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How Do Abusive Men Pick Their Victims?

What Kind of Woman Does an Abusive Man Target?

When you hear the words “Emotional Abuse” what comes to mind? Most people have been programmed by our culture to believe certain things about emotional or psychological abuse.

Most of these beliefs are myths.


What Kind of Woman is the Domestic Abuse Target?

The Myth

The average person on the street thinks an emotional abuse or domestic violence target is a pushover. Spineless. Weak. Coward. Can’t stand up for herself. Doesn’t “handle” her man the right way. Has little self-esteem.

The average religious person, if they believe she is a victim in the first place (which they usually don’t), believes if she married a guy with problems, she needs to hunker down and sleep in the bed she made for herself. How bad can it be?

The Truth

The emotional abuse target can be anyone. She can be a business owner. An attorney. A professor. A doctor. An author. A homemaker. A company president. A police officer.

And contrary to the opinions of those who don’t understand how abuse works, she isn’t targeted because she can’t stand up for herself and has low self-esteem.

Abusive people target her for her strengths. And they are many.

The Strengths Targeted by an Emotionally Abusive Partner

Here are a few of her strengths—specific strengths that are sought out by an abusive man and used against her. We’ll talk about why in a minute.

  1. She has the kind of character that puts the needs of others before her own.
  2. When she makes a commitment, she sticks to it. She is faithful and trustworthy.
  3. She takes responsibility for herself and those around her. She’s a woman of integrity.
  4. She is generous to a fault—giving more than she takes and doing it with pleasure.
  5. She is kind and compassionate. Empathy oozes from her pores.
  6. She is intuitive and sensitive to the emotional environment around her. She picks up on tone and body language, and she adjusts her approach accordingly.
  7. She is forgiving. She will forgive and forgive and forgive – without being asked. Her love is deep and wide.
  8. She is patient and long-suffering. She will endure the attacks of her abusive partner, believing in his potential as a human being.
  9. She is courageous. She survives the rejection of her love and the dehumanization of her spirit, and still, she goes into each day with hope.
  10. She is resourceful. She takes what she is given and multiplies it even though she is offered only criticism and rejection in return.
  11. She doesn’t want to betray her abuser. She is loyal and doesn’t desire revenge. All she wants is to be treated with honor, as a human being.

This kind of woman, when paired with an emotionally and spiritually healthy man, can co-create a beautiful marriage.

But what happens when an emotionally abusive partner (a “psychephile” as Don Hennessy calls it in his book, How He Gets into Her Head) targets this kind of woman?

What is he looking for, and why?

How and Why the Domestic Abuse Target is Targeted

The Myth

The average person on the street thinks the domestic abuse victim is targeted because of the weaknesses listed under the first myth.

The average religious person believes she hasn’t been targeted at all. Nobody would be that mean! Instead, if she doesn’t like her husband, she’s got issues, and she’ll need to learn how to pick up her cross and carry it.

Religious culture teaches that to suffer as an abuse victim is a privilege and honor, and to give her help would undermine God’s sovereign work in her life.

Plus it would take time and energy, and by golly, the suffering is for her—not them. THEY didn’t marry a bad egg. Why should THEY suffer for her idiocy?

If she’s even telling the truth.


The Truth

The domestic abuse victim is targeted because of her strengths.

How Do Abusers Pick Their Victims?

Here’s how it works.

First, let’s define Hennessy’s “psychephile” term, because this term helps us see exactly what the intimate male abuser is actually doing behind the curtain:

The word psychephile combines the root of ‘psyche’ meaning mind or spirit, and ‘phile’ which comes from the Greek for friend. (Taken from How He Gets Into Her Head)

The abuser’s goal is to get into her mind (to “befriend” it) and control her from there. This isn’t difficult when you’ve got:

  • A shared bed (intimate partner abuse is insidious.)
  • A marital commitment
  • A religious belief system
  • And all the beautiful character qualities listed above.

#1: The emotional abuser gets the victim to stop caring for herself.

Because she puts the needs of others before her own needs, he can get her to dismiss her own human instinct to not ONLY take care of others, but to also take care of herself.

Add to this her religious community encouraging her to “die to self,” and you’ve got a perfect petri dish for psychological abuse to thrive and grow. The abuse victim’s self-worth will slowly dissolve.

#2: He knows she will stay committed to him no matter what.

Her commitment to her word is the Super Glue that keeps her tied to her psychephile. He knows this and picked her because of it.

Add to this a religious community that teaches divorce is the unforgivable sin and excommunicates those who initiate divorce, and you’ve got a very real prison from which there is no escape.

Truly, the victim doesn’t even consider this as an option until she is so scared for her physical and/or emotional well-being that she takes that drastic step, fighting for her life against all of her core beliefs.

Most religious victims in an abusive relationship will stay two to three decades before finally getting help and leaving. Not because they are weak-willed. But because their strength of perseverance is Herculean. (She will almost always suffer from C-PTSD as a result.)

#3: The emotional abuser knows she will shoulder the responsibility.

Because she is so committed to taking personal responsibility, when he blames her for his own bad behaviors, she accepts the blame and works hard to “do better” next time in order to avoid the guilty and shameful emotions that follow an abusive incident.

This is perfect for him. He gets away with anything by shifting the responsibility over to her.

He can control her actions once he controls how she defines his abuse of her.

When her religious community tells her to “forgive and keep no record of wrongs” and “as far is it is up to you, be at peace with all men” and “your role is to build your husband up” and “a good wife will a happy husband make”- she re-doubles her efforts to take responsibility for the well being of the relationship.

And she slowly disappears.

#4: She gives her resources to her abuser. 

Because she is generous, she gives and gives of her resources, whatever they may be, believing she is investing in the most worthwhile relationship one can invest in on planet earth.

She will work hard at her career to bring in monetary value. She will work hard at raising the children, taking care of their home, and prudently spending. No gift is too great, in her mind. It’s all a pleasure to give.

If she is a woman of faith, she does it for the glory of God as well.

She believes that even if it goes unnoticed by her husband or others, God sees her efforts, and she will reap a good harvest one day.

This works dandy for the abuser who views her as his servant, created to make his life comfortable and happy. He targeted her for this reason.

Her religious community colludes with the abuser by keeping the focus of her generosity disproportionately on her since she is the active and willing partner.

This is exactly what the abuser needs to continue harming her without accountability or consequences.

#5: The victim believes the best in everyone, including abusers. 

Her kindness and empathy work in his favor as well. Her default is to give others the benefit of the doubt, believing the best about their behaviors. When her abuser treats her poorly, she feels it must be because of something sad and broken inside him, and she desires with all her heart to help him so he can be all he was created to be.

She sees herself as equipped by God to accomplish this goal, and she applies all her compassionate being toward the task.

Her religious community teaches her that this is the right thing to do. Turn the other cheek. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love will win the day.

The psychephile grooms her to the place where he can offend and actually get the victim to feel sorry for him because of his offending!

With the church’s approval, of course.

#6: He uses her intuition against her.

The fact that she is intuitive actually makes it easy for an intimate partner to confuse and control her.

Here’s how that works: she skillfully picks up on all non-verbal cues he gives her to covertly control what she does or how she interprets her experience. A certain look. An edge in his voice. The way he looks past her when she talks.

