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Three Things I’d Do Differently When Leaving My Emotionally Abusive Marriage

by | Apr 12, 2018 | Advocacy, Articles, Divorce, Emotional Abuse, Learning, Rebuilding | 47 comments

I haven’t talked a whole lot about my own story publicly, but today I’m going to share a little bit of what I wish I had done differently when I left my emotionally abusive marriage. Hind sight IS 20-20, and while I can’t go back in my own life and change anything (nor do I want to since God has written a crazy beautiful story, and why mess it up?) I do hope someone reading this might learn from my mistakes and avoid a few of the traps I fell into.

Getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship is a bit like navigating a minefield. And the mines have this uncanny ability to increase in number when you stick your neck out and start running. You know why?

Because when you start seeing the truth and making choices that will lead to escape, your abusive partner gathers up friends, family, and religious leaders to HELP HIM PLANT MORE MINES.

RABBIT TRAIL: (These same people, ironically, will try to convince you that you’re not being abused. “Abuse?” They’ll cluck. “Isn’t that a strong word to be using of a man whose just doing his best and not measuring up to your impossible standard?”

To which you must think (and sometimes assert out loud): “My impossible standard of being treated like a normal human being with basic human rights, you mean?

To which they will squawk defensively, “You HAVE no human rights! Be like Jesus! DIE!

To which you must think (and sometimes assert out loud): “Jesus didn’t just die. He ROSE. And the story God is writing in my life is not just one of death – but of RESURRECTION POWER. Now, step aside, because by the grace of God – I RISE.

And then you rise, baby. You rise up and be the ezer warrior God make you to be. THAT is the story He is writing in your life. And just like mine, it’s crazy beautiful.

Three Things I’d Do Differently When Leaving My Emotionally Abusive Marriage

1. I’d Stop Giving Feedback

We keep thinking that if we explain it in just the right way, at just the right time, with just the right tone of voice, there will be a meeting of the minds. Our voice will be heard and acknowledged as valuable and worth something. But when has that ever happened? 

This is one of the key indicators of emotional abuse—one partner chronically neglects to hear or value the input of the other partner. How can conflicts be resolved? They can’t. Who holds the power when only one partner’s voice counts for anything? This is not a mutually honoring, caring, compassionate, adult relationship. This is the heart of emotional abuse. Not sure if your relationship is abusive or not? Sign up at the top of this website to get the first three chapters of my book free. Those three chapters will help you identify whether or not your relationship is just a challenge or abusive.

I can count on one hand the number of times my ex and I resolved a problem together over the course of 25 years. How many issues come up in any couple’s relationship in the course of a week? Probably a few. Some are minor—not worth making an issue of. Easily resolved by just moving on. But some require a bit of conversation. Some require a lot of conversation. Some require a little space and then some conversation.

But in a normal relationship, both partners are eager to find a resolution that is mutually satisfying so they can move forward in greater intimacy. This is what I’ve experienced in my second marriage. We’ve had a few conflicts, but every single one has been discussed respectfully and FULLY RESOLVED. Afterwards, there is increased understanding, increased empathy, and increased intimacy. Every. Single. Time. It’s a beautiful thing!

Conflicts are not bad. But when the only way to resolve them is to sweep them under the rug for fear of making the other person angry—that’s indicative of an abusive relationship.

My point? When your partner refuses to hear your voice and give it the weight it deserves as a fellow human on planet earth (let alone as his WIFE), and when this has been going on for years. And years. And more years. And when it never changes. Ever and ever and ever…

Why keep trying to give them feedback? Why? Why do we do this? Why do we think that THIS time, it will be different?

It won’t be.

I just couldn’t get this through my thick skull. I thought I had the communication skills to figure this out. To make an inroad, eventually.

You can’t do that with an emotional abuser. It doesn’t matter what your background is, how well you communicate with the rest of the world, what your talents, education, or skill set is.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

It’s about him. This is his problem, and even God can’t fix him if he doesn’t think he needs fixing!

