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Verbal, Emotional, and Spiritual Abuse
in a Christian Marriage as seen from
a Christian Perspective...

by Del Hungerford (January, 2011)

        If you're a Christian woman who's been in an abusive marriage, first of all... you are not alone. You may have been taught that you are to submit to your husband at all times, or that his desires are above yours. Others truly believe that if you love your husband enough, he will love you back. What about the teaching that when your husband treats you poorly... If you are kind enough, you will eventually win him over and he will learn to be kind to you. Another popular belief is that "a soft answers turns away wrath." Although this is sound Biblical advice, not everyone (including abusers) may respond to this.
        Abuse is all about control. Christian or not, if your husband feels that he should "rule over you," he wants to control you. No action on your part can change this. He will need to alter his paradigm of Father God in order for there to be a change in attitude towards you. 
You don't have control over how your husband behaves. Therefore, you can't be responsible for his actions.
        If your husband expects to "lord over you," the marriage will never be what God intended it to be. God did not give the husband the right to treat his wife poorly (see abuse definitions). If he still chooses to abuse you, even after counseling, why would God expect you to stay in that situation? This is ESPECIALLY
true if your life is in danger! I don't believe God would expect you to stay. Abuse of any kind in marriage (or to anyone else for that matter) is not an acceptable behavior to God. It will take true repentance of the abuser in order for it to be "safe" for you to return to living as a couple.

        I am a divorced Christian woman. No one around me, including my pastor or counselors, knew what was wrong with my marriage until long after we separated. Our separation was a time for seeking the truth, of which we found. Despite the fact that my marriage appeared to be heading toward divorce, my church stood behind me. However, YOU may not be in a church that looks kindly on separation and/or divorce. If that’s your case, go outside the church for help. In my situation, the people that were the least helpful, and the least compassionate, were Christians. They judged me, told me that I was in sin, and believed that I didn't do enough as a wife to hold the marriage together.
        We think that we have the right to point out someone else’s faults. Yes, there are times when things need to be said. However, people often don't prayerfully consider when to say something, and when NOT to say something. When things are said at the wrong time or with the wrong tone or attitude, it's not taken as a kind action. We rarely realize how our words and actions can often be very judgmental. God did
not give us the right to judge people. He gave us a right to judge sin. It's sad to say that many people can't tell the difference when delivering corrective words.
        Ponder for a moment on how Jesus talked with those around him. With the exception of the hard hearted people that he met, his response was to give words of strength, comfort and encouragement. When a Christian comes to you concerning your marital situation with a judgmental attitude, his/her words are not "ordered" of the Lord. When and if you do need correction, the proper approach is always through love. When love is not a part of the equation, God is not part of it; even if proper scriptures are used. Satan quoted scripture and Jesus told him to "get behind me satan!" (Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8). It's all about the attitude, even if the words are right. When someone says, "I'm telling you this because I love you..." we often feel worse after their words. Why? Because the message wasn't delivered through the "love filter" and it came across as a judgment.

        In a marital situation, it takes TWO people to make the marriage work. You cannot make up for what your husband does or doesn't do. Since you don't have control over the will of your husband, all you can do is work on what God has YOU do. If your husband chooses not to follow God and treat you like the Word instructs, that is not your problem. You cannot take the blame for his actions. I spent the entire six years of my marriage listening to my husband blame all our troubles on the fact that I wasn't in God's will. He never took the responsibility for any of it. It was always my fault.
        In personal counseling with our pastor, we worked on how I could make my relationship with my husband better. I tried to do everything that God told me to do... I treated him with respect (well... most of the time). I tried not to do the things to him that he did to me. But after awhile, it simply wore me down to the point that I couldn't function. I had to take a serious look at the real problem. That's what our separation was all about.
        Because I believe that my husband dealt with mental illness issues, I knew the chances of getting back together were slim. I had to wrestle with all the guilt that came with that. Here I was... a Christian woman who couldn't even keep my marriage together! What would that look like? Once I got over all the fear and guilt (which neither is from God), I was able to make the decision not to go back into the abusive marriage.  