These are the subtle, imperceptible things others can’t see—that she can.

This helps her navigate potential ugly situations, or enables her to fall into them—whichever the psychephile wants at any given time.

The fact that his words and his actions don’t match makes the experience all the more confusing, throwing the victim into the depths of self-doubt.

The religious community tells her she can’t trust her heart. It is “deceitful above all things.” They tell her she is making assumptions, and this plays into her abuser’s narrative.

Their voices are implanted deep within her psyche now, and she is unable to tell right from wrong when it comes to her own experiences.

#7: She forgives the abusive behavior.

As part of her commitment to the marriage, she forgives over and over again, even when her abuser isn’t sorry and doesn’t ask.

Her religious community tells her that forgiveness includes allowing her abuser complete and total access to her, body and soul, at all times. It is her duty as a wife, and she takes it seriously.

As a result, there is never any sowing and reaping.

Her abuser sows destruction in their relationship and in her personhood without any accountability, and she continues to forgive him for the ways he causes her pain, thereby enabling the abuse cycle to continue unabated.

#8: She continues to endure the abusive behavior and sacrifice. 

She will endure the abuse to the point of falling apart emotionally and physically.

She willingly sacrifices, believing that it is worth it if he will one day see what he is doing and stop. If he will one day become the good man she believes he can be.

Her religious community teaches her that suffering is God’s will for her, and they do nothing to offer relief or practical help. That would mean circumventing God’s plan of suffering for her life.

This also plays into the psychephile’s agenda to keep her doing what he wants her to do—all in the name of God.

The ultimate spiritual abuse.

#9: She stays strong and tries to meet unrealistic expectations.

Her courage in the face of daily abuse, both covert and overt, is incredible.

This inner strength is exploited by her abuser who is both jealous of her strength and desirous of using it against her.

When necessary, he will praise her for it, getting her to believe that she must keep it up to win his admiration as well as to survive.

Her religious community has zero comprehension of her strength, nor do they see anything of which to praise and encourage her. To them, she is just another woman, merely doing her duty before God, and not doing it well enough to keep her husband happy.

#10: She contributes financially. 

The abuse target is often very good at coming up with creative ways to make money or make ends meet.

Her contributions are minimized and even circumvented by her abuser, who will insist the extra resources are placed in his capable control.

She willingly (at first) agrees to this, feeling that she must trust him as her intimate partner, and yet, she also feels like a slave or child rather than an equal adult partner contributing and controlling equally.

When she does finally take responsibility for the resources she is generating, she will be attacked and blamed as a selfish, money-hungry female.

She’ll struggle with feelings of guilt and shame and confusion as she hears his voice in her head defining who she is and assigning all the wrong motives to her resourcefulness and hard work.

#11: She doesn’t seek help for the abusive behavior. 

She is reticent to get help for many reasons. One, the emotional abuser is in her head telling her it’s all her fault. She believes this is true.

That if she would have tried harder or been different or responded differently, she could have made things better.

Her religious community will tell her the same thing.

She knows if she tries to explain her experience, the tide of that belief is too powerful to go up against.

But also, she has no desire to betray or expose her partner. Her heart is for him. Her motive is to help him so they can have an intimate relationship that is mutually satisfying.

Against all the evidence to the contrary, she continues to believe this is possible, and her first attempts at getting help are for the sole and desperate purpose of achieving this end.

However, most churches and Bible counselors will not be able to understand her or her problem. The voice of her abuser is in their head, too. In fact, they feed off one another and abuse the woman together.

Why the Domestic Abuse Target Struggles with Going from Victim to Survivor

The Myth

The average person on the street believes that the domestic abuse target is stupid for not seeing that she’s a target and taking steps to get out of her abusive situation.

Of course, the average religious person believes she isn’t a domestic abuse target to begin with. They believe she is just a good girl doing her Christian duty as a female human.

The Truth

He has groomed and offended and groomed and offended her over and over again throughout the course of a long relationship.

He is in her head now. 

She is brainwashed into believing his messages, and she no longer sees reality for what it is when it comes to her own experience. This is the crux of intimate partner abuse, and this is why she stays.

But this is not the end of the story.

The Same Strengths That Made You a Target Will Set You Free

Here is the incredibly good news:

The very strengths her intimate abuser chose her for are not only the strengths that keep her in the relationship. THEY ARE ALSO THE STRENGTHS THAT WILL SET HER FREE.

Using those strengths to get free from the devastation of an abusive relationship is confusing and painful for an average non-religious woman. But women of faith endure even deeper confusion and pain as they navigate the twisted webs of half-truths and bad theology to find true freedom in Jesus Christ.

The ones who fly free invariably have a strong support system built with safe and spirit-filled people who know exactly where they’ve been because they’ve been there too.

The Flying Free Sisterhood program is a comprehensive and proven lifeline for women of faith in destructive relationships.

If you believe you may be in a destructive marriage or relationship, find out how you can get the help you desperately need.

Flying Free Sisterhood

An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    Megan Hawley
    April 19, 2023

    Wow, I did not think this would hit me like it did. I was crying through everything beyond #6. This is a spot-on description of what I endured the last decade and I am so glad to be coming out of the fog and healing. Thanks Natalie for your ministry.

  • Avatar
    April 6, 2023

    Wow! This article is so spot on and encouraging. Hearing all of those wonderful things about myself reminds me why I am doing the hard thing and divorcing my husband of 15 year–so that I can be that beautiful person you described above again! Thank you for seeing me and so many of these other women when everyone else around us refuses to acknowledge our pain and suffering. Not only that, but we are told we are crazy and actually the problem. My marriage looked picture perfect on the outside and I thought I had achieved my dream of being a wife and having a family, but I always thought something was missing. I didn’t have the confidence or language to valify it, but now I do. My husband is a good man and the best father for my children, but my mental health was a direct reflection of the worsening marital spiritual and emotional abuse. I know I made my marriage and my husband an idol, so I struggle with shame because all I wanted was for my husband to love me like he promised God we would. I always say my biggest sin was just wanting to be loved in a safe and healthy marriage. Leaving my current marriage is the scariest, bravest thing I have ever done. It helps so much to know that I have a group of women cheering me on. Thank you for being a voice for those who have no voice, Natalie <3

    • Avatar
      → Brittany
      July 6, 2023

      This article is eveything I’ve been through except the church making me feel like I’m obligated to stay. Although by reading the word I felt obligated to stay and endure because I love him and felt that because I did I was being a good Christian wife . My escape is not even 30 days as of yet. I’ve only been out of the home for 3 weeks. And I am struggling really bad.

      I pray that God gives me the strength the continue and not look back. It’s so hard to not be in contact when I was always the one to “fix” things.

    • Avatar
      → Brittany
      November 17, 2023

      Wow! This article describes my relationship 100%. I’m trying very hard to stand strong and gather the strength to finally do what needs to be done – leave. He is truly “in my head” and after 25 years of this, it’s time.

  • Avatar
    March 7, 2023

    Thank you for this article.

    It helped me.

    It took years but I finally saw my relationship was very abusive. I left.

    I believe God guided me out. I believe God loves me.