And he doesn’t.

Eventually I surrendered this insatiable desire to be heard and understood and valued—and I stopped giving him feedback. I stopped believing he could change. (He couldn’t.) I stopped believing he cared. (He didn’t.)

I stopped looping about this over and over in my head, trying to solve an impossible problem. I let go of my spouse, took responsibility for my own life, and moved forward without him.

How would I do this differently if I had chance to go back?

I’d have stopped giving feedback a few years earlier. In fact, if I knew then what I now now, after one year of that kind of emotional abuse—I’d say, “We’re done, babe. Better luck with your next victim.”

How about you? Are you ready to stop giving feedback to someone who clearly doesn’t want it?

2. I’d Be My Own Best Advocate

Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” Brene Brown

I threw myself under the bus over and over in my marriage. Being the good Christian girl that I was, I believed it was my responsibility to manage the emotional climate of the marriage. To “be at peace with everyone” meant that when my husband was unhappy or irritated, I wasn’t doing my job.

And I’d crack the whip on my own butt.

Guilt was my daily companion, and failure was my ever-present friend.

I had nine kids, homeschooled, clipped coupons, made meals from scratch, kept the house clean, volunteered at church, hosted Bible studies, hosted small group gatherings, hosted picnics with friends, packed and unpacked for a large family (while nursing or pregnant) numerous times every summer so we could visit my husband’s parents, made and kept all the medical appointments, started and grew a business to make ends meet and give us some breathing room financially, and (deep breath) said “no” to myself when I longed for a break. (DIE! Natalie. DIE LIKE JESUS! You selfish shrew for wanting a break!)

I was married to criticism. There was always something wrong. I was such a “silly” lady who didn’t know how to do it right. The kids were getting B pluses and A minuses in homeschool math instead of straight A’s. I needed to get cracking. The meal didn’t have meat in it. I needed to get cracking. The way I was running my business was SO dumb. I needed to get cracking. I bought some makeup with the money I brought in? What a waste of resources. I needed to get cracking.

His voice was in my head every minute of every day. I believed that voice. Everything was my fault. I kicked myself for not doing better. For not being better. For feeling things I wasn’t supposed to be feeling. For daring to confront my husband (what kind of good Christian wife would do THAT?) when I should just keep cracking on myself. After all, he wouldn’t have been mean if I had just been a better wife.

I worked very hard to make everyone happy. I thought working my tail off would endear me to my husband. Maybe then he would see me, appreciate me, and love me?

I managed everyone’s emotions. But I failed to manage my own. Talk about bad boundaries, huh?

I eventually read the BOOK Boundaries – and wondered where it had been my entire life! I had no boundaries, and I resented those who did. (Because, I figured, if they could cross over into my yard whenever they wanted to – why would they not let me cross over into theirs? Is that even FAIR?)

Now I only l let certain people in my yard—and I let others take care of their own yards. It’s such a nice, new, simple, peaceful way to live.

So here’s how I’d do it differently.

I would look in the mirror every day and say, “Hey Natalie! You’re doing the best you can! You’re working hard! You don’t have to be perfect! If you’re tired, take a break! If your husband gets mad, that’s not your problem! He’s a big boy – he can manage his own emotions or not – whichever he chooses, and that’s not your job. Tolerate his disapproval! His opinion is his, and he’s entitled to it, but it’s not the last word on WHO YOU ARE AS A VALUABLE HUMAN BEING! If he can’t see you, that doesn’t mean you aren’t SEEN. I’m going to take care of you, Natalie, even if nobody else does. I have YOUR back from now on!”

Then I would make a meal without any meat in it. Just for me.

Seriously, this is what I started doing. When several people around me started pointing fingers and defining me in their own terms through their own lenses, I felt completely alone. And it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Because I was forced to make a decision about God and myself.

I chose to trust God and show compassion on myself.

