the money. The abuse is not noted and you are the one who needs to change.
I was luckier than most. I was able to leave the first time and stay gone. I knew all the signs and that it would only worsen. My son was 15 months and wouldn’t suffer much. All of my own experiential learning in 6 years with an unrepentant narcissist meant nothing to my church leaders. They counseled me to call the police if physically hurt. But never, ever was I to separate or divorce. If my faith in God was strong enough, I could bear anything. And He could change anyone.
What they refused to admit was that sticky point: free will. If an abuser never decides to surrender to God, then what? He can’t do much changing, can He? I saw that as my situation, which revealed even worse chronic sin after I left. Scores of cases of depraved infidelity. Evidence given to my counselors. Yet I was still limiting God, failing in my faith. Despite the clear word of God in cases of infidelity. Despite no real repentance or change from my ex. It was all on me to save this man.. to save this institution called marriage.
I was blessed to find a church after this, who recognized the hardness of heart and unrepentant actions of my ex and who walked with me as a single mom and loved on my toddler. But I’ll always carry with me the memory of the shame I felt from those two churches who claimed they loved me, yet withdrew their support when I needed it most. I went from being a daughter, sister and friend to being a lost, unfaithful soul; A rebellious heart on their eyes. And they believed his story. They kept in touch with and supported him. I understand how believable he can be…
I guess caring for widows and orphans doesn’t include those widowed while a spouse still lives.
I forgive those who knew not what they were doing. And even those who knew what they did.. May Jesus show them mercy and shine on them His light of truth.
My husband abused 3 of our kids and was removed from the home the day baby # 4 was born.
He served his 5 years of probation then sent me a dozen red roses. He, along with the church, assumed I would forgive and reconcile. After all, he did his time.
I was eventually excommunicated from that church because of my refusal to forgive.
Couples counseling didn’t work, we were asked not to return because there was no progress. But he claims it was all because of me, and my unforgiveness.
The kids and I eventually relocated, found a new church and had several good years.
But As life goes on, issues arise and I withdrew and built walls. I wasn’t receiving the support needed and totally stopped attending church. And sadly no one attempted to keep in touch with me. After being separated for 17 years I filed for a divorce. ( which still has not been finalized)
I don’t need anyone to approve of my divorce, because they have not walked in my shoes.
Thanks for being an advocate for those of us without a voice!
This comment came to me via email from Michelle:
This article made me cry buckets of tears. It hit me right at this part, ” women who are regularly begging God for mercy on their bathroom floors, begging God to end their lives so they can find relief, experienced paralyzing terror and despair.” Waves of despair, relentless waves knocking me down over and over and over. Being told I need to pray and ” just be submissive” being told “it can’t be that bad” or “so what sets him off?” as if I must have done something to cause his bad behavior toward me and the kids. Hearing sermons and reading Christian books for decades that teach “God hates divorce”, “Christians must keep their marriages intact and not be like the world that doesn’t value marriage”, “people give up on their marriages too easily.” All messages that kept me bound to an abuser for decades. I spent hours, literally hours on my bathroom floor begging God to take me home to him so I could be relieved of the torture of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. I even thought my children deserved a better mother so much that I asked God to bring my husband a new wife after I died so my kids would have a good and loving mother who was better than me. I felt hopeless, helpless, fearful, worthless and stuck in a never-ending cycle of desperate longing to be saved from having to bear a cross of pain and sorrow at the hands of the man who I thought loved me enough to marry me.
The only place I found help and hope to survive was a secular organization and secular books that taught about abuse and I finally recognized my situation was not my fault They told me God was not punishing me with a bad husband. They told me Jesus does not want His people who love Him to suffer and bear a cross of abuse. The churches I attended never told me that.
If I were in the congregation on Sunday hearing the sermon referenced here it would have reinforced those old messages that I am worthless, that I am not a good Christian woman who loves God but instead a worldly disgrace who wants the easy way out of a “imperfect” marriage because I’m bored and I am looking for an excuse to run to greener grass. Reading the quotes from the sermon makes me feel I am a second class Christian, I’m not worthy of God’s grace or love because I am rebellious against Him for wanting to be free from abuse that has destroyed my soul and wrecked my health and torn my life from me.
If any pastors read this I hope they will see how the sermons they preach, the articles and books they write impact real people in the real world that don’t have a picture perfect life. Please stop assuming every one is the same and plop us into a big stew of ugliness and stir us together with the rest of the world. Not everyone gives up easily, not everyone is being selfish. Most of us struggle in despair quietly all alone for many years worrying that we are not faithful enough Christians because we want to escape a charming on the outside yet ungodly on the inside spouse who duped us . Help us escape instead of holding the keys to the prison over our heads .Have mercy and compassion and give practical help and stop telling us we need to pray, submit and stick it out or we are the ones destroying our family. We DO pray, we DO submit, we DO stick it out but we are NOT the ones destroying our family. Please tell abusers to pray, to submit to God’s authority, repent and let go of control and stop destroying our family. Maybe a few will listen but most will ignore you. They do not care because they are so skilled at fooling everyone that they think they can get away with abuse and typically have for decades. But you can show them that you know what they are doing and show us that you care about us. That is showing the love of Jesus Christ to the wounded not preaching sermons like this one that tie up heavy burdens on our shoulders that you don’t lift a finger to remove. Be Jesus example and set us free.
This comment came to me via email from Courtney:
I saw three different counselors – one for four years – read countless marriage books, joined several support groups, and spent 15 years suffering before I was able to wrap my mind around the truth that my husband was abusive. That is how thick my denial was. That is how desperately I wanted to do right by him, by my family, by my children, by God. That is how much I wanted to save my marriage.
I left my marriage thanks to Christians who truly understood the abusive pattern. I began to believe with my whole heart that God does not want me to suffer in relationships. God does not want to see me wither away in trying to serve Him. Rather, God wants me to enjoy fully the relationships that bring me joy and peace and fulfillment, and to learn to put proper boundaries around the ones that are toxic. This is where I thrive. This is where I grow and can give and serve and love and worship more wholly. More holy.
I wish more pastors understood this. When I opened up to a pastoral couple 7 years ago about physical and emotional abuse in my marriage, they listened quietly and shed a few tears. I felt validated. But their only response and reaction was: “we will pray for you.”