    Everything you mentioned in this article is true. It made me cry tears of sadness and joy. Sadness because of everything we faced. Joy because someone out there truly understands why I stood and tried so much to keep my marriage.

    I gave up my life for my man. I’m glad God intervened. (By way of all the videos I came across, people I listened to, music I heard and dreams.)

    I knew something wasn’t correct. I’m working on having a re-relationship with the true word of God and not the washed-down manipulated version of it.

    I came across your YouTube channel just in the nick of time.

    I can’t express how much you helped me. You helped me understand that God isn’t an abuser. That God loves me. God is truly purely empathetic.

    I did believe God sent me my man. Just because God sent him, doesn’t mean men always choose right. My man decided to choose wrong.

    I have a lot of healing to do.

    Thank you so much for being an integral part of my healing.

    Thank you so much.

    • Avatar
      → Kelly
      April 6, 2023

      I am proud of you Kelly! I relate so much that I believe God led me to my husband and now is leading me out of my toxic marriage because of my husband’s choices, not mine and not God’s.

      • Avatar
        → Brittany
        June 1, 2023

        What does healing look like for the victim? Is it possible for them to stay married and have a reborn marriage after 20 years and three kids?

        If the abuser really takes accountability and responsibility for his abuse and starts doing the inner ‘work’?

        • Natalie Hoffman
          Natalie Hoffman
          → Anonymous
          June 2, 2023

          It definitely is possible, but it is extremely rare for an abuser to actual start taking accountability and responsibility. We’ve seen it only a handful of times with the thousands of women we have worked with, unfortunately. -Aimee Flying Free Community Support

  • Avatar
    March 5, 2023

    This. Wow. I have been married for 14yrs to a man whom, I thought was my best friend / rock. I was young, we both had been through bad relationships (he was going through a messy divorce when we met) but, I had an awakening about 5 years ago. I realized I no longer recognized myself. I had been an ambitious, caring young woman who loved life and helping people yet, I had become someone who lacked confidence, the self doubt was deafening / crippling, and no longer trusted my intuition, my gut, or my feelings because I had been convinced they were “over emotional” “crazy” etc. We began marital counseling but in the end nothing really changed. I have been working on my own healing and growth but he is “waiting for me to come around and things go back to normal” insinuating, in my perception that he is not at fault, was a cause, or has any work to do on himself or the relationship. I find myself slipping backward rather than forward and I am angry at myself for allowing this yet, pushing through the “frozen in fear” has yet to happen (he is NOT physically abusive, i ts the the verbal confrontation, anger, yelling). Prayers for strength ladies, if I can request this here. Reading others stories in the comments have been so reaffirming, I am not crazy!

    • Avatar
      → Andrea
      March 7, 2023

      I may not know you but your story sounds so familiar that I believe you. I was convinced that I was too “over emotional” and “illogical” as well. I believe Eve was deceived because she desired to be wise. Not because she was over emotional. I don’t understand where in the biblical texts these men are getting this message. The bible says women are the weaker vessel. Not the hopeless and incapable vessel. There are plenty of stories of Godly women in the bible. I just wanted to reassure you that you aren’t crazy and that you’re not alone.

      I’m also in the same boat. I’m leaving. The insinuation is I need to stop “controlling” him (My pleas for him to come to counseling with me) and that I need better communication.
      Well, I was very clear in my communication that I wanted to leave. I guess I’m not so terrible at it after all.

      This list helped me realized that I’m simply a caring person. But you can view yourself leaving as you caring for him. Because you can’t enable him. That’s not healthy. By leaving your caring for him.

      I’ll pray for your healing sister. Much love sent. Much hope given <3

      • Avatar
        Benita McGhee
        → Kelly
        November 4, 2023

        Hi I understand. Reread that scripture. The Bible doesn’t say women are the weaker vessel. Paul admonishes the men of his culture and time, new believers, to give honor to the wife as though she is the weaker vessel. The key word being honor. He never states women are the weaker vessel and the woman’s deception in the garden does not define all women but it shows us the weakness in all mankind as that is the purpose of the story. So I encourage you..stand up and ask God to reveal by His Spirit the truth in Genesis 3….What and she shall desire her husband really means…and he shall rule over her really means….
        Healing to us all…in the name of Jesus….ye shall know the truth…and the truth shall make you free

    • Avatar
      → Andrea
      January 31, 2024

      You are not crazy. Your story is similar to mine. I left after 30 years. The peace I have when I don’t talk to him is indescribable! I have forever lost the person I used to be, and she was great!

    • Avatar
      → Andrea
      February 2, 2024

      Your was remarkable. I am in a toxic marriage too. My husband is a narcissist. I loved yhe article. I fit in all. I have been married 20 years. In the beginning I thiught I finally got a good one. As time went on I was wrong. We are still married. Finances are not good. I get tired of him always bosding me around. I don’t feel the loving bond that a wife and husband should have.
      I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for 21 years.
      Yes I am a faithful woman. I loved your story and the others.
      What I have read it hits at my heart.
      My narc husband changed to quick.
      My mom pointed it out to me long ago.
      You can’t talj to anyone because they look at you funny like oh he’s not like that.
      I do see a therapist or counselor. I have my days.
      Learning each day to take care of me.
      I thank you all. Still hanging in the fight.

  • Avatar
    Carol Kauffman
    November 3, 2022

    Lots of generalization here, but I get your drift. I’ve endured over 40 years of abuse – lying, cheating, yelling, passive aggressive behaviors, gaslighting. I guess I qualify as I’m still with the guy and show many of the “strengths” you speak of. I have one question: what constitutes a “woman of faith”? Christian, generic? Protestant? Catholic? Muslim? Jewish? Hindu? If I’m an atheist (I’m not), where do I turn if I meet all the qualifications but the “woman of faith” one? Being rejected by your husband is agonizingly painful; being rejected by a group that promises to help you – unless you’re not a “woman of faith” I would think is a double whammy rejection. Thoughts??

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Carol Kauffman
      November 3, 2022

      This particular website is specifically created for women who are in abusive relationships and feel stuck due to their religious beliefs. There are hundreds of websites out there for survivors that do not address the challenges that women of faith deal with. Those websites may be more helpful for women who are not religious.

      • Avatar
        Carol Kauffman
        → Natalie Hoffman
        November 3, 2022

        That makes sense. So I would gather your group is for both spousal abuse and spiritual abuse. I’m that case, I would think women of other faiths than Christian would also be welcomed as their patriarchal systems are even more misogynistic. I’m asking bc I’ve read/been to so many forums/ retreats, and read so many books which specifically are for Christians, praying to Jesus, etc which is fine if you’re Christian but women of other faiths I’ve noted are excluded/not represented. In other words, I’ve seen secular groups and Christian groups, but not “women of any faith” groups. Are there any of those? I just haven’t run across any. Thanks for your info

        • Natalie Hoffman
          Natalie Hoffman
          → Carol Kauffman
          November 3, 2022

          I don’t know of any, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I’m pretty focused on my own work.

      • Avatar
        → Natalie Hoffman
        November 11, 2022

        My church has been very supportive in my separation from my husband. This was largely due to a family member backing it up with evidence and saying don’t believe the “I’m sorry”. We’ve heard it a million times already and it’s never been genuine before.