  • I started seeing a chiropractor (my ex didn’t think I needed to see one – just he did – but he wasn’t calling the shots anymore, right?).
  • For a few months I got a deep tissue massage once a month. Just to let myself know that I was taking care of me.
  • I started listening to Audible books, a splurge that would have made me feel guilty before.
  • I listened to music I LIKED, for once in my life.
  • I hired an interior decorator who helped me finish a room in my basement in MY TASTE.
  • I bought a repurposed kitchen table that I loved. To this day, whenever someone comes over and sees it – I get an overwhelming response of artistic appreciation. It has given me a tremendous amount of pleasure.
  • I paid for a membership to a fitness center and started working out.
  • I paid a consultant to come in and teach me how to shop for clothes that looked good on ME. (I was completely inept in this area prior to getting help. Best money spent. Ever.)
  • I started making big girl decisions that kept my own emotional and spiritual safety and sanity in mind, and in spite of the kickback from my husband at the time, it was glorious.

I was a 50-year-old woman, and I finally grew up.

How about you? Do you take care of yourself? To the degree that you accept and love yourself just the way you are is the degree you will accept and love others just the way they are. (And just so that there is no misunderstanding here, to love others just the way they are does NOT MEAN that you love and nurture their dysfunctional behaviors. Enabling emotionally abusive behavior is a hateful thing to do to everyone involved, including the abuser.)

3. I Wouldn’t Try to Convince Anyone I Was Telling the Truth

I think this is one of the deepest, darkest reasons a woman doesn’t rise up and get help when she is being emotionally abused. She knows nobody will get it. When she first begins to tell someone about her experiences, even SHE doesn’t fully get it. Yet. She has a hard time explaining the patterns of abuse because he is still in her mind, controlling her thoughts, emotions, and reality—using all the intimate knowledge he has of her to brainwash her with the idea that his treatment of her is *normal* and also *her fault*.

For her to say something about the abuse is for her to be mean-hearted. Vindictive. Unforgiving. A gossip. Unfaithful. Disrespectful.

This is his voice in her head, keeping her from revealing his pathology.

And sadly, he is in the heads of religious people as well (by religious, I mean Pharisaical law-keepers, not Christ-like love-spreaders). He is a product of conservative, misogynistic theology, after all. Or if not a product, then an eager subscriber. Why? It plays right into his game.

So a Christian woman will stay quiet—or be burned at the proverbial stake.

But eventually, the pain of staying in the abusive relationship becomes greater than the potential pain of getting out. And she thinks if she could JUST GET SOMEONE TO BELIEVE AND SUPPORT HER, it would be doable. She’d make it out in one piece. And she’s actually right. It’s rare, but those women who are supported by their church community and family do much better, and their children fare much better as well.

More often, the woman is maligned, told she is rebellious, unsubmissive, not trusting God (her faith is actually a powerhouse by this time, and she’s been trusting Him in impossible circumstances, alone, for years by now), and bitter. She’s told she is destroying her family with her own hands.

So she tries to explain further. Surely they will understand if she can just explain it better? Once again, she takes on the responsibility for what others think and believe as well as what they feel about her. She is desperate to be loved. To be seen. To be worth someone’s time and understanding compassion.

And she is all those things. Just not to the religious elite. They prefer her wolf-husband. He’s more attractive, more supportive of their power-over agenda, and he’s so sweet. Such a nice guy, while she appears to be a madwoman!

The more desperate she is to make them believe the truth, the more she appears to be the crazy one. And the thirstier they get for her blood. And the more triumphant they are when they get to vote her out of the church. (With crocodile tears and “We LOVE you’s,” of course.)

So here’s what I’d do differently.

I’d tell them my plans once, because, you know. Polite. When they came back with their fangs and claws poised over my head, I’d say, “Oh, did you think you had the power over my life? This might come as a shocker to you then…” And I’d leave that church and never look back.

I did eventually do that, but not until I disrespected myself over and over with my begging and weeping. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how hateful they actually were. The cognitive dissonance between what they preached and said with their mouths and how they lived it out in Christian relationship was absolutely mind-blowing. I didn’t think that way or approach life that way, so I couldn’t understand how others who called themselves Christians could do that to another human being and think they had God’s stamp of approval on their hateful behavior.