While I definitely wanted prayer and appreciated it, what I needed was advocacy, resources, and most importantly, follow-up. I got none of that. Which made me think that maybe my situation was not as bad as I thought it was (which was what my abuser told me constantly). Maybe I was at fault (also what he told me). Maybe this was what marriage was supposed to feel like: fear, rejection, heartbreak, and hopelessness.
Thankfully, 7 years later, I have found a church community that supports women and healthy models of marriage. I am free of my abuser, I am happy and healthy, and guess what? My kids are happy and healthy too. Most importantly, I feel closer to God than ever. Because God no longer feels like yet another person telling me that love is supposed to hurt.
This comment came to me via email from momof3blessings:
Natalie, this pastor is already convinced he knows the truth, and is so very proud of himself for it. My pastor was like that, too. When I nearly died from effects of abuse once, my mother told my pastor in the hospital hallway what my husband was really like. He. Didn’t. Care. It simply didn’t matter. Which hurts me to the core writing about it years later. My pastor, whom I admired, trusted, and thought cared about me, simply ignored what she said. Instead, this supposed man of God acted like a shepherd with a bleeding, hurting lamb who sides with the wolf that injured her, refusing to even acknowledge her injury and blaming any pain she expresses as her own fault for not following God closely enough.
Then when my ex left several years later, obviously delusional and in blatant sin, I was politely shunned by my church. Not openly excommunicated and nobody was rude, but once he left, no one in my church of 20 years wanted to even speak to me. Not one single person there wanted to hear the truth, even when it was staring them in the face. I love the Lord and know I would not be here but for His love and the grace of His Son, but have been so emotionally devastated by my church and especially my pastor’s betrayal that I have not been able to consistently go to any church since then.
Even thinking about it now brings up a huge swell of pain, sharp and fresh and cutting off my breath. If only my pastor had faced the truth when my mother told him, or even asked me about it one time, or even once had offered me ANY support emotionally or spiritually. The last time I was at his church, I left the service halfway through, crying my eyes out, unable to stop the tears coursing down my cheeks, wishing I had died instead of choosing to end the sham of a marriage I could no longer survive in, and which was harming my children more and more. Getting out was absolutely the right, moral, Godly thing to do, and my only regret now is staying nine years after that hospital stay, thinking I was pleasing the Lord by sacrificing myself like Jesus.
I am so grateful I was not at that service yesterday, Natalie. Even reading about your experiencing is devastating. Fear of hearing a sermon like this makes me even more hesitant to go to church. I am a conservative Christian woman, but feel that as a divorced woman there is no pace for me. I am angry at the pastor you heard yesterday, angry that he is so blind to the immense pain of women in his church. I will pray he has a change of heart and can see the truth, because otherwise the damage he is doing to women already being hurt by the very men who are supposed to be caring for them is incalculable.
This comment came via email from Stephanie:
From the first week I was married (at age 48 hoping and waiting to marry a strong Christian man) I knew something wasn’t quite right. As soon as I went to greet and hug him (our first week together) he would get very angry. As this and other day-to-day interactions seemed to anger him, I assumed I just needed to take the time to get to know him better. In less than a year of marriage he wanted to change churches (I had been attending the same Calvary Chapel church for 25 years) and wanting to please my husband, I agreed, and we started attending a small Baptist Church. He was in the music ministry and soon became very connected to the leaders, even taking 1-2 hour lunches with them (and yet didn’t have time to leave work for lunch with me). It wasn’t very long before I noticed that members would turn away from me when I went to say “hi” and one day, a lady murmured under her breath as I walked by “I see you made it” I sat down and asked him what was he telling these people and he adamantly denied it. We were still “newly married” during this time. Behind the scenes at home and in the car I was getting verbally abused (the name calling started week one of our marriage and within a few months they became very vulgar). Fast forward 12 years, enduring his abusive gaslighting, crazy-making, his porn addiction, affairs, hiding money (lots and lots of money) until I finally left. I was (and still am) so exhausted mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I am currently in the process of divorce. This was not a decision I took lightly as I took him back after finding him with another women, trying and trying and trying to be forgiving, honorable to marriage and to God. Eventually, I left that church. I was mortified that they never even took the time to get to know me but swallowed every lie he told them (smear campaigns). I have a PhD and this can happen to anyone. It’s deeply hidden. He has since moved on to another church and is in an inner-city ministry. Guess what? They love him (and have no idea how sinister he is).
I was married 28 years before I had a name for the pain I suffered. I didn’t know it was emotional, verbal and sexual abuse all those years. During that time, I read Christian marriage books, and listened to many sermons on marriage. These caused more pain and confusion. I prayed more. I tried to be a better wife and mother, but nothing helped.
Reading these books and listening to these sermons were like rubbing salt into my wounds. I had no hope, except death. I prayed the Lord would take me home. I didn’t have violent suicidal thoughts. I just didn’t see any way out of marriage. I was taught to keep my covenant vows, and trust the Lord.
I was once brave enough to talk to a pastor about my problems. He advised me to volunteer more in the church. I left feeling unheard and alone.
After I gained understanding of what I suffered, I went to another pastor for counseling. My husband had gone to him a week earlier. The pastor told me, my husband had sobbed and repented and if I stayed with him our relationship would start to grow in love. I stayed another year in relationship hell.
I say to pastors and Christian marriage authors. It is possible for 25-40% of your audience to live in the bondage of abuse. Do not ignore us in your material. Perhaps find truth from the Bible that applies to all people, instead of idolizing traditional marriage and conservative values. Evil is the problem, not divorce. Evil is abuse, adultery or addiction. Let us fight evil, not divorce, which rescues innocents from evil.
My divorce was my rescue plan! The church (more than 1) told me for twenty years to be a better wife and my abuser would be a better man. No matter how well I did, it was never enough. The church affirmed my abuser and his treatment with each counseling session.
I would beg them to look at facts, he didn’t work for 17 years! He was unfaithful all twenty years! All five kids begged me to divorce.
The awakening moment in my life was when my third daughter at 17 looked at me – after another episode from my abuser – and said “Mom, you’re always telling us not to let boys and men treat us like this, but you’ve let him abuse you everyday”
I filed for divorce the next week. I asked that my name be removed from the church roles because after they threatened me repeatedly. Instead, the pastor wrote a letter of excommunication and gave it to my ex to use in the divorce. This pastor also encouraged my abuser to physically harm me and the kids to put me “back in my place”
My abuser went to jail for threatening to kill me and the kids, and the church still stands 100% behind my abuser. He still refuses to work, so the church gives him money!
