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Struggling Marriage and Emotional Abuse

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Does God expect a woman to submit to her husband and stay with him if she feels he is hurting her emotionally? Must she tolerate verbal assaults, or for the sake of self-preservation, is she free to leave that situation? Or what about a husband – if his wife berates him, tearing him down constantly, is he free to leave her?

Today, many married women feel defrauded. They married their husbands, believing that the tender care he showed when they were dating would continue throughout their married life. Yet they discover that the very relationship which seemed to promise the most pleasure, instead brought the greatest pain. In fact, for some, the emotional pain is so intense that they come to believe that it is beyond their ability to endure. In desperation they find themselves forsaking their vows and fleeing the marriage.

When a woman first seriously thinks about divorce she is often not considering the theological implications of her desires – all she knows is that she feels like she has to get out. She is simply reacting to the feeling that she "can't take anymore." Her desire to leave comes from an urgent feeling of self-preservation. "Certainly," she might conclude, "God doesn't want me to go on enduring such difficulty. He can't wish for me such unhappiness." Hence, she finds herself leaving the relationship convinced that for her to go on would be impossible.

For those who feel emotional distress the first thing to remember is that God is aware of your heartache and feels your pain. It was Christ’s empathy which prompted him to weep with the others over the death of Lazarus, although he knew he was about to raise him from the dead (John 11:35). And it is his compassion which motivated him to equip his followers with the safest and best responses to the suffering which he knew awaited them.

Jesus planned that his followers go through times of persecution and suffering, because he wanted his people to experience the refining that trials bring. He knew that the godliness they would gain would be of eternal value, and that trusting God through difficulty would bring them a joy which exceeds the pleasure of a trouble-free life (Rom 5:3-5; 1 Pet 1:6-7; Heb 12:7, 10, 11; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 4:1).

Like with all difficulties that cross our path we need to see that God intends to use the challenge of marriage to shape us into the image of Christ as well. When we feel like bailing out on a marriage, most likely we have become very narrow in our focus. We have lost sight of why God wants us to endure the hardships of an imperfect world. It is the image of Christ He is after and He knows that that won't come except by challenging us more and more.

One of the biggest mistakes we make today is to marry with the intent of getting our needs met. We assure ourselves of frustration, because we enter marriage with the wrong purpose. Most of us marry to get. God has called us to give. Our concepts of love today are so mixed up with self-centeredness that we have an incredibly difficult time adjusting to the sacrifice required to make a marriage work. We antagonize one another inadvertently by our misunderstanding of what real love and selfless commitment is all about. Our self-oriented intentions begin when we are dating and set the stage long before most conflict becomes abusive.

Let us remember that the apostles who gave us God's commands were themselves the victims of severe emotional and physical abuse. They, like Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, endured torture beyond anything we have ever seen. In his books, Pastor Wurmbrand describes his 14 years in a Romanian prison at the hands of communist torturers. His love and compassion for his torturers testifies of the assurance we have as Christians that we too can selflessly love our wives and husbands.

Certainly if those tortured on a daily basis can see the good that comes from suffering, then we as minimally suffering, soft Americans can handle the opportunities for growth that come our way through the difficulties of marriage. If we are able to cease our "giving to get" mentality and begin simply "giving" we would finally be able enjoy the fulfillment that comes from loving selflessly in the image of Christ.

I realize some may think this sounds uncompassionate and unsympathetic to those who have experienced genuine trauma and pain at the hands of a verbally harsh spouse. It is my hopes though, that those who respond that way will take a moment to step back and consider God’s greater plan. I am especially concerned that it not be misconstrued that I am negating the validity of the pain endured by those abused and neglected. God knows the reality of emotional hurt.

Once again, knowing full well the reality of emotional pain, Jesus taught His followers how to deal with it. We see by their example how they responded to verbal persecution.

As we look at the answers let us reaffirm here God's primary purpose for us as Christians. According to Rom 8:29 God's chief goal for us is to shape us into the image of Christ. As I pointed out earlier most of our frustrations in marriage (and life) come, because we fail to recognize that God uses life's difficulties to help make us more godly.

That is specifically why suffering is promised to His followers (Mat 10:22; 1 Cor 8:17). God intends that suffering refine us and develop in us a godliness unattainable without it. Christ himself, we read in Hebrews 2:10 and 5:8, became mature through what he suffered.

By the example and the teaching of both Christ and the apostles, we see we are expected to tolerate emotional abuse from those who persecute us. In fact, we are not simply to tolerate our abusers, but we are to love them. Certainly if God intends we endure and benefit from suffering at the hands of our enemies He will give us the grace to handle the stress of marital pain.