  • Avatar
    May 16, 2022

    This was the most concise description of emotional abuse I have ever read. It was like you knew exactly what I went through for years. Every point rang true. Thank you for the work you’re doing.

  • Avatar
    October 5, 2021

    Hi! Thank you for your article. I’m struggling. I was raised in a house with an abusive mom, who we now was bi-polar, and was only recently diagnosed. I went from living at home, right into getting married, at 19. My marriage was one of abuse, mostly emotional. It never occurred to me that I was being abused. So much of what you say is true… now I know. 2 years ago I left. I couldn’t take it anymore. (My kids are all grown and have their own families. The abuse has greatly affected my daughter.) I was gone for 2 months, trying to get help and Godly counsel. We ended up getting counseling, from a wonderful Christian counselor. Recently, at church, I shared a little about fear … fear that has been put on me my entire life. I’m having a difficult time working through the fear, it’s become so familiar and I don’t always recognize it. My husband has changed for the most part…my kids have noticed. But I’m still struggling with the fear and insecurity and not knowing how to think. Is there a way to help me? I feel like I should not have shared about my fear at church. My pastor talked about it that Sunday and I felt it was all directed at me. I feel like he didn’t understand me.

  • Avatar
    May 26, 2021

    Thank you so much for this article. We have only been married 18 months, and I thought I found my prince – but our relationship has become a nightmare from hell. The only devotional I remember him initiating was to read Ephesians 5 so he could emphasize how I have to submit to him. As another reader noted, he mentioned nothing about loving and giving himself up for me. Even though I got through college and law school and have been a successful professional, I have been feeling weak, lonely, and ashamed because of our separation and likely divorce. But when I read that my husband targeted me for my strengths….wow, that was powerful. I remember his saying he loved how I cared for my mother, his children (I have 5 bonus children), etc. I AM the woman with those strengths! So thank you for giving me the courage and insight to realize those strengths, along with God’s help, will see me through this awful, painful time. My question – has anyone’s abuser husband changed? Repented? Obtained help?

    • Avatar
      Ellen J Bridges
      → BostonSheryl
      November 30, 2021

      In answer to your question, my first husband of 23 years changed, but only because I divorced him. He remarried and treated his next wife much better than he had me. The divorce was a wakeup call. But not for me.

    • Avatar
      → BostonSheryl
      January 10, 2023

      Hello, my husband changed as a result of a miraculous intervention. However, I believe that 99% of the time, the abusive husband remains in denial. Occasionally, a separation wakes an abuser up. For me, I told him he had to get a polygraph test and start counseling and show 100% repentance and remorse for his 35 years of terrible emotional abuse including questionable acting out, or I would separate and divorce him. I am EXACTLY the women described in this article. I am still working on forgiving him for many atrocious behaviors. In many ways, I am still in shock/denial, but after 2.5 years of figuring out the truth, I am still struggling with the forgiveness for some horrendous betrayals.

  • Not Feeling "JUST RIGHT" for Good Reasons ⋆ Do Life your Way
    May 19, 2021

    […] Someone who wants to control you will take a deep interest in you too, but for their benefit alone. This person will feel very fortunate to have found someone with your particular attributes. […]

  • You Have Ten Strengths That Will Help You Find Freedom from Emotional Abuse -
    December 4, 2020

    […] the last article I wrote, What Kind of Woman Does an Abusive Man Go For?, I talked about ten strengths that actually work against her when she’s been targeted and […]

  • Message to a Baptist Church: You Preached Death to the Hearts of One Hundred Women Today -
    December 4, 2020

    […] 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 […]

  • Avatar
    May 27, 2020

    Ya’ll please Pray for me, I am struggling with this whole idea of being a victim and what to do next. My husband of 9 years was all I had ever wanted in a man, after a month of dating he ask me to marry and 5 months later, I did marry him. Our marriage has pretty much been mostly about what I can do for him and when the house that I lived in before we married burned it put us in a two year battle over stupid childish issues and it strained me so much that I lost my cool a few times and screamed at him basically to shut up, well from then on he said I disrespected him and I need to move back in my old house while I finish putting it back together, so I did last labor day and I’ve been in my old house ever since. In the meantime he has accused me of an affair, hijacked my cell phone and email to see whom I was talking to and found nothing. Well now he is wanting to know when are we going to try to work things out and I’ve told him that I am working on me and that is all I can do and I have suggested him to work on himself because the one thing that I did not know before we married was that his Father beat and abused him on a regular basis, I am the only person besides his siblings and Mother that have any knowledge of the abuse. He told me about the abuse because I was questioning him on how and why he handle conflict the way he does, also I learned that his Dad did not treat his Mother good even cheated on her and married the women he cheated with. Also, my husband was cheated on by his first wife with his best friend in his bed, caught them in the act. I am saying this because there’s this part of me that wants to see him fixed, healed and whole but at the same time I gave him 7 great years, I bent over backwards, I have got to get it through my head that it is not my responsibility. I do have feelings of failure here and I know I must move on it is just so hard to get passed the thoughts of letting go of something I committed to ( his family of 5 kids and 11 grandkids). please pray for me, thanks, Regina

    • Avatar
      Emma Kroll
      → Regina
      June 15, 2020

      Stay strong!

    • Avatar
      → Regina
      October 30, 2020

      Thank you for this!! I just want to say it breaks my heart to hear so many churches are still so closed minded when it comes to abuse. I feel even more blessed with the tribe he gave me. I am still in the counseling stage with my husband. We both had traumatic childhoods so I have given room for healing and grace, but some days it’s hard to breathe. One step at a time for the moment

    • Avatar
      → Regina
      December 31, 2020

      Despite the torment and inner conflict you’ve expressed, you speak with great clarity, Regina. You sound like a very reasonable woman, and I’m glad you can recognize the many good years you’ve given your husband. My prayers are with YOU, and I hope you find the love you deserve, whether that’s within or outside of your current relationship.

    • Avatar
      → Regina
      January 6, 2021

      Thank you, Im so much better with it all, understanding strife and the confusion it brings, we have to stay in Him together…….it is really my fault, I saw strife in my husband before we married, I said yes to marriage with the thought that he would never be striful to me.
      It was my responsibility to follow what the word says for myself a mate and I did not, all other areas were clear if any type or color of a flag you can have…….my husband was the one no red flags….all clear! But that one thing, strife, it eventually did come down on me and the word says don’t even eat with such people, I married one, what, that blows my mind, I gave myself and put myself in the care of a person of strife. Well I will always pray for him and understand he is the same person he was before I married him and he is the same person today, we are not in the same flow, we are impeding each other’s flow, we should be flowing in goodness, happiness, joyfulness, helpfulness, meekness, kindness, Patience, not all the other ugly sides of it,……… I said yes, I sold out to strife, nothing good ever comes from strife, I for sure have learned a great lesson on His word being my first and only guide beyond all other warning signs in life, what does the word say.

