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. Thank you for your article and your heart. I am so lost and so broken and so confused and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been living in my car for 2 1/2 months because I couldn’t take one more minute of the 23 years of abuse and neglect. It has been a daily, lonely, abandoned suffering almost all of those 23 years. My husband, although a believer, has never stepped in to the godly role of a husband or father. Never cherished me, never loved me unconditionally, never protected or fought for me, and worse, has not been a model to our son of a Christian husband or father. In the last 15 years he has not once taking me out, shared a meal with me, read the word with me, or touched me. He has not responded to any of my physical advances or my desperate emotional pleas. He has allowed our son to be the center of the home and only spends time with him. I have spoken to multiple pastors and I have heard everything from, “well you know how men are” to “well you must’ve done something to make him that way” to ” just come to our one day marriage conference”. Worse than my suffering however is the dramatic distraction it has done to her 19-year-old son. He wants nothing to do with God because of what he has seen and is an absolute angry depressed wreck. Since I left 2 1/2 months ago my husband has completely abandoned me and has done nothing to try to rectify the situation and has taken over with parenting decisions of our son that are harming him. For 23 years when I have brought up all these issues he has said that he’s sorry and that I’m right about what he’s done and has not done but then nothing changes. I don’t know where to go from this point. He controls all the money and I’m not able to work. My son is furious at the situation. He and I have always been very very close and my has been is now destroying that as well by bad mouthing me and undermining My parenting. My husband has also laid a foundation against me over the years with local pastors, the community, and even my own personal friends. I made the mistake of keeping all of this hidden all these years trying just to pursue God and do what was right and not talk against my husband to anyone, but now I am paying the price because he has not done the same and has portrayed me as the unstable abuser. I have been doing nothing but soaking in God’s word and praying and fighting in spiritual warfare all day every day for the last couple months and while I have heard a lot of personal encouragement from the Lord, I feel no guidance in what I should do. Thank you.

    • Sympathetic listener February 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      I know it’s hard but try to get help from family (siblings if any) and friends on a place to stay, how to get a job and how to file for divorce (getting a lawyer you can afford). Tell your son, family and close friends the whole truth about your marriage and ask for help. No need to beg but simply ask. I have just learnt myself that keeping marital problems a secret creates problems for the victim of abuse and such secrecy is usually encouraged by the church and the abuser whereas the abuser goes about maligning and lying against the victim like what happened to you. So pls speak out.

    • Debbie, I can’t tell you what to do, all I will do is share part of my story. before 2004 i read Matt 7:18 a bad tree can not bear good fruit, so the “good” the little i got to keep me was not good, but bad cause it came from a bad tree. When I figured out the truth, the confusion of brain washing started making sense and i no longer believed him. I believed the bible. That was my start to a 5 year divorce battle. I’ve been out almost 13 years of a 15 year bad bad marriage. I had PTSD from it and more. Being strong in leaving and keeping the door bolted was the only thing that gave God the time to recover my sanity and strengthen me to the person I used to be before i met him. I was hemmed in also by the way he made the outside world perceive me. I felted trapped with no way of escape. But God got me out. The biggest advise I have is to learn to truley forgive from your heart, not be bitter, so God can have free reign in your life and heart to restore you. Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who have trespassed against me.For me, the other night while taking to the Lord, he told me He didn’t want me in that marriage. So for me, I have peace with God and am very happy that God loves me so much, he wanted me out of destruction. The devil comes to kill steal and destroy, but I came that you would have life and that more abundantly. sometimes you have to get far away from the midst of the trees to see the forest, the whole perspective.

  2. Kathryn Farrell February 7, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Gary,
    I agree with your heart in this. Just wondered if you would consider putting a bit more emphasis on an interim measure before jumping straight to divorce, namely separation. There should not be a stigma in the church attached to separation! If the church is healthy enough to truly help separation can be a tool to save the marriage. “Serious” separation, under supervision and accountability, with the full support of the church for the abused party and a commitment to genuine, long-term discipleship help for the abuser – as long as they are GENUINELY open to facing the truth about themselves and repenting to transformation. This is what Jesus can do.
    A healthy separation can also help to unravel whether or not there is two-way dysfunction that is fuelling the abuse. The abused party can grow and strengthen their godly healthy personal boundaries and differentiation during this time, and it can result in a healed marriage.