I’m now wonderfully married to an amazing man and my children are learning what a real man is like. I do not forgive my abuser, because he has not repented. I do not forgive the pastor who put my kids lives in danger, he has not repented.
The church is not a building but a body of believers, however, years later and I still struggle with anxiety on Sunday morning. I do not enjoy church, I hide in the back of a mega church hoping not to be noticed.
The most abusive experience I had was not from my abuser, but from the church. Unfortunately, I have very little hope it will ever change.
Rebecca Farris, this part of your comment, “I do not forgive my abuser, because he has not repented. I do not forgive the pastor who put my kids lives in danger, he has not repented.” is spot on. Several months ago, the Lord pointed that out to me while reading my Bible. Without repentance, God doesn’t forgive, and neither should we (forgive without repentance).
Oh yes! I will leave a story as well….
Marri d over 14 years to a lying, cheating scumbag. He cheated our entire marriage with more women than the number of years we were married. I first approached the pastor at our church who brushed off my concerns (I had some proof, which he ignored and then told my ex to buy me flowers and say he was sorry). Then I approached another leader in the church who was also snowed by my ex and told to dress up more and go on more date nights.
FINALLY our new pastor HEARD me and really got it. I had more proof and he and the leadership of the church were very forceful with my ex and really made him stick to counseling, accountability, prove REAL change…..of course my ex was not changed so the church supported me 1000% in divorcing him. Best decision ever. Just wish I didn’t have to send the kids to spend time with him.
When I felt it was time to step out of my position at church, it was a very sad day. I couldn’t function with a duplicitous marriage and be in a high level Christian leadership position. I resigned and gave up a job that I loved due to my marriage crisis. I knew it was also right to speak with my pastor and let him know what was going on. My husband wasn’t going to step down from overseer leadership. He thinks we all have problems, no marriage is perfect and we both have our part in the issues. While I agree that we both have issues that we bring, we can’t move forward if abusive behavior (emotional/verbal in my case) isn’t being acknowledged, owned and addressed with accountability by the abuser. The cycle of abuse has to be broken. Fast forward to the day we met with our pastor, three things stand out in my mind that hurt deeply. 1. One of the first things he said was that we were one of the “good couples”. I felt guilty that I was even there, but not for long. 2. About midway into our meeting, he asked me what was my theology on all this to which I replied, “I know God hates divorce, but he hates abuse more”. He then said, “No he doesn’t”. 3. Finally, toward the end of our talk, he looked me in the eye and said, “you know I’m a lot like your husband”. I felt like I was having an out of body experience, totally shell shocked I left the meeting. It all made a lot more sense. I will stand up and speak up for women. I will stay at MY church where The Lord God is the HEAD and I will speak out as He gives me opportunity to do so. I will stand on truth and help others who are struggling in destructive relationships.
Wow! That a so-called man of God would side with an abuser… speechless.
Thank you Natalie for bringing life to the lifeless. You are an answered prayer for me.
I too am a survivor of abuse for over 25 years by the man who called himself a “Christian” and made a promise in a church, but never intended to keep.
I am a committed Christian woman, my deepest desire is to remain obedient to God, and was paralyzed by fear of disobeying Him, also of the unknown a separation from my abusive husband might bring.
I desperately looked for help from my “Godly” counselor. I was told
“You are better off staying with him because you have no life experience, and will be easy prey for the sharks out there”.
That advice left further trapped in fear. I finally got the courage to seek help outside of the church, and Thank God I found it.
Thank you Natalie May God continue to use you as a beacon of light and hope to the victims of abuse in despair at this time.
I am struggling with what to write here, but I must raise my hand and say “Me too” It is both revolting and refreshing to read all the other commenters on this post. Revolting that these stories exists, but also refreshing because I I know I am not alone, or crazy.
What scares me is how huge this is, the abuse within the body of the church, that goes unchallenged while families disintegrate and people leave the church totally dissatisfied with the lack of support from those who supposedly are called to shepherd the flock. To any pastors reading these accounts, I urge you to get educated on personality disorders, how people with these disorders rarely apologise, do not accept they are accountable in any way, cannot even see they are dysfunctional and believe their behaviour is perfectly normal and sadly too many pastors and others in positions of authority only enable them to continue their abuse because they just don’t get it, they have no idea about the destructive nature of covert abuse plus they always seem to place full responsibility on the victim for the problems in the marriage …please stop that and know you need to interview each person separately….never together, at least in the first instance.
What really worries me is this…….how will God deal with all those who speak in his name and give such poor counsel, such shallow advice, how must God view his people in these matters?
Please, please, please get educated in this subject, you owe it to your congregation. There is no excuse for ignorance now, there is plenty of information on the web. Natalie of Flying Free is a brilliant resource and so is Leslie Vernick, without either of these ladies I would still be contained in a fog of covert abuse myself.
What powerful words and what truth you’ve shared. I’ve only been separated from my husband for a few months since realising it was an abusive situation. I had the support of the pastors and friends in the church, as I was working through and praying about the when/how/should of leaving the relationship.
Since separating, it now feels like the pastors have ,at least to me anyway, an “oh well, that’s her problem resolved. She’ll be fine now,” attitude about it.
Honestly some days yes, others no…some Sundays it’s painful to sit in church and feel like I’m alone (& wonder how many how people in this church are suffering abuse too). Other Sundays, I’m uplifted by people who truly care and ask how I really am.
Yes it’s good to have a supportive church as you’re walking through it and determining the road ahead, but it would be even better to have a church who continues that support after you separate and are starting to find your wings!
Thank you so much for speaking out on this topic. It needs to be known.
I went to pastors in my former Baptist church at least THREE separate times, begging desperately for help while my ex-husband psychologically tormented me, and cheated, along with spiritual abuse and manipulation. I had binders with years of PROOF of his ungodly behavior. Instead of helping, I was blamed, accused of being angry, asked if separation was really necessary, and eventually shunned and ignored. My ex still attends and has not changed. I have women he’s treated badly after me reach out to explain how awful he’s been to them also. Yet, he shows up in church and is treated like nothing ever happened. He almost pushed me to the point of complete despair, my life became true scorched earth. which was his goal because I knew the truth of who he really was. I even offered to help the church, educate their pastors in how to recognize and deal with wolves in its midst so no more women would receive the same soul- crushing treatment, they completely ignored me, the pastor was once VP of the SBC.