  • Avatar
    Nancy Ness
    March 31, 2020

    This article is life-saving and life-giving. I wish it was being preached from the pulpit. Even today, women in psychaphile relationships are being “laughed at” when seeking help at church. This article describes me perfectly. I grew up in church and have always been the “good girl.” It’s about time I see the beautiful characteristics that God gave me as a blessing, the blessing was used on the wrong guy. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    December 29, 2019

    “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace” 1 Corinthians 14:33

    If you are experiencing that back and forth doubt, fog, and feeling of futility…..thats not God. Thats what abusers do.
    And they keep you locked in a mental cycle.
    When life moves in a cyclic pattern, a programmed cycle, thats not God.
    Become aware.
    Sadly, many religious communities are not Godly communities. And abusers, especially narcissistic abusers, can easily flourish there and put on a good show.
    To stay protected, READ THE WORD yourself. Do not have a human to tell you. If you ask a human for imput, that is certainly acceptable, but read it yourself and use discernment. The Word was a gift to all. It is a lie that we need someone to interpret it. Watch out for a person who picks and chooses select verses out of the Bible as a means to control.
    For instance, Abusers love the “wives submit to your own husband” verse, but did they continue reading? “Husbands, love your wives” “Love (your) own wife as (you) love your own body”
    And what is Love? The Bible says Love is “patient”. Love is “kind”.
    Is this your husband? Is he patient and kind?
    Do not blindly submit to him if he is not in Christ.
    We are called to submit to Christ. We are NOT called on to submit to demons.
    And yes. demons often come falsely professing to be with God.
    TEST them.
    How? Against the Word.
    Spiritual warfare is real.
    Remember. The ultimate goal of the enemy is to separate you from God. Abusers target Christian woman for this purpose. And if he (or she) can get you to doubt your Faith, they have won.
    And Satan gets your Soul.
    Do not loose yourself for a fallen created being thats already been defeated.
    You can Pray for him, but you not offer sacrifice to him. That sacrifice is you.
    Your husband is not God.
    The red flag number uno is that false believers (a husband or not) will put themselves on the level of God. Watch out for people like this.
    Christ is your God.
    Do you get the idea your husband thinks he, your husband, is your God?
    No. He is your husband.
    As a husband, he has a role. Is he performing it? If not, thats between him and God. Not you and him.
    As a final point.
    Know that your Christain community is not God. Though a community, if a true community, is a good support to have, that community is NEVER where you place your full Trust.
    Always be awake and actively discerning.
    And know being discerning is possible to do in an open and loving way. It doesnt have to feel closes and from a place of fear. Learn how to do this.
    And Trust God.
    Pray to God.
    Read the Word.
    And know that sometimes the best way to help someone, is to simply get out of the way.
    In Love

  • How Could I… – It Is Well
    October 4, 2019

    […] What Kind of Woman Does an Abusive Man Go For? […]

  • Avatar
    October 3, 2019

    Hi, I am currently going through a divorce (my soon to be ex-husband is an emotional abuser and porn-addict), and this site has been such an encouragement to me. I regularly visit and reaffirm my decisions by reading through the posts here.

    I have been recently begun blogging again as a way to journal through this phase of my life, in hopes that by sharing what I’m experiencing I can encourage other women who are facing similar trials. I’m not really publicizing it at all, no one that I know actually knows about my blog…it’s kinda just for me! And the few who have stumbled upon it, and those who may in the future. But this particular post is something I would really like to share, and I am hoping for your permission to post a link.

    Here is a link to my blog in case you want to check it out before approving:

  • Avatar
    Carolyn Jorgensen Potter
    August 5, 2019

    My husband was very religious: Always reading the Bible, always volunteering for helping at church, and on the worship team. At church, he was ingratiating with his “spirituality” in order to get attention. At home, he was a tyrant, and no one had a clue. I didn’t either until I married him.

    He used to always remind me that my body belonged to him and it was a sin for me to keep my body from him. And also, there is a verse that if we sin willfully, we lose our salvation. Therefore, if I withhold my body from him, and I willfully sinning and I loose my salvation. I thought everybody “knew” this. When you have to use verses like this to pry sex out of your wife, that’s pretty low.

  • Avatar
    Carolyn Jorgensen Potter
    August 5, 2019

    Many religious men are big on the “wives submit to your husbands”, but NEVER quote, “Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her”. Jesus did more than just die for our sins. He spent every waking moment caring for the people who followed him. He didn’t do stupid things like drink all the time and demand that his followers wait on him. He was clearly always their servant. Even the word “husband” is the same word for “farmer”. A farmer’s job to take care of the land, the crops and the animals so that they can produce the best that they can. If I husband spends his time loving and caring for his wife, he won’t have to “demand” that she submits, she will WANT to because she knows he has her best interest in mine.

    • Avatar
      → Carolyn Jorgensen Potter
      December 20, 2019

      Wow, so, so, true. I was confused why I was so manipulated….l was known as a strong young lady. Two things l had in my favor… was the religious system l grew up in, targeted our family & I’d watched my mother being abused, emotionally & spiritually, by my dad,, so when l made up my mind to leave, the junk people threw at me about submission made less of an impact. I , also had siblings who’d been emotionally, spiritually, & physically abused, as well,who had seen our mother destroyed who stood behind me…. & helped me. One of the 1st things l did was test my “gut feeling” soon after separation, refusing to do something he was trying to convince me to do. I learned later that had l listened to him, l would’ve been committing a civil misdemeanor …… that WAS an extreme faith building block as l begain my journey into healing. That said, l still find it amazing how long it’s been & l realize how long healing takes. Thanks, Natalie for your writings.

  • Avatar
    June 26, 2019

    So many of your points and statements are filled with truth! However, I would like to register a small disagreement regarding the response of a woman’s religious community. While it may be true in some cases and within some traditions (and was true in more cases in past years)–the apostle Peter said: “Husbands, respect your wives.” There is no Biblical tradition to remain with and cling to an abusive partner. I think often people who think of themselves as religious forget that Jesus Christ and his disciples did not say women have to submit to abuse just because they have a husband who refuses to treat her with respect. I”m glad there are organizations like yours that support women of faith who believe they deserve love and respect, rather than abuse.

  • Avatar
    March 16, 2019

    It’s sad because I am sure that if my abuser read these articles on abuse he would identify with the feelings of a victim. He tells me I always put him down and that I am manipulative and I am this and I am that and he’s depressed around me and he’s suicidal… and I know it’s because he’s doing it to himself, not because I am making him feel these things, and he is allowing the enemy to rule his life. I say it’s sad because he believes he’s the victim, of me, and that belief alone will keep him in this pit of forever not getting help or changing because he thinks he’s done nothing wrong.
    I appreciate this article in particular because I relate to the myth that the average person sees an abuse victim as weak- people think there is something wrong with me. And I have wracked my brain trying to figure out what that was (especially because as my abuser is screaming at me and threatening me he always says “you make me do this” or “if you were just a better wife I wouldn’t have to act this way”), and I have compared my actions to scripture over and over again and I honestly couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong; so it is a very good perspective to see that I am targeted for my strengths. Although being targeted is not good at all, I never looked at it from that view and I feel like a lot of my questions are answered just from reading that.
    Thank you for your words.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Sharayah
      March 18, 2019

      I can hear the pain and confusion in your words. I’m so sorry. You’re right. Abusers believe they are victims, and you are also right that it is because of that belief that they will never change. Your freedom will come when you no longer look at what he is doing or believing (he will eternally be the victim) and you make the necessary changes so you will no longer be a victim. Let him have that role. You get a new role. VICTOR who FLIES FREE. I pray that for you.

