Trite, Unhelpful, and Demoralizing Responses to Wives in Harmful Marriages

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I am posting a comment that came in on yesterday’s post Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Stuffing Feelings and Pretending to Be Joyful by someone who used the name, Auislucky. Auislucky mentioned at the bottom of her comment that she didn’t want me to post her comment if it would hurt someone. I don’t think it will. In fact, I think it will help many who read it. Auislucky’s marital issues, and the responses she’s received are not uncommon. They are harmful. They give no hope, and they put the blame and responsibility on the victim, not the perpetrator. This is not right!


 

by Auislucky

Read the Bible, pray and don’t rely on others to make you happy.”img_4363

The advice I’ve been getting for 17.5 years. My story is far less serious than so many others but I’m so sick of faking it. Is it really God-honoring to present to the world a happy little family while dying inside?

3 months into the marriage he got fired from his job as youth minister for looking at pornography on the church computer. And it was my fault. He felt I was favoring my dog over him. Every time he fell back into it, it was because of something I said or did. He says he knows it’s wrong and wants to quit so everyone believes his sincerity. I see him controlling the outward results without dealing with inner issues. We don’t share a bed (my choice because of the shame and humiliation), barely talk, don’t do anything alone if at all possible.

For my part, I got myself into an 8-year affair. I don’t blame him directly for my choices but even my counselor says it wouldn’t have happened had I not been so lonely and betrayed. I haven’t had contact with the other man for 1.5 years and we’ve been in counseling for a year. Nothing has changed. Everyone rushes in to “help” when I have a breakdown but then it’s back to ignoring it as long as I will pretend it’s ok. He’s willing to go to counseling and remove temptation but does that prove sincerity if he doesn’t address root issues?

“He doesn’t come home drunk and beat you.”

Yes, I know it could be much worse. But there are times I wish he would hit me so I have a “legitimate” reason to leave. I realize how ridiculous and disrespectful that sounds. By no means do I want to demean those in worse situations, I just say it to show where my messed up mind goes. I would live this life 100 times over to save one woman from real abuse. I struggle daily wondering if I’m just being selfish and ridiculous.

Please don’t post this if it will hurt others. I’ve been following this blog for some time and just felt I needed to get this out. I really appreciate how you give a voice to those who feel they have none.


 

What would you say to this woman that would be helpful, encouraging, and give her hope?

19 comments on “Trite, Unhelpful, and Demoralizing Responses to Wives in Harmful Marriages

  1. I would say to her that famous Ann Landers quote “Are you better off with him or without him?” Answer that question honestly and you’ll know what you need to do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “What would you say to this woman that would be helpful, encouraging, and give her hope?”

    That it is not your fault, that you are not alone,and that God really does want you to be happy. Jesus came so that we might have “life and life abundant”. “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

    It’s controversial to say God wants you to feel genuinely happy, but I believe it. The world can be a dark place, and some kinds of happiness are not healthy, but overall, God really wants us rejoicing in life, and in Him, as much as possible.

    Porn is often an addiction, just like alcohol, so part of that dynamic is to blame the people around you for your own addiction. If you are one of those unfortunate souls who has had this kind of blame and abuse falsely heaped on you, then you too need healing.

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  3. I think the responses are very hurtful, but I also want to put the affair in perspective. I think “it wouldn’t have happened had I not been so lonely and betrayed” is just the flip side of “And it was my fault”.

    I think if you had the courage to publicly acknowledge that the marriage is dead and get a divorce, then you would not have been tempted to find your needs met elsewhere.

    “He doesn’t come home drunk and beat you.” – fallacious on both fronts. First of all, if he DID come home drunk and beat you, the church would STILL be trying to force you to have joy, squash your emotions and would shun you for bringing that to their attention. They wouldn’t do anything about it. Secondly, yes, other wives might be worse off than you, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t in a dead marriage. They are trying to minimize your hurt.

    I had a conversation once where I described some of my abuse. It was very important to the other person to say, “well, that wasn’t the best treatment, but I wouldn’t call it ABUSE” Same sort of thing, as long as they can try to shift and minimize the sin, they don’t feel like they have to really acknowledge it. Apparently, it would be “okay” for me to be angry if I were ABUSED, but just mistreated, no, not really okay there.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of encouragement. Being real about my abuse meant distancing myself from my church, my former friends and even my family. But, I feel much better not being around people who told me to stuff it and wear a smile. I know the real me better and not the mask I had to wear to fit in with my fake friends.