Do you see the abuse pattern in this kind of spiritual abuse? You have no voice. You are worth nothing to them. They are always right. Even though they didn’t live your life or even really know you at all – THEY KNOW. They get to decide your life for you. Because they are the elite. They, like your abusive spouse, have made themselves out to be as gods.

But they are not God. And anyone who doesn’t point you to Jesus (and points you to their law book instead)—is not of God. Period.

Who are they? They are just one tiny church body in a very big world. They can’t really burn you at the stake. So they can excommunicate you? Big deal. It’s not like it’s on your record with God or anything. (It’s actually on THEIR record with Him! Be glad you’re you!)

There are so many lovely Christians who truly know and serve Jesus. Find some of them and rebuild.

And speaking of rebuilding, I want to reassure you that YOU ARE NOT THE ONE TEARING DOWN YOUR FAMILY.

You are an ezer warrior – daughter of the Most High King. You are, in reality, a REBUILDER. But you can’t rebuild unless the old, dangerous, toxic structure is torn down. YOU didn’t build that structure. You were a slave doing slave labor, thinking you had no choice.

Now you know you DO have a choice, and you get to walk away from unwillingly being part of something horrifyingly destructive and turn instead toward building something incredibly healing. Something of truth and justice and mercy. Something that reflects the heart of your King. Something that reflects your own heart in Him.

So let people rage and gnash their teeth. You don’t have to convince anyone. If they have no regard for their sister, why try? Why not find people who DO believe in the value of women and children. Who DO believe in the value of truth and walking in reality and living by the Spirit of Love – not the death sentence of the law.

So these are just three examples of things I’d do differently, if I had a chance to go back, knowing what I know now about abuse and how the conservative, evangelical church typically addresses it.

What about you? What would you do differently?

47 Comments

  1. Elisha Eneix

    Thanks for writing this- I would have left my husband the first time he had shaken me. I eventually was forced to leave him 5 years later after he over-spanked my 5 year old. He ended up trying to “rescue ” me during my escape with the kids and other people in our community saw how he treated me and called the police.

    My kids and I moved to my Mom’s after that. At first she was supportive of leaving my husband but after 3 months she told me that God would not have given me my husband if he thought I was going to divorce him.

    Currently I am taking it one day at a time with my husband and kids and seeing if we can rebuild. Thus far it has been good. He is taking responsibility for his actions and I am trying to as well.

    Reply
  2. Anita

    Dear Natalie, I read this as I was filing a protection order, crying because every single word you wrote was like my experience. Well, all except the 9 children (I have three) – you are a Super Mom and beyond!

    I cannot tell you how important it was for me to feel validated and affirmed for my decisions. I was surprised how many people of the Christian faith just don’t understand or give bad advice. My therapist reminded me churches are poorly trained in understanding that emotional and verbal abuse is ABUSE and in the same spectrum as physical abuse. That people will be blinded because they cannot fathom Christian people are capable of evil.

    My spouse was emotionally abusive for years but it escalated after I separated – and then came this one physical abuse situation which was not proven to be criminal. Because he had not had a physical abuse background, I doubted myself all the way to the moments when the judge was ready to approve the order. A weak, trembling voice came out of me and spoke about how years of covert emotional abuse escalated and I needed protection. My heart jumped when he stamped the approval. I cried buckets after I left the courtroom.

    Thank you for writing this and speaking out the truth. God gave me the courage to do what I had to do and not minimize my situation. I keep this blog up to remind me each day to stay strong in Him, that the truth will set me free.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      YOU ARE BRAVE, ANITA! It’s so hard to admit the truth of how horrible this kind of abuse actually is. We don’t want to hurt anyone. We want to help our partner. We want to make it all good. But we can’t. To let go is extremely courageous, and I’m so proud of you. Keep going!