      • Avatar
        → Natalie Hoffman
        August 31, 2022

        My new husband of 2 months also plays victim a lot in our relationship. I’m actually still trying to figure him out. Is he really a covert Narcissist or something else, because sometimes I doubt myself. Maybe I found this website because satan led me here and he wants me to get a divorce… I don’t know.
        I’m still struggling with what I’m going to do. He has quite a few behaviors that I am concerned about, but I often question if I’m just imagining it all! I think these forums are valuable because we can hear real life stories, good and bad. And we can make our best decision based on all the evidence. My 1st husband was a narcissist, but I didn’t really find out till after our divorce (which was because of his infidelity). But I do know what a classic Narc is like. My current husband is a cover type. And touchy feely too. Not typical narc style.

        • Avatar
          Gina Johnson
          → Kelly
          February 25, 2023

          I married a covert narcissist and can speak to this.

          No matter their specific flavor (narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths), abusers treat their victims horribly (physically, emotionally, verbally, psychologically, sexually, financially, socially), use the victim’s friend and family network to gain a ready-made network for themselves, and keep up a façade that causes others to see them as good, moral, upstanding citizens. Abuse is about power and control, not specific methodology.

          Covert narcissists abuse by slowly, subtly undermining their victims: empty promises, eye rolls and loud exhales that signal disapproval of our words, never (or almost never) owning their stuff but micromanaging their victim’s every offense, public praise for things their victim does that build themselves up, using tone of voice to criticize others, and then focusing on their exact word usage when caught. I have 20 years experience with one and could go on all day.

          Covert narcissists are masters at flying just under the radar. They abuse in ways that leave even victims unsure they’re being abused, and with patterns of behavior that is disrespectful and destructive, but when victims describe incidents, the listener often dismisses it because “it’s not that bad.”

          Trust me. Twenty years of disrespect and undermining and chaos and sabotage and discrediting and stealing credit multiple times daily has the potential to kill a person because it is stressful and damaging and isolating. I almost died. That’s actually the norm, not the exception.

          Please check out the power and control wheel. Flying Free is an excellent resource for clarity of emotional, psychological, and religious abuse, as are Sarah McDugal and Betrayal Trauma Recovery ( Please compare your husband’s actions (not words or potential) to I Corinthians 13, and look at how his behavior lines up with the Fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5.

          If you leave, be prepared for lots of abusive behavior found in the post-separation abuse wheel and call police every time you feel unsafe so a pattern can be found in police records.

          I pray for your clarity and your safety. I can’t tell you what to do, but I will tell you that leaving an abusive marriage sooner, rather than later, is always my advice (if leaving is a safe option).

    • Avatar
      → Sharayah
      May 13, 2019

      I am slowly realizing that my husband is a verbal and emotional abuser. He blames me for his dark moods. He gets frustrated with his mother and takes it out on me. Reading this though affirmed me. I sense that for all the insults he hurls at me, he needs me to be his emotional rock because I tend to be very steady and reliable. On this past Mother’s Day he yelled at me and cursed at me, ruining the day I wanted to have with my family, including his at times mean mother-in-law, yet the next day my duty called me to cook for the family and make sure they were well. That is what keeps me in line. I wanted to neglect everyone, but I still did what needed to be done. I hated that I am too strong to fall apart and let everything else fall apart. I sensed as he apologized to me, there was no true contrition and remorse. He just wanted me to fall into the old pattern so he could feel better about himself and it return to the status quo. This site is a God-send because it releases me from the guilt of being the one to possibly break the family apart as for the first time I am preparing to divorce him due to his constant disrespect. I like that for the first time, I have come to a Christian site that does NOT TELL WOMEN to take it or kow-tow to the partner’s disrespectful and abusive ways or that the right thing to do is submit even further. Thank you for the wisdom shared on this page. Thank you.

    • Avatar
      → Sharayah
      October 26, 2022

      Yes, this. You may not ever see this response, but that is exactly what I discovered more clearly about my husband. I have known him for 30 years, longer than I have known myself. I have four children and have begun the divorce process as there was a safety issue and the only way to receive legal protections. He kept threatening divorce but only did maddening things and I don’t think he ever expected I would file. I never wanted to however because I also believed all those things about persevering and standing for our marriage. I finally heard the words that solidifed it when our joint counselor (he hit the wall earlier this year which may have been a narcissistic collapse and had to see a mental health professional, who encouraged joint and separate counseling) told me I could twist myself in a pretzel 6 ways and my husband would never see it. Nothing I could do would ever be enough. And I had felt like counseling was the last ditch because I had done everything. Prayed, read books, counseled with Godly women, worked hard to become a better wife and mother, tried to follow what he asked, etc. etc. etc. Yet he would never take responsibility and held me responsible for all the problems in our marriage. If something was important to him, you would think he would want to work together and bridge the gap. He ‘was very clear and told me exactly what the problem was’ and yet he never took the initiative to help make it possible to do what he wanted. There were problems before that though anyway. He was neglected and abused as a child and never processed that although I didn’t know it at the time. Good on you for trusting God to help you find a way out.

  • Avatar
    Gloria Riggin
    September 24, 2018

    Oh my gosh!!! This is me and my previous marriage of 25 years to the T!! I have never seen anything as exact that described me or the circumstances as perfectly as did this article. I did not give up until he actually got caught cheating on me with someone I knew. He finally asked me to leave, and I could not understand why. It wasn’t until our friends had an intervention with me and explained that he was caught out of town by some of our mutual friends. They did not tell me until we were going to court the next day to finalize the divorce. If I had know earlier, it would have made a difference in the grounds of the divorce, and I would have forced 1/1 division of accets with alimony. As it was, I did not request either as he convinced me it was my fault we were divorcing. I am a senior citizen now and not sure I can trust my instincts anymore. I am not sure I can trust myself not to be pulled into another relationship with the same results. I feel I will share my compassion as a community volunteer and avoid true relationships in the future. Don’t really want to live single, but don’t think I could survive another abusive marriage. God blessed me to be directed out of this last one before it was too late.

    • Avatar
      → Gloria Riggin
      January 16, 2020

      I am so sorry this happened to you. I pray you have found new friends, the kind of friends that wouldn’t keep something like that from you until the last moment. I pray you are doing well.

    • Avatar
      → Gloria Riggin
      September 3, 2022

      Oh my Gloria how horrible! That was the same thing I said “this article described my situation to a T!”

  • Avatar
    September 24, 2018

    Yes. To have this strong, compassionate and gifted woman in his territory makes him feel good (and look good to others).
    To see her lose her happy spark and peace.. mission accomplished.

