Does your husband abuse you?

Most of the time I write to women who are married to husbands who are generally good-willed men and are not in on-going unrepentant sin.

Today is different. Today I write to women who suffer because their husbands physically, emotionally, sexually, or spiritually abuse them.

flourish2

I don’t know how to write this post. I don’t have experience with abuse, and no matter what words I say, they won’t be enough to heal your pain.

Let me tell you why I’m writing this post that I don’t know how to write.

In my blog, I write from my own experience to encourage women as they grow in the area of sexual intimacy. I open up my life and my heart. You see my growth, just as you see the areas where I still need to do some growing. I don’t hide the messy stuff.

What you read in my words here is the authentic me.

flourish2

When I learn that my words have helped a woman in her marriage, it means so much. But sometimes I am grieved to learn that my words have been used for something other than healing.

I get many emails that make my heart ache from the pain that has been shared. What breaks my heart the most is when I hear from a woman whose husband has used my writing . . . my story . . . my life . . . me . . . to berate her and to guilt her into fulfilling his sexual desire, no matter what it is or how she feels about it.  He will say, “See? This Christian woman is saying that it is a sin to deny me.”

It breaks my heart—and then fills me with anger toward a man who uses what I have written to abuse his wife. The most recent email like this was a few months ago, sent to me from a throw-away email address so I couldn’t reply and so the woman’s husband wouldn’t know that she had contacted me. This email told me how my words had been twisted by an abusive husband. He had used them to justify his forcing her to have sex.

Since receiving that email, I’ve thought about this post. Because I didn’t know how to write it, I kept it on the backburner—until this week. In his recent post Enough Is Enough, Gary Thomas wrote about what he heard at a conference as women shared their stories of various kinds of abuse from their husbands—physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual.

He expressed his shock at what he heard. I found it sad that he was shocked to hear these stories. I’ve heard stories similar to the ones he shared countless times throughout my life. How can anyone be shocked to hear them? Then I realized that what was even sadder is the fact that I wasn’t shocked at all. I’ve heard these stories so many times that hearing them again results in another sigh of resignation from me.

Two things in particular encouraged me in his post: 1) He reminded us that a woman’s health (physical, emotional, or spiritual) is more important than the institution of marriage, and 2) the church needs to help abused women rather than enable the abuser.

He wrote, “Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them.”

His words—along with my realization that I’ve heard so many stories of abuse that I’ve lost my sense of shock—motivated me to pull this post off the backburner.

As I was thinking this morning about how to write this post, I ran across words that chilled me. Embedded in an article about another subject, a Christian woman wrote that women should stay with their abusive husbands—and she gave scripture and admonition to convince them that this was the only option that God would approve of. Furthermore, she expressed absolutely no compassion for the suffering of abused women and talked about how their suffering was good for them. I felt the same anger at her words as I do when I learn that a husband has used my words to control and dominate his wife.

I’ve been sitting here today, trying to avoid writing this post about a subject I know little about and that I don’t know how to write. Yet every step I’ve made today, I’ve thought about what it would be like to be an abused woman who is searching for help in dealing with the abuse. What she finds is words that say that if she wants to get into heaven, she must stay and suffer.

I can’t let those be the only words that an abused woman might see today.

flourish2

With every post I write, I picture a woman sitting at my kitchen table, having coffee and probably some chocolate with me. I try to write what I imagine I would say to her.

The woman I am picturing now is so weary. So worn. She questions her worth. She is mentally exhausted from trying to predict her husband’s words and actions to avoid upsetting him. She feels like she has failed at sacrificial love and at winning her husband without a word.

Her spirit has been crushed.

Are you that woman, sitting across the table from me?

Here, please, allow me to speak.

Hear these words, from my heart to yours.

  • You didn’t cause the abuse, and you can’t fix it. Your husband’s wrong beliefs and wrong thoughts caused the abuse.
  • If your husband is abusing you, he has violated his marriage vows.
  • Sex (or the lack thereof) didn’t cause the abuse. More sex, or different sex, won’t make the abuse go away.
  • Your husband’s abuse is not your fault. It is his fault. Not yours.

My heart aches when I think about what you—and so many of our other Christian sisters—experience at the hands and words of the man who promised to love and care for you.

I want to reach across the table, hold your hand, and give you a shoulder to cry on. I want you to know I pray for you. I want to look for even one small way to ease your pain.

I can’t tell you what to do. No path ahead of you will be an easy one. What I can tell you is this: whatever path you travel, God is there to comfort you.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

My dear sister, God sees you, and he sees your pain. He weeps at your suffering. He loves you and wants to see you whole—not crushed by a husband who abuses you.

You are God’s beloved daughter.

flourish2

I have no words that will make things better. I have no power to stop the abuse. I can’t take away your suffering, although I wish I could.

All I can do is sit and weep with you.


Resources

Do you have resources to suggest for women whose husbands are abusing them? Please share them.

Print Friendly

12 Thoughts on “Does Your Husband Abuse You?

  1. Thank you so much for writing this!

    After a lot of soul searching I recently discovered I was in an emotionally abusive marriage.

    Most women, unfortunately, have no idea that they are being abused because they make excuses for the abusive behavior or think it’s normal.

    A big indicator that abuse is going on is how the woman feels when she is around her husband. Does he make you nervous and anxious? Does your stomach twist into a knot? Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells? Are you constantly worried about making him upset? Do you feel like you never meet his expectations but if you just tried harder you would meet them and both of you would be happy?

    Part of my problem was very poor personal boundaries and that I would tolerate any sort of bad behavior because I thought that is how I was supposed to behave as a submissive Christian wife (which is untrue).

    Anyway, a turning point was when he lost his temper and started yelling (which was a nearly daily occurrence) and I established a boundary by having us sleep in separate beds. We had never done that before. He realized I was serious because I didn’t come to him in the night. Since then I think he realizes he needs to control his temper around me. I have even indicated that if he loses his temper and throws, breaks or anything or does something as a show of force to intimidate me that I will spend the night at a hotel (fortunately I haven’t had to but I would if something like that happened).

    Two books I highly recommend: boundaries in marriage and emotionally devastating marriage by Leslie vernick.

    Many blessings to you

    • Thank you for your comment, A. I will pray for healing in your marriage. I agree that paying attention to how she feels around her husband is a good place for a woman to start to understand what is happening in her marriage. I do hope you will seek support. It is good to have someone who can look into your eyes and know to ask how you’re doing.

      I appreciate the book recommendations. I am familiar with both those titles and recommend them.

  2. I appreciate your words here, Chris, and hope they will touch a woman who is in an abusive marriage.
    I lived 20 years in an abusive marriage, but because there was no physical abuse it was hard to find the help to leave. I received little support from the church we had attended when my then-husband left me and our two sons in ’09. One elderly couple stood beside me and actually encouraged me to end the marriage, but most others were either of the thinking that marriage is forever no matter what or they just didn’t know what to do so they looked the other way. It was all very sad and yes, I did eventually divorce him.

    The article written by Gary Thomas was spot on. I know of too many women staying in abusive marriages because they have it drilled into their head that God hates divorce when in fact He hates the violence within a marriage which causes divorce. I too was told that it was my lot in life to be in that marriage and I had no right to leave or seek a divorce. I was told to submit more, respect him no matter what, and to never ever speak a bad word about him or what was happening in our marriage.

    I started my blog after my ex walked out and although I do not write there very often these days, it has connected me with many women walking a similar path I once did.

    A few resources I highly recommend for women in abusive marriages:
    http://www.hurtbylove.com/blog/
    http://leslievernick.com/blog/

    (Anything by Patrick Doyle is excellent)

    Seek help preferably from a Christian counselor who has experience with abuse. Unfortunately, many pastors do not have experience and can often cause more harm than good.http://forgivenwife.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

    • Thanks so much for those resources, Amy. I am glad you found a way to be a help to others.

      Sadly, you are right that when there is no physical abuse, it is harder for women to find help. It is also harder for women to recognize that what is happening is abuse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health provides a list of possible indicators of emotional abuse.

      • I also wanted to address the comment you made — “But sometimes I am grieved to learn that my words have been used for something other than healing.”

        The problem is, yours words — although written from a sincere place in your heart to help other women who are struggling sexually in their marriages — can be taken wrong by a woman who is in an abusive marriage and perhaps already feeling she is not adequate enough sexually or otherwise because her husband has told her and made her feel that way. Your words can bring someone down who is being told she is frigid, isn’t exciting enough or never wants sex, etc etc etc, and it’s not because you intend that, it’s because an abused person rarely feels they measure up. That woman may come here and read about how you basically died to self to try and make a drastic change sexually in your marriage and although a good thing for you and your husband, she feels like one more millstone has been placed around their neck to do even more in her marriage where she is already trying her hardest to meet an abusive husband’s expectations.

        I’ve been in a healthy marriage for 5 years now and it is like night and day compared to my first marriage. Oh, we have our ups and downs, and interestingly I discovered I’m a higher drive wife which surprised me since my ex used to say how I was frigid and never wanted sex. Go figure! After being told you are ugly, incompetent in all areas of life including the bedroom and rather stupid, it’s pretty hard to want to have sex let alone have to compete with the porn and all that was expected because of it. This is where I take issue with some bloggers saying that just because a husband wants something seen in porn it isn’t necessarily wrong — of yes it is, especially if it’s used in an abusive way! But that’s a whole ‘nother issue!

        So, even though your words are meant as an encouragement to other women who are or have walked a similar path to you in marriage, unfortunately for a woman tiptoeing along a path strewn with eggshells because of abuse, those same words can feel like a double edged sword. Darned if she does and darned if she doesn’t.
        When a woman has a husband who demands oral sex and wants it like he sees in porn and then comes here (or any other blog) only to read how to swallow without gagging because oral sex makes a husband feel so loved, honestly, it just leaves her feeling even more hopeless. And worse yet, is the woman whose husband reads those same things written by Christian bloggers encouraging wives to give more oral sex or be open to anal sex or bondage, etc, and then pushes her to do those things.

        I know your blog and many others are meant as and have been a great encouragement to others, and I commend you for putting yourself out there to share your story in hopes of helping other women. You’ve done a great job.
        But yes, there will be women who find your words hard to read and men who may use those same words for their selfish gain.
        The best we can do in this life is to speak from our hearts with love and share our life stories in a way which encourages others knowing that our words will reach those who need to read them.

        Blessings!

        • Words–like anything else–can be used for good or bad purposes. I try to be aware of how my words might be perceived by someone who is abused by her husband or who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I haven’t yet found the balance that allows me to encourage many wives without inadvertently adding hurt to other wives. I am thankful that you’ve shared your perspective to give me some things to mull over.

        • I just ran across this post at The Peaceful Wife about dying to self. It gives some thoughtful insight into what it means to die to oneself–and what it does not mean.

  3. Chris, I feel the same way that you do about someone taking my blog posts and using them to abuse their spouse. I watched my parents abuse each other growing up and remember my sister and I screaming and crying at them to stop. It never worked.

    I preached a message one Sunday about Husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church and attempted to define how a wife can submit to this kind of man. A few days later, a woman in our congregation called me and asked that we never talk about this subject again. Her husband went home that night and began to verbally abuse her about how the wife should submit to her husband and totally missed the part about the husband loving her as Christ loved the church.

    It broke my heart, to say the least, but it allowed me to see the importance to “not” stating the obvious points and making them crystal clear when talking about this subject. Our hearts break for women in abusive situations and are at a loss when someone uses our words to abuse others.

    Tim

    • People in unrepentant sin can see justification for their wrong behavior anywhere they look. I am so glad that woman knew she could say this to you. It says a lot about who you are.

  4. Why don’t you talk to wives about their abuse to their husbands about denying them sex or belittling them for their desire like you are talking to men about their abuse? You talk to men as if they are to obey their wives. Where is the initiating disobedience that started it all?

    Do you as a woman ever have a place telling a man what to do? Isn’t your scriptural place only Titus 2?

    Being very frank Chris, I doubt you will print or address this because these scriptural principles are rejected by the church. Sadly, it contributes to the ongoing rebellion and abuse in marriage

    • Dave, I am puzzled by your comment.

      A majority of my posts address the type of treatment you describe. Although I haven’t named it abuse, I have named it sin. I have written against denying husbands sex and I have written for a positive attitude toward a husband’s sexual desire. Many posts address this explicitly and in-depth. An overwhelming majority of my posts at the very least allude to it. I have been told my some that I pay more attention to the pain of refused husbands than to the pain of refusing wives.Why do you say I don’t talk to wives about this, since that is what I do in most of my posts?

      Furthermore, I write to wives–and only to wives. If I recall correctly, I’ve written one post to men and one to both men and women; both were to ask for survey participation and were therefore telling no one what to do. The other 500+ posts on this blog are written specifically for wives. I have never pretended to write for men, so your accusations are baseless.

      What puzzles me the most is that you know this. You posted a comment on this blog months ago, thanking me for my ministry to women. Even if you were not aware that I write ony for women in light of the rest of my blog, this specific post begins with a statement that I am writing to a specific group of wives.

      Most important, I want to make it very clear how I view abuse. A husband’s abuse has absolutely nothing to do with a wife who is in rebellion or who is disobeying. It has everything to do with his desire to exert control and dominance. Abuse is not a result of a relationship dynamic. It is the result of a husband’s sin.

      Do wives abuse their husbands? Yes, sometimes they do. But this specific post was written to women whose husbands are abusing them rather than loving them. In no way was I writing to men. What I do is consistent with Titus 2.

    • Honestly, Dave, I was really shocked at your response on this post. Sexual refusal, which is definitely a sin, is not the same as abuse. Although both can be about control and power it is more the intent which differentiates between the two. Abuse is not only about gaining and maintaining power and control over another person, but also being very intentional about hurting that person. Sexual refusal maybe be somewhat about power and control, but is more than likely not intentional in that a wife is truly meaning to inflict pain to her husband.

      I have never read anything by Chris in which she speaks to men about obeying their wives, actually she doesn’t write to husbands. She writes to wives and speaks very directly to women who are or have been what she refers to as gatekeepers in the marital bed. She encourages wives to unselfishly love their husbands sexually and to discover the beauty of sex for themselves too instead of buying into the lie that sex is for the husband only and how it’s the duty of the wife to meet his sexual needs.

      And wow, just wow. She has no place telling a man what to do?? Maybe you’d be better off reading elsewhere instead of attacking Chris.

Post Navigation