November 29, 2016

Enough is Enough

Gary Thomas — 

 

Abusive Men

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby, twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

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. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.

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365 responses to Enough is Enough

  1. I have a family member who was an alcoholic and an abuser. He was also tried hard to be a good dad. His wife has steel backbone of faith, and is a survivor. She did leave him several times, but he would clean up his act and she would go back. She had health issues and couldn’t hold a regular job. Things were better at the end of his life, and what worries me is that his youngest daughter, who didn’t see the worst of him, is now grown and married, idolizes her dad, and talks about what she drinks–her good memories and love for her dad seem to blind her to the less than good side of him. He could talk God, but not act it.

  2. No question that there are abusive people in this world, but it is important I think to understand that abuse often comes from hurt, and how often does that hurt come from the spouse who later suffers from the abuse? I do look at porn sometimes, I wouldn’t call it an addiction because it doesn’t control other parts of my life- that’s not a justification – it is a wrong choice that I make, and a dangerous one – I know. The reason I turn to porn sometimes is because often it is the only place to turn to feed my sex drive and sexual imaginations. After ten years of marriage my wife does not open up sexually, refuses to be vulnerable in bed and is not willing to try to work together to change this. You could tell me all the usual things that I could do to be more appealing and its all there. I’m in decent shape, work hard, spend time with the kids, help around the house, do projects for her, and make big life decisions with her dreams in mind. i take her to dinner, buy flowers, non-sexual touching — and still I feel like I am on my own sexually, and yes I’ve told her of my struggles. I never watched porn before our marriage or even early in the marriage. So to put things in order first there was the cold bedroom, then I dabbled in porn, let’s say in another ten years I develop a porn addiction. At that point do I become an abuser of my wife – when the issue was born from her negligence, and then she is justified in divorce? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I’ve always tried to put her first. My point is these issues may be more complicated then they initially seem.

    • Your choices are always yours. Every time. Your choice to look at porn is yours. And it seems that you feel this could lead to an addiction. The choice is yours to keep looking, and the addiction is a consequence that is also yours. If that happens is there really solace in blaming your wife? you will be the only person who now has the power to stop the behavior that leads to addiction, and if you don’t, then you will be the only person who has the power to end your addiction. By choosing to continue you are choosing addiction and all the problems that come along with it- often abuse of a spouse and seeing them as an object.

      Your wife’s choices might seemingly make it harder for you to do the right thing in this situation, and I truly feel compassion for you in that area, but it just doesn’t change the fact that your actions and response to her remain your decision, always. Perhaps a counselor could help you sort out how your actions are against what you seem to believe.

    • Ever consider that your wide may have been sexually molested or abused? It wasn’t until I finally slowed down 5 years ago at the age of 36 that the memories of my own sexual molestation at the age of 3 flooded back. After intensive counseling, I was able to heal. And within 6-12 months was able to finally start learning what enjoying sex could mean 15 years into our marriage.

  3. Thank you for writing on this controversial topic. I stayed in an emotionally, sexually, and financially abusive marriage for 20 years because I was a “Pastor’s Wife” and believed to divorce was sinful, even though I was losing my mind and physical health and was practically raising our 2 sons on my own because my husband was too busy disciplining other men’s sons. I believed that if I could become the perfect wife and mom that surely I would someday win the heart of the man I had married; I was wrong. It was only after the abusive behavior toward my oldest which led to him leaving home that I gathered the courage to move toward divorcing my husband. Elders who were content to look the other way in fear of losing such a gifted pastor did me and my boys a great injustice, and left me very disillusioned for many years and led to a 2 year period of being unchurched. The pain of 20 years of being unloved led to a failed suicide attempt as well. Thankfully, the Lord intervened, spared my life, and gave me the grace to get through the divorce and start a new life with my boys. NO HUMAN DESERVES TO BE ABUSED! God is love and abuse has no place in a marriage!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I can empathize with being a former pastor’s wife and leaving. The church has so much to learn about caring for pastor’s and their families. I was very disillusioned about church and Christianity after my experience. I never had ANYONE reach out to me, in a church of literally THOUSANDS, to ask if I was ok. I later found out that he had been telling people at church that I was suffering from severe depression and may need to be hospitalized! ( None of which was true, mind you.) This realization made the silence from the elders and their wives even more hurtful. Don’t they care at all? I plan to write a book to help women like us. These situations are killing the Church from the inside out. Thanks again for sharing!

