Ask a Counselor: Does God Want Me To Stay in an Emotionally and Verbally Abusive Marriage?

By | December 27, 2009

freedom-from-emotional-verbal-abuseThis is an email I sent to an elder in our church describing my situation after I had called him asking for help in our marriage. (unfortunately he didn’t have the knowledge or skill to help us.) Our marriage has gotten worse. We’ve had separate bedrooms for over a year… all I can say is there is nothing left… it’s like he despises me so much he can’t even speak to me without going into a rage if I do or say anything he doesn’t like.

I guess I’m posting this because I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve tried everything I know. I know I can’t make him love me. Any advice you would share would be appreciated. Thank you.

( The letter was quite lengthy and has been omitted. Basically, Lisa has endured years of shocking emotional abuse and told by her church to put up with it and to not give up on her marriage.)


Dear Lisa,

I’m not even sure where to begin as I was extremely perturbed from what you had written in the letter to the elder of your church. There is a lot happening here, but I’ll try to address what I feel are the most crucial things for you to do.

First, let me address the issue of your church. It greatly disturbs me when churches use scripture in order keep children of God trapped in abusive situations. Furthermore, using scripture to make people feel guilty about ending a marriage that is destructive and picking and choosing what scripture to  mandate while missing the very essence of what Jesus came to do.

You my friend are free to walk away from this marriage, in fact I would encourage you to. God wants you to be loved and be able to express love in a safe, healthy environment. He does not require you to stay in an environment where you are disrespected, despised and abused. Any church or Christian that would tell you otherwise is dead wrong and quite frankly, I would steer away from such places or such people because they fail to grasp the character of the Father nor do they grasp His love for us.

God is especially fond of you and his desire for you is to have abundant life, what you are living in is far from abundant and His Spirit which lives in you has no doubt been urging you to get out and start  living in freedom and love, but you have been receiving bad counsel that convinces you to keep staying.

As for your husband, God loves him as well, but your husband has some deep issues of brokenness that he needs to address, however, it sounds like he is not ready to be honest with himself or with God. Therefore, things will never change until he comes to the place in his life where he is ready. You can not fix him and you are not required to stay. Your vows “for better or for worse” did not mean that you were stay in an abusive situation. It also sounds like your husband may have some pretty dark secrets which could possibly be some type of infidelity. I would wash your hands of all of this and not waste a second more of your life on this guy.

I would advise that you personally see a professional counselor as I’m sure the years of verbal and emotional abuse have left you with distorted views of yourself and relationships. I know that there are good things in store for your life and things may get worse when you leave before they start getting better, but just stay true to what you know in your heart is best for your life and your well-being.

Kindest regards,


4 thoughts on “Ask a Counselor: Does God Want Me To Stay in an Emotionally and Verbally Abusive Marriage?

  1. BJ

    the bible says we should not be yoked with unbelievers. Sounds to me like he is not a believer. That kind of relationship can ruin you and the true person god created you to be. You made a bad choice in picking him, now learn from it and move on. Try to not give in to your flesh. I believe from what I read in the bible that remarriage is adultery unless your last husband died but thats what god told me to do,( to stay alone) i had a similar situation. you will have to ask him to guide you in what he wants for your life. There is no marriage in heaven its an earthly thing.Just my beliefs

  2. deeper wells

    I don’t see scripture stating that one should endure abuse as if it is acceptable and just stay. Churches that dole out the party line without getting directly involved by meeting with the spouse who is behaving violently and confronting the sin involved are guilty of cowardice and self protection dressed in spiritual clothing; a kind of christian CYA mentality if you will.

    Thus her church definitely failed both this woman and her husband badly by allowing him to continue down a destructive path and not protecting her. However, relationships that function this way are like dances, ie, abuser/codependent victim and there is a deeply spiritual side related to idolatry and bondage as well.

    What should have happened is that the pastor and elders should have become very involved in this situation, using both sound counsel, biblical confrontation and knowledge of spiritual warfare to deal with this situation; she should have been advised to move out and take her children with her if they had kids and assisted in finding a safe house. The men of the church should have been involved in intense intervention with this man, confronting him with both his sin and woundedness so that he had to choose which side he was on and could not hide behind pretend faith and then do it again when they were gone. I believe the church is actually somewhat responsible for many of the christian divorces that take place because they do not use their spiritual authority, weapons of warfare and other biblical mandates and provisions when problems like this first manifest and often, they are not involved on a love and relationship level in the first place. Their mealy mouthed lack of courageous involvement and confrontation allows people like this to feign christianity without being confronted with the inconsistencies between their stated beliefs and their actual way of life and it forces hapless women and children to live in an illusion too. When such a man has been confronted with his sin and disobedience, he is in a position where he must confirm he is committed to following Christ and cooperate with his pastors in dealing with his life issues and by making himself accountable , or he must refuse and be afforded no more shelter within the church, being declared an unbeliever if he is a professing christian. Unbeliever or not, the church should be involved if it concerns one of the sheep of God’s pasture.

    This confirms what is true, protects the abused from the abuser and may result in repentance where needed and restortion of both persons involved a and a noteable number of times,does.

    A woman in this situation should not be required to entertain rejoining her husband until he is welll on the road to recovery and manifesting fruits of repentance.

    A church that does not do what scripture says and runs away from addressing situations like this, and then requires a woman to submit and stay when they themselves are not submitting to scripture is somewhat like Pharoah, who demanded that the Isrealites make bricks without straw. It makes me ill and rather incensed. Because these biblical steps are not followed, but skipped, marriages are ended when there is still a possiblity of restoration. I don’t agree with telling someone to end the marriage without seeking the mind God in that situation first and if necessasry, changing to a church that will actually support properly by following these steps; I am frankly shocked at the number of christians who never say “Let’s stop and seek to hear what the Holy Spirit would say in this situation, as if God doesn’t have knowledge He might wish to communicate as to the specific situation and what to do about it. When all is said and done and the abusive person will not submit or obey, and wishes to leave, I think the person is free to pursue termination of the marriage because the spouse is a departing unbeliever who will not live in peace. If the church did what it was supposed to do, THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR SITUATIONS LIKE THIS TO CARRY ON FOR EVEN A YEAR! Forgive me for being so “vociferous” but this is a church issue that needs to be confronted. Thanks for considering my thoughts. I hope things go well for this sister.

  3. allen

    I was emtional and verbally abusive to my wife for 21/2 years, we hav been married for 14 years I’ve cheated and found all the reasons to blame her and not my self she has left and filed for divorce . I miss her now.

  4. Angie

    I am in a similar situation and not sure what to do.been married for only six months and he sleeps in a different bedroom. .doesn’t want to be physical ..zones out and completely ignores me emotionally and physically. He has threatened suicide told me he hates everyone threatens to leave’s a nightmare. Then I found out he was on Seroquel for anxiety. He went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as bipolar. I feel lied too and totally alone. Don’t know if I should stay and support him through this or not..not sure what God would want me to do . It’s unbearable most of the time 🙁

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