    • I totally agree. Separation gives the two parties time to evaluate their lives, and gives the church a chance to gather around the one who is truly hurting.

    • I believe there could be a place for the church to step up here. But I’m also from an abusive marriage and well know that my husband and many others like him would never put themselves under the authority of the church. We tried separation but my husband was convinced that I was the problem. To this day he still admits no fault.
      If my husband was willing to see his sin and admit it then yeah, separation with supervision and accountability might have saved my marriage.

  3. God bless you for this message you’re sharing. I have a close relative in an abusive relationship who is so convinced divorce is wrong that she’s accepted the trap of abuse her husband has her in.

    There’s so much more nuance to this issue that people realize and, sadly, than the church tends to speak to. You made an important distinction between human institutions and God’s will. Keep championing and encouraging daughters of the King!

  4. Excellent article. My one comment is that it goes both ways. As a man I have struggled with the decision to get a divorce even though I know she has a temper problem sees no reason to change blames me for all her problems and and has been emotionally and verbal abusive for 4 years.

  5. Elizabeth Carlin February 1, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I would like to see the men of the church stop telling women that they do not hold the priesthood except when they are holding their spouse. Both men and women in the Temple go through the veil with the very same dialog. Both men and women wear the garments of the priesthood after taking out their own endowments. Enough already we are beloved daughters of God and He loves us and the men are beloved sons of God and are loved by Him. Jesus Christ came and lived here for each and every one of us male and female.

  6. Gary, God has recently opened my eyes to the fact of my abusive behavior to my wife. The examples you list are deeper abuse than what I have been putting my wife through but I believe she is in no less pain than the women you mention. I am beginning to see the deep pain I have caused her and it is crushing. I have page after page of instances he has brought to my mind but unfortunately God started revealing this abuse and the selfish and insecure motives behind it only weeks ago to me and just Friday my wife asked me for a divorce (I have papers sitting on counter at home).

    I have spent the last days reading Paul Hegstorm (Angry Men…) and Lundy Bancroft (Why does he do that) books trying to find help. Those books are great at showing me my sin and how I have crushed my wife’s spirit over the years, emotionally and spiritually. They are heavily convicting on my behavior and patterns self centeredness that drive me to hurt and manipulate my wife out of my insecurities and deficiencies when I should be cherishing and nurturing this beautiful gift that God has given me but these books and your article offer very little hope and direction other than just Divorce him and move on.

    My wife will not talk to me and does not want to hear apologies and will not tell me how I have hurt her. I know I have burned those bridges many times so I can only repent to God now and she would only believe lasting change I imagine. I want to change but there is so little out there for the abuser. I am on the verge of seeing my family, my wife and my 3 daughters torn in half, and consequences that will have effects for generations. I come from a divorced family and no matter how healthy you try and make it, it will be lifetimes of pain and insecurity and adjustment.

    Do you have have any help, anyone out there is who I saying more than that there is no hope, just give up? I would give up my career, my home my health for another chance to make amends for the damage I’ve caused and give my wife the nurturing and life giving home she deserves so that God can use our family to effect this world!

    • I am also sad to say i was reading “Sacred Marriage” when this happened. The power of the mind to live in denial is amazing!

    • Hi Bob,

      Praise God for the work He has done in your life! There is no sin that can’t be forgiven, and no marriage that can’t be healed through His mighty power. There absolutely IS hope!

      My thoughts to your questions are this: don’t pursue your wife or push too hard. Focus on your relationship with God and put Him first in your life. Trust that He will be working in your wife’s heart. Pray for opportunities to show your wife the kind of Christ-like, dying-to-self love that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5:25. Pray for an opportunity to tell her that you are waiting for her when she is ready. Keep yourself pure. Be prepared to wait however long it takes. Pray for God to give you at least one godly man to be a prayer partner and keep you accountable in your walk with the Lord. Consider whether going to a biblical counsellor might be helpful to you, in healing the heart wounds that led you to abuse your wife.