My dear ladies, I am not surprised at the pharisaical attitude. I am never-married, no children, verbally and emotionally abused growing up. I was often single-shamed in evangelical churches. Thank you, Lord, for life-long singleness with its restrictions. The loveless church will lose its place in the lampstand, and evangelical churches are loveless as a rule. I am a Christian in an independent, loving church. My church loves people. Never call me an evangelical again. All pastors will answer to Jesus. It will not be pretty for many. Singleness and obedience are part of my protection. Thank you, Lord, that the evangelicals rejected me and treated me badly. Thank you, Jesus!!!! I am ministering to rejected people. Thank you, Jesus!! Jesus is not the problem, the errant, loveless pastors are.
I have been in a psychologically abusive marriage/relationship for 17 years; it began long before we actually married. Every aspect except direct physical because he’s a police officer, but every other kind especially financial, emotional, and spiritual. I’m “the one grace could never save” according to him. Because of things that have been said in my church, I was too afraid to even ask the church for help. The fear was too overwhelming so I never asked, but felt uncomfortable to do so. His abuse was so covert that it was very difficult to even explain. Thank you flying free for expressing my pain in words and validating my story in the 3 blog posts I’ve read. It’s been life changing already. Even in court I was told not to say “emotionally abusive” because they would just tune it out. There’s very little support for abuse unless you have bruises and scars people can see. What about the bruises and scars on the inside that never heal? I pray church leaders will hear this message and stop blaming the victim, saying they are not submissive enough or are over functioning etc. Lord open their eyes to covert abuse in Jesus’ name.
Like Natalie, I also love Jesus, and since becoming a born again Christian when I was in my early 20s (I’m 60 now), I have been a Jesus follower. My husband and I went to a local Baptist church, our children went to Awana, and we served in the church as teen leaders. My husband died in 2006 and I became an empty nester and widow within a short time period.
After 4 years of being a widow, I dated and eventually married a pastor of a small church. This is where the abuse began. I own my part that I gave in to him, and ignored many red flags. He lied about being divorced (he was not divorced or even separated). After we were married, I was verbally abused by him more frequently. I can give several examples, but the point is that I WAS verbally, sexually and spiritually abused by a person who professed to be a minister of the gospel.
I left this man after being married to him 5 years. I tried to do it secretly, because I was concerned for my safety. He did come home in the middle of my move, and his two concerns were the finances and the consequences to him if I told his church district superintendent. He didn’t ask me why I was leaving, nor did he try to stop me.I had not told anyone from the church that I planned on leaving. I hadn’t let on that we even had problems. The congregation thought this man was wonderful. I knew I wouldn’t be believed. There is an awakening that is happening, and you will soon learn that we women have a voice, and we are loved by Jesus, and not condemned by Him.
Natalie, you have addressed this so well by explaining what needed to be said INSTEAD of what was said. I have a very sweet compassionate friend who would hear something like “your body doesn’t belong to you” and immediately understands that it means her body belongs to Jesus. It wouldn’t occur to her that anyone would could be injured with that “truth”. I understand it NOW, but for so long, I didn’t understand it as the loving truth that it is.
There are many like my friend, but there are also so many who need the full explanation of what it means to belong to Christ rather than your parents, or your husband, or even your church. Many of us have not been taught that we belong to Jesus, before and above anyone or anything else and we need to hear it over and over and over again before it replaces the wrong that we’ve been taught in the past.
I was in an abusive dating relationship when I first was exposed to the “chain of command” lessons and I was destroyed by them. Escaping the abusive relationship when I was 17 required running a way from God as well. I stumbled for years feeling so worthless and unlovable that I just kept repeating the same mistakes.
I learned that when no one around me would be God’s hands and voice for me, He intervened supernaturally. But I believe with all my heart that our primary purpose as His children on earth is to build and maintain the connections to others that provide the door for Jesus to walk through so we can be a part of His work.
I pray that there are many in church leadership who will care when they learn to recognize the weary and wounded in their own congregations.
What is going on in the hearts of leaders in our church? Why aren’t women being cared for, protected, believed when they go to the church leaders and share they are being abused, their spouse is being unfaithful physically or through porn? Why are those that are living in sin being protected instead? I have been married for 29years and my husband has been in counseling for covert abuse and porn. I have decided I will not protect my husband’s sin by staying silent.
In three weeks it will be the 9th anniversary of when I left my ex-husband. My youngest/second daughter was five months old at the time. It was awful. I’d seen a counselor a few different times over the previous few years and she encouraged me to leave him, but I couldn’t. All I could think was how I was dishonoring God, and maybe I just needed to suck it up and not dramatize things in my mind. I remember telling my counselor that I wished he would hit me, then I could leave…but at the time I guess I didn’t feel “abused enough.” He would only put his hands around my throat, usually when I would be holding one of my babies. He would yell, scream, call names, throw things, destroy, threaten, and manipulate. I’ve since come to realize he’s a narcissistic personality. I’ve had a hard time finding a church – I’m an introvert and have felt like I’m not good enough, but a few years ago I did find a church I thought I could be comfortable at. I started doing Bible study with a group of ladies, but always “held back.” One day we were talking about fear, and for once I offered mine…that I was afraid God wouldn’t forgive me for divorcing my ex and that I’d be alone the rest of my life. I was met with looks and a half-shrug and “I don’t know, God hates divorce. Only He knows your heart.” I felt so deflated, cried all the way home, and never shared again. Today, I don’t regret my decision, but I have moments where I still question how God feels about it/me. Your words, Natalie, have been the only thing to reach my heart and give me hope and I am grateful for that.
Thank you so much for this article. I appreciate your love for the pastors in encouraging them instead of demonizing them, edidying the body of Chrust, for His glory. Well done.
I hope many pastors will read this article and hear your words. We do not advocate for divorce, but we also achnowledge abuse. We can grow as a church in knowing how to walk alongside those who are suffering, trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal wrong thoughts, motives or actions. Amen to not contributing to the wounds of the very people Christ died for!
I too have sat in 100’s of sermons, shrinking in my seat with despair and discouragement, bleeding through countless sermons, hoping that one day things would get better. I too am a genuine committed Christian woman.
Married for 25 years, my divorce was complete last September after my husband ran off with another woman on the praise team, who also left her husband, both in leadership positions at church.
I was constantly setting appointments with the pastor, church counselor or church staff – anyone who could help us with our marriage. But nothing ever addressed the real issues as my husband was dishonest and a pretender.
I won’t go into the details of his hidden lifestyle, hidden debt and misuse of finances, years of lies and deceptions, denying a sexual relationship for most of our marriage, etc., all of which were topics in our church counseling. Only ONE pastor ever told me I was being emotionally abused, and I could hardly believe it. Most of our “counseling” involved telling me to be more sexy, pray more, trust God, read another book, etc…. Rarely ( never) was my husband called to the carpet for as he was always the “level headed, smooth talking and charming one” and I was far more emotional, distraught, discouraged, complaining, and willing to lay bare my own faults, which made me appear crazy, unbalanced, outlandish and so out of proportion to the “truth” he was telling. He never treasured our marriage vows as I did.
The whole mess disguised as a marriage is over and I am 56 and left picking up the pieces of my life. I have turned to DivorceCare groups and “Flying Free” has done a tremendous job in addressing the real needs of women in the church.
Lifting you up in prayer and thank you for your courage and honesty
We came under some false teaching with him being the head. I rejected the crazy and after years of arguing I caught hold of what it is to be a daughter. I started claiming daughter of the king rights and my man was delivered from the deception. It was a long hard struggle. But for us God is good and saw reason to put us on track. To many times the church message of authority was not on target. A wife is not second she is presious.
Thank you for this article Natalie!
My abuser was not physical, there was no yelling or name-calling, there were no affairs (that I know of). There were incessant lies, lies that I still find out about today – three years after the process of divorce was initiated by me; there was covert verbal abuse, gas lighting, projecting, and blaming. I was harassed/coerced into physical intimacy. There was a cycle of abuse, but sometimes it took months or years to cycle through. He isolated me in a way that was so covert that I didn’t even recognize it until a year after I got out. There was withholding of financial information, an inability to provide for his family – and also an inability to release me to provide.
There are women reading this who have no idea they’re being abused, and that’s why I’m writing. There are women who, like me, read the symptoms listed here and hopelessly say “my husband doesn’t fit this description, the problem must be me.” But that is what he wants you to think. You are not the problem. A man does not have to physically touch you to be an abuser. He does not have to yell. He does not have to hurt the children or scream at them. he does not have to call you names.
I can so relate! For years I never considered it abuse either, and even today nine years later I still question myself. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you for sharing this. It is very very similar to my story. Although my pastors did not preach about abuse often, they communicate the extravagant grace of God. They are very real and open folk. I received support and love. It grieves me to know that others are not treated well.
The abuse I had was of the sneaky, covert kind you describe. It was only when I realised how I was being denigrated, that I reached out to my pastors. However, I believe that ideas in the wider culture of the fixable marriage made it difficult for me to call time on his nonsense.
Another comment sent to me (natalie) via email:
I am very loyal. I asked (sometimes begged) my now former pastor to help our marriage for the last 4 years before it ended. He manipulated me into signing a contract with my husband, agreeing to childish things such as memorizing particular Bible verses, reading a very terrible book that seemed Biblical, but is actually quite heretical, if you have any spiritual discernment, and sitting with my husband in church, as well as praying together every night, which I had begged my husband throughout our marriage to do & he would get angry and refuse. Of course, to show me up in front of the pastor (and prove his delusion that he was a righteous man), he prayed forced, long, ridiculous fake prayers. It was nauseating, hearing someone be such a hypocrite– especially to/about God. I didn’t even last the length of the contract. The pastor told me on a couple of occasions that, yes, my husband was indeed sinning, that “clearly, he is sinning”, not being a Biblical husband, but that he didn’t know what to do about it. He then devised the contract. He told me 1 Peter 3 was the only way my husband was going to change. He also told me I had “no right to defend myself”, as we are supposed to regard others higher than ourselves (somewhere in Philippians, I think?). He also told me I needed to “suffer to Jesus Christ’s sake”, and “it’s much more righteous to suffer to the sake of Christ than to suffer from divorcing” (which he told me I couldn’t, because I had no proof he was committing adultery). My ex-husband still attends that church, of course, and they all colluded, urging me to “just submit” to my husband. So the church MO is essentially: don’t rock the boat. don’t break the line. don’t stir the pot. DON’T REMOVE OUR FACADE. It seems so friendly and biblical though…
A reader sent this comment to me via email:
I was a faithful daughter of the church. I was saved at 16 and read my Bible, prayed, attended Bible studies at my boarding high school where I was then known as a Christian. Went on summer missions, GAVE UP A FULL SCHOLARSHIP to get my PhD because I felt God was calling me to go in faith overseas to do a one year with a mission group. Returned to marry an on-fire-for-Jesus guy, moved states with him so he could attend a school of ministry.
And then it all fell apart.
He made lots of promises. I believed them because I would NEVER say such things if I couldn’t carry them out – so I coudln’t imagine that he would say such things if he knew there was a good chance it wouldn’t come true…
I used my potential, my time, my life as the sole support for our family, meanwhile birthing 1, 2, 3 kids… leaving my job to come home because it was my dream to homeschool – hoping that if we “created a crisis” he would step up to the plate and finally provide for the family. Didn’t work, and I now believe he was thinking of walking out – except that I got a phone call. An offer to work from home for less pay than my previous job. Less pay is still greater than zero so I took it. And for 3 more years had 2 more kids and TRIED DESPERATELY to work my 8 hrs a day – while he let the little ones watch Netflix all day and took naps on the couch. Taking the kids to school and picking them up only gave me 5 hrs a day to work. But did he care despite all of my pleading that I needed him to take on some of the burdens at home so that I COULD DO MY JOB? Thankfully the employer kept me on until he had a downturn in business and laid lots off – so I could keep my dignity and collect unemployment.
I was EXHAUSTED physically and mentally and subjected to his emotional and spiritual abuse for years – not understanding WHY no matter how hard I worked and how hard I gave until there was NO LIFE LEFT IN MY LIFE FOR ME – but it never changed anything.