      Reply
  3. Kay

    Truth. I would have focused on truth instead of vain imaginations and the fantasy life (a normal marriage) I thought I would have if I just did that ”one more thing”.
    Truth. I would have spoken the truth earlier instead of waiting until my physical and mental health began to deteriorate in a way I could not ignore. My first truthful statement answering an angry “What do you want?!” after 25 years was, “I want you to move out.”
    Truth. From a safe place I observed that his actions and words during the separation were so extreme I was strengthened and encouraged that I had done the right thing. I stopped crying.
    Truth. God spoke, he comforted and he provided. I heard him and obeyed. My five year rebuild has been a time full of hope and gratitude. It still is!
    I don’t know if I could have left much before I did with 7 children, and yes, I am strong for staying so long – but I think I would have not made peace my idol; I would have seen the obvious and spoken truth.
    God bless you, Natalie. You ARE in our heads because He is in our hearts. ❤️

    Reply
  4. Rosemary

    Just about to bust with this comment. Listening to your podcast on boundaries and realized your analogy of the garden is relatable to me. However, this person wanted to share my husband. This incident was many years ago, and your analogy made me realize how I allowed these people to come into my life and practically destroy my marriage. However, looking back, I didn’t know I was (and still am) married to a narcissist . We have been together for 48 years thus June. So, you can imagine how messed up I am! Anyway, thank you so much for your work in helping all of us!!! Love you and your work! Thank you,. Thank you. Thank you!!!!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      My heart goes out to you – married that long to a narc. That tells me you are strong inside. You might feel messed up, but deep inside, you are a powerful person. I pray you will find your voice and freedom in Jesus. Makes me think of Captain Marvel. Once she found her true power, nothing could stop her.

      Reply
  5. Debi

    Thank you so much for sharing and throwing a rescue line to so many people. I have question how did you deal with friends that abused you by not believing you.

    Reply
  6. Kaylene

    I can relate on so many levels!!! I definitely need to learn more!

    Reply
  7. Katen

    You have a gift of putting life situations into creative writing. You describe my experiences so well. I have such a desire for validation and understanding from others. I just want them to sympathize with me when I explain what I’ve gone through and why I’m making the tough decisions that I am. Many times, the response I get causes more pain. I must say that the church counselors have been the least sympathetic and the most legalistic. I’m so thankful for your ministry to get the validation that I’m seeking from those that get it.

    Reply
  8. jen

    oh my goodness- homeschooling why is this a mess exploding about some aspect of the housework until the kids didn’t want to study just work on chores before their dad came home – it reminded me of people worried about food and shelter couldn’t care less about their grades meal making i’m not in the mood to eat this …kids who wants pizza coupon clipping didn’t buy a stitch of clothing for myself for 12 years ,yard work that’s planting weeding watering painting it’s a rental but i’m trying to cheer everyone’s spirits,garage sorting, piled high from multiple house moves for 10 years i haven’t left the house how your list resonated with me… i lost a parent and walked to the nearest gym and signed up he kicked up such a fuss i gained 15 lbs in the the first 3 weeks and have not been back since..i haven’t hosted anything i have learnt to shut down my life – the females he charms until their rapport embarrasses me- and any male friendships i have made he lashes out and has no respect or trust so i don’t make any (last friend was a single dad who’s kids loved ours that was 11 years ago) even i dislike the woman i write about – i wake up every day feeling guilty inadequate and sad – what kind of business did you start ? i haven’t earned any $ for 25 years and yet i’m up at 5 am and not ever done to his satisfaction EVER- what a sad way to exist yet a divorce doesn’t suddenly make me whole i realize that i have work to do i just need help getting off my wheel…. tired of feeling guilty
    just tired of life – i had such a different vision for my family where we’d all laugh , chat and support each other – open to practical advice… i feel bereft

    Reply
  9. Meeya

    Thank you Natalie… a friend shared this with me and I read that with tears… I felt like your words were from my heart. And reading the comments below in one of the most lonely times of my life, is so comforting that I am not alone, I’m not crazy, I’m not a family-destroyer and I am still a child of God!!