        I knew that my actions and reactions affected both of us.  I'm not perfect and did some pretty stupid things. However, I did the best I could. I know how words affect those around us. Words create life or death. There are many places in scripture that talk about this. Read "The Tongue The Creative Force" by Charles Capps. It can be purchased from several sources including: www.amazon.com, www.ministryhelps.com, and www.christianbook.com. This book transformed the way I talk with people. We are all human and say things we regret. Reading this book helped me cope a lot better with the abuse. Because I learned to become aware of MY OWN words, it helped me see the words that my husband was saying, were abusive.  
        Abuse is NOT from God. He expects us to treat each other in love. The best example of this should be in marriage. When abuse happens in marriage, nothing God has designed for that marriage will ever work. Worse yet... if kids are in the home, they are getting a very poor example of how a Christ-like marriage should function. For further discussion and study on how we are to treat each other, check out the article "The Character of God." I wrote this as a result of people telling me that I was in sin leaving my husband. If you want more about divorce in an abusive situation, read the article Abuse: Grounds for Divorce? 

A special note:

        I've received e-mails from clergy, Christian counselors, and even abused women who believe I'm wrong, in sin, and didn't do enough to keep my marriage together. As I said to one counselor, I did everything Biblically expected of me. After much correspondence with him, he finally agreed that I'd done all I could and scripturally, I'm "released" from the marriage. However, it was the initial contact that was a shock to me. By the end of our correspondence, the "tone" was much more loving and kind.
        What happened in my marriage may not be apparent throughout this web site. Most of the disgusting details are in my book, "...But Words Will Never Hurt Me." It wasn't my choice that we are divorced; my husband made that decision. He then married his secretary within six months of our divorce. She passed away in May of 2010. If you want to know more about my story... read the book. It can be purchased at Authorhouse.
        Please, before you make up your mind what you think of me, make an attempt to understand where I'm coming from. I don't expect you to agree with my beliefs but I do expect you to do your homework to see if what I say has any Biblical validity. Do a "Word" study on what I present. Put your pre-conceived ideas aside and allow God to speak to your heart. As I say in one article, God gave you a brain to think for yourself. Don't swallow a doctrine without studying it out yourself. God did not make you to be a puppet. Your decisions are to be based off what God shows you in His word. If you don't do the homework yourself, you'll more than likely fall prey to bad teaching. You are constantly a "student of the Word." This requires opening The Book...

Don't forget to check out the articles!
These articles are ONLY avaialable from the "Christian Perspective" page.

A Case Study: The story of Kevin and Lisa. Lisa was pregnant and murdered by her Christian husband in 2009.

Abuse: Grounds for Divorce?: We hear so much about divorce in a Christian marriage. This article addresses many of the pre-conceived ideas and doctrines we've heard about divorce, especially as it relates to abuse.

Advice for Ministers: Are you a minister or work in the ministry? Unless you've been trained in dealing with abuse, recognizing it will be more difficult. Every minister in todays world will have congregants that are in an abusive marriage. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

Character of God: What is God truly like? How does he view our behaviors? What would HE say to a woman suffering at the hands of her abuser?

Recognize Abuse: Abuse can sometimes be hard to define, especially when it's done with words instead of fists. This article offers practical advice on how to determine if what's happening in your marriage is abusive.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?: This is a question we all ask. Illustrations are provided in this article to demonstrate how our actions create what's around us. Every action has a reaction and we benefit (or suffer) from the consequences for many years to come.

Women in the Church: For many, the issue of women in the church is a touchy subject. Fundamentalist groups of all kinds believe women are "less than" men. What does the Bible really say about women in the Church? As I learned in a class, if you think like the people that the Bible was indended for, your conclusions may be different.

Women Poem: A reader of this web site sent this wonderful poem concerning what God thinks about women. Enjoy!

Do you have topics you'd like to see discussed in this section?  E-mail Del with your ideas: