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Who Burned the House Down?

Who Burned the House Down?

I wrote this analogy several years ago in one of my bazillions of efforts over the years to get my beloved religious community to recognize what was happening in my home and help my family.

It didn’t work. They just threw more gasoline on the fire and made jokes about it in church parking lots.

Then they excommunicated me.

But maybe this analogy will help you.

Who Burned the House Down?

It’s like my husband spent our marriage throwing gasoline all over our home. Nobody could see it, but I could smell the fumes. They threatened to suffocate me.

I knew that if I lit a match to illuminate the truth about the gasoline, I would burn our home down. I was warned, in so many words, never to light that match. The house would burn to the ground, I’d lose everything – my home, my marriage, my friends, my religious community, my reputation, and it would be all my fault.

God’s Name would be smeared in the mud all because of me. I was afraid to live there anymore, and I was afraid to attempt an escape. I was poised on the brink of a cliff for years.

And he relentlessly continued to pour the gasoline.

I tried telling people on the outside about the gasoline – hoping they would help me.

But they didn’t believe me.

They couldn’t see it, and my husband made sure not to be in the middle of throwing it when anyone walked by.

When I screamed at him to stop, he would smile and get out another gallon, saying, “Tsk, tsk. Such an angry woman. You’ll destroy your house one day with that attitude, you know.”

I knew that the only way I could be set free it is if I lit the match, but I didn’t want to burn it down.

The thought of that kind of colossal loss overwhelmed me. Better to stay in denial. Pretend it wasn’t happening.

Maybe he would stop if I left him alone. If I could just be good enough, maybe he would forget about throwing the gasoline.

Also, I knew everyone would think I was the one who burned the house down. They wouldn’t see that the problem was the gasoline.

I cared too much about people’s opinions, and not enough about the safety of the people in the house with me.

I didn’t care enough about the truth. The truth was too hard to bear up under.

After two decades, I knew I was suffocating, and the kids were suffocating. The house was being destroyed from the inside out. The stench was overwhelming, and I realized we were all dying anyway.

Our only hope now was to shed light on the problem

I lit the match.

The walls went up in flames, and I screamed for help.

I tried to get out with my kids. But almost everyone did exactly what I was afraid they would do.

They casually walked by, shaking their heads saying, “Nope. Why would anyone help a woman who BURNS HER OWN HOUSE DOWN? How UNCHRISTIAN! How UNFORGIVING. How BITTER. She obviously doesn’t know the God WE know. In fact, she needs to be erased altogether. Let’s burn her out here, where everyone can see what a horrible example she has set for our religious community of obedient folks who would NEVER lie and whine about imaginary gasoline.

Now they are dragging me out to a stake, and with their arms around my gasoline-throwing husband, they are handing him a match. He gets to light the wood beneath my feet.

But wait. WHAT?! Where is she? Where did that rebellious, delusional whiner go? She’s not here anymore!

No, I’m not. My Creator took me by the hand and led me away. I’m laughing at the future, walking in freedom, breathing fresh air, and focused on the life my Creator gave me to steward.

I don’t know what God they worship, but it isn’t the One I worship.

The gasoline thrower and his religious supporters are still spraying gasoline all over their corner of their upside-down crazy world, and they can get away with it over there.

Because in “crazy world,” if you can’t see it, it isn’t there.

Yeah. I don’t live there anymore.

P.S. If you’re suffocating under the toxic fumes of gasoline spread all over your house, consider joining the Flying Free Sisterhood program. It’s a group of women who lit the match. They know the gasoline in your house is real even if no one else in your life does.

Flying Free Sisterhood

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

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    Lou
    November 19, 2023

    This post is exactly how it feels and captures my deepest fears about my situation. Before I saw this post, I had a dream not so long ago that our house was on fire and I was frantically trying to get the garden hose to work to put out the flames. The roof was burning. In the dream I could see that my husband was just standing there watching ourhouse burn, calm, uninterested and ignoring my cries for assistance. I remember feeling so alone in my dream, knowing that I was the only one who cared about the destruction of our home. I had an overwhelming sense that I couldn’t rely on him to do anything to help make the situation better. There was no one else around and no one else to ask for help. I felt helpless.
    This post says it all.

  • Avatar
    Michele
    September 4, 2023

    I’m stunned reading this post and replies. And yet encouraged. I so appreciate the vulnerability of each person.
    I’m 64, married 29 years, and my tank has reached ’empty’. Being in ministry has made the journey so much more difficult, because appearances matter so much. My husband is very charming in public, but fractured from childhood abuse when in private. We have no children, for which I’m actually grateful.
    Our life together has been filled with ‘teasing’ derision from him, devastating financial decisions, questionable relationships on his part, and a total absence of accountability to those in authority over us. So much of my identity has been erased in favor of his preferred appearance, but leadership is so often misogynistic that ‘just submit’ has become the chain that binds. I want so desperately to leave, but he has begged me to seek counseling together [that he has refused for the past decade] so that we can stay together. He’s very skilled at making me out to be the one at fault, and I know my departure will cost me most of the relationships we have. But I don’t care anymore.
    I’m praying for wisdom, courage, a job, and somehow, the finances to get my life back. I’ve got family and a place to live in another state, but the upheaval is certainly daunting.
    Please pray with me; I desperately need to be certain at this point in my life that I make the right decision – the one that lines up with God’s intentions for us both. Thank you…

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Michele
      September 4, 2023

      Praying for you this morning, Michele!

      -Aimee, Flying Free Community Support

  • Avatar
    Jennifer C.
    April 2, 2023

    I am blown away by all the comments here ♥️ So many of you are hurting and I just want to say, although this post is older, I’ve read through each comment and prayed for all of you!
    I was in a marriage for 14 years and it almost ripped me to shreds, down to the cells that make up my body. (That’s how it felt) I thought near the end: our house is on fire and my husband is sitting in his lazy boy watching espn while ignoring the heat, smoke and me, running around throwing teacup after teacup full of water in an attempt to stop this blazing inferno, hoping it would work!!
    It didn’t.
    I tried screaming at him through tears, trying to get him to SEE that our marriage was being burned alive!
    He didn’t see anything wrong, of course. Things were exactly as he wanted them and programmed it to be. I was his fixer, his Mommy, his maid, his chef, his launderer, his slave, his sex-bot, his emotional trash dump…..and with all that abuse, he shamed me for being sad, depressed, anxious and a few times, angry myself.
    It is literally hell on earth.

    I’ve been free 4.5 years and my sisters, it is more amazing than I could ever have dreamed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard yards….the random waves of deep grief, the fear of finding out who I am within myself after getting so comfortable with being a nobody, being who everyone ELSE wanted me to be, or who I THOUGHT my ex wanted me to be. It was never good enough.
    I’m about to join the ‘Flying Higher’ program and couldn’t be happier~ I’m ready.
    I wish I’d found her back in 2018 when I lit my match….but God still got me through. He is an amazing Heavenly Father!!!
    I pray each of you feel His loving presence~ that you KNOW that He is for you, not against you. That He loves you and accepts you more than you could ever possibly imagine!
    God bless all of you and Natalie & team for the work they’re doing!!!

    • Avatar
      Kristin
      → Jennifer C.
      May 11, 2023

      Hi Jennifer, my experience is very similar to yours. The Lord gave me this vision of the room on fire and my husband totally oblivious to what was happening all around him. I am a wife and mom of three. I have experience so much turmoil in my marriage of almost 17 years. I have the support of my church and close friends. Some don’t really see what is really going on behind the closed doors. It’s sad and confusing and now I see this behavior coming from my son. I want to see my circumstances change and true repentance on my husband’s behalf. Others have sensed there is something off so I know I am not the only one. God is on my side I thank him each day for his strength.

  • Avatar
    Michele
    January 22, 2023

    I love it when someone calls something out like it is….

  • Avatar
    Rebecca J. Proctor
    March 3, 2022

    Once you accept the truth, getting out is the problem. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 90% of our marriage. I need to get out but not sure how. I don’t have a job or income, so am at his mercy until that changes. No physical abuse, just emotional, he’s very passive-aggressive, so I often feel like a fool.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Rebecca J. Proctor
      March 4, 2022

      Nobody who gets out knows how they will do it at first. The next step is just getting yourself to a place of strength and personal power and clarity. THEN you will be able to solve the problem of how to get out. Many women gain this kind of inner strength just from listening to the Flying Free podcast. Check it out here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/flying-free/id1447759118

    • Avatar
      Kristy
      → Rebecca J. Proctor
      March 15, 2022

      Perhaps you can become a nanny or a caregiver ! The job is paying a good salary these days. In north jersey they pay $30/hr… and it’s something that comes so naturally from being an at home mom for so many years …
      I was you, I am you …only a little further down the road. I left and I am free …
      The brain processes emotional abuse the same as it processes physical abuse.
      Sending love & strength your way

      • Avatar
        Rebecca J. Proctor
        → Kristy
        March 15, 2022

        Kristy, I cried reading this! Thank you for your response!! It’s comforting to know there are others who have gone this path before! The recent The Shin-Kicker Story was another help as it was exactly what I’ve gone/am going through! Again, thank you for your response! I know there’s hope!

      • Avatar
        Rebecca Proctor
        → Kristy
        March 15, 2022

        Kristy, thank you so much for your response! It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone! I am currently staying with my Mom due to my Dad’s passing (long story) so am not in the same house as my husband. I don’t miss him and I feel that speaks volumes. Thank you again for reaching out!

    • Avatar
      Beverly
      → Rebecca J. Proctor
      March 6, 2023

      Rebecca,
      I understand your situation, I’m in the same situation.
      I’m almost 60 years old and the thought of waiting tables to support myself is horrible.
      Im not afraid to work but at 60, it’s frightening.
      And where would I go? No money, no home, no help.
      My only option is to take it.
      I hope you’re young enough to get out and start over and breathe again.
      Good luck to you.

      • Avatar
        Stacy
        → Beverly
        March 24, 2023

        I am 59. Alnist Disabled
        Live in so much physical pain and emotional pain. I have no where to go. No mo ey for a lawyer. My youngest graduates in May. I’ve been a wife and mom fir 30 years. Nothing else. I dont think I csn keep a jib with the pain I live In. I’m so tired of the verbal abuse. Ready to light a match. Prayers please

        • Avatar
          KelleyJo Lancaster
          → Stacy
          December 2, 2023

          Me, too. I’m fifty two. I have nothing to start over with

      • Avatar
        VANEE S COLEMAN
        → Beverly
        May 21, 2023

        This really blessed my soul reading the analogy as well as the comments. This is such a blessing to my life. I can’t truly blame the enemy for attacking marriages in the faith but to a degree I know he’s definitely been throwing so many darts in mines. I’ve been married for 11 years and there’s been this pattern of dysfunction in our home. Everyone is doing their own thing. We have small children one that’s a preteen and the other is 2. We also have one on the way. I really truly need GOD to help me fix the communication between my husband and I. Our home is in uproar due to common fights and disputes whether around or in front of our children. I’m frustrated because I don’t really get the emotional support or respect I need from my husband. It’s driving me crazy. I have yelled and fussed so much that I’m growing tired and weary, ready to give up and file for separation. If there’s no hope, I want out of my marriage. I just want GOD to know that I need him and I’m trying but it’s beginning to be too much. I really need his help.

    • Avatar
      Wendy
      → Rebecca J. Proctor
      March 28, 2023

      This was me! 19 years SAHM. Now my youngest is 18, I have a job but it would not support me. We just left. Staying with some people temporarily and looking for an apartment. My daughter is working and finishing high school and will take a gap year while we live together and try to heal. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I pray God will guide and help you.

    • Avatar
      Susan J Collins
      → Rebecca J. Proctor
      November 22, 2023

      Same here i dont how to get out with only income. And yet dont want to wait many years like my sister did.