I do want to mention at this point that from my counseling experience, I have observed that those who are most susceptible to emotional pain are those who are trying to get their needs met in the relationship. I've noticed that those who are primarily oriented in giving to their mate rather than taking from them, handle so-called emotional abuse much better. When we want nothing from others we don't open ourselves up to be hurt by them.

It is this very attempt to get fulfilled that makes an individual susceptible to getting "hurt" by their mate. They look to the other to be satisfied by them in some way. It is their desire to receive that has made them so vulnerable to hurt. A broad look at human relationships reveals that people often are not hurt easily by those from whom they expect nothing. For example, the insult offered by the transient on the street doesn't hurt you the way it would coming from the lips of your mate. Why? You have not opened yourself up and made yourself emotionally vulnerable to the transient. You have no expectations of him – his opinion of you is unimportant. In fact, were it your purpose to minister to him, you probably would perceive his insult as a sign of his spiritual emptiness. The selfless nature of your love would spawn understanding and compassion. However, for our mates, we lack the same selfless concern – we look to them for something to satisfy us. In doing so, we make ourselves vulnerable to insults or the pain of rejection.

In Matt 5:44 and Luke 6:28 Jesus commands us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us. In 1 Peter 3:9 & 16 we are told not to return evil for evil, but to respond to abusers with gentleness and respect. God's standards of love are quite high for us, and are therapeutically sound.

In Eph 4:31-5:2 we are commanded to rid ourselves of all bitterness, rage, and anger, and to be kind and compassionate – forgiving others as God forgave us. Let us not forget that we were once God's enemies (Rom 5:10), deserving only God's wrath for our sins against Him, certainly not His love and forgiveness. His example teaches us the extent to which we must go to forgive.

For us to assume that we are justified in leaving our spouse after we reach what we think is our limit of neglect is to make a severe mistake. The very concept of a limit to tolerance implies that we have not been exercising and resting in real faith in God. Faith in God produces peace. Unbelief produces anxiety. When we really believe God when He says He will not let us be tried beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13), we will not only be able to endure a trial, but we will benefit from it.

Frequently, our faith in God is weakened by the lack of a clear conscience (1 Tim 1:19). If we defile our conscience, and refuse to acknowledge or repent of the sin we harbor in our hearts, our faith in God will be weak, and we will be unable to trust Him and enjoy the benefits of His grace. Remember, according to Ephesians 4:26-27, when we cling to anger we give the devil authority in our life. This unresolved anger (we usually call it "hurt" or "long-term emotional pain") defiles our conscience, thereby creating unbelief which cripples our ability to handle stress. The very anger which we seek to justify is what weakens our emotional endurance.

The primary reason we find ourselves in the condition that says, "I will tolerate no more," is that we have sought from our marriage a fulfillment which can only come from God. May we stop seeking from our mate the emotional fulfillment which God intends we find in Him. And may we then find the joy and satisfaction which comes from loving and serving our mate as Christ does the Church.

Excerpted from “Help for the Struggling Marriage” by Reb Bradley
rarely have I read something so wonderful online ( outside of scriptures of course)

It is odd because today I was saying to my husband that I think that " abuse" is more of a two way street then is ever thought about. I dont mean that people deserve the abuse or anything, what i mean is that the " abuse" is dependant upon if the other person is acutally abused by the behavior.

For example, my husband has times when he yells and may call me some names- not all out hate warfare or anything but usually he is blowing off steam. Now while i understand that in Christ this is not the correct way to treat people, I more importantly understand that he is not yet perfect and this is just how he is until Christ changes it. Beyond that I believe that God has purposed us for each other and that my job in Christ is to take up my cross and die daily. It is also and specifically to be a help meet to my husband. When he is like that and needs to blow up at someone I am thankful that I am the wife that God has given him to be there to direct it at. I know other women who would not be able to deal with such a situation from their husbands and would be very " abused" by it but I am not at all abused by it. I do not ( usually) ever take it personally or hold a grudge, I understand where he is comming from and I get to be humbled, and get to put down my flesh and instead love him and forgive him and pray for him! I get to stand in faith for him and keep HIS interest at heart instead of being focused on myself and being hurt by these situation. Truly I am never abused because I do not see these things as " woe is me, i deserve this or that" or " i cant take this " or" i shouldnt have to take this" etc... but instead I am thankful, and humbled, and I am given opportunities to treat him as i would want to be treated and to love him and look first to his good and i get to forgive and love no matter what. To some this would sound horrid I am sure but the riches of our marriage are beyond any measure.