    Reply
  10. Erin V

    If I could go back in time, and revisit myself as I struggled through narcissistic abuse…I’d tell myself to listen to my instincts. I would listen to his grown son tell me about the emotional abuse he suffered as a child, at the hands of my abuser. I would have listened to my ex’s brother, when he told me that marrying his brother would ruin my life. And most importantly, I would have stopped trying to convince my ex that I was worthy of compassionate love. I would realize that he was never going to acknowledge my needs, admit to making mistakes, or finding fresh victims for his 47 year reign of terror. Simply put, I would have loved myself more–as I do today.

    Reply
  11. Mary

    This is exactly the way it is. You want so bad for people to understand you and validate you and believe you. Then one day you just give up and they think you are really bad and crazy. Thank you for laying it all out.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer

    All of that! I’ve been out of that church for 13 years and out of that marriage 9. Many relationships were lost, but so much in my life was gained. I can so relate to the revelations of a healthy marriage and love that seeks for empathy and understanding. Thank you for giving words, voice and support for the many who have and do suffer.

    Reply
  13. Rain Girl

    Thank you Natalie! So wise and encouraging. God has been opening my eyes for the past few years to what abuse looks like. I had mistakenly called it his “anger problem.” I had documented just about every negative interaction with him over the years . (Journaling has always been my processing tool). I’ve been vigilant, and now I am tired. He’s jumped through lots of hoops… meeting with church pastor, seeing a counselor, going to dv intervention group. I’ve been doing more for myself. Connecting with friends, buying things for me, pursuing my interest in art. And it’s been better. In some ways. My son is ADHD ASD and his behavior has dominated our family (tantrums, aggression, opposionality). He does better when my husband is spending time with him. I don’t know that I love my life. I actually do have friends and family and church that would support me if I left. But I feel stuck. Hoping my new clarity in the dynamics of abuse plus caring more for myself and my boundaries, and trusting God can get me through. I don’t think I should leave. Hoping for better days.

    Reply
  14. Irene

    Thanks so much Natalie,That was me a mother of 3girls,9years in marriage has not been what I figured marriage life should be… I have been emotionally abused and until I finally came to know what it is I has served everywhere and everything in search of improving as a wife and making my husband happy,it has drained me so much for giving and and not receiving in return.. This had made me start noticing other men who appreciates and values me alot .i was made to believe am not good enough..

    Reply
  15. Kay

    Thank you Natalie for sharing with us! It really helps.

    I had really felt like I had a good marriage for 33 years and than Boom. I’m pretty sure my husband had an affair. The circumstantial evidence was crazy but all circumstantial until I discovered him hiding our money.

    I left but came back after he groveled, begged and showed me all money. After two disastrous counselors, he won’t find another one. Says it’s all out in the open.

    Some other weird things have happened. I’m praying, aware and trusting God because if I leave again, there is money, asserts and grown children…. Thank God they are grown but some will side with him I’m sure. Our youngest is almost 20.

    I know this is crazy and your story with Tom is encouraging….. but I really liked being married and my life.

    Maybe honestly my fear is that I’ll never have that again. I love my husband but I no longer trust him.

    Reply
  16. Starlight

    Amen Natalie, I was all these excellent things in so many ways just like you with a truly fervent and honest heart and got so chewed up and spit out by the evil I married into not once but twice! Recently God has opened up my eyes to see how amazingly he has gone before me and my kids in so many ways and there is so much good I spite of the opposition and deliberate evil directed my way in the ongoing the court battle!
    I am keeping my eyes on Him and trusting in his care for those who wear his garment of salvation and his robes of righteousness makes all the difference in the storms! We are held and protected in the folds of his garment and sheltered under His wings while the evil gnash their teeth at us!! Your story could be mine!! Praise God for his Holy Spirit that teaches us as we step out in faith and separate from so much evil and destruction directed like arrows at us!!
    I am shocked and in awe as I look back and see God’s complete providence, protection and guidance inspite of so much pain, fear and lack of faith and inability to see the big picture or God’s awesomeness working continually for our good in unimaginable ways!! Praising God for leading us into truth and freedom, I wouldn’t trade any of it and I have a whole new love and understanding of scripture through all of it!
    Thank you for this awesome post that has so much been my story too! God’s blessings as you raise your voice to help others and recover who God made you to be!!