  • Avatar
    Sybil Serrano
    January 20, 2022

    I have been told that it is now time to forgive. That I was not being Christian because I was holding my husband accountable. My husband keeps playing the victim to many, especially to everyone we mutually know at church. Church leaders have made me feel guilty, like I was doing something wrong. One even told me that I was being too rigid with my husband, that I needed to be more loving.
    All these comments and judgements have hurt so much. Along with dealing with the abuse my husband has caused me. Yes I left him, but it’s like you said they still dragged me out to the stake as my husband lit the match.
    Thank you for this analogy. Sometimes I feel so alone with what I am going through. It’s good to know that there are some people that understand.

  • Avatar
    Karee Lee Wolf
    February 19, 2019

    Is there s support group to join. The links say that page doesn’t exist?

    Thanks.

  • Avatar
    Carine
    February 18, 2019

    Such a powerful analogy. Thanks for sharing! Gosh you left with 9 children!! Good for you! I left with 5 children and today I feel very fortunate that I did not end up having 20 children with this man ( a prediction for me from one of the elder in the church) since birth control or any contraception method was not allowed, and at 22 I already had 4 children! Lol! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Avatar
      Kim
      → Carine
      May 8, 2020

      I have more comments from people who are in the church but don’t get it. But I’ll spare you for now. I’m still married but have set some physical and emotional boundaries . There’s so much I want to talk about. I look forward to the support group. THANK YOU!

  • Avatar
    Carol
    December 14, 2018

    Fifteen years ago after 34?yearsbif hell,?I made it out of the fire!! I lit the match! Took my kids. He still taunts me with the gasoline can but I know I am hidden in Christ alone. Still fighting to get the divorce. I am still free! Praise the Lord “, hallelujah I’m Free!

  • Avatar
    Miranda Flynn
    July 14, 2018

    Natalie, can you please reply to me? Where does 1 Cor. 13 come in to the picture? Do I endure all things, yet show my husband that he is hurting me with his words, or does a Christian just “run away” from the pain when they can’t take it any longer? If it is not physical abuse, where our lives are at stake literally, we need to focus on Jesus even while we are IN such a state. Why did that woman say she was FINALLY free to focus on Jesus? We should be focusing on Him during the difficult times FIRST if we totally trust HIM. We should allow our suffering to demonstrate that we love God enough to do as He says we should, and that is to be partakers of HIS sufferings on this earth. I am free even if I am in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage, because I do not have to allow that action to DEFINE my identity! If I know my identity is in Christ, I will know that the suffering I am going through will product HIS perfect will in time! Be careful we are not using the world’s (really, Satan’s) standard for what we should and should not suffer in this life! How do we know when God will use a certain incident at some point, while we demonstrate non-acceptance of the abuse, but remain humble, and even He will use that incident to convict someone??? He gave us His Spirit of LOVE to convict those who despitefully use us and persecute us, no matter who they are! Prove me wrong, please.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Miranda Flynn
      July 18, 2018

      No, Miranda. We don’t convict others. God does. We don’t change lives. God does. We take the place of God when we presume we can change lives by just making sure we “do all the right things.” That isn’t faith in God. That is pride in the flesh. I don’t believe it is loving to enable destructive human beings to continue their destruction without consequences. Jesus loved perfectly, yet he let the rich young ruler choose to go his own way. We don’t control others. We are responsible to steward the lives God gave to us. This is love for God and love for our neighbor. Love always stands on the truth and never enables deceit. If you believe God has called you to stay with your abusive husband, that is your call. But for many women, God has called them to stand against lies and abuse and leave if there is no real repentance. I’ve seen dozens of women and their children find freedom and love outside of abuse. I don’t believe God condones abuse or wants His daughters lives destroyed by unrepentant, wicked men. I guarantee Satan loves that, though!

      • Avatar
        hesed
        → Natalie Hoffman
        January 17, 2021

        Amen, Natalie! I am soooo thankful I found Flying Free and I KNOW that the emotional/spiritual abuse went on in our home because I listened to the lies that the church teaches husbands, wives and children. I knew in the depths of who He made me to be that the odd “stench” in our home, one so uncomfortable to be in the midst of but yet so hidden, so hard to uncover, WAS OF THE ENEMY in the name of religion. Praise God that He desires marriage to be holy and not torturous, that He desires us to be humble servants of the Messiah, walking in his footsteps… not being shunned, isolated, condemned by man (woman.)

    • Avatar
      Amy
      → Miranda Flynn
      February 9, 2019

      Physical abuse damages the body. Verbal and emotional abuse damage the mind, heart, and soul. Now, convince me that physical abuse is worse.

      You have obviously never been in an abusive relationship. Your comment causes guilt and doubt to those trying to be free from a situation no one deserves to live in.

      • Avatar
        Sandy
        → Amy
        October 2, 2022

        I’ve been in two abusive marriages now…31 years, and the second fir just 9 months. I’ve suffered awful physical symptoms brought on by anxiety. Both times my hair started falling out. That’s a sign fir me of tremendous stress. The first marriage I had prickly feeling head to toe and tremors. After 4 years of pain and fatigue. And many other things like IBS and TMJ. Emotional abuse can be physical abuse as well. And they SEE it happening to me. I’m away from husband #2 but still trying to get free emotionally. I am staying with friends. No home. No job. Devastated. Counseling but going to join the sisterhood. Oh and ignored by church friends who were the only ones at our wedding. So much to tell. God has me! I know that. Psalm 91

    • Avatar
      Ann Detweiler
      → Miranda Flynn
      January 30, 2022

      not natalie, but…my experience….

      another option:

      after ~30 yrs of zero progress using your reasoning and strategy and increasingly abusive patterns, i began to pray “please, God. change him or move him or take him home if he is Yours.”
      I believe God “moved him” since he left and filed for divorce in response to boundary accountability and i was freed from the dilemma.

      i could have continued on indefinitely with my “identity in Christ” but i wasn’t alone in this. both of my daughters witnessed this unhealthy level of accommodating others (men) and have replicated it in their adult lives – not good for either party’s spiritual/emotional health as natalie says below or that of their own kids.

      i have also witnessed the sadness of other women whose sons replicate the bad behaviors in their own relationships with women and so it goes down the generations. It’s the curse. you will desire a man and he will rule over you – how to get back to Eden? Holy Spirit speaks the truth, convincing us of both sin (by nature often an uncomfortable experience) and righteousness (comforter).

      Can’t usually make that call for another person.

    • Avatar
      Heather
      → Miranda Flynn
      June 20, 2022

      Miranda I have held so tight to my faith through so many difficult years. Night aft night night lying in bed calling out to Jesus for comfort in the midst of my pain, loneliness and confusion. Some nights I could feel his physical presence pressing across my body as I cried to Him for comfort. I prayed for my husband, I prayed for God to change him so he could be the husband I needed so desperately. When he was ugly and unkind I prayed for him and was determined to model Christ-like behaviors. When he would cuss me out or say horrible racist things that caused me to feel physically sick I kept my mouth shut and prayed for him. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. But Miranda he will never change by my actions unless he chooses to admit he is wrong. And I cannot convict him, only the Holy Spirit can do that. And while I wait for that to happen my children and I are slowly dying inside. So consumed with my husbands unhappiness and anger that there’s no time or energy to nurture them or myself. I also have realized that my marriage and my husband had become idols in my life. I was willing to do anything and bow to his needs over and above everything else, even when I was being convicted otherwise. I was raised to believe God hates divorce but I don’t believe that He hates divorce more than seeing his precious children destroyed within a marriage. Leaving that destructive relationship is not running away. It’s about spiritual, emotional and physical survival. How am I going to stand and answer for the wounds that were inflicted on my children because I didn’t stand up and say “Enough”. I pray for that forgiveness daily.

      I’m glad you are here with us in this group because I know how lonely it can be. I’ve been reading the blogs and listening to the podcast for just a couple of weeks and I can already see the shift in my own behavior and responses. The thing I respect the most about Natalie is she is working to educate and empower us but yet she leaves space for each of us to make our own decisions without judgment. I’m still undecided about where I want this to go but I am learning that I do have options.

      • Avatar
        Sue Z
        → Heather
        November 8, 2022

        Heather your words are beautiful and perfectly illustrate what happens to us as we try so desperately to take the high road. I’m grateful this is a conversation in 2022 which may help women leave abusive men. I finally left in 2020 and now have peace in my heart.

    • Avatar
      Corroncha
      → Miranda Flynn
      October 3, 2023

      I am going through an emotional and verbal abuse marriage. I made a decision to live him. I am ready now. I have Christ in my life but I don’t think it is good for him to see this behavior. For that reason, I know I will have a better life and I will be free and not worry or have anxiety when he is there or when he comes home. That is no life. Toxic relationships are not good and I just found out he is a narcissist so they never change. Unfortunately, I found out after 22 years of marriage; however, it is never to late to be happy✝️

  • Avatar
    Deb
    June 22, 2018

    The methaphorh you use such as gasoline to discribe all the following they do behind closed doors!!!
    Such as
    GASLIGHTING,
    manipulative behaviors,
    debasing acts upon you, demeaning actions and words, disgusting things they call you , lying and then cheating behind your back,
    Threats
    Witholding money
    Love
    affection
    Respect
    Affirmation
    Support
    And even telling lies about you to everyone you both know….
    They are the embodiment of all that is EVIL But they look like a human being
    They are often even highly regarded by all beyond their front door!!!!!
    Why are so many fooled?
    Because ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED WITH THESE PYSCHO FREAKS KNOW THAT THAT KIND OF COVERT EVIL CAN EVEN EXIST IN the neighbor next door; the nice guy who says his wife treats him bad,!
    They are professionals CRAZY MAKERS at home but present as NORMAL TO AMAZING TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD.
    And ….
    THEY ARE HIGHLY REGARD Too!
    Once you have known and lived with one you can easily spot it!
    Smell it!
    Feel it!
    Everyone else is fooled!
    Just like these psycho murders below….
    Hitler
    Manson
    Ted Bundy
    These people ARE REALLY GOOD AT HIDING WHAT THEY DO!
    These evil people, unfortunately,
    Mostly men, live right under everyones nose too!!!
    Only very Smart people will be careful not to believe everything these people say and do and present to the public. Most of the time they are too perfect and that in it self is a sign many people miss!!!

  • Avatar
    Judy bouwers
    May 19, 2018

    My shocking truth of much of same experience of 37 years with such a man, on a dairy farm and birth and aisle his eight children to being shunned and rejected by them all, with their 13 of my grandchildren after the second real fire n our farm forced me to flee this abusive man and his religious community. Absolute devastation but freein Christ now to breath, live and grow.

  • Avatar
    Natalie Barr
    February 19, 2018

    I lit the match. My “Good Christian Home” is still smoldering. My 6 children children that are still minors have to go spend time alone with their abusive father, who is still throwing gasoline all over his new home. Only now, I am not there to try and protect them. I am not free, yet, because my children are in so much pain. I am developing CPTSD, but I do not have money for therapy.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Natalie Barr
      February 22, 2018

      I recommend contacting CPS if your husband is abusing the children. Will your health insurance cover mental health services? (Psychiatrist?) If so, you would all benefit from counseling. When a house burns down, there is a tremendous amount of pain and loss. It can take years to rebuild. Getting yourself to a safe church and safe relationships and involving outsiders like school counselors, teachers, and other community workers to come in and help will play an important role in the rebuilding process.