When girls are young they dream on the love they will have with their husbands and the babies they will have, and I can say that the love and the glory and the riches of our marriage in Christ are truly beyond anything I could have imagined. They are beyond what could be explained to anyone outside of Christ for sure.There is mutual love and respect between us and I desire daily to live a life submissive to him as unto Christ. So many times as christians our flesh can get the best of us and we can forget that we are suppose to put to death the old man, take up our cross and follow Him, die to self so that CHRIST can live in us. So that we can be conformed to His image. When the enemy tries to get our flesh stirred up with thoughts of our selves such as " you shouldnt have to take that" and even telling lies that sound good such as" God wouldnt want you to suffer anything" it is so important that we cast those thoughts down and praise the Lord for every single suffering we suffer to follow Him!

Most often it seems christians think of marriages as differnt, or their whole lives as differnt. As if suffering for Christ only counts if someone specifically makes fun of you for being christian or wants to chop your head off, but we also and more often should be suffering for Christ by daily living to die to self and live to Christ, doing what He calls us to. Every situation, every moment of our lives are about Christ! Not just those that are about direct persecution because if we are living for Him, nothing that happens to us or around us is outside of His purpose.

thanks for posting this it was great! :lightbulb:love::thumbs_up:
Wow Risen 1

Amazing post. I definitely qualify in the struggling marriage category but very minimal for verbal abuse.

Our marriage hasn't been right for a long time but I am the first to admit that there is much both of us can do to improve it.

I am starting to go down the right path for a better marriage by focusing on my areas of much needed improvement and Lord willing as I change maybe some of her areas will change and if they don't then praise the Lord anyways.

I guess my question to both of the above posts would be at what point is the churches brothers and sisters to help those who are going through these extreme situations.

We see struggles happening, whether physical or verbal abuse and stay out of it saying it is none of our business. They need to work it out themselves etc......
Marriage has it's own rules that the church doesn't get involved in.....

All those kind of quotes.

What is our part??

How far to do we go???

aka grizzly for Christ.
On time

Rizen1, I am so glad that you touched on this issue, because I have always questioned when is the limitation to marriage dealing with abuse. For instance I have a friend that she is really going through a trying time in her marriage, because some of the stuff she shared with me my mouth dropped because I said that it was no way if I was married I could deal with some of the stuff she is going through for instance.

There is heavy infidelity, physical abuse, and verbal abuse.

She said something to me that almost made my head spin like the woman of the exorcist. She said, "God did not tell me to divorce my husband so I am going to be obedient and listen to what the holy spirit say, and the holy spirit did not tell me to leave my husband". I promise I totally shut down and didn't know what to say I am a woman of many words, but I was at a sure lost for words.

Rizen1 I understand, well I can't say I receive what your saying because it still puzzles me, but I really need the Lord to deal with me in that area, because I do have the desire to get married, but I know the state of mind I'm in now that if you appear or flinch like you are about to do me harm I'm gone, and that just stems from abused relationships in the past.

It's just like you said further down in the thread it's all about your motives and what you are seeking in the marriage so really pray for me, because I truly want to be the excellent wife God call me to be, but I don't want to have to bust nobody in the head doing it because I'm thinking they are trying to do me harm. Hey Rizen1 either I can fake it til I make it or keep it real with you.

Praise the Lord for the honestly and the love of God that desires truth and for Him to grow us all up! Praise the Lord that He changes and teaches us as we go and has much grace with us in our sins and mistakes, all the way helping us to repent and get up and step forward again in faith! I pray the Lord help you, imhis, to understand these things and to pick up your cross daily and to have no more fear or care for you guarding your own flesh but instead faith that God will keep you and give you what is for your good, and to teach you all of what it means to be a good wife prepared and fit for your husband so that you will be a great precious jewel in your husbands crown! AMEN:love:
This is a really great thread with some very good responses. I am so glad I read it tonight. It does indeed seem to be exactly what the Lord wanted to say to me.:love: Very timely...thanks God,...and thanks rizen1.

Hello my sister again. I was reading your post and this is all I got to say. The word talks about be not entangled in that what I brought your from. If you find that your in a situation that will cause you bondage when the word says who the Son sets free is free indeed it's time to separate and stay in the presence of GOD. While practicing absence from sex. If your mate is meant to be GOD will deal with you as and indvidual and him as a man who is suppose to be the covering. If it is a marriage not ordained by GOD he will allow the husband to file for divorce. I had an experience where I married someone I thought loved the Lord like me. Everything was fine until we got married. Just know this I'm alive and well and not locked up for murdering him because my heart was broken and GOD stepping and heard my cries. Be blessed.
Struggling Marriage and Emotional Abuse.

I have observed that those who are most susceptible to emotional pain are those who are trying to get their needs met in the relationship.
In our fourty years of marriage, my wife and I have learned that there is a big difference between the person we dated and (a few years later) the person we married. When we dated, each of us was trying to impress the other. We were genuinely attracted to each other, but we were doing a selling job on each other. Things began to change as soon as the honeymoon ended; as the romantic "high" began to fade.

Things that had been hidden away during courtship burst into full bloom. The unshaven man who lay snoring next to her with his big feet sticking out from under the covers at the foot of the bed didn't seem like the handsome fellow who'd stood next to her at the altar. And the nightgown clad no-makeup creature next to him did not resemble his beautifully coiffed bride of that day either.

My point is that good marriages begin with romance (and romance must continually play a role). But, the foundation of such marriages is agape love, i.e. the decision to love unconditionallly, just as God loves us unconditionally. If husband and wife grow their marriage from the romantic love stage to the agape love stage with God in the center, the marriage will be on a firm foundation and will survive and even prosper through any difficulty.

Very educative and encouraging post,

i must also appreciate what SpiritLed wrote as it's really vital in a marriage.

God bless you all.:love:
i just wanted to say, i heard a story out of the old testament in the bible about a man who abused his wife so bad that God actually struck him down dead, then gave the wife to David (1Samuel 25) I got married 5 years ago to a so-called Christian man, but he doesn't practice christianity, he actually gives a lot of his time and energy to Satan(musically, with videogames) We stopped going to church a few months ago because i am uncomfortable there because his ex-girlfriend is there.
We have been experiencing very difficult times since we got married, i am a very easy-going person who God gave a lot of patience to, my husband is self-centered, racist, anti-compassionate (especially towards homosexuals), and a lot of other things. Everyone tells me i am "perfect" for him, in the 5 years of marriage i always look at the "love is,......" scripture and tried to put it into practice, but God isn't changing my husband, my husband doesn't want to change, doesn't think he needs to, and has no regard for God's word, he also has no respect or love for women, he unfortuneately believes that the verse about God making a "help-meet" for Adam means that the woman is the husbands slave, which it doesn't even mean help meet at all "when God creates Eve, he calles her an ezer kenegdo.... Hebrew sholar Robert Alter says a better translation pf ezer would be "lifesaver" and kenegdo means "alongside" . (from the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge) Which i encourage ALL WOMEN to read. ANyway..........I NEED HELP and all i keep thinking is how i CANT TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!
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D Violence

Thank you for the post.I am going through domestic violence now and was looking to Gods word as to my situation.I have not found it but thanks again to opening the post. My heart is hurting and God is the only one to heal it.
That was an amazing post rizen1.

It is good to see someone touch on a subject not many choose to speak about, especailly in a Christ-like manner. When things get rough in marriages usually the first thought in a persons mind is to "get out" but divorce is definitely looked down upon in the Word of God.

It was a great post rizen1 and helped me look @ my marriage in a different perspective!

thanks! God bless you
I just recently escaped from an emotionally and physically abusive relationship.I say escaped literally.I was driven across Canada with my 2 year old son.2 and a half days of solid driving with no stops because we were afraid my ex was right behind us.Thank the Lord that nothing happened.
I realize what was said in the post was true.You should try to make things work with love in your heart and the name of God on your lips.
But..i lived for 3 and a half years with a man who was on drugs,a heavy drinker,very jealous and possesive.I was not even allowed to leave the house without his permission.Not even to take our child down the road to the park.He would not allow me to attend church because he was afraid i would meet a nice christian man and leave him.No christian music was tolerated and every day was a constant of name calling.Verbal abuse that i would never dare to repeat.2 and a half years ago i left him for the first time because events escalated one night,into him over top of me on the floor strangling me.God intervened that night and i was rescued by friends of mine just as i was starting to black out.I went back.If you get a chance anyone,to pick up some literature on abused women,please do.Because there were family members of mine that had never dealt with anything like this before and ended up cutting me out of their lives,because i chose to go back.Abused women are very misused and hurting and need all the support that you feel you can show them.All the talking won't do any good.Your love will.Let them know that you'll always be there for them,and that alone will mean the world.
I left my ex three other times in all.This last time being for good.I will never go back.God did indeed know how much i could bear and when it got to be too much He worked it out so that i had a way out of there,a way back home to be with people who care about me.
There is a Big difference between being abused and simple name calling in a marriage.Please do not confuse the two.And always know that God is there.All the time.If there's noone else you can talk to,talk to Jesus.:love:
Struggling Marriage & Emotional Abuse

If there's noone else you can talk to,talk to Jesus.:love:
Fourty years ago, my wife and I married very dysfunctional people - we married each other. I can only talk about my role in the chaos. I'm a recovering alcoholic (sober 25 years). I was never physically abusive. But, that was because of fear more than anything else. These days, I tell people that I'm a 6'4" chicken.

However, tall men who have baritone voices like mine find it easy to intimidate others wihout risk to themselves. And I used that power against my wife and children for a long time. I think the major reasons my wife didn't divorce me are that she's a legalistic Roman Catholic (as oppposed to saved Roman Catholic) and she was afraid of what other people would think of her if she became divorced.

Long story short - God snatched me away from alcohol and set my feet on the salvation path in the summer of 1983 and He's done wondrous things in my life these tweny-five years. My wife went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade meeting in 2002 and I'm beginning to see signs of change in her as well.

Daizy, I say to you that you are doing the right thing in fleeing that marriage. Your ex is guilty of marital infidelity if for no other reason than that drugs and alcohol are his real marriage partners as of now. But, I would also advise you to pray for him, love him (from a distance), and get counselling for your own recovery. It may be that your relationship with him is salvageable. Also, you might find it helpful to attend some Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon helps family members and friends of alcoholics/druggies to deal with the pain of their loved one's addiction(s).

Also, I'd advise you to change the order of priorities in the quote I show at the beginning of this message: You need Jesus to be your first resort, not your last resort.

An excellent post and to the point, I personaly think many partners want to leave their spouses cause they married for the wrong reasons, wives leave their husbands because they never truly loved them, maybe they got married because that is what society wants, maybe for money or looks, maybe for just the sake of being with someone.

When you fall in true Godly love, it never ends, you fight and argue, but you would never leave your spouse.
To everyone that experience abuse, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. God catches each tear that falls.
Right Now.
You want a change, it's written on your face
You feel alone, a little out of place
You hide away the scars and the mistakes
You've been tired, uninspired, something's gonna give

Right now
He knows who you are
The light and the dark
He picks up your broken heart
Right now
He's telling the truth
That you will make it through
His love can rescue you
Right now
Right now
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Staff Member
The Lord intervened

Dear rizen1

I found this thread very difficult to read. It moved me to tears and to much prayer - thinking of what some of some of the ladies who have responded to this thread are going through.

Praise God for His promise in Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee

I do believe that marriage is a divine institution and that both husband and wife should prayfully work on resolving problems. I also know that our loving Father wouldn't want His dear children beaten, battered and abused. As Daizy said in her post there is a major difference between an 'up and down' marriage and serious violent abuse. In these cases, I think the abused wife must seek refuge in a place of safety at least whilst the situation is so dangerous.

Prayfully I have felt led to share just a little of my own personal experience in the hope that it may be helpful. I was led to this when thinking of the verse in Ephesians 5:22 Women submit to your husbands

For many years I was beaten into submission. I lived a robotic existence, serving the every whim of a violent man. My fear of his next beating, next torture or next humiliation ruled my every move. It allowed the terror in my heart to take control. Submitting to a violent man for me was like bowing down to a false god. I was no longer trusting the Lord to help and deliver me...although of course He was always there.
One day I was crouched in a corner with knives aimed at me. The man was demanding that I worshipped and bowed down to him. The verse Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me flooded into my heart. I refused to worship the man and prepared to die. At that very point the Lord provided a miraculous distraction and an escape route opened. Praise God, I took it and fled. This was one step on my long stubborn journey back to the Lord after being backslidden many years.

He brought me up..out of an horrible pit and set my feet upon a rock.
Psalm 40:2

The submission mentioned in Ephesians 5:22 refers to a loving, harmonious, devoted union. Never a violent degradation.

I will be praying for all of you who are going through a situation of domestic violence - that the Lord will guide and deliver you as He did me. That He will repair the broken marriage and heal all wounds. It is true He will never leave you or forsake you.

Thank you for taking time to read this

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Thank you for that jskm.It meant alot,especially to know that you yourself have experienced the horror's of domestic violence as well.God will help all those who call on his name.
Julia, I,too, was moved by your post. I believe that many women who visit this forum will be encouraged by your words.