      Thank you for your honesty and courage in speaking openly here. I will be praying for you and your family!

      In Him,

  7. I agree with what Abigail has claimed. I have to believe that Christ cares more for the safety of his women and her child in this circumstance. I will be praying for her and her child’s future as they continue on with their life.

  8. I was not convinced by Abigail’s arguments but I will be praying for her. She’s in a really though spot. May God protect her from all evil.

  9. Gary, thank you for this article. It is good food for thought. I have often wondered if there is more the church can do to help people prevent marriages that are abussive. For instance, I would guess that in most of these relationships there were red flags that were ignored. Or maybe people who end up in bad marriages grew up as the child of a bad marriage. Is it reasonable to think that the church should be training up our young people to identify a possible bad partner? Should we be talking to our youth about marriage in their youth groups? It just seems that we are always trying to clean up the mess instead of preventing it in the first place. Am I off base in this thinking? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  10. Disclaimer: Men who abuse their wives are vile. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    But reading this article, I realized I have never read a Christian woman blogger scold other Christian women to the same degree. So I have a challenge and promise to Gary Thomas or his readers: I will donate money to Gary Thomas’ ministry if someone can point me to just ONE article on the web where a Christian woman blogger scolds other Christian women to the same degree, using language just as strong (‘monster’, etc.) Scour the web! Can you find even one such article?

    And Gary writes: “If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it”. Where across the entire Web will you see this said in reverse by a woman, that a woman needs to earn (and re-earn) the benefit and companionship of a good man?

    • It’ll be interesting to see if you get any replies, Tom.

      As for donating to my ministry: we don’t receive donations. I encourage people to give their offerings to their church or, if they want to focus on a marriage ministry, to Focus on the Family or Family Life Today.

      • Gary, I thought YOU would give me an example. You must not be aware of any. Don’t you feel you’ve been unfair to men then? If not, are you saying that men are just worse than women?

        • Tom, why pick a fight? Gary was speaking as a man, because he is one, and had an experience many other men don’t have the opportunity to have – talking to scads of women at a women’s conference. I would think Godly men would be glad to hear the feedback, but it sounds like you are feeling personally attacked and unappreciated. I’m sorry for whatever in your life has caused you to respond in such a way.

          The Bible says the HUMAN (not male or female) heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Women and men are supposed to give 100% to their marriages. I don’t have a blog to point you to, but if you are open-minded, you may be interested in this broadcast. It’s Hour 2, on “Fierce Women.”

        • Hi, Tom. It’s not that men are worse than women—but they are most often the perpetrators of abuse, statistically and anecdotally. Because of the church’s obsession with male headship, women are often bound to men who abuse them, then shamed for seeking help or escaping their torturous situations, even shamed for mentioning it at all because they’re supposed to only speak well of their husband/pastor/whatever. Before you butt in with the “not all men” comment, or “you’re being unfair to men”, realize that it is already incredibly unfair to women, women endure a buttload of stuff that we never have to worry about, and that if you’re not willing to just listen to this reality and their experiences, and look out for the women in your life, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself and (1) understand why you’re so defensive about “men aren’t any worse than women”, and (2) start looking out for the women in your life because chances are, they’ve had to deal with so much of this nonsense already.

      • Gary, thank you for this article. It is one of the best I’ve read, in fact the only one I’ve read on this subject. I have been through A LOT of pain in my marriage especially since 2008. My husband committed suicide in 2013 which drove the pain even deeper. Thank you for speaking for women like me. We women are not perfect – far from it – but the depth of some of the deep non-visual forms of abuse we live with often go unknown or not understood. I did not know or understand them until I experienced them myself. The Lord has been with me and my 2 young adult sons through it all for which I am incredibly grateful.