  • Avatar
    September 1, 2018

    I am bookmarking your article so I can revisit and review more of your content. I agree with many of your thoughts

  • Avatar
    July 27, 2018

    I am so happy I read this. My husband and I are now divorced, thank God!. He was abusing me for years and I had no idea. Our relationship was rocky from the beginning but I just kept at it because of all the other wonderful qualities in him, which I now know were fake. It was all manipulation tactic. Long story somewhat short, we got married in 2016 when I was 3 months pregnant. Everything seemed to fall apart even more at that point. I was neglected, ignored, and told on more than one occasion that if we didn’t have more sex, he would cheat on me. And 2 months after our son was born, he left me. The woman he left me for was a friend of his and he was lying to both of us the entire time. I was also unaware that he was bringing her around our son since he was born. My son will be 2 in September and I just became aware of that he was basically born with a stepmother already lined up. My ex-husband is also a victim of abuse, just to add. He and many members of his family are all victims of sexual abuse. This is one of the reasons I put up with his behavior for so long. I felt sorry for what happened to him and thought I could help. Anyway, my reason for writing this is because I sometimes feel concern for my son. I don’t believe his father will hurt him, but I have thought about taking him to court for mandated psychotherapy for the emotional abuse towards me and to help him heal with his childhood abuse. I just want to make sure my son is ok. I have already begun healing and moving forward in my life to unchain myself from the abuse. The mind manipulation still lingers and he definitely is still in my head at times. I pray hard and try to refocus my energy on good things to hopefully push this man out once and for all.

  • Avatar
    May 28, 2018

    I definitely agree with what you are saying and I fit all the criteria for the kind of woman an abusive man chooses. And it is sad that some men use God in such a horrible way. I was actually abused by two different men (in my opinion 1st one was a borderline and the 2nd anti social pd) who were far from Christ. The one even made me feel like I shouldn’t believe in God and Jesus was just a man. My most recent abuser and father of my son out of wedlock (which is a good thing) had so many demons. After he was arrested and left our home he left those demons behind and I was saved by Jesus after I realized that I needed to have faith not fear. And I go to a church that believes in Christianity not religion. My pastor believes that religion is wrong b/c we can’t be good people to go to heaven and we shouldn’t worship so called holy people. Only Jesus was perfect and to get to heaven we most confess our sins and be saved, then baptized to receive the holy spirit, have a relationship with Jesus/God, and serve. My pastor would like husbands and wives to stay together or people who share a child to be able to get married or work things out to be together, but he understands that sometimes it just can’t happen because of abusive people. I’m learning so much about boundaries right now and putting them into use. It’s hard and scary but I already see it working in my favor and it makes me feel proud of myself. I can’t keep self sacrificing and living in other peoples worlds….eventually becoming resentful, depressed, frustrated, desperate to get out. Maybe my son’s father will change, but that is up to him and he needs to do it without me involved. I can’t be his enabler anymore!

  • Avatar
    Angel Whiteman
    May 22, 2018

    This is the exact story of my life…….

  • Avatar
    Helet Rudewig
    May 1, 2018

    I have become a faily lonely person since 11 years ago, getting out of my relation with a narcissist and psycopath. Unfortunately I did not divorce hom, but live apart. He visits often for a hour or teo. But I do not ever want to marry again, so I thought that keeps people away from me. I grew up in a toxic home, Narcissist morher, enabling father, and 3 bullying brothers. I was the SG. I married a man that had very big background problems, Hoever kind an gentle , hr never protected me, he could not handle conflict, he got non epileptic seizures of ragr, and then went into a psychotic stsge for about 5 years, not talking to anybody. Doctors could not find whsts wrong. He refused to take any medication, and anti depressants. He died at thr age of 62

  • Avatar
    Colleen Kennedy
    April 28, 2018

    You have completely validated my understanding of what happened to me. I was married 23 years. I gave everything including my soul to that man that I was married to. I have been set free for the last 6 years. But I have never had anyone explain exactly what happened to me the way you have. You have given me words to describe my life experience. I lived in hell. Thank you so much for your Insight. I’ve had the hardest time wrapping my head around what the church did to me. I trusted the church to help protect me, but they perpetuated the abuse. I still love God with all my heart, but I can’t become a part of another church.

  • Avatar
    April 26, 2018

    This is most accurate description of the last 18 years of my life! Thank you for writing this article. It is like you were living in my home day in and day out. I could not seem to wrap my head around what I went through and why I stayed, allowed, justified such bad behavior and bad treatment! Thank you so much for validating my experience and opening my eyes as to how I was truly targeted and taken advantage of. I found the courage to ask my husband to move out on December 30. I wish I could say it was easy once he was gone, but unfortunately, things went from bad to worse once he was gone. It has been 4 months now and I can truly say that I am finely coming out on the other side. I am at peace. I feel happy again and my energy is coming back too. It has been so hard to explain to others and to forgive myself for staying as long as I did. Thank you again for your work and for sharing. You have blessed me beyond measure today!!!!!

  • Avatar
    April 23, 2018

    So much of this…. I think another thing is how they use sex. Sex becomes all of a sudden really good. Almost like a tool for deeper intimacy. They think.

    It might be good sex but it gives a sickening feeling later.

  • Avatar
    April 23, 2018

    I honestly can’t believe how perfectly stated every word of this is. Thank you. Thank you so much.

  • Avatar
    April 22, 2018

    I’m sorry you had such an unhealthy faith community. It shouldn’t be that way.

  • Avatar
    April 21, 2018

    Incredible insight and I could relate to everything you said. It was so affirming and I want everyone I’m close to, to read this to better understand what I’m going through.

  • Avatar
    April 20, 2018

    Even though I do not come from a
    religious background, I do believe it was some sort of divine intervention that led me to your website initially. From the very first moment I started reading your blogs I felt that you were the first person since this whole nightmare started that actually understood the language I was speaking the perspective I had and the hopelessness I felt. I have since become an Avid Reader of your writing and I find your thoughts to be intuitive, spot on and a breath of fresh air when I needed a reason to breathe. I wasn’t married to my abuser – we were friends for years prior to being intimate and exclusive for 4 very chaotic years. It has been almost 2 years without contact and I am still incapable of taking care of myself. I’m on the mend and I feel my brain starting to make connections again that feel like my former self instead of the napalmed shell he created. I want to express my deepest gratitude to you for your courage, insight and willingness to take on this fight so that other women can grab your hand and come up out of the darkness. In a time where nothing makes sense anymore you don’t know where to turn or who you can trust…it’s a Godsend to know you aren’t crazy after all.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Meko
      April 20, 2018

      I’m so glad you found Flying Free, Meko. It took your abuser time to weasel his way into your life and make hamburger of your life. So it will take time to restore your health and wholeness. I hope you’ll consider joining the private support group that will open up again at the end of May. It will provide more intense opportunities to work on that healing process. (((HUGS)))

  • Avatar
    April 19, 2018

    This is spot on in my case. Especially the treatment from the religious community. How sad that those I thought I could turn to were the cause of even deeper pain.