      • Ally and Michelle..my situation so very similar to yours. I am struggling with the church and not getting disengaged not only because it was a cover so long for my ex but also because of the response. I would welcome any advice. Really struggling. Thanks!

  4. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for your heart for women and your courage to stand against injustice. If I were to tell you my story, you would likely have a similar response to me as you did to those women at the conference. That is why I don’t share my story anymore, because well-meaning, godly people like yourself often get it wrong, but for all the right reasons. The Lord has taught me much in my three year journey through an abusive marriage, and I share it here in case it is helpful to you and others. I submit to you the following:

    #1. I have learned to “hate” my husband and family- this means that I do not put them first in my life or my heart. When they demand things of me that would cause me to disobey my Lord, I say NO. God loves me so much that He is jealous for me and will not allow anyone to usurp His place in my life. When my husband acts as though he is a god to be served (idolatry), I reject this for worship of the true God. Yes, I incur much *more* abuse because of this, but God has protected me every time.

    #2. Divorce is not a godly weapon against abuse. Divorce is a worldly and fleshly weapon. Yes it may accomplish some good (e.g. safety) but it can never break the demonic stronghold of abuse. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). I have personally witnessed miracles and watched the Lord protect me and my children in a way that no human court ever could.

    #3. The root of any abusive relationship is pride/idolatry. The sins that flow from this are anger, rage, bitterness, slander, malice, etc. The bad news is, these sin patterns cannot be broken by the person caught in them (Romans 8:7). And let’s remember that our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). When a woman, or any person is abused, it is Satan attacking the person through a human being who has become enslaved to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Satan is the true enemy. People who are abusing must be held accountable, but really are in far more danger, being that their souls will be eternally lost (Gal 5:19-21). The good news is, Jesus is in the business of saving sinners and NO sin is too great for Him (Titus 3:3-5).

    #4. You called marriage a “human institution.” Surely, it is not. Matthew 19:4-6, among other verses makes this clear. I wonder if your heart-strings are being tugged to pull you into a more humanistic view of marriage, rather than a divine one.

    #5. True biblical submission can only come from a heart that is humble before God and trusts in Him, rather than in her husband (1 Peter 3:5-6). Submission means yielding our rights out of selfless love; this makes it infinitely different than enabling or being passive, which is fear-based and focused on self-preservation. We women need to learn how to be warriors, to overcome the fear and break the power of the lies, and stand firm in the spiritual armour of the Lord. Yes, do it from a safe distance! But don’t give up. God created marriage and He will bless our obedience. It IS possible to live a victorious Christian life while walking through this dark valley, and to choose neither divorce NOR enabling abuse. Remember that the good Shepherd walks beside us, and Satan and his demons are actually afraid of US because of that very truth.

    I do believe that my marriage struggles have made me more holy, though deeply broken and not at all happy in an earthly sense. Yet I have come to know Jesus in a way that has given me profound JOY that I would not trade for anything. I have managed to stay safe through separation, and do not believe that the bible gives any biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. I was not promised an easy life nor a safe one. Let’s not make safety the number one priority, but instead, knowing and obeying the Lord.

    Thank you for listening.

    Regards,

    Abigail (not my real name)