    • There are blogs upon blogs upon blogs that scold women in condescending tones about how they ought to stop nagging and start respecting their husbands. Here’s one of my personal favorites that points out how incredibly insensitive and horrible of a wife I must be if I would choose to go shopping with a girlfriend instead of watching football with my husband (of course, this wouldn’t actually happen in MY marriage – I’m the one who watches football – but the point remains, there are ALL KINDS of blogs (written by men and women) that scold women for this “bad” behavior… some of which IS bad behavior, and some of it is complete rubbish). Now, the articles may not use such harsh terms as “monster” (and let’s be real here, being inconsiderate of your husband is a far cry from actually physically or emotionally abusing your partner, which is the top of Gary Thomas’s article), but they are meant to correct/change behavior and often make heavy use of shame and guilt to accomplish that goal (which, ironically, is fairly ineffective in the long term, but who’s counting?)

      Here’s another one that calls women sadistic if they withhold sex because a husband hasn’t met their demands (albeit, a man wrote this one). I’m not condoning that behavior, but I also know you’re not condoning the abusive behavior for which Gary used the term “monster” so it seems appropriate to use this example:

      Above all, we must MUST MUST always respect our husbands. Even if we know he’s wrong. Or if he’s treating us like absolute crap. Or if he’s disciplining the children in a way that we have, mutually, agreed we would not use. We must never ever, EVER, under no circumstances, disagree with him in public. And if we commit that dire mistake? We certainly can’t expect him to treat us well… can we?

      I should say that I don’t disagree with the Biblical command that wives need to respect their husbands. And some of the blog posts are actually helpful to me when I’m struggling in that arena. But, I struggle because I want to be more of who God made me to be… not because I feel like I need to EARN being well-treated… but these articles OFTEN make being well-treated conditional on how much respect we wives show our husbands. Your notion that there aren’t articles out there that tell a woman she needs to “earn” the benefit of being well-treated by her husband, is just wrong.

    • This blog by a Christian man is not scolding Christian men. It is grievously lamenting the Church’s (made up of men and women) tolerance or mishandling of monstrous, ungodly ABUSE. So asking for a blog by a woman scolding women is really not the flip side here.

    • There are definitely double standards held on all sides.

      I have no warm fuzzy feelings toward abusive husbands, but I disagree with them needing to be divorced to solve the problem. God knows how to handle Nabal’s without divorce, but the question is, how many women are looking to God for the understanding that Abigail had been given?

      “when thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

  11. Thank-you to Becky for these practical steps and to Gary for this post! I was in a controlling marriage and could never put my finger on what was wrong. Bancroft’s book showed me how the abuser likes that situation. All I could point to is that what I did was never enough, I had chronic depression and a fearful child, I was constantly being told that my opinions were wrong, I kept wishing I could change myself more so that I could help and change my husband. He was my focus throughout the whole day. Nothing that I ever heard in church changed my viewpoint- I heard about submission, respect, and the long-suffering aspect of love. Thankfully, once I had the practical tools from Bancroft’s book and the support of a therapist I was able to talk to my husband. It broke through to him and he was able to see what he had been doing. He has changed and is committed to doing what it takes to continue in that path. I already feel like a different person and so does my husband and my son. I am thrilled that we are working towards the marriage that I always dreamed of. I suggest that you add these resources to the end of your post so that women are able to readily see them, instead of wading through the comment section. I applaud your post and thank-you for speaking up on this. I know several who are silently suffering.

  12. It kind of amazes me how some people would still want a person who has experienced systematic abuse to simply stay and pray it away.

    I had a wife who was abusive almost the entirety of our marriage. If I didn’t leave I could’ve been seriously hurt or essentially had false allegations made about me to hurt me. Once left if I didn’t divorce I could have further things happen to me to hurt me.

    Once you’ve lived under a patter of abuse there’s no way to ever know it won’t happen again however much someone seems to change and living a life of fear waiting for the shoe to drop is a joyless life.

  13. Amen.
    I struggle much with the thought process I’ve been raised in and wondering what is normal and truly Christian in marriage and what really constitutes grounds for divorce. After living with verbal abuse for 10 plus years I left my angry husband for a year, 7 years ago and only reconciled when the church we attended begged me to leave what they dubbed my sinful ways and promised they would be active in checking in on us. They have not.
    My husband can be a good man but chooses anger. A few years back we lost our daughter which happened to be his favorite child (we have 4) in a tragic accident which was my fault. so grief complicates our story too…
    Since then he did come to a point where he became a Christian, something he’d professed his whole life and for a brief time he was truly kind. Now I am back to living on pins and needles trying to figure out what will make him angry next. My children live that way too and my 10 year old is constantly asking why daddy doesn’t love us. It’s random things but often it seems to be financially triggered. Yesterday he was angry all afternoon because I bought myself a $12 teapot because mine was broken (but still functional) I’m constantly apologizing because I’m always in the wrong, a detail that drives me crazy and is exhausting.
    He never takes me on dates unless I plan them. Never brings me flowers. Never notices how hard I work every day to be what he needs..
    I know I do indeed fail.
    I mess up. A lot
    I know our situation is less then optimal but I don’t know what my right response is.
    I don’t want to leave. I want to fight for my marriage but my spirit and will to fight is dying.

  14. June will be the 20th Anniversary to my first wife. She was amazing. She did everything for me. She was faithful, diligent, and hard-working. She was the love of my life–at least I thought she was. It turned out, my true love was myself. We were divorced after 12 years of marriage because of my selfishness and sin. My first marriage was damaged by my sexual addiction and my overbearing demands that my wife serve me.
    I remarried two years later. My new wife had just left an overbearing, immoral husband, and was very distrustful. Because of her previous hurts, she refused to do hardly anything for me. But I had repented after my divorce, so that was fine by me. After repenting to the Lord, of my 1st failure, he showed me a new way. A man doesn’t become a husband to be served. But to serve. Men who need to be served are weak. Real men are stronger than their wives. Their the ones who dig deep when you’re both tired. They handle their own problems, then come help you with yours. They are more patient. They take leadership in the marriage by being the one to reconnect after conflict. THAT is strength. My first wife served me, and I took advantage of her. Now I serve my new wife, because I want to be the strong one, the one with bigger shoulders, with more to give. My first wife was hurt badly by our divorce, but she gave new another chance. This year will be 20th and 8th anniversaries.

  15. I stayed and kept forgiving OVER AND OVER AND OVER. What good did it do? None. He just kept saying how sorry he was and then things would be ok for a while, then I would catch him watching porn again.

    So now I think this: I should have left him the second time. I wasted 17 years of my life nursing him after four horrendous surgeries, wiped his backside, waited on him hand and foot. And he would not change his porn habit. Or could not. But does it really matter which, would not or could not?

    The result is the same. My self-esteem is non-existent, my sexuality is DEAD. I am too old to look for another husband and besides, I have completely lost my faith in love. Because of him.

    My faith in God suffered for all these years. I kept thinking God must not love me at all. But it was my husband who did not love me enough to keep the promises he made over and over and over.

    GOD knows and sees all. Men make excuses for their behavior all they want. GOD knows and sees all. Husbands may fool their preachers, their mothers, their children and friends. But wives know and GOD knows. Period.

    Great article here.

  16. Gary… thank you.
    Those of you thumping the bible quoting verse…you missed the point completely… by close-minded choice. Shame on you. Absolutely shame on you for upholding a man’s excuse to be less than a man. Hiding behind a piece of paper because their own actions are lacking… they fail to speak for him.
    It happens often this attitude … woman bow to your man… scripture is left out that also states… he should be a man WORTHY of that bow. You earn respect. Marriage is not any different. You earn it daily not just long enough to con someone into taking your crap.
    I am a pastor’s grandaughter. I have seen the vile ways a man with such a title treats his chatel… wife & children. They are often the worse offender than a common man trying to find his way. God is love. Love is not abuse, in any form.

