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Dr. David Clarke: Am I Being Abused?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
June 23, 2022 10:00 pm

Dr. David Clarke: Am I Being Abused?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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June 23, 2022 10:00 pm

"Am I being abused?" Psychologist Dr. David Clarke helps identify red flags in a friend's relationship or your own and what to do when you see those signs.

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Today we're going to continue our conversation that we started yesterday about abuse, and it's a heavy topic. And if you find yourself in this situation, we really hope that you will get help. If he can talk through what happened and he's gotten therapy and he's different, okay.

But if he just hates his dad and can't believe he was abusive, no, that would be a red flag. So I'm not sure I know what you're going to say, but have you ever counseled a wife to leave her husband? Yeah, I have. I've done that several times, actually. When, why?

I mean, I don't want names, but there has to be a big reason. The first time that I did this, I felt really bad because I missed it. And by the way, when I say leave her husband, I don't mean divorce her husband, but step away for a while. Yeah. It was a woman in my Detroit Lions Bible study, and she was amazing. Like, I loved her.

Funny, great. Her husband was incredible. He was one of our favorite guys. Just really personable, charismatic, just fun.

We loved him. And I noticed that she was coming in with her sunglasses on quite a few times at the Bible study. And I asked her, like, did you have some eye thing done?

Are you okay? And she took her glasses off and she had a black eye. And I didn't think anything about it. It makes me feel bad. I never questioned her more, but later I found out that he had been beating her and abusing her. And you remember, we were shocked just because this guy's the greatest.

And I've had other cases like that where now I could recognize it more easily. And I will even say this at the weekend to remember marriage getaways from the stage, from the front, if you are in an abusive situation, the most loving thing you can do for your spouse is to get out, to separate and to get safe. Because the most loving thing you can do for him is this will wake him up to think this is an issue and we need help. And you sound like Dr. David Clark. I've heard him say that.

I read it in his books. And he's sitting right across the studio from us. Welcome back to Family Life Today.

Hey, great to be here. Is that what you were thinking what you were saying? I was like, man, I've said that a thousand times. I was mouthing the words. And as Anne indicates, and you both have seen this too, these are the greatest guys in the world to the outside world. Yes.

Help me. He's funny. He's godly. He's on the Church Finance Committee for heaven's sake.

He'll do anything for me. And they're shocked to find out behind closed doors, different story. The wife's living the nightmare and nobody knows. And your usual Christian wife, I don't want to tell anybody. This is my husband. I love him.

The kids. What's going to? You got to tell somebody and get out. You just have to have to build up a support team and get out. Yeah, well, you do this every day. You're a psychologist, a writer, 15 plus books, married.

I didn't even know this. Couple kids and grandkids? How many? Yeah, we have four grandkids. We've been promised more. And that's their job. We had four when we did our job.

We replenish the earth, whatever it is. Hey, take care. Now it's on you. That's right.

Come through. We'll even pay for them. We don't care. And we've already talked quite a bit about definition of abuse and abuser. You've written a book called Enough is Enough. Great title. A step by step plan to leave an abusive relationship with God's help. And a lot of people will look at that subtitle and think you're telling them to get divorced. But you really are saying what Ann said. No, sometimes you need to get safe. It's a wake up call for the abusive spouse and maybe change can happen and the dream is that you come back together and have a whole different marriage and family. But talk about the red flags because if I'm a wife or I'm in a marriage and I'm not sure, is he really an abuser?

Or is he just a selfish guy that sometimes messes up? What are the red flags? How do I put that in that category where, wow, I probably do need to get safe? One thing is it's not stopping and it has been years. Couple of months, okay, young man, new to the marriage. My first year of marriage, I was not very impressive as a husband. I was selfish. It's my mother's fault. She had spoiled me. I said to Sandy and I expected all these things from her. I was at Dallas Seminary. This is crazy. I married her halfway through my two years and we just ran and infested an apartment into the story. That wasn't very impressive, but I would do these. You write your hand off at Dallas.

All these reports and all these arguments of the Bible, Bible books, and I would have her. I'd finished my work at like about nine and I'd hand it to her, literally expecting her to type it. Well, wait, isn't that normal? I mean, I did that for three years. Well, thank you. Maybe I was okay.

Thank you. Yeah, and I was the greatest husband the world's ever known, so you're in good company. But see, I got it.

And here's one of the key differences. We're eight months into our new marriage and she sat me down, I think it was more like three, and she said, David, this is ridiculous. You know, I know you're the baby, but I cannot cook every meal. I'm working. I'm working at the Dallas Seminary Switchboard and I can't keep this place clean without, I was doing nothing, nothing except my important seminary work. She said, here's the way it's going to have to be. You're going to have to do the laundry from now on.