    • I’d have to agree with nearly every point here in Abigail’s comment. My only question is once a man has been left how’s he supposed to make anything right and be able to work on restoring the marriage if his ex never wants to reconcile or speak with him again? Listening to Gary’s advice here I can see why women who follow him into a divorce on this blog feel empowered to do so by his opinion and fail to see where they’re only permitted to stay separate (if they choose to go against God’s command to ‘not leave’ 1Cor. 7:10), but not divorce in abusive marriages and not seek to remarry other men until that living husband dies as 1 Cor. 7:39 points out. In fact marriage as a divine institution in a Christian sense is one man with one woman for life as an example of how Christ loved us and died for us even when we were so out of love with Him. There is a salvation principle that is being represented here that the Christian man and woman being bound for life to their spouse shouldn’t forsake (of coarse if they don’t profess to be a believer that wouldn’t apply in their reasoning especially if they are being led to believe that marriage is just a human institution. If both are believers both man and wife are bound to Christ in a marriage and He doesn’t let us go so we as an example should not either (genuine belief in Christ sticks, He’s promised us that). Sometimes there is the case of being unequally yoked and even then 1 Cor. 7 emphasizes for the believer to stay unless they are the one being served a divorce which was my case. I’m proud of Christian men and woman everywhere who put up with their less than perfect husbands and wives and choose to stay and pray their way thru difficult marriages instead of giving up easily by separating which is a slippery slope that leads to a divorce in most cases. Ppl like to say relationships are hopeless and it may seem yours is but if you are a Christian think of how God must think about you and your sin. We all sin. If after you begin professing and believing in Christ for salvation you slip into some sin or other repeatedly do you think God just looks down on individuals and says; well, that one has let too much water go under the bridge. His/Her grace is up I’m not going to save them and Im going to just let them continue going down the river to an eternal hell?
      I hardly think so. Have some faith in God, you say He loves you. If they were truly a Christian I believe He chastens His children and there are several examples of Him as the Good Shepherd who seeks those ones of His who go astray to save them. Shepherds were known for breaking a habitually wandering sheep’s leg and carrying it back and forth from the sheepfold to pasture till it healed up and learned to obey. I think separation at times is a legitimate measure to bring about proper reconciliation to a marriage but not one so called Christian divorcing another professing Christian. Let’s clean up our own house and get a real biblical view on marriage and reconciliation instead of condoning ‘Christian divorces’.
      A church should never advise to seek a divorce. In special cases that is an individuals choice but churches and so called counsellor’s and teachers who believe the Bible they teach out of had better beware of how they cast judgement against God’s institution of marriage. The Word of God says christian leaders have a stricter and higher code to uphold than the common man and that blood could easily be on their hands if they choose to do the judging! We all know that the Bible doesn’t cut corners on anything so let’s let It speak for Itself and let’s all obey what It says. Divorce is overrated, and should be avoided if at all possible. God still hates divorce.

      • Hurt divorcee, I’d urge you to check out Rejoice Marriage Ministries for biblical advice on how to reconcile a dead marriage. Stay faithful to your spouse and let God deal with them. There are some amazing testimonies there of marriages restored after years of separation and divorce, including lengthy periods of no communication. There is no sin that God can’t heal and forgive, including porn addictions, affairs, and abuse. The founders of that ministry can testify to that. Often when a spouse says they want nothing to do with you, it is due to hurt and unforgiveness, and God will have the final word. He can heal all wounds and soften anyone’s heart. Be warned though, standing for a marriage isn’t for the faint of heart or those who want a quick fix. Learning to love like Jesus is painful and requires daily dying to self. But it will be God’s best for your life. Blessings to you.

    • I think your response makes the most Biblical sense of any of the comments posted. Well said.

    • Abigail, thank you for laying out the response you did. My husband and both agree with what you’ve shared.

    • “Abigail” –

      This is exactly what I needed to hear (read) this morning! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is a great encouragement to me to hear God’s Word applied, and the victory that comes through the power Christ. May He continue to bless you as you follow His leading.

  5. There is no righteous cause for divorce. Neither is a wife required to accept abuse.
    When a man is doing such horrific things, or worse things as mentioned above, then the woman need not go along, nor even live with the man under such conditions. but at no point is marital divorce lawfully permitted. A woman may separate from a man of evil habits, she may seek the aid of others, she may and rightly refuse to be a part of any unlawful act or habit. But she may not seek a divorce. The woman is an equal to the man, she is not his slave. The man is as obligated to the wife as she is to the husband. We are instructed to remain faithful to the faithful and unfaithful alike.
    Once you have joined yourself to a spouse, lawfully, in the name of the almighty, divorce is illegal. marriage is in no way a man made institute. if you are married by the State, then your obligation is to the State, and therefore, the State my permit you to divorce, but Yahweh has given us no such permission when married in His name rather than that of the State. His marriage is sealed in blood, not printed paper. His marriage is only ended with blood. once you are married to a person, you may marry no other until the death of that person, as according to the word.
    This is why the choice of a spouse is a very serious one… because once you enter into such a covenant, the only way it will end is with death.

  6. You’ve written a whole article without one verse of scripture. I agree that wives aren’t to be abused and shouldn’t have to live in fear but I think if you want more credibility you need the Bible to back you up. Otherwise it’s just your opinion.

  7. Thank you. I was abused both physically and emotionally by my first husband. I stayed because I thought it was my Christian duty, and that if I left, I would be alone and my children would be fatherless forever. God had other plans for me. 8 years after I divorced him, I met my current husband. God has now healed me and my children in amazing ways through the love and tenderness of godly marriage. Although, as a single mother, I worked at a church, and was heavily involved in it, no one there knew the private pain my children and I lived in. No one asked what we had been through. I don’t think it occurred to them. I wish it had. We needed to hear that we weren’t worthless. We needed what wasn’t being offered, and were too ashamed to ask for.