    My now ex-husband strangled me over and over in a 30 min fight for my life when our daughter was 2 months old. There were other things, but nobody cares about the more covert behaviors. Some men are monsters. Plain & simple, and as with any other monster of society, they should be dealt with, swiftly and not coddled. If not by jury than by peers. If a judge or jury says what they do is wrong. If a book says they are wrong… then, they are wrong. It does not matter that their victim of choice is their wife, quietly killing her behind closed doors with the nod of apathy given by many “Christians”… to preserve a piece of paper. If she’s dead, then he killed her…no matter if that be of heart, mind, spirit or body. And THAT is a sin.

  17. “According to a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Justice, in the last 12 months more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence and over 40% of severe physical violence was directed at men.” Gary, I love your heart for women. You obviously have a wonderful wife and can’t imagine the monster who would abuse her. I’d encourage you to poll men and ask them to come forward with their stories. While obtaining an Order of Protection the other day against my ex, I was shocked to hear her say that more and more men are coming forward, and how proud she was of me. 4+ years of harassment, hitting, punching, slapping, sexual manipulation… from a “saint” in many eyes. School teacher, mother, active in church… demanding demeaning sex and making false police reports, over and over. And I was told, “you wouldn’t believe how many men are in this situation” by a counselor at a domestic violence non-profit and shelter. Not excusing the monsters who treat their wives horribly. But sometimes the roaring lion wears heels, my brother. If it’s true that HALF of abuse is from women, why have I NEVER heard a pastor, teacher, shepherd preach, teach, admonish the women to stop that? In my lifetime, I probably won’t.

  18. Ok Folks let’s keep it simple, the truth is God wants husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Check it and see how Jesus did that. Did he do it be tearing the church down with hurtful, spiteful, selfish self-seeking words or actions? Did Christ love the church by beating them, not being responsible or taking care of their needs, causing the church to fear for their safety for the safety of their children by their actions and words? Did Christ seek to put himself first at any point in time in showing His love, care for the church? And yes wives and husbands when not being selfish, which any sin is, will not seek to take advantage of the care, love and trust that the other spouse is giving.

    Keep it simple sin in its essence is selfishness in every form. For a man or woman who has been confronted time and again with his sin who says he repents and says he has changed and then he goes and does the same thing again and again, no. Each one of us have choices to make. God hates divorce and He hates sin. Could it be that the sin that leads to the divorce is what really has God upset more than anything?

  19. I can’t thank you enough for this post. I actually sobbed reading it. Finally. Thank you. My story is too long, but I spent twenty-one collective years married twice, suffering infidelity, porn and alcohol addiction, verbal and sexual abuse and daily situations that you’ve related in your post. Now that I’ve been married again for nearly eight years, I can see the difference between normal sin and working out issues versus abuse. But I’ve felt guilty all these years. I didn’t believe in divorce, but wouldn’t stay married while my first husband had an affair, and after four separations to “repair” my second marriage I finally let go and divorced again. It devastated me. I know God hates divorce and I believe it is not right for that reason, but I felt as if God said it was okay to leave both those situations. And yet…so many well meaning family and “friends” insisted that I was not trusting God (even my ex told me that). Pastors told me to stay and “give him another chance” and “learn to be submissive.” I tried. But finally someone saw the truth and helped me break free. I started a new life, stayed single for a number of years to heal and finally met my current husband who is kind, gently, loving and such a blessing! God has used your post to release that last bit of questioning guilt. “Did I really hear God?” “Did I make it worse than it really was to justify myself?” “Was it really that big of a deal?” “Did I try hard enough?” “Maybe it really was all my fault.” Again, I say thank you. Your voice is one of truth my husband and I respect. Thank you for using it to rescue and heal. In reading Abigail’s response above, I must say that each situation is subject to God. She obviously feels led to stay in her marriage at this point.Only God knows each person’s heart and where it will lead. And yes, we can learn a lot in difficulty as you’ve taught in your book, Sacred Marriage. We can also become harmed, numb and ineffective as well without even realizing it. I’m not saying this is the case for this woman, but it was for me. When daily survival becomes your way of life, I believe it is valid to say that God may have more than that for us. Each has to seek God specifically for his/her situation and act accordingly. I thank you for your voice of healing and freedom.