And the church? Oh, Lord! I have forgiven him, I have forgiven YOU, but the MOST DIFFICULT entity to forgive in all of this is THE CHURCH! I purposely kept parts of my marriage and life hidden from my family because I KNEW what they would say: leave the loser. But I was a Christian and I had said my vows – I wanted advice from Godly men. We changed church on average every 3 years because they would eventually see his behavior and attempt to hold him accountable – and then there’s be some slight or offense, he said, and we would leave. But the WORST was the narcissistic pastor who listened to my tears almost daily on the phone and told me “All heaven is on the side of the wife who SUBMITS.”
The following comment was sent to me via email from Christie:
ONE PASTOR PUT MY LIFE IN DANGER by innocently calling my cell phone during the week between my decision to leave and when I left and he saw the call come in. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REACH OUT unless you know they’re expecting your call or text!! The tirade that can result could be deadly – but if not deadly will definitely be abusive to an already abused soul.
I wish I could write more. I am out – safely. The marriage is over – thank God! (Turns out I was never married to him to begin with – long story!) I have a job and I am caring for my 5 kids. But I dread going back to church. I went ONCE and endured a sermon on SUBMISSION! I was so sickened becuase I too heard it through the ears of an abuse survivor. Please, pastors, please listen and learn!!
As an abused woman, both physically and emotionally, I completely agree with your blog. It is very hard to go to church when you are feeling so alone. My body is my temple and belongs to God. Not the man who abused me and felt he had no problems and that he “owned” me. Since then I have struggled with going to church on a regular basis. We are no longer together and I am now working at healing and truly miss the fellowship at church, but don’t need to go and feel like I am the bad person.
I was married to an abusive man. I went to our church for help and was told to “have faith” and to pray for my husband. When that hadn’t helped, I was told to “pray harder” and given books to read about being a submissive wife even to the point of giving my body to my husband whenever he wanted because I didn’t have a voice because I was woman.
I ended up leaving the church and filing for separation and eventually he filed for divorce. So called Christians are some of the most heartless people I know, especially when it comes to abuse. You’re right. Secular therapists get it far better than the church. And that’s pathetic.
I even went on this particular church’s Facebook page and left a review saying a lot of what I’ve said here, not to be mean and ugly, but to warn other women. They removed it and made it so no one could post a review of their church. Guess how they look to the outside is more important than people knowing the truth.
I realized I was holding my breath and my stomach is tight while reading this. My story of church abuse is that when I got some measure of strength to leave, but he got wind of it, he dragged me to church to talk to some elders (actually the husband was the elder and his wife was with him). I KNEW I would be walking out of there brow beaten and shamed which is exactly what happened. I was the sinner. I was the one going the wrong direction. In the weeks afterward, I became a zombie, just going through the motions of life. The elder told me to call him if there was any abuse. I called daily. I was told they were going to do something about it, but they never did. I finally got out by spending a LOT of time in prayer and the bible and journaling all the abuse. It woke me up and God used his word to show me that he truly cares for the orphan and widow. Then, no matter what the church people said, I knew I had to follow Jesus out of there. He got me out!
After 20 years of psychological and emotional abuse to my 4 children and I (physical abuse of the children), I got the courage to divorce my law enforcement husband after I found out that he had been stalking me and had been having multiple affairs for the last 6 years of our marriage. The pastor told that I was going against God by filing a protective order against him for the children and myself. The pastor also didn’t believe me about the magnitude of the lifestyle that my husband was living and lying about. I gained nothing but isolation by telling the truth and getting the children and I help. The church, my family, law enforcement, friends, everyone didn’t want anything to do with me. When law enforcement and the church, people who you should be able to turn to for help, accuse you of claiming falsehoods it feels like being victimized all over again because everyone believes what the pastors and police say.
I so understand this! Being married to an abusive narc that’s a police officer. I’m so very sorry
Thank you for helping our voices be heard. I suffered in an abusive marriage for 14 years and wanted to die. When I finally initiated separation (from a counselor’s advice) and then eventually divorce I was very alone. I had one elder from my church (that I was a part of my entire life!) contact me one time over the year and a half process. Meanwhile my ex-husband was able to cry “victim” constantly and received sympathy and support from two of our pastors.
I urge church leaders and pastors to educate themselves on this complex issue and to also show Christ’s love and support to women like myself who took immense courage in standing up and saying “I can’t do this anymore”.
Thank you! I’m with you 100%, using my pain to encourage others in abusive marriages. I, too, have heard the comments from pastors, talking about “divorced people” as if we are the lowest of the low. As I lie bleeding, I made it my life mission to help anyone else running to the church for healing, to protect them from the blows. I’ve seen God take my pain and use it in so many ways. I lost my title of pastor’s wife when I divorced him, but God has given me a far greater ministry! I stand in solidarity with you!
The harm I have suffered at my church has been from a female church leader, a very faithful female ministry leader/friend and several church counselors. All of whom did not either ask questions about what I was experiencing, expressed doubt in one form or another or encouraged me to be submissive and/or stay faithful to God and ignore the abuse. The greatest harm I have suffered by all of them was them not believing me and standing beside me. I was in so much pain. I get better and better every day and that is thanks to God and my understanding that just because others don’t believe me or want to acknowledge what has happened in my life He is still with me, loving me, guiding me in this journey to wholeness and health.
Okay. Yes, I will share. I was one of those women. 16 years of “love him more” forgive, and 70 times 70. i was counselled to read 1 Corn 13 and sancitify a man that lied all the time, qut all his jobs, deceived the church and was a con artist personified. I went through Hell. i was 40 when I left him. Nobody gave me permission to go but God himself. I literally went through hell and after I got divorced I wrote a book “grace to the rescue” ….I’ve had some good results to comfort others but mostly I’ve had Christians sneer at it and when they read the back cover “no thank you”. He was never chastized to love me I was told to love more and more and have faith more and more until finally yes, i wished for Death. Not the outcome God wants for his poeple. now i want to help people and still have trouble getting past the barriers and walls people have up about divorce.
good on you tor having this blog! May God bless you richly. Laura Grace, Author Grace to the Rescue, available on Amazon.
I stayed in an abusive marriage for 35 years because I had been taught it was my job, as a wife, to keep taking it. To submit, to suffer for Christ. I was blinded for 31 of those 35 years because I thought I didn’t deserve better and it was my fault!
I knew if I went to my pastor that he’d blame me and tell me I needed to submit more!!
