A Christian Counselor Writes About Abuse in Christian Marriages

This article is by Marcia and used by permission from her blog post entitled Rocks Cry Out, Again.


I heard a talk show host comment on his program today: “If you are a senior, one of the greatest things you can do, is to ‘share your wisdom.’

Years ago, I was the Counseling Director on the staff of a local church. I had a ministerial license from the Bible School I had attended, and I did only spiritual counseling, not psychological or therapeutic. Over a period of several years, I witnessed much abuse in marriages. However, the most grievous abuse that I observed was that which was at the hand of well-meaning people, all in the name of “what God wants.”

This is not an area where I have any personal “ax to grind.” I was married once and widowed. Years ago.

The issue that prompted this writing is that once again, I am observing and being asked to pray regarding the divorce proceedings of a couple going to court…once again…today. It is a situation where a lovely and faithful wife of around 20 years is being legally threatened and browbeaten by a husband who has verbally, psychologically and somewhat physically abused her for their whole married life. He is pompous and pious outwardly, and has drug her to several church counselors who admonished HER to be a submissive wife, and in essence, told her she had no legitimate right, in God’s eyes, to separate from him. They have four teenage children, two of which are severely handicapped. He remains in the family home; she and the children were the ones who eventually found another place to live. The children are afraid of being with him. Now he is trying to get her declared an unfit mother, and is placing demands that would rob her of many things that are rightfully hers, including custodial care. Hopefully the court will have wisdom and make right decisions. But the most heartbreaking fact to me, is that she has been counseled to remain in this destructive situation for many years, and felt that God would not approve of her doing otherwise.

These are my thoughts, which I wrote in an email to a mutual friend this morning who had asked me to be in prayer.

“I almost couldn’t go to sleep last night thinking about several messed up marriages with husbands that are destroying the lives of their families. As Christian women, we have been so misguided, all in the name of “what God wants.” It has destroyed not only the well-being of the wife, but it has produced children who have scars that last a lifetime. I believe that THIS is exactly what God meant when he spoke through the prophet Malachi, and said “I hate divorce”. Because he told WHY He hated divorce. Here it is:

“Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

In the New Testament we learn further that a man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and as his own body. And that he DOES NO HARM TO HIS OWN BODY. Christ loved the church with the type of sacrificial love that laid down his own life. He did not selfishly seek his OWN RIGHTS. He said, “Not my will, but yours be done” to his Father, whose will was that he “die for the church”. He loved the world, but He DIED for the church. His Body. His Bride. This is to be a picture of the husband and wife relationship. He is not to seek his own benefits, his own way, his own rights. He is to lay down his life for HER. Anything other than that is not Godly. The husband is commanded to do NO HARM to the wife.

In the Malachi scripture, there is a lot of meaning in the word “FAITHLESS”. It does not simply mean that he commits adultery. That is far too simplistic. That is always the result of a true faithlessness in more personal areas of the heart. The sexual involvement is a result, not a cause. Faithfulness is in how you treat your wife. It is in how you love her. It is in how you HONOR her.

Any man, or pastor, or church…who commands a woman to be “Christian” and submit and pray for a husband who has already been dishonorable, unloving, unfaithful, and has broken the covenant of laying down his life for his wife…is not only WRONG, but does not correctly understand what Christianity, marriage and the heart of God are all about.

God is not legalistic. WE ARE.”

I so often think of how Jesus went out of his way…into almost dangerous territory (Palestinian territory now)…to go into a heathen land, among religiously “half-breed” people, to meet a woman whom he knew would be in a certain place at a certain time, (because she was SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE ) and in doing so, He became socially unacceptable (Jews didn’t deal with heathen women…or even men with women at all, as he did in this circumstance)…and she had been through only God knows what in her life. No woman is married five times unless she has been through a lot of rejection and personal hell…and Jesus did not even mention her marriages, except to reveal to her that he was a true prophet. Otherwise, he didn’t throw them up in her face. He went there for two primary reasons. He knew the true hunger of her heart and went out of his way to meet it. And the result was that she became the first evangelist in the history of Christianity. (John 4, N.T.)

The point of this is that the church, so many times, has not portrayed the heart of God in what we have done to people in destructive marriages.

And that… is what God really hates.

5 Responses

  1. […] About Abuse in Christian Marriages Posted on January 25, 2008 by dannimoss I have added an article to my Articles section, written by Marcia, out of her experience as a Christian counselor. […]

  2. I am a man and my spouse has been horribly abusive to me verbally. Sometimes I want to leave the marriage. I’ve gotten as far as to fill out the paperwork but I keep reminding myself that “God Hates Divorce”. I know a few good christian men that believe in mutual submission out of respect for God and are in a similar situation. i.e. the Woman is horribly abusive, mean, disrespectful and hateful. What is your experience with the reverse like my situation?

    • Scott,

      I just saw your post and I’m walking out the door to church. I just wanted to approve it, so you would know I’m not ignoring you, and let you know I will be back with a more comprehensive answer. God has answers and hope!!!!

      In the meanwhile, it wouldn’t hurt to read my other articles, particularly the ones in the left sidebar and the series What Does the Bible Really Say? — keeping in mind that Scriptural principle is not gender specific. God doesn’t have many different rules for husbands than He has for wives – a few, but not many. So, while I generally write from a woman’s perspective, the truth applies both ways.

      And I’ll be back later with more for you. God has blessings for you!

      — Danni

    • Scott,

      First thing off the bat, I would recommend you read Barbara Roberts’ book, Not Under Bondage which I recommend in the left sidebar of this site. She digs into the Word in great detail. I am also going to e-mail you a document which contains some of the same information in a more abbreviated fashion.

      As for my experience, I have definitely seen women who are abusive to their husbands! This is just as much of a problem for those men as it is for women who have abusive husbands. It is no less wrong for a woman to be abusive than for a man.

      And here’s something important. God is no respecter of persons. He does not hold men in greater bondage to abusers than He holds women! That is impossible because it would violate God’s nature.

      In the Word it says that a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and then they will be one flesh. But what if that wife will not allow the husband to cleave to her? In that case, she is putting asunder their one-flesh relationship.

      And what does the Word say about that? The one who puts asunder is the one on whom Jesus places blame — not on the party who may get a legal document attesting to the existing reality of the relationship. That marriage was put asunder by the one who refused to remain in the one-flesh relationship, not by the one who gets a legal document entitling them to live in safety.

      And the Word says death and life are in the power of the tongue. It is just as deadly to live with someone who is verbally abusive as it is to live with someone who is physically abusive. That is not metaphorical; it is literal.

      Look at Malachi 2 in the King James Version. I love the way it says this — it says God hates putting away. It doesn’t say God hates divorce. Yes, God does hate divorce. So do I. So do you (I would certainly hope). But what God hates is putting away — the acts that separate the one flesh bond of marriage as He intended it. That putting away happens prior to the issuance of a divorce decree. It includes divorce, but it precedes divorce.

      I would encourage you to go with God on this – and it may be necessary to stop looking at what other people in the church are teaching or doing in the name of righteousness in marriage. There is a LOT of mistaken teaching in the church on this subject. We have created a whole doctrinal system out of a partial understanding of the Word and a misunderstanding of God’s heart and nature.

      All that said, you don’t say what steps you have tried as far as counseling and accountability. The Word also includes a process of accountability and church discipline in Mt. 18 which I recommend strongly, if at all possible. Most churches won’t follow it through to the conclusion, but you can follow it as thoroughly as possible. This will help assure your heart that you are indeed making every possible effort and not throwing in the towel too soon. Both in Barbara’s book and in the articles on this site we talk about what the Word says about judging a spouse to be an unbeliever (Biblically) and what the Bible says about when to stay and when you are free from an unbelieving spouse. And a person can look just like a Christian and not be a believer by Biblical standards — in fact, it happens all the time.

      God has answers for you in this. And the process of discovering them is going to increase your faith and improve your relationship with Him. It won’t be easy, and it may seem like it gets worse and not better, but God is faithful. It will get better.

      — Danni

    • Scott,

      It just occurred to me that the e-mail address I have for you may not be the best place to send this article. Let me know whether I should use the one you have used here or e-mail me privately with another and I’ll get this out to you.

      — Danni

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