      • Avatar
        hipmomma4
        → Natalie Hoffman
        April 16, 2021

        Words are unfortunately not all many of us are hurt with in our marriage. I don’t believe you should at first tiny hardship or even the big missteps, but like myself being in it for going on 20 years married,nearly 23 together, sometimes things just get worse or take a different route to still abuse. I’m still trying to believe in what can truly miraculously give insight for one to see how it can be better if they can simply do their part and quit playing the blame me at all cost game. I’ve not only had the figurative gasoline,but this same man has actually burnt my house down in reality out of anger and revenge type thinking. To still tolerate so much,and even still trying to make it work when they abandon you for the local whore ( and I’m not exaggerating AT ALL,honestly),me and our 3 kids at home- already living on my Mom because he won’t stop playing power struggle to gain money control over me and also the fact I don’t have my license- this no legal car. A person is not gonna see that it is God’s plan,nope because I know the Lord won’t let his own be mistreated like this,so truly it’s my own positive hope that is wrong. Sometimes it is not to be,just an experience to mold and shape you for becoming better. I can’t imagine ever marrying or even being with anyone but I also know the lord has a plan and it is rarely what we think we need,and never in it impatient time frame. I haven’t let go of the reins,so maybe it is in the plan to relinquish those reins to allow the Lord to work on what I cannot do alone,if at all! I agree too,so many are willing to chalk it up to the worst abuse ever when they have merely faced the first trip over the small stones and better be a little more seasoned lest they gave some real trials to question your own sanity! Only each person can decide what is all they can take and I guarantee that once that is true,the story that follows often reveals that it was indeed the right choice,just not the easiest one to face when terrified and complete uncertainty in financial and emotional support ways. It is much deeper than just some simple hurt feelings,I assure you…I’ve walked through fire so I can totally appreciate the scope of it all..when you are rarely not in those flames of some demon poking intentionally,then you are forced to see that the Lord requires action and faith in his ability to uphold us in all times…so I think I just renewed my own faith and the backbone to take the steps to better my life,in turn my kids that are so tired of the same cruel things done to me.
        Love and prayers to all who must be faced with this hard place to be..you really wonder if you deserve it or are the cause…nope, the doubt is of that devil known to go up and down and all over this earth….

  • Avatar
    Sarah Peck
    February 12, 2018

    Our house was burnt down to ashes, too. God showed me that same picture through a doll house my ex threw out the front door and smashed. After a failed attempt to repair it myself, I decided to put it in the fire pit out back. It went into flames and now, I walk in freedom from a sad abusive marriage. My Jesus is the God who redeems, so I just keep bringing my past hurts and painful mixed up memories to Him, then get up again.

  • Avatar
    Dee
    September 25, 2017

    This!!!! Thank you for writing this. I lived it for 35 years before I said ‘no more’. With God’s love, we can survive and thrive!!!

    • Avatar
      Kate
      → Dee
      June 14, 2023

      My ex-husband had / has an incest problem in his family yet my church people have told me that divorce is worse than incest. The Catholic Church still hasn’t figured out how to protect children instead of the abusers…

  • Avatar
    Meg
    September 4, 2017

    Dear Natalie: You have described my life in your “burn the house down” story.. I turn 60 this week and am now living in a tiny rented house with my 87 year old mother. My 3 adult and one minor children have utterly rejected me to my surprise. They have stolen my life. Finding your website – I am speechless. with gratitude,

    • Natalie
      Natalie
      → Meg
      September 4, 2017

      I’m so sorry, Meg, but also glad you’ve found this website. Are you on my mailing list? You can sign up at the top of the page.

  • Avatar
    Christine
    July 5, 2017

    So much truth here on this site. I am a mother of 7, married for 23 years to a serial -adulterer/sex addict. I ended the marriage after years of counseling. Now the adult kids prefer him, due to his clever and relentless smear campaign against mom. I feel that I have healed tremendously from the toxic marriage. I’m surprised and disappointed to get wounded on a regular basis from the kids – who just don’t get it. Do you have any articles or advice about how to let go of grown children?

    I am now happily remarried to a wonderful supportive man. He walks with me through the questions of my life and is very patient with me. I guess I’m grieving the loss of what I thought life would look like with my now mostly grown children because life doesn’t look like that. Maybe it is not time to reap the harvest of good seeds I’ve sown into my kids. But this brings the betrayal to a whole other level and feels like it’s just continuing.

    • Natalie
      Natalie
      → Christine
      July 5, 2017

      I know so many women who can relate. I can, too, in some ways. Most of my kids are still young, but I’ve “lost” my oldest son who is out of the house now and has also bought the lies his dad tells. It’s tragically all too common. I think the Boundaries books are helpful. And just recognizing that everyone gets to believe what they want to believe and live how they want to live. We can love them, pray for them, and control our own choices and beliefs. But we can’t control theirs. Letting go is painful. With other people, it isn’t quite as bad as it is with those who we loved, cherished, and raised from infancy. It’s just another way abusive men leave lasting scars on everyone they touch.

      • Avatar
        Londa
        → Natalie
        August 25, 2017

        I agree that the Boundrues book would be helpful. We can’t control what other people think, do, say , don’t do or don’t say BUT we can makes choices for our actions and words.

      • Avatar
        Sue Z
        → Natalie
        November 8, 2022

        Thank you Natalie for this thread. We actually had an oven gas leak and I was told by the gas company it was dangerous and the oven was outdated and needed to be replaced. The ex husband refused this information, and said the oven was fine. I moved out, he got the gassy house in the divorce! You have helped me tremendously this morning to understand the insidious nature of covert abuse. Your writing, support, and understanding are much appreciated!

    • Avatar
      Natalie Barr
      → Christine
      February 19, 2018

      My abusive ex has turned my mother and sisters against me, even though they told me to my face they knew he had abused me for over 20 years. Our children are struggling with not being bought by all the money he throws at them and have become disrespectful and unruly towards me.

    • Avatar
      Carrie
      → Christine
      July 14, 2019

      The truth sets us free, it is incredibly empowering to hear the truth on this website. I did the religious gymnastics too, thinking if I forgave, endured, loved, prayed only to repeat the cycle constantly my house wouldn’t burn down. I believed it was in my power to stop the pyromaniac from setting it ablaze and that it was in my power to stop a man hell bent on using every waking moment to torment, afflict, control insult and demean the woman bent on loving him to wholeness. But he never got whole, I only got more broken

      Like others that waited years, unaware that the crop of destruction in my children was being sown by his modeling disrespect and disdain day in and day out, I experienced the rejection and condemnation of a divorce from the church.
      And then later as my adult children reconnected to their father I began the running joke for keeping my Christianity.

      It is a horrible shocking and unexpected thing to have children in their 30s-40s using the same tones, the same words with the same contempt they learned from their father. To younger women I exhort you to not expose your children to that gasoline once you realize what is going on, lest they become accustomed to it. Recently, I made the tough decision to cut my children off and found the freedom of not allowing abuse of any sort in my life astonishingly beautiful and glorious. Abuse only gets worse and if children learn that level of disrespect and keep it going you are still living in the pain of abuse.
      My children will not get the grace, support and love from me that they took for granted and they will miss it, but I can’t continue to pour that out on people that respond by pouring gasoline on my life. I said nothing to my children, the words were pointless, I just stopped calling and writing and their response was absolute silence, the silence spoke loudly. I thought it would kill me to end my relationship with my children instead I cannot believe the joy I have, and a sense of well being. The prodigal son was allowed to go, his father didn’t chase him down and join him in the pigsty.

  • Avatar
    Mish
    June 30, 2017

    Hi Natalie, today i found your blog. and the articles really strike a chord.

    My relationship and now marriage to my husband has always been very hard. At first i chalked off the verbal insults and criticism to poor communications skills to the both of us, in trying to understand why i always felt so hurt …Whenever we we(he) argued i would try to explain myself, but i find that that doesn’t work, it makes things worse. I used to fight back and hurl hurtful words to him as well, but it made me sick to my stomach talking to another person that way. So now i find that i just stay silent during these( lecturers, arguments, cautions and advice) and he threatens that i avoid hard subjects and it will be my fault that would ultimately lead to our divorce.

    The abuse is constant, before i knew it was abuse i once told him (jokingly)that in a day i go through extreme emotions just being around him. Ill be very happy one minute, scared, worried anxious the next and angry and sad the next. Its mentally exhausting. i wonder sometimes how i manage to function outside the home. he accuses me of being unfaithful most of the time, but he attacks my ability to be a wife mother and woman too. The fumes are suffocating me too, and my beautiful daughter who is only 9 years old. We are at our happiest when he isn’t around, i try as much as possible to not stay alone with him for long. and Then he would accuse me of not loving him, or not showing him affection like other normal women( im the abnormal woman)

    I just recently told people about what i’m experiencing( only just a bit of it), 2 friends and my younger sister. And now im embarrassed because its now difficult to stay in denial anymore. I was coping until i open my mouth about it.

    I’m an educated young woman, i have a good job but during all this he depleted our savings for his numerous projects and im scared to leave. I dont know what will happen to me and my two beautiful kids. Im torn between staying, because ive prayed to God to show me what needed to change in ME in order to heal our marriage ( im not a church goer but i am spiritual) and taking that leap of faith and leaving.

    Your articles are helpful though and i dont whether im in any stage of grieving because i havent left yet.

    Thanks

    • Natalie
      Natalie
      → Mish
      June 30, 2017

      I’m so sorry. What you are experiencing is definitely abuse. I hope you are on my mailing list. Have you checked out any of the resources on my About page? I recommend listening to Patrick Doyle (follow links on About page) on Youtube. He’s a counselor, and his videos are life changing.

      There is nothing you can do to change your husband, and changing yourself to make him happy won’t work either. There’s something wrong inside of him, and he needs to change. You will eventually need to decide how you’ll spend the rest of your life. But just take everything one step at a time. Believe it or not, you will let yourself know when you’re ready. Keep learning and talking about it. God wired us with a beautiful guage inside ourselves to help us stay safe and sane. We just need to learn to read it and follow it. Fly free!

  • Avatar
    Rachael McNicol
    June 3, 2017

    yep… been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. I was told I would go to hell by our church I got to the point though that I felt that a few years of peace before going to hell was preferable, than staying in an abusive marriage till my death and then going to hell. so sad so sad.

  • What a Strong Marriage Ministry Should Look Like - To Love, Honor and Vacuum
    March 6, 2017

    […] point you to this excellent article on “burning down the house” to learn […]

  • Avatar
    Sarah
    February 10, 2017

    You just wrote my story! My ex-husband was studying to become a preacher and wore a mask outside of the house but the ugliness showed at home. He said to me those things that you wrote. I got out and away. Five years later the people who were surrounding him have realized how wrong they were. Too late for me. I’ve moved on and healed.

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → Sarah
      February 11, 2017

      It’s encouraging to know that eventually some people actually “get it.” Thank you.

  • Avatar
    marie
    February 7, 2017

    I’m thankful to have found your page. I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for as I honestly haven’t had it as difficult as most of the things I read on here. I’ve been married for 34 years. About a year and a half ago I began to discover some things that made me realize it was quite possible that my husband had an affair. Everything I had was circumstantial but when I began to ask my husband in a normal way about them, he became very defensive and emotionally abusive. This went on for months as I began to discover more things that added to it. He very openly threw me under the bus in front of our kids and made them think I was the crazy one.

    I honestly knew something was seriously wrong because he had never done that before. I let him do it for a while without defending myself because I wanted to hear what was coming out of his heart. It came out and it was nasty. He would apologize and grovel but when the next thing came up that we needed to deal with, it would happen again. We spent months like this. He would apologize and grovel. We went to two counselors. It was a disaster. The first one (we discovered after the second visit) that he was physically abusing his wife. They are divorced now. The second was just a man from our church that my husband picked who really loved our family but he didn’t address any of the issues. Just kept asking me if I really wanted to break up my beautiful family for circumstantial evidence..

    After months of my husband telling me there was no affair, physical or emotional and me almost believing him, I discovered this past summer that he was hiding all of our savings. He lied to me about it at first but I called him out on it big time and told him I was going to go to people and expose him. The next day he took our bank papers with him to work.
    I left him for nine days. I had actually gone to two people in leadership roles in our church and had groveled and begged for help for a phone call to him. I hadn’t given them any details, just told them we desperately needed help or we weren’t going to make it. We had been there a long time. Not one phone call until I left him months later.

    I came back home with a promise from him that we would find another counselor. He won’t go and it’s been months. I want to say that he is not verbally abusive at all but I struggle with remembering the things he said. He actually has groveled and begged me to forgive him for the way he treated me during that time. He has bent over backwards to show me that he wants our marriage. He still denies there was any affair and as time goes on I still just really struggle. There are still things that come up that trigger me and we talk about them. I don’t know if he’s really sincere or just trying to manipulate me still.