You're going to have to help with the meals. I'm not typing one more of your dumb seminary papers. I said, how dare you?

This is God's work. Anyway, but see, I loved her. I thought, whoa, did I change?

Yes, I did. So you're saying we do dumb things when we first get married, but that's not the definition of an abuser. No, everything changed because I love my wife and I'm normal.

I thought, whoa, I'm just a selfish pig. So when you see change and not just these guys, the abuser will change for a couple of days, maybe a week or two, and then go right back. If it's consistent change and he's really growing as a man and he's learning and he's meeting your needs, my job is to meet Sandy's needs. I don't care what she needs. Fill in the blank. I will do anything for her. That's my job. And when she's happy, of course, I'm happy and everything works out. So abusers don't think that way.

It's all about me. So they do not change. Not in the context of a reasonable marriage. You bring up a topic that they don't like, as I mentioned earlier in the earlier program, they won't talk about it.

They will not. You can't do anything with a person like that. And then I say to these, look, I'm looking at you and we're talking through and I see there's damage being done. Let's look at what's happening to you. And that's one of the key red flags.

All kinds of physical problems. You're 35 years old. You're 45. You're 50. You're falling apart.

Why is that? It's because the stress of the trauma of the emotional abuse you're experiencing. Are you talking physical?

Physical damage. We all have these genetic weaknesses. And so that's where stress goes.

Heart problems, kidney issues, all kinds of, you know, and the emotionally panic disorders. You're depressed all the time. You're anxious.

You're, you know, all these things are happening. Your self-esteem is being stripped away. You're not as close to God.

There's spiritual impact, too. You're distanced from Him because you're wondering, why has He put me in this situation? You're not serving Him because you have no energy.

You're physically exhausted all the time. And then I say, let's talk about your kids. Because if I can get the mama bear energized, maybe that'll, he won't do it for you. Maybe you do it for your kids. Your kids are also suffering.

All right. And I'll tell them, look, and we look at the grades and then this and that. You're trying to protect them. But the abuser will turn your own kids against you. He'll spend decades poisoning them against you.

How do they do that? Something happens and you'll be criticized right in front of them at the dinner table. This isn't a good meal. I mean, literally, this, you burn this or this wasn't done. Or I told you, I don't like fish. I mean, just harsh.

Kids are sitting right there, front row seats. What the wife does, and the user wife will just take it. Okay, pattern established. Something's wrong with mom. And so if you don't challenge that idea, the fear that you're crazy or a poor cook or whatever else, he'll do that in so many different areas.

Sometimes right in front of you, a lot of times outside of you. And so the kids are thinking, there's something wrong with mom. So they'll start disrespecting her?

Yes, they will. Oh, yeah. They're not listening to you. They know they don't have to. Because the abuser will come in behind you.

He wants to be the hero. When Sandy, she's raising our four kids, mostly, I'm trying to build my practice. When I came home and she said, look, here's what's happened. And I want you to back me every time I back her, I believe, to my wife. The abuser won't do that. He sees the chance to win and get the kids on his side.

And he'd say, no, you can stay up until nine o'clock watching TV, even though there were problems. And so, yeah, I'll tell these ladies, have you noticed they're not respecting you? They're not listening. They're not following through on your consequences because they know they don't have to. And what's happening, little boys who grow up in this kind of a home with an abusive dad and a mom that takes it, they're abusers in training.

They are learning their lessons. It can be a young man, a little boy, I will never be like my dad because he was hurting my mom. He's going to be exactly like that guy. Eighty-five percent of the time. He starts abusing the mom because that's what my dad's teaching me.

That modeling is so critical. And the little girls, they abused in waiting. They're going to be drawn to a guy that's abusive.

They're going to marry him and the whole generational sin thing never stops. So we have to stop it. You only stop it by saying, I'm getting ready.

I'm following these steps and I'm getting out. Yeah, and sometimes, I mean, he even said earlier that, you know, when you were first married to Sandy, it was a couple months and she let it go. But if I'm a wife who's being physically abused, you don't wait a couple months.

No. I remember early, you know, I pastored for 30 years. I remember one of the first or probably the second or third message I gave about unconditional forgiveness, right?

And that's going to be a theme that as a pastor, I'm going to revisit, you know, over the years. I remember a mentor and a psychologist in our church came up to me, Jack, and he said, hey, just a note, anytime you talk about forgiveness and God wanting us to forgive others, always make sure you footnote it and say something to the wife who's sitting there thinking, okay, I'm getting beat every day and I just heard from my pastor I need to forgive. Just make sure she understands she shouldn't stay there and keep getting hit. She should get safe. She's still going to have to forgive.

God calls her to forgive, but get safe. I remember that. I was like, oh, my goodness. And every time I'd start in that area in a sermon, I'm like, I got to footnote this. And every once in a while, a wife would come up and say, thank you. I thought the Christian way was to let it go.

Just forgive and be the wife that doesn't say anything. Sometimes they got to get out that day because physically they and their children, you can't give them too much. You can't give them a week. Oh, I agree.

Physical is different. You've got to stop right now. I want them out even with emotional abuse. They just can't quite pull that off.

But the physical, yeah, it's today. There's shelters, you've got to circle the wagons. Family, friends, yeah, today is the day. Get out.

And even ladies like that, they find it, of course, obviously very hard to do. Hope springs eternal. Well, we don't feel like we're as spiritual if we do that because Jesus conquers all. And so I think we put ourselves in that position of, but God can save this. And you're saying He might, but in order to save it, you have to get out first.

Right. I will tell them on the authority of Scripture, and I'll read them the passages, Jesus is telling you, get out. I want you to get out.

I think of my three precious daughters. If one of their husbands or more than one was abusing them as a loving father, what would I do? Oh, sorry, you're just stuck in that situation.

And it's probably your fault anyway. Like many pastors might say, no, I would do anything to get them out. Well, God's even more loving, of course, than I could ever be. He is not in favor of that kind of ongoing suffering and, frankly, destruction.

No, no, He wants you out. How do you convince a couple, or maybe it's the wife if the husband's the abuser, that separating for a time, and you don't know how long that could be. It could be a long time. It may not ever come back together. But we hear that, and we hear defeat. And we think, I'm giving up. But you're saying it's the opposite. You're not actually giving up. And if you're taking a move, you're making a move that God's gonna use in a much better way.

Help us understand how that's victory rather than defeat. Yeah, I have to sell them on this. I say, look, your pattern is so strong. It's been 10 years. It's been 15, am I right? How long have you been married?

20, 25, whatever, 15, okay. It's like a monster. You're feeding it. And if you stay together, it will never go away. It's too strong. It's too much for you. Plus, as you stay together, the only plate you can spin right now, I'll tell them, is getting yourselves healthy.

You're not healthy. He needs the space to work on his abusive tendencies, his abusive behavior, figure it out. He can only do that apart.

Plus, we're motivating him. And ma'am, you're a wreck. You're an emotional, physical wreck.

Women love, when I tell them that anyway, but they have to be told that. I'm trying to love you. I'm not gonna hold your hand.

I'm not trying to be tough. But you've got to restore your life. You've lost your voice. You've lost your identity. You don't know who you are. Your kids have turned against you. You're falling apart. Your healing is just as important as his.

You can't do that when you're interacting with the person. And I say your marriage is right on the edge. You can't one more time have this happening. It's not gonna be one more time, but it might push you over the edge. We've got to create some space.

And it's the best chance you've got to actually make this work. Now, I'm guessing someone could be listening thinking, I'm not married. I don't want to have this kind of marriage. What red flag should I be looking for if I'm dating or I'm in a relationship with a guy or a gal? Are there signs? Should I be able to see that this guy, this gal could be a problem? Yeah, there are almost always red flags. And the hundreds of ladies I've talked to looking back say, oh, I saw those, but I was in love with them.

I thought he'd change. What you're looking for, always take a look at the guy's family. If you're getting serious, where do your parents live? Well, they're divorced.

I don't care where they live. You need to interact with those people. And if they're together, see them together.

Spend a weekend. And women are intuitive. You can pick up a lot from what goes on in a home. And you're gonna quiz this guy that the abuser won't say much about his family, typically, other than it was the greatest family in the world or it was horrible.

But these are generalities. You don't marry someone or even date them seriously unless you've got the sketch. What was it like in your home? Well, if you hear the words, my dad was abusive, okay, red flag. Now, the caveat would be if he can talk through what happened and he's gotten therapy and he's different, okay. But if he just hates his dad and can't believe he was abusive, no, that would be a red flag. And when you're seeing his parents interact, if they're still together, these guys can't help themselves.

Even over the course of a weekend, there'll be small things you'll pick up. Does he wait on them hand and foot? Is he sharp with their criticism? And then, of course, his relationship with you, his interaction with you, what these guys will do is the control starts very early on. They will begin to separate you from your friends, friends that you've had for a lifetime or key close friends. Now, I want you to be with me. Well, you're thinking, he loves me so much, he wants to be with me. No, no, he wants to control you. A normal man would never fool with your friendships.

You can have both. He'll start cutting you off from your family, other instances of control. And the guy that's got a financial problem, and you check out his financial history, some of these guys, they're either high-powered workaholics who you're never going to see and they're driven in their career, more important than you'll ever be, or they're slackers and they don't work.

And you're paying for most of the meals. And if you date a man long enough