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  4. You have a very real reason to leave. You have since the first year. He has broken his covenant since the very beginning. Porn addiction is no small matter (men who trivialize it are likely addicts themselves) and 17 years is more than enough time to prove he has no intention of leaving the addiction – no matter what he says. The marriage is broken and you have no reason to stay. I know where you are. I get it. I did that tolerating of porn, mistresses, and emotional abuse from my ordained husband for 21 years and wouldn’t leave because he was always so “repentant” and everyone loved him and constantly wanted to help him. It was my fault for not being a good enough wife was all I could think. Hun, if I could cut the last 4 years off of my marriage I’d do it in a heartbeat. Don’t be ashamed. You are free to walk away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. He felt I was favoring my dog over him.

    This…I feel like I have seen it several times in people’s stories. Is this in the handbook somewhere? Mindboggling that someone could be that pathetic that they can’t stand sharing affection with a dog of all things.

    I don’t know what I have to say that is helpful. I don’t think you need to come up with some approved excuse to leave. Sometimes things are just broken and can’t be fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. First of all, I commend her for confessing and stopping her affair, and going to counseling. That shows that she is taking responsibility for her own walk with God, regardless of what her husband is or isn’t doing. Secondly, she is not responsible for his choices. He is 100% responsible for himself, and he needs to take the consequences when his choices are wrong. When the church puts the burden on the wife to make the marriage work, regardless of the behavior of the husband, this gives husbands a “pass” card to continue on in sin. They don’t need to fear any consequences because it will never really be their fault… they can always blame their wives for doing “something” wrong… even if it’s just that they didn’t pray hard enough. Personally, I think it’s time for some kind of a “wake-up call” for this guy.

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  7. You have legitimate grounds to divorce…have ever since he was looking at porn on the church computer… Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matt 5:27-28

    I spent so much time trying to be the perfect wife so he wouldn’t suffer and would repent but the Lord reminded me that I got saved not because i always got away with stuff but when i had to be accountable for my sin. My helping my husband to not have to face consequences of his actions wasn’t helping him at all, it was hurting him by allowing him to have my help to stay in his sin. Therapists call that enabling.

    I did all that because that’s what the church told me to do. But Jesus said “I am the TRUTH” and He wanted me to be honest…about everything including how i was feeling…emotions aren’t sinful or God wouldn’t have given them and Jesus wept.

    I remember exactly wishing he would hit me in the face, i thought then the church would believe me.
    I also slept with someone else out of loneliness and the guilt from that kept me locked in the marriage longer. There was so much porn and lust in my house i think that it, combined with the absolute lack of love from my husband would have driven almost anyone into an affair, except for of course monks that fast and pray all day i suppose lol.

    I would encourage you to ask the Lord (not man) to forgive your sin and believe He has totally washed that away- He died on the cross to forgive all your sins (you hadn’t committed back then-you weren’t even born yet!)

    And then start being honest, that will probably totally wreck your marriage by itself. Or if you want to stay married (you have the actual legit reason in the bible to leave) your being honest may cause him to realize either he truly repents or your gone.

    Saying things like “no i am not ok with your treatment of me, no its not ok for you to do this or that, calling abuse what it really is, ‘my husband verbally abuses me etc.”

    One huge caution though is that if he might become violent you should make a well thought out safety plan first.
    God bless you and fill you with the ocean of love He has for you.

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  8. A friend, who has a similar story to auislucky, and I are praying about starting a local support group for women/wives of porn users… the devastation to the womens’ self-esteem, worth, value is deep and often left unresolved, the wounds are often only superficially addressed… so deep healing of those wounds are not happening… and the pain, hurt, trauma is left unresolved for years and decades, if not a lifetime…

    know that you are all precious, priceless and beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Why not just ask yourself if this is the way you want to live? and if not, be done? I know in church we are conditioned to think we have to justify ourselves to others but we really don’t. We have the freedom to do whatever we think is best. It’s as simple as that.

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  10. Reminds me of after I left my Christian husband of nearly 19 years for his porn addiction. When I told a friend at church she exclaimed, “Why?! He’s not beating you!” Same woman was still married to and receiving weekly visits from her husband who’d been living with another woman for three years. Hey! But at least she wasn’t gasp divorced! The past decade of being single haven’t been easy, but I am much happier.

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  11. You are in real abuse. You are partner to a man who objectifies human beings through Pornography. You are not a pornographer, but you continue to be in marriage relationship while he objectifies humans.

    I just left a church where a child pornographer holds a contract to be able to attend this church. Unfortunately, I experienced the pornographer making body language that triggered me during a service. Six months later, I am still in therapy, working my way through the maze.

    His wife stays with him, sitting on one side of him, and adult daughter on the other side, in this particular service. His arm reaches out (perhaps subconsciously) when the children come forward for Children’s Moment. I am sitting in the space where his arm moved into my personal space. It’s crazy, all appearing as if pornography is harmless. He continues to blame others, just as your spouse blames you.

    In the late 90’s this man was a minister in this same church. Custodian reported finding pornography on his church computer. Legal system gave a slap on the wrist, he is a registered sex offender. He is about 70, still married, rejected from other churches, he was welcomed back ‘home’. My own research exposed his expulsion from Boy Scouts due to a complaint and written description from a Boy Scout.