    He spent 10 months groveling and convincing me that there was no affair only for me to discover the money issue after all that time. That is why I left him. He is very accountable with the money now of course but I have no trust whatsoever!
    My husband is a Christian Man. At least I thought he was! I can see how it’s damaged him. He seems remorseful but still swears no affair. He says the reason he hid the money was because he hated himself and was going to leave me. I don’t buy that. I’m here for now. Some days I’m fine. Some days I feel like I’m crazy!

    You won’t be able to email me on the address I put up here as I can’t remember the password and can’t seem to change it. Thanks for letting me vent.

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → marie
      February 7, 2017

      I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you now. Time has a way of revealing things, and it is normal to lose trust in someone who has betrayed that trust many times.

      • Avatar
        HealingInHim
        → Natalie Anne
        February 7, 2017

        “Time has a way of revealing things, and it is normal to lose trust in someone who has betrayed that trust many times.”
        Natalie, this reply to Marie is exactly what has happened in my life.
        Even though others have felt I am taking too long to ‘move out and on’; time has allowed the true colours of my abusers to come forth. Now others can see and hear for themselves what these people are really like.

        Thank you for your encouragement and prayers for all of us.
        I know many of us continue to pray for you as you continue to heal and serve in God’s will.

        • Avatar
          marie
          → HealingInHim
          February 7, 2017

          I’m so sorry Healing in Him. The woman involve here (although he swears there was never an affair) knows what I think about all of this. She had texted my husband several months later for work related things. He was supposed to have told her no more work for or with her. He came home from work that day and showed me the message. I left the house and took the phone and texted her that he would no longer be doing any work for her. We texted for a few minutes. We were civil but she knew where I was coming from. I never asked her if she’d had an affair with my husband or told her what I had caught him lying about for several months. The lies were only in relation to her. She not only is supposed to be a Christian also, married with grown kids but she preaches in her church. What a Joke! I don’t think it’s still happening. I don’t know how or who ended it since he won’t even admit it happened.

          She blocks me on her personal page. I have access to her page thru a friend who lets me check just to keep an eye on her. I suspected for a while that she was putting up some things to possibly taunt me. I kept it to myself.

          I passed her on the road one day at the end of November. We were in a school zone and were going very slow. I knew it was her and I’m sure she realized it was me as I was in my husbands vehicle he used to use when working for her and her past company. I had a smirk on my face. Not because I feel like I won but because I just didn’t want to look right at her and couldn’t help myself.

          I checked her facebook page three days later only to discover that her latest post literally started out with HaHa! …….and then goes on to explain that while looking for Christmas music (around that time) that she found this old song and Ha! How nostalgic! The memories!! How fun!! She shared the link but I went on youtube myself and listened to it. I thought I was hearing it wrong at some points so I even looked up the Lyrics. It was a song by Robert Palmer. I think it’s called ” Bad Case of Loving You”…..It’s a song about sex in the summer! Even goes into talking about positions! This affair would have taken place in the summer. I was horrified and just curiously went back to her page and saw that she had put it up the day I Saw Her!! Why? Because every good Christian woman who is looking for Christmas Music on the radio comes across this song and shares it on Facebook because Oh….The Memories!!

          These people are really sick!! It took me two weeks to tell my husband. He sobbed (but swore no affair still)………Am I crazy? Some days I feel like it!!

          • Avatar
            HealingInHim
            → marie
            February 10, 2017

            Marie – I understand that crazy feeling. For many years the man I married denied certain issues. He was a controller and at the beginning our relationship I was too young, too passive to be able to say NO and possibly end the relationship. Even when I tried; he just moved in. A quiet man but someone who took care of himself – he needed the comfort of having a woman after others had stood him up?
            He denied having anything to do with a former girlfriend and used to speak badly of her.
            After marriage and three children later, I was still plagued with doubt of his ‘love’ for me. He seemed to want to spend more time at the lakefront property where his parents lived. In fact that’s where we lived after marriage. His first love was ‘the land’, not me. 🙁
            We eventually had our own house. I was concerned about his bedroom requests and one night after the children were tucked into bed and he was walking through the kitchen on his way to the bedroom I timidly requested that I ask him something. “Have you been viewing pornography.” He became angry and chastised me, “How dare you make such an accusation. Don’t you ever say such a thing again.” I was left crying. So confused.
            Long story shortened: Several incidents finally revealed that he had been unfaithful while we had been courting. It was my turn to be angry and I threw “the rings” at him. I needed to be away from him and of course he readily stayed at his parent’s place. His mother had coached him to not be so honest with me … sigh … that added to our battles.
            Because he knew he had been found to be a liar it took several months but he then felt so guilty that he began to reveal some of his past. There was much dirt but as a professing Christian I trusted that he meant our lives would change. We didn’t have a strong church and many thought he was just a wonderful man. Even he agreed that he had others fooled.
            Well, he made several professions of the Christian faith, etc … Our daughters endured much ugliness and I am now being blamed for all the arguing. Even my one SIL said I should never have allowed the children to witness all of this. Why me??
            They’ve all sided with him. Visit me occasionally but spend most time with him and stay only with his family at the lake when they come back to the area.
            Several years ago he told me he did not want to be my husband anymore but would not divorce me b/c it would cost him too much. My adult children and their spouses see nothing wrong with this… it’s all about having access to the lake; I was written out of the family Will.
            He wants to live as is because it’s cheaper?? He’s up and I’m downstairs. We are non-verbal. Earlier on I asked him how long we would remain this way? He said until he could no longer take care of the yard, etc. I then tested him, “oh then, we will move into an apartment?” His reply, “Absolutely not. I would never live in an apartment with you. It’s too close. At least we have our space here.” 🙁
            I’ve re-entered the working world when most are retiring. I want to put some money aside and have something… I willingly gave up a career to raise the family. I’m tired but over the past two years finally feel somewhat stronger.
            God has faithfully placed Christ-honouring ministries which have helped to untwist Scripture. I attempted a divorce but the Lawyer backed out on me … apparently she went to school with ‘him’ and suddenly he was quite anxious to ‘sign the papers’ … something didn’t seem right.

            I apologize for the lengthy comment … The various testimonies have certainly shown how difficult it is at times to move on and trust anyone … to also get past that craziness when those whom you nurtured turn on you.