  • Avatar
    April 19, 2018

    Is it possible for a husband to do all these things unwittingly, not intentionally? Both my husband and I grew up in a strict religious circle that taught “doormat wife” theology. 5 years into our marriage I was so emotionally destroyed by his moods and expectations of me that I begged God to let me die- not because I actually wanted to, but because I honestly thought my husband and my kids would be better off with another woman because I was obviously not capable of meeting their needs. “Counseling” with a couple from church only reinforced this belief that it was all my fault. We then went to a Family Life marriage conference and for the first time I had hope that he was going to work at understanding me and starting to meet my needs. But in the three years since that date we have worked through at least three cycles (probably more) of every time he feels shorted sexually or emotionally he punishes me with moody silences and quiet anger and if I don’t read him right and fix it he threatens to leave. So I throw everything I have into salvaging our relationship and meeting his needs and everything eventually “rights” itself- for awhile anyway. I still want to believe the best of him. That maybe it’s just because of how we were raised that he has wrong expectations of what a wife and mother should be and, if he can see that, he will change and we will have the marriage and family I still dream of.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Megan
      April 19, 2018

      If your husband is just your average Joe – when you point out the hurtful things he does and his entitlement mentality, he will have compassion on you along with empathy for the ways he has hurt you, and he will work hard on his side of the street to change. That’s what a normal guy would do. If that’s not happening after all these years, it’s not going to happen. He isn’t interested in changing. He doesn’t believe he has to change. He doesn’t believe he is the problem. You are. And that, Megan, is abuse in a nutshell.

      I know couples who came out of that strict religious stuff – and BOTH the husband and wife did a 180. It doesn’t sound like your spouse wants to change his mind, and subsequently his behavior, regarding his beliefs about men, women, and relationships.

      Next time he threatens to leave, let him go. You start over and spend the last half of your life in peace. It’s not easy (I’ve written articles about how hard it is and what it takes to do that) but it’s possible!

  • Avatar
    Pam Lambert
    April 19, 2018

    Thank you so much for this article. I loved every word and you said so well all that I knew, but just never saw it put together that way. Thank you for all you do! We survivors need to stick together and work as one voice to give a voice to those not yet able to speak. When they can, they will join their voices with ours!

  • Avatar
    April 19, 2018

    Natalie, what always amazes me is the thread that runs through every survivor’s article! Every experience is different but there are some things that are THE SAME. Learning what those SAME things are was very helpful for me when I broke free after 30 years. I thank you for your articulate wisdom and your efforts to help us!

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Debby
      April 19, 2018

      So true. I’m glad these insights are helping all of us heal together!

  • Avatar
    Minyon Palmer
    April 19, 2018

    This is exactly what happened in my relationship. I got divorced almost 5 years ago and I’m still recovering. Thanks so much, this article validated my entire experience.

  • Avatar
    Lisa Ash
    April 19, 2018

    Thank you. Thank you for writing the truth, this post has given me the strength to not go back it has given voice to what my life was like. It was though you were writing my story, so thank you.

  • Avatar
    April 19, 2018

    Thank you for this! Such healing words!

  • Avatar
    April 19, 2018

    Oh, Natalie. Thank you! Thank you for explaining that the abused woman is not weak. In fact, she is so strong. It’s been hard for me to accept that I was a victim for this very reason. I’m strong, opinionated, smart, secure, and confident. So how does someone like THAT fall prey to abuse? YOU EXPLAINED IT SO WELL. It has taken me about 3 years (post divorce) to figure this out. The things that made me stay were my STRENGTHS not my weaknesses. Yes, I made mistakes. (Staying for so long is paramount.) But I was more sinned against than sinning. I see that now. He took advantage of my strength and tried to suck it dry. But I escaped and am FLYING FREE!

    Another note. It’s hard for women to move from victim to survivor if they don’t see themselves as a victim. When the world can’t see the abuse, and the church says it’s just the normal burden of marriage (your cross to bear), then it’s hard to see it for what it is– ABUSE! Even the person being abused is brainwashed: “This can’t be abuse. It’s hard, but ABUSE is such a strong word.” Taking that label of victim is as hard as any other part of this journey. I actually kind of skipped over it. I didn’t accept the victim label until after I was flying free and could see the situation for what it was. It’s still really hard to swallow. But I can enthusiastically say he was an abuser. That’s for sure now. I see it clearly.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Jimmie
      April 19, 2018

      This is a really good point. I’m going to be writing about that next, and I will include your insight. I’ve actually had emails from women who don’t like it when I use that word. I try to use the word Survivor more. But you’re right. If we aren’t victims, then we are part of the problem, and that’s just not true when it comes to abuse. Take the same woman (you, for example) and put her with a healthy man, and you’ve got a dynamite partnership. The abuse wasn’t about you, and the focus of anyone who wants to solve the abuse puzzle needs to get OFF of the woman and ONTO the abuser, the source of the problem in the first place.

    • Avatar
      → Jimmie
      April 23, 2018

      Jimmie…. I hope you will see this.

      I appreciate that so much because through all of this, it’s been hard to see myself as a victim. My husband never laid a finger on me. We’ve been married now 35 years.

      I thought we were okay until 2 1/2 years ago I began to suspect an affair. He spent 10 months denying it and treating me like I was crazy. Yes, I know that was abuse. He apologized and groveled like crazy. The circumstantial evidence was crazy.

      Finally after 10 months I discovered he was hiding our savings. I left him for a few weeks. Came home after his confessin but he still swore no affair. All money is accounted for.

      He won’t go back to counseling as we had two disastrous ones. He has spent the last two years groveling and working hard to convince me he wants our marriage.

      The ow… although he says there never was….. has done some major things to mess with me on fb. I know I’m not crazy. He knows about them. He says she’s crazy but swears no affair.

      Did I mention that I told him I would take his ass for everything if I find out it happened?

      I’ve watched him hard for these two years. Sometimes I see the nasty side come out and he grovels again.

      The latest two things that have baffled me.

      I will continue on next reply…

      • Avatar
        → Kay
        April 23, 2018

        The first. I found another phone number under my privacy settings for fb. Right under my number. I wrote it down, deleted it and called it.

        It was a woman from the church we left 1 1/2 years ago. We were at that church 11 years. She was not even the woman he had the affair with. I got her voicemail and was shocked. She is 12 years older than me. My grown sons used to pick up her son( on disability) for church. I never even had her number or on fb.

        I didn’t tell him until the next night. I told him I found it odd and creepy. He didn’t say much.

        I took his phone with me that night when I ran to the store. Even checked to see if she had fb. Nothing. Deleted all the history.

        Next morning I pick up his phone to check weather. Her name comes up in typed blue letters on bottom of his phone. I look at it for two min. And go to check his messages and there are none and her name disappears. He comes around the corner and I tell him.

        He says he has no idea. I didn’t make a big deal. We are out later and I check safari on his phone after a kid texted. I see the gmail app but no address for it. Like he had forgotten to x it out. I hadn’t touched his phone since that morning. He says he doesn’t have a separate gmail.

        • Avatar
          → Kay
          April 23, 2018

          Two weekends ago we were heading home from a family wedding and he was driving. I was texting on his phone to my brother, and he was getting a text. I checked it.

          It was a verification number from tinder. I wrote it down and he immediately wanted to know what I was writing down. I told him copying my brothers number. He was driving.

          We had been in a hotel for two days and he had many opportunities on his phone.

          He doesn’t have fb unless it’s a fake one. He set up a fake one in the midst of all that two years ago. I eventually found out, he confessed but swore he didn’t go on it and I disactivated it.

          I did google to see if this has happened to others( he swears no Tinder) and it has.

          I just don’t know what to think anymore. I did call the woman whose number I found. Of course she has no idea…. lol