    • I totally agree with you Laura. I am happy for you. I know out God is a God of hope and love. I have learned the last couple of years abuse comes in many forms and it is not always physical. I would have never thought I was in an abusive marriage, others saw it, not me not until after. I divorced after 23 years of doing my best and what I believed God wanted me to do. I also struggled with the what if it is me, what am I doing wrong or not hard enough process. At the end of the day it comes down to how many times has the sin been confronted, boundaries set, and then trust broken time and again in so many ways. When I decided to separate and then divorce is was a very difficult decision and I am confident it was was the right decision and I had peace from God. I refuse to go back and will move forward. God always has more for us… Life more abundantly which to me is living and growing in Him. God also does not want us to fear and fear is just as sneaky and deceitful as sin. It’s like weeds that have huge spreading underground root systems.

  20. Jesusisreal0923 January 5, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    My marriage hardly falls under abuse – but in a Christian marriage – with a pastor husband – I can say it destroys me with its neglect. It’s not what is done, but what is bypassed, unseen, untouched and covered over with a phony facade of do goodish for ministry recipients to the oversight of our family and marriage. What can you do with a loveless, void and emotionally absent man in a marriage who finds all worth and validation in a position and little value in human relationships, especially at home. A man who declares, teaches, and preaches God’s love but has little to none to offer within personal relationships. There is no playbook for neglect. He retreats, he doesn’t raise fists. He works to “provide” He doesn’t smash walls and threaten me. Our marriage is like a living plant that is grossly neglected with its basic nutrient necessities, it daily withers and dies, perishing from lack. It is not violent or brutal – it just slowly loses all luster and life. I have not been beaten – I’ve been thirsty for the care and oversight that is given to ministry – in the name of God – to the starvation of our own family. The death of my own heart, my own dreams and my own understanding of Father’s love representing in marriage is something I accepted I can’t have. I wrote it off as a sacrificial reminder of how Jesus loves me. But when is that enough? Where and how do those lines get drawn? I’m not sure anymore.

    • Yes! I was there, friend. You aren’t alone. I’m sure he also doesn’t want to get marital counseling because he counsels couples all the time, and it’s helped them? He may have even given you books to read about marriage and being a godly wife? I finally decided enough is enough when my 8 year old daughter told me one day that she never wanted to get married because she wanted to grow up and be HAPPY. I felt like I was sacrificing my kids’ future relationships to stay married. By allowing them to grow up in such a destructive home environment, I was perpetuating a cycle of ungodly behavior. It wasn’t until I realized how dangerous it was for them to see, not only their dad, but a PASTOR act this way that I had to get out. I understand where you are coming from. Just know that if you choose to divorce him, it may be a very lonely and frustrating road ahead of you, but you can find peace and discover the God of your youth again. He loves you as His daughter and cares about you as a Father. God bless you!

    • I’m a pastor married to a pastor. I understand some of these dynamics, as they can be potential pitfalls for any person in ministry, which is why we need to be aware and called to accountability all the more. (And why congregations and their governing boards need to think through how to care for pastors’ families and encourage more balance in life.) What you describe is not what God would desire for any marriage – of a ministry leader or otherwise. Just as abuse cannot be tolerated forever, this kind of neglect is not healthy or sustainable either.
      A comments forum isn’t the best place for me or others to ask multiple questions or dole out advice, but I would urge you to seek counsel from someone who can help you communicate your feelings and needs to your husband in a way that sets clear boundaries around ministry and family obligations and expectations for serious change. You and your children should not be martyrs for the church.

    • I would absolutely call this abuse. And I have been living in the same marriage as well. If you didn’t hit your baby but neglected to Ever touch it or feed it people would certainly call that abuse. This is no different. A Christian man completely neglecting his loving role as a husband is failing to feed and keep spirituality alive and his wife. That is completely sinful. Praying for you dear sister in Christ.