  8. Hello, My comment has nothing to do with the problems of divorce. My comment is only to correct word meaning with Malachi 2:16. Here is what the Hebrew actually says. “”For I hate separation,” says Yahweh”. That is separation when it is not mutually agreed to. Divorce is not the subject of this verse. Years ago in Tennessee after a 30 minute lesson on why God hates divorce from Malachi 2:16 I asked the preacher if he knew that verse was not about divorce. He said yes he knew it. So he lied for 30 minutes to his congregation. Divorce has been graciously provided by God to correct a mistake. We’re human and we make them! God considered He was married to Israel. Isaiah 54:5 “For your Maker is your husband; Yahweh of Armies is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” Then God himself said he divorced the northern ten tribes. Jeremiah 3:8, “And I saw, when for all the causes by which backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.” There is much more to this. One example is that you can now read Romans 7:1-4 in the context of these above verses and others and have a bit more idea about it’s meaning. Thanks and I hope this helps.

  9. There is an interesting article by Elizabeth Klein. Intiteled ” God hates divorce, is only part of the story” . I appreciate your article too. I think Elizabeth Kliens is worth your reading.

  10. Dangerous it is to consult a book for Godly instruction. The bible and the Holy Spirit should be the guide. The more we realy on ourselves to fix a problem, the less Gods grace is sufficient. Christ’s love was so great for his disciples he chooses Judas to walk with him knowing he wold later betray him. If marriage is a covenant, simply saving yourself without God’s prompting no matter what you think you deserve will have far reaching consequences that you ont see. Only God can see what the outcome is and give you the prompting you need.

  11. Thank you Gary for standing up for those who have to make VERY hard choices. I walked this road and although it was hard, God has restored my home. No, not reconciliation with my spouse either. My home is now peaceful and truly Christ centered. He has made beauty from ashes. There is hope for those who need to divorce and God can restore! I wrote a book sharing lessons I learned. You can find it on amazon.

    A Home Restored
    By Lori Lewter

  12. You know what bothers me is that it is always the man’s fault. Yes, there are men that treat their wives horribly but I have seen the other way too. Where the man is devoted to the wife and takes all the garbage she dishes out because that is his job, Biblically. To care for his wife and love her like Jesus loves the church.

    But we never hear about that side of it.

    • No doubt.
      Just heard from a brother in Christ that his wife of 10 years confessed she was having an affair and now leaving.
      It goes both ways.
      Another brother – his wife comes and goes whenever she pleases.
      He hangs in there like a trooper, and she continues with no repentance.
      Their high school daughter now desires a transgender operation.
      So yes, enough is enough on both sides.

    • I so agree Don. This essay seems to more closely follow the teachings of Gloria Steinem than the teachings of Christ. Only when we learn once again to respect the institution of fatherhood can society hope to reverse the disintegration of the family unit. Gary Thomas, read the fifth commandment.

  13. Again, it’s important to understand that if there is abuse and there can not be any reconciliation separate from each other. But, if you are both Christians, I would not re marry but focus your attention on your relationship with Jesus and let HIM decide if you should ever re marry again. Marriage isn’t for getting your needs met or getting loved. Marriage is for giving of yourself even if the other does not in return.

    I advise reading books like:

    The Crucified life, by Tozer
    Breaking of the outer man for the release of the spirit by Watchman Nee
    Bible

  14. Finally, an evangelical man gets it! Congratulations! And thank you for speaking up.

  15. As a man who was in an abusive relationship, I cannot reconcile the sexist undertone of this essay with its religious overtone. Men are not the problem here, abusive people are. My ex-wife was so violent that the courts terminated her parental rights entirely and I raised my two sons as a single dad. I raised my sons in a loving home where I can honestly say I don’t recall even a single cross word being spoken in all those years. Yet, as a single dad, I was often asked “why did she leave you?” (She left because she loved methamphetamines) Please stop vilifying men and varnishing 3rd-wave feminism with bible verses; it does real damage to guys like me who are trying to tend to their families after leaving abusive women and it denies us the opportunity to find common ground with fellow survivors.