    Reply
  17. Living Liminal

    My first husband was emotionally abusive (with the occasional bout of physical abuse thrown in for good measure!), but I didn’t actually have the understanding to call it what it was until years later, after I had left a spiritually abusive church situation. And interestingly enough, the three things you write about here apply perfectly to that church setting.

    Reply
  18. Hilary

    Wow! This is my life x 2. My father who is alive and abusing still, and my husband od 33 years who just does it differently
    I have been reading and absorbing so much from here and other resources, and I have learned at last, to love me, just me with all that I am and can be, under the love of Jesus. Daughter of a King indeed!
    I won’t be leaving, but I am micro managing my life, and neither of them see it, which I have to say gives me a great deal of delicious pleasure! Both to selfish to see me growing and learning my worth. Thankfully I have supportive friends and a good church to find refuge in, so for that I thank the Lord. And you Leslie, who reminded me to say….go girl…..and loving it, at 63 years young.

    Reply
  19. Kris Perez

    Natalie – this is being shared among my new tribe – a small group of divorced Christian women. You are so accurately describing what I can barely put words to. There are many of us resonating with your experience and this is also our truth, practically every word. Uncanny to read what I’ve felt and thought about for years. My begging my former inlaws to not stop loving me, how painful it was to lose my church friends and my inlaws and even my own sibling’s distance. These descriptions of all that pain are extremely on point. Thanks for writing all of this. Thank you.

    Reply
  20. Joy Melody

    You literally wrote my story. The abusive marriage. The traumatic, long, journey out of it. The spiritual abuse throughout that journey. And the amazing second marriage that reminds me every day that what I had the 1st time around wasnt really MARRIAGE.
    I wish I’d learned these lessons you communicated so well here 2 decades before I did…
    Thank you for all you are doing. Your words are TRUTH and bring FREEDOM. So that others won’t wait another day, or another decade, longer to start flying free. ❤

    Reply
  21. marlene allbrook

    Love this…spot on

    Reply
  22. Vanessa H. Knight

    Natalie, I think you have been following me watching me the last 20 years. I thought I have been so silly or stupid for not seeing myself consistently blinded by my own desire for a marriage “if only” I could be heard. Ugh thank you for writing your heart and your story.

    Reply
    • Tina

      I seriously feel when I read your story that we were sisters separated at birth. thanks for getting me and so many of us. I have agonized for so many years that the most simple things could never be resolved no matter how hard I tried to communicate things. Ah, it’s like being able to take a big breath and feel the oxygen rush into your lungs when we hear you relate your story and see how ours are so similar. Thanks for the tips on what you would do differently. I am just now beginning to quit the explaining and sharing. I always thought If I could just express it in a way he could receive we could move towards intimacy. I was always so sad and honestly baffled why we couldn’t. But I see he doesn’t want to change. He is fine with not being in a close marriage and I have kept myself in the hamster wheel of trying to impress and please all while begging to work things out. It sure doesn’t work with someone who doesn’t care if it works.
      Thanks for sharing your life. I pray for you and love you sister! Ps. I think you’re hilarious and am so thankful you are at a place in your life where you can let your true Natalie shine. You really bless me.

      Reply
  23. Tanya

    You hit it right on the nail. The awful agonizing painful feelinv that I had to continue to be that good lil ol submissive “silent” wife and continue to support my husband as he was given more power to rule over me, simply because he was man – head of house & I was not. Uugh this was 4 years ago and it still sickens me bcz he is still using same mind contol tactics thst used to once work on me before. But as I read this now, I realize how dar I have cone and how far I still need to pick up pieces of my shattered life for myself & kids. Thank you

    Reply
  24. Shari

    Natalie…..I. Am. Speechless. So spot on, it’s like you’re inside my head speaking for me. Thank you for speaking raw, painful truth and encouraging us who have and are living this nightmare.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      You’re welcome. This is what I eat, sleep, and breathe – hoping it will make a difference, one woman at a time. HUGS!