          • Avatar
            Marie
            → HealingInHim
            January 19, 2018

            Healing in Him…. I hope you see this although it’s been a while!

            You honestly need to get a new lawyer! There is No Way your husband is living the life he should with you as a Christian man!

            I don’t believe the Lord would have you live with this abuse!

            I’m still with my husband but I will not allow abuse of any kind. If he ever starts with it again, I will be gone!

  • Avatar
    Susan Roberts
    January 29, 2017

    I think in word pictures so this really spoke to me! I lit the match but the gasoline thrower burned down the house. A match that falls to the floor with nothing to burn will simply extinguish after it burns up the match. The proof of the gasoline soaked house is the quickly spreading flames when the match is lit. Thank you Jesus for resucuing me from the burning house. I am however partially to blame because I hid the gasoline, made excuses for the gasoline thrower and believed the lies that I deserved to be doused in gasoline. I have taken responsibility but not living in shame but forgiveness from God for my part. I am FLYING FREE! Thanks for your blog Natalie, it is great to be part of a community that “gets it”!!!!

  • Avatar
    Elaine
    January 26, 2017

    Wow! This is so incredibly accurate for so many of us. I rarely talked about my marriage issues, especially the sin issues, but I can say that, without exception, the onus was put on me to be “better” and my husband would be drawn to righteousness by my behavior and attitude. Of course, that advice implied the converse as well….that he was like he was because I wasn’t good enough in some way as a wife.
    Our house is burned down, and I lost everything except my younger children and one friend. But I know that God rescued us and whenever I start feeling really down about it all, I try to remind myself of that. God brought us “up out of Egypt” so why would I pine for slavery just because freedom is hard work? He is Faithful and True. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Sheila Gregoire
    January 23, 2017

    Natalie, that’s perfect! I’m giving a talk at a huge conference on Saturday to pastors called “How Churches Can Help Marriages”. I’m going to read this out loud, if that’s okay.

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → Sheila Gregoire
      January 23, 2017

      Awesome! Go for it! Hope it helps them understand this dynamic. (Must be a liberal pastor’s conference if they’re letting someone without a penis talk.)

      • Avatar
        Jennifer C.
        → Natalie Anne
        April 2, 2023

        Lol!!!! Natalie, I LOVE your spunk!! My husband does, too!!

  • Avatar
    HealingInHim
    January 22, 2017

    Thank you for posting this, Natalie.
    Too exhausted to be able to express just how much this article describes my life except the man I married doesn’t have to say anything or even go to a church, now… he is just a very nice man to many. 🙁

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → HealingInHim
      January 23, 2017

      I’m so sorry. I’m glad this article articulated your experience.

  • Avatar
    Trish Snyder
    January 22, 2017

    So many in denial about emotional abuse. The church needs to wake up and become educated about it

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → Trish Snyder
      January 23, 2017

      Yup.

    • Avatar
      Kalla H
      → Trish Snyder
      November 30, 2022

      I think all of this info is so needed! I can see bits of our marriage in this article and it is encouraging to know I’m on the right path for myself and my family. The only concern I have is that the church people mentioned in a couple of the articles are mostly assumed to not help or be supportive. That has not been my experience, so I hope that painting church people this way won’t discourage others from reaching out and possibly getting help.
      I prayed on it beforehand, and have only spoken with my mentors, but I definitely have support. I think it could also depend on the type of church family that it is, or even the denomination.

  • Avatar
    worriedmama
    January 22, 2017

    I tried telling someone but they don’t understand, it doesn’t happen all the time it isn’t so bad. I was told if I disclose more then other people would need to be involved. What if you just want it to be over but you don’t want to leave? What if you can’t imagine life without him and just long to be good enough?

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → worriedmama
      January 23, 2017

      That’s why we stay stuck so long. We keep hoping and praying it will change. To leave is to let go of everything, and that is frightening on so many levels. Allow yourself to go through the six stages slowly. You aren’t ready to leave at this point, and there is much to learn and grow in to prepare yourself for that huge step. ((hugs))

  • Avatar
    LindaMae
    January 21, 2017

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to bear so much. I never told anyone what was going on in my home until one day (I’d been married about 35 years at the time) told a Christian friend, a Godly woman, who I admired so much and a deaconess at our church. She very briskly told me to stop complaining. I was stunned as I’m usually the one people come to because I’m a good listener and very rarely talk about my problems. After that, four years went by until I finally had the courage to speak to my pastor. He didn’t say much except that he noted that Christ suffered for me so I should suffer for Him. The pastor continues to let my husband serve communion and never said one word to him. I’m still married because I don’t think I have the strength emotionally to leave (or the finances) . My grown children live in other parts of the country. I am gathering wisdom from the Word and also from web sites like this and a few others where women like me do have a voice and are not alone.

    • Natalie Anne
      Natalie Anne
      → LindaMae
      January 21, 2017

      I’m so sorry. There are some resources out there for women who choose to stay for different reasons. I think the Foolproofing Your Life book by Jan Silvious is a good one. Praying for you right now.

  • Avatar
    Gina
    January 21, 2017

    Beautifully illustrated rhetoric!! Profoundly accurate!

  • Avatar
    Sharon
    January 21, 2017

    YES! This is exactly what happened to me. Thank you for such a wonderful analogy. I love my life now, but everyone from my old life is still looking at me with pity and shame on their faces for “burning down” my house, and as one put it–destroying my family. What they don’t understand is that I saved my children and most of all, I saved me. I lost everything: my church, my family, and my friends, but I am whole and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. What people don’t understand is that God uses fire to replenish the earth. A forest fire is need for the health of the forest. Sometimes a house fire is needed for the health of the family.

  • Avatar
    Brac
    January 21, 2017

    Prefect analogy. Perfectly perfect.

    Unfortunately.

    Still holding onto that match here… No one else smells the gasoline.

  • Avatar
    Theresa Vondra
    January 21, 2017

    Oh my, this is such a perfect picture of what it is like. I’m so proud of you for being brave enough to light the match. I’m not there, yet, but working on it. Thank you for this post.