    I happen to know that when he signed the contract, he did so, fighting and kicking, refusing to accept total blame for his porno addiction. Just as your spouse blames you, thus man stills blames the church people. (Pastor confided in me because I am the one who demanded a contract). It’s a Mess. It’s always a mess with a pornographer. It’s crazy making. When you stay with him, victims are confused; wondering if it really is bad, (pornography). Most people think it’s harmless, outside the home.

    Pornography is objectifying human beings. The victim experiences the objectification thousands of times, each time someone experiences her/or child on a computer.

    Please divorce, get as far away as possible. Set yourself free.

    Your situation is very serious, living with this man for 17.5 yrs. Some will keep the focus on your past affair, avoiding the most serious issue, your spouses pornagraphy addiction. The main issue is pornography. Women stay too long in an abusuve marriage. While staying in, their emotional, mental, physical condition erode.

    Getting out now, offers you opportunity to support yourself, provide a home for yourself and live independently. As decade pass, it becomes more difficult.

    I have spoken very directly because I am passionate about your situation. I have left most details out. I speak in love, since you wrote SSB.

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  12. Auislucky – First of all, thank you for sharing your experience with us. So many times the toughest part is putting into words what difficulties we are experiencing. For so many reasons…fear,shame, disbelief. Please know that we welcome your thoughts and concerns in this place.

    Secondly, I can feel that you are in pain, and I am so sorry for what you are dealing with. Please know that we believe you and want to stand along side you. You are worthy to feel valued and cared for. We will be here for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. One sentence in your post leapt off the screen at me: “I would live this life 100 times over to save one woman from real abuse.”

    Honey, this IS real abuse. I would say to you that if he hasn’t dealt with the root in 17.5 yrs, he isn’t going to. He will carry along like this as long as you let him, and will be quite indignant and hurt and will blame you if you push it to the point of dissolution. of the marriage – even though HE caused it. Having an affair is not the answer; two wrongs don’t make a right. You need to deal with this while you still recognize yourself, before you lose sight of who (and whose) you are. I do not lightly advocate someone obtain a divorce, but I firmly believe that you need to do something; a legal separation at least – or it will carry on ‘status quo’ for another 17 years.

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  14. Dear Auislucky,
    Perhaps I spoke too insensitively and gave too much personal info, That may not have been helpful. I am sorry if I caused you more pain, you don’t need any more than what you are living with.

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  15. @Celeste thanks for sharing that, it reminded me about how easy it is to minimize and also that when we get those triggers it almost always is indicating a more serious issue- like how you dug into his past and found out about the boy scout issue! I am surprised that you were the only one that brought up the need for a contract, and hope that included something about his never being unsupervised at church.
    If no one had said anything it would have been dismissed as ‘that harmless pastor that long ago had a tiny problem with viewing porn but he’s repented so no problem’
    Also the things you brought up- lack of accountability for his actions, and remorse sure doesnt look like protesting when asked to sign a contract, blaming others for his own sins. To me that says mad at being caught, not mad about having sinned which means un-repentant.

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  16. This reminds me of a constant struggle I have… “I would live this life 100 times over to save one woman from real abuse.”

    I think there are people whom God calls to suffer in special ways for the Kingdom. I don’t think, however, that it is typical. There is a general suffering we face from the constant onslaught of our enemy, and a broken creation. I’m talking, however, of people who are in abusive situations. The trite Christian advice for people suffering intense persecution at their job is for them to stick it out. Perhaps God will use them to convert their co-workers. That may be, but I think it is between an individual and God. There is no sin in walking away from abuse.

    So, how does one determine whether to stick it out or leave? Again, I struggled with that for years. I went into a job, a church and even a non-profit board position realizing quickly how messed up they were and thinking that God was going to use me to bring transformation. In each case, I discovered that I lacked a lot of things that were needed to bring that about and my prayers to become that person never changed anything.

    In a sense, I think I had it all wrong. I believe that instead of God saying “stick it out and be a witness”, he was saying, “how many reasons do you need to leave? I’ll show you another.”

    I think there are those people who God is saying, “Stay”, but I think God is also making it clear that they should stay in the same way that I was led to leave. Someone on the fence really needs to search, to pray to meditate and understand the situation.

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  17. I would tell this woman that she is loved by God, and she deserves better. I would encourage her to sign up for Leslie Vernick’s Facebook page…to read Leslie Vernick’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.” If she thinks her husband would participate, I’d encourage her to work through the book “I Don’t Want a Divorce” by Dr David Clarke…while warning that both this book and Vernick’s require deep emotional work…and may either lead to a renewed marriage, or to her leaving her husband. Because God loves her too much to let her stay in a marriage that is killing her.

    Liked by 1 person

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