      Reply
  25. Terry

    Wow!! Natalie, what a powerful article! I’m blown away! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  26. Liz moore

    29 years slipped and I finally had the courage to ask him to leave. He was a pathological lying emotionally abusing husband, I did not see it until I asked him t leave. Then I had the clarity and the words to articulate what happened to me!
    I too am waiting to be excommunicated for abandonment. Yes I am the problem as he just has a sin issue disregarding documented psychiatric issues!
    I am finally healing and resolving my codependency issues brought on by trying to survive in abuse.
    “Bring it on baby” is my new mantra!
    Thank you this was a powerful and confirming article for me.
    God Bless your ministry.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Keep fighting to be free, Liz. It’s worth every last effort. HUGS!

      Reply
  27. TK

    Great article Natalie,

    I write this as a Mother of a daughter who is in an abusive relationship, like the one you described that you were in….

    She stays….for one reason…..he threatens to take the children, plus, she is SO afraid of how a separation will affect them. They are preschool age….

    Any thoughts the subject of the children????

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Counseling! Get an outside (secular) therapist involved. One who helps children deal with trauma. Younger children do better with separation/divorce than older ones.

      Reply
  28. Christin Slade

    Amazingly written. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  29. Shelly

    Thank you for this. I was married for 21 years and have been going through divorce process for 6 months? Why? Because I was trying to negotiate and stay at peace with a man who has no regard for me. I was making decisions based on what I thought his reaction would be instead of asking for what I and my kids need. Sad right? Old habits die hard. Just realized today that oh yeah, fear of man is a trap. I’ve been making everyone frustrated because of my indecision because I didn’t want to make my x angry. Well, it doesn’t matter right. He’s gonna respond the way he does. It’s out of my hands. I just need to do what I need to do. Thanks for the perspective and the realization that I don’t have to turn off my brain so I can be a nice Christian girl who lets herself be walked on in the name of Christianity. No More!

    Reply
    • Vanessa H. Knight

      You like me seemed to have wanted to be validated that you are a good mom and wife. I wanted everyone to know my heart but they didn’t care. I am learning to make decisions that I want to make and I don’t feel pressure to please X. I too have been married 20 years. I am so happy to be separated from him. Divorce can’t come soon enough but I am seeing healing in the meantime. I wish you all the best!

      Reply
  30. Michelle

    This,was a,great thing to read! I had already come to the realization that if my husband won’t change after all these years and being confronted that he never will. I don’t give feedback or try to explain as I used to do. I keep it pretty simple. I’m learning from that lesson on responses to abuse to just disengage. I have not faced the church issue yet but I have learned so much from you and others that I won’t stress if my church or ChristIan friends reject me. I’ll find new people to be friends with. I’m already finding them through you, Natalie! My family is supportive so I’m blessed there.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      It sounds like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, and you’re living in reality. Keep pressing forward!

      Reply
  31. Marcy

    Boom Baby!

    Reply
  32. Shana

    Wow!! Just Wow Natalie!! This explains my life the last 2 years and my future just left him 3 weeks ago. I can’t tell you what a comfort these words were. I was blessed to have so far non judgement from my friends at church but I am in a different state now and I have my finger ready for delete to anyone who tries to shame me!! God Bless You for caring and loving the way our Saviour Jesus Christ does!!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How Fake Christianity (False Piety) Destroys People's Lives - - […] That happened to me. My first marriage was abusive. It wasn’t fulfilling EVER. After 25 years I got my…
  2. Learn to Advocate for Yourself (and How This is Key to Your Healing!) - - […] I was tempted to let go and just drop back down to the bottom of the pit every step…

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