Thankfully, after 4 years of studying and learning, I gathered my courage and confronted my pastor WITH my abusive husband in the room. I laid out everything I had gone through. Thankfully my pastor believed me and was furious with my elder and Sunday school teacher husband!!
And thankfully he kicked him off the board and out of Sunday school.
BUT!! My pastor is completely torn on how to council me about the divorce. He said he can’t recommend that I divorce, but he will support me. ?!?!?
I’m thankful for all I know now. And I thank God for showing me it’s ok to divorce. In fact, I know I am honoring God by getting divorced and not supporting my soon to be ex husband’s sin!!
Thank you for this wonderful article! I worked as a social worker with children and families for years while attending a church. The leaders of the church occasionally asked my opinion as a professional about various women members of the church who were coming to them and me for help with abusive husbands. One woman showed up on my doorstep in the snow with her 4 young children, barefoot because dad was in a rage and they had to leave immediately. Church leaders repeatedly said there is nothing they can do, try to be a better wife, submit, etc. Horrible and in no way the heart of God! I eventually left this church for this and other reasons. Every woman in this large church who is married to a church leader has autoimmune disease…Every single one!!!! The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and will help each hurting soul find a way to safety and also find their true identity in Christ, not in their abuser. Praying that church leaders will listen to this amazing letter. The Lord is beginning His judgment with the people of God and I believe some of these ministries will be broken beyond repair by the Lord Himself and the sheep will be scattered to better places with better people….those who love the lambs of God and do not make an idol of marriage or of a charismatic (typically tithing abuser) Thank you Father for freedom from abusive control and for your love. ❤
Amen! I am so happy to know there are people like you out there who will support women who are being abused in this very covert way. It is such a lonely life, but when someone hears you, you’re not alone. : )
Wake up! Abuse is not just black eyes and coming home drunk. The deacon, the pastor, the MISSIONARY in your midst is abusing his family with anger, rage, manipulation, lies, and spiritual double talk. This “fine, upstanding man” is threatening his family with suicide if they don’t cater to his every sociopathic “need.” He acts “broken for the world” but he treats his family as his personal minions, put on earth to be helpmate and obedient children.
Please wake up, church! Stop bemoaning how culture hates the church and doesn’t want God. People are hungry for God—the true God. But they can’t and won’t tolerate the ABUSE you perpetuate. THAT’s why they stop coming to church. THAT’s why they disappear without a word. They are flying free and will NEVER go back.
Survivor here! My church saw my ex’s erratic behavior but wouldn’t talk to him about it “because he knows so much about the Bible and apologetics.” And, after all, he’d been a missionary, so he’s above reproach or accountability, right?
I can’t attend Baptist churches anymore. It’s just too painful to hear the black and white brush strokes that utterly ignore how many women are mistreated as less than… forced to “save the marriage” all the while their very souls are dying. “Saving the marriage” means our kids grow up to despise the church and God. And really, can you blame them? The church said that “the marriage” was more important than mom’s wellbeing, than their own wellbeing. What kind of messed up God would that be? Why WOULD anyone serve a god like that who cares more about preventing divorce than preventing ABUSE of wives and children?
My God! Yes!! For two years I’ve put up with the aftermath of my husband saying he didn’t have an affair. I thought I had a normal life before.
10 months and two messed up counselors later and I was doubting myself.
Only to discover that my husband was hiding our entire savings. It’s been almost two years since that discovery and I left and came back.
I still think the affair happened as honestly I still don’t have answers to certain things.
I’m tired of being the good Christian girl who is trying to make this work. My gown kids have suffered too.
I’m praying about the next step so Thank you Natalie.
I think I’ LOL use my real name too!!
For years I have suffered under the emotional, verbal, spiritual, physical abuse. Currently I’m going through a divorce. My husband went to the pastors who told me divorce was not an option. I understand the importance of a strong commitment, it is what kept me giving and trying and forgiving and trying over and over. I’ve given my identity away to try to submit to his authority. I’m currently on anxiety/depression medication. When the pastors said unequivocally that divorce is not an option, my husband loved it – because it was more ammunition to shoot at me as to how horrible I am. After 28 years of criticism, condemnation, abuse, lack of value, oppression, I face divorce knowing that I still walk on eggshells at church because I initiated the divorce and therefore I’m the bad guy. Please take heed to Natalie’s words. Those of us hurting, bleeding out, exhausted, and ignored, need to know that we are seen and we are valued. God did not break the chains of hell and death so that I could be enchained by my husband’s sin.
This—–>”God did not break the chains of hell and death so that I could be enchained by my husband’s sin.” Yes!
Such an eye-opener and so sadly true, but loved your response of replacements that should be made. There are heinous crimes of neglect on the very pews we sit on under the same roof.
I have been abandoned…I first confided in my pastor, who even as we began our “pre-marital” counseling was so intimidated by my husband, would not offer anything to me. I turned again to him in my despair after being neglected, emotionally and verbally destroyed, I was offered nothing, but he was “there” for me. My pastor knew my husband so well that he told me he would offer to come see me, but my husband would probably think that he was after me romantically…my pastor is over 30 years older than me. I was devastated. I had no one in that church. They’d smirk and make remarks that they thought I didn’t hear. They came when my daughter was ill, but only for a week. I left home 8 months ago and almost every Sunday I find the courage to go back to my husband’s church.
No one would stand up to him. No one would dare say a word. I was warned by family but I was very young and very naive. I thought love will cover this all. Love will heal this all. I was dead wrong. If it wasn’t painful enough to be supported only superficially, the real blow was the above. The saying “You’re a beautiful woman, but if I try to help you, he may even think there’s something going on between you and I.”
The lack of support has been devastating since I left my church to join his.
After a few months of marriage to my verbally abusive spouse, after threatening me with a gun, we went to counselling with my pastor.
I had been a faithful member/tither/children’s ministry worker for 10 years at this same church and the pastor had been the one to baptize me.
Much to my surprise the pastor listened to my husband accuse me of gossiping about our relationship to my family ( conveniently leaving out the part of him threatening me). My pastor told me I should never speak to anyone else about the troubles in our marriage and that I should submit to my husband if I wanted my marriage to work.