  16. Thank you a million times over for this post. A friend who knows what I’ve been going through discovered it and sent it to me. I’m finally free from a twenty-year marital prison of pernicious, hidden, soul-sucking emotional abuse by someone who has posed as a man of faith in our church and Christian community. It’s been a horror show of judgment and re-victimization as I’ve found my voice and proper self-regard in the Lord to take a stand against his self-consumed darkness, intimidation, and manipulation. I’ve had my church membership taken away, lost most of my former friends, and my family has cut me off. BUT beginning to live in the freedom and peace that God intends for me and my children is worth every moment of the pain and multi-thousands of dollars of Christian counseling. I’m rejoicing that the Lord brought all those stories from hurting women to your attention that day! He knows how vital it is to put these truths in the mouth of a pastor/MAN (specifically), especially one who’s already been given a platform of marriage ministry. I hope you are considering putting these ideas into your talks and seminars on a regular basis — who knows, maybe a book expanding on this crucial issue that I think is the topic of our day in the church. It’s time for a serious wake-up call. How I wish someone had said this to me years ago. And I believe that while there will always be those who misappropriate these truths to serve their own ends, the number of silent sufferers who are helped will far outweigh them. ( Besides, foolish people with no real interest in God’s Word will simply find the “excuses” they seek somewhere else anyway). I’ve forwarded this blog post to many of my haters and detractors already; it’s been a huge help.

  17. My first marriage was horrible. He abused all 3 kids and tried to kill me twice. He was a terrorist to us, this was over 35 years ago. My kids were all scarred from the situation. My church looked down on me for leaving him. Some refused to be my friend any longer. I still think people were so appalled that “I” brought all of this on the Christian community that they were glad when I stopped attending church. The Spirit of the Lord never left me. I have not made good decisions in some cases since but the Lord walks with me and I wait for Him to justify me openly. Women who are abused come from all walks of life. I was raised in a good home but when I was young my mother unknowingly let an abuser into the home. I never told her or my dad about that dirty old man but that could have impacted me. If only there had been a safe place for us when my husband did the things he did.

  18. How about the inability to admit fault, to (almost) never take responsibility for his actions, pile on guilt trips whenever you want to go on a short trip overnight because he doesnt want to care for the kids alone, not allowing you access and not be open about accounts including the mortgage? Passive aggressive barbs? Is this abuse?

  19. Hello Gary,
    A friend dealing with a porn-addicted husband emailed me this article, and by some fluke it went to another article you’d written called “Get Closer” http://www.garythomas.com/getcloser/

    I couldn’t figure out what she found helpful in the Get Closer article until she re-sent this article.

    The Get Closer article was about a husband selfishly addicted to sports, neglecting his family and acting pretty much like a single guy. You said the wife could talk to him but if he didn’t repent, your recommendation was for her to try to get involved in his addiction, taking their children to the events, meeting him after the events for breakfast, and inviting his sporting friends to their house. There was no mention of having the elders speak to him about his responsibilities as a husband and father nor did you offer any other suggestion that would confront the husband with his sins.

    In the article, you admitted that the husband’s pursuits were selfish, but you implied the wife was to blame for the divorce because she nagged her husband and complained about his behavior. To quote the article: “Camilla’s response of rebounding in the opposite direction, though, ended in disaster: divorce, with the children divided up and eventually even living in different states…Trying to fight selfishness with selfishness increases distance, it never erases it. If your spouse misplaces his or her priorities and won’t repent or even listen to you, you have to deal with what is.”

    I agree with what you’ve written in this article, but I have some problems with your previous article. I feel it represents the type of attitude that makes women feel guilty when they don’t embrace their husband’s addictions, sexual or otherwise.

    In your previous article, you said that the woman as “the ‘stronger’ (mature) must make way for the ‘weaker’ (immature)” meaning the selfish sports-addicted husband. Do you believe that’s a correct application of Scripture? I have studied Romans 15 and have never heard it applied in that manner.

    Having read both articles, this is my question: Do your concerns only apply to women whose husband’s are addicted to porn?

    Or have you changed your views since writing that first article?

    I have been married to my best friend and high school sweetheart for 46 years, and I know there is lots of give and take, forgiveness and repentance involved in marriage. I also believe in submission. But I don’t think submission involves embracing the selfish addictions of a husband who refuses to listen to his wife’s concerns. I think that is far too complex a problem to be boiled down to that solution that puts all of the weight on the wife.

    I appreciate hearing your explanation.
    Thank you

    • I am sad that he never responded to you. You brought up some excellent points. It’s hard being married to someone who is always addicted to something even if it may not be porn.

      • Yes, Gen, I would have liked to hear his response. I really appreciate this article he’s written. I’ve checked back periodically to see if he would reply, but I think it probably won’t happen at this point. I hope he at least read my concerns and will take them into account for future posts he might write.
        God bless you.
        Gail

    • Yes, I’d be very interested, too!

  20. Gary,
    Really appreciate your work in this. It’s so important to be discussing this.