So I left that day defeated and settled in for a long, difficult journey of keeping his abuse a secret. When he started shoving me around, I kept praying he would see the destruction in his actions. When he broke ALL of my dishes, 2 cell phones, a set of glass tables and several important momentos, I kept to myself. I burned and ached with fear when he punched holes in the walls, broke the bedroom door when I tried to hide from his drunken tirade, and listened to him call me filthy names in front of our kids.
All the while, I can hear the guilty pressure from the church and my spouse about humility and remaining faithful ringing in my ears.
Be wise with the counsel you provide to hurting families. Listen to both sides separately to get a full picture of the marriage for BOTH parties. Dont just let one side skew your viewpoint.
I once heard a preacher tell of how a woman was rebellious and argumentative towards her husband and in response, he blacked her eye.
She, in her further rebellion, stood before the church the next day and showed them her black eye and told them of her husband’s abusive behavior.
This pastor believed this woman deserved the shame and discipline of the church for her slander and rebellion of “showing off” her black eye. Because love covers a multitude of sins and a husband’s heart should be able to safely trust in his wife.
That story made me terrified to even mention what my husband was doing at our home.
It made me think, that could be me because I could not even show a black eye. My wounds were deeper and much harder to see.
The church is filled with men who excuse the horrible behavior of other men, so they will not have to look at their own behavior and beliefs.
The church is filled with men who excuse the horrible behavior of other men, so they will not have to look at their own behavior and beliefs. ❤️Truth! May I share your quote?
I thank God for your message Natalie. He is using you to refresh my broken spirit. My Baptist Church (where I taught children for over 20 years) let me go without a word to question whether I needed their help. That pastor did meet with my estranged husband and me many months into our separation to present a “contract” for us to sign stating that we would not divorce, and that I was neglecting my 18 year old by leaving the home, and that I was a sinful threat to his finances. When I “asked” husband (in front of pastor to hopefully pressure husband to respond) to call our banker immediately to finish his home loan so I could be paid for my share of the value ( I was nearly penniless and struggling badly)- pastor stated, “Now Sue, that sounds a bit controlling!” So, SEVEN MONTHS LATER husband refused to settle the finances, even into contempt of court by not closing on the house! Church welcomes him every Sunday- he’s their “warm teddy bear!”
Thank you Natalie for your words. It is such a strange feeling to have an advocate. I’m so used to being misunderstood, told to try harder and be more loving while nobody is brave enough to speak to my husband about his behaviour. I have friends offered to pray for me and begging me not to initiate divorce.. to think of my children… each time they say it, I feel that suicide is the only way out. But my Jesus… HE never leaves me or misunderstands me, HE never condemns or criticises and HE is healing me and showing me the way out of my abusive marriage. I would have had to leave during such a sermon as the pain would have been too great to bear.
You also have an advocate in Jesus Christ. Contrary to the callous opinions of conservative religious leaders, Jesus Christ is FOR you. He loves you, and He will never, ever, EVER forsake you. You will always be safe within His arms, though you may not find safety within the walls of a church. I promise, all victims will be vindicated one day. I believe Jesus will do this. I trust Him. He fights on behalf of the weak and rejected. That will be a day of such joy. (((hugs)))
This is a section from a piece I wrote called “Path”
I knitted you He whispers, I numbered the hairs on your head. Don’t forget.
But. I. Did
It started out…the toothpick has fallen to the floor…I just can’t anymore. A year is what I need and I want to heal and see the lost girl again.The one I put away to be safe…the one with the smile, joy, life.
I was told by the people with the steeple and the building; you need to stay home with him, show in the Bible how you are a wife and godly woman, submit the man writes on his wall for me to see, sit on the couch and hold his hand, read this book, we will call it a 30 day sabbatical and then you will be fine.
No I did not pick the wrong toe nail polish, have a fit and quit.
I try to show the steeple people in the building the 10000 nothing’s that became something that extinguished me after 29 years, but you, you know who you are, didn’t ask, didn’t care, didn’t listen. Were you scared too, of him? I am.
I approached my pastor about the abuse going on in my home after I’d been dealing with it for about 5 years or so. His response? While I sat in his office with another woman on staff, teeth chattering uncontrollably (C-PTSD I believe. It was the first time I was “telling”). I was told I needed “gospel courage.” That’s it. My husband is beating my kids’ bottoms black and blue, controlling everything in the home from what I wore to how much $ I spent on groceries, and I was very visibly shaken by stepping forward for help and all I got was…”gospel courage?” What even is that?
Fast forward 2 years or so. Husband never ever went to church with me and started making it increasingly difficult for me to go. He would make war or craziness on Sunday mornings and I just gave up after awhile. I approached a woman in leadership at same church. She said I needed to submit to my husband as to the Lord. And if he did not want me to be a part of worship, then so be it. It was an act of worship in itself to submit. So I slowly just gave up…piece by piece…parts of myself, until I didn’t even try to attend worship. It just became a war zone. So I stopped altogether.
This is heart wrenching to read and experience. This is well written and communicates what I “learned” as a Christian and believed for too long. I sacrificed my very “self” for the marriage, for a man that did not love me back. Not true love, not biblical love. He made vows to love, honor and protect me. He has hurt me every day in some way. Every day for almost 25 years. Mind games galore. Deception. Neglect. I begged him to get help. The only help he got 25 years into this was to play like he was seeing a counselor for help but went for staging purposes. To hurt me more. This brings up so many hurts because it’s a reality in every day living of my life. Every single day, every single hour for 25 years. But i will be the one to suffer for a divorce. He is fine and will contoure to be fine.
Jamie…. Dear Jaime!!!
When a man hurts you for 25 years and has no remorse and claims to be a Christian….. He cannot be one!
Jesus does not expect you to continue in such abuse. You are so free to get out and loved by Him!
I too, struggled with the 24/7 mind games, discarded, devalued, lies, adultery and neglect until I finally left as a fragmented shell of the outgoing, funny, confident women that I used to be. After over a decade of so-called marriage, my spouse would not call me by name. I was not even a human being. I can’t even call him a “husband” as even those in the profession of animal husbandry tend to and care for their livestock, something my spouse never did for me. Even though it appears that my spouse is “footloose and fancy-free” and is adored within church circles, I know that he WILL have to answer to our Lord. I’ll be praying for you dear Jamie.
My husband has “Intimacy anorexia” because he had been abused as a child. He doesn’t want sex, touching, affection, always blames me for his actions and always mad at me even for small things. He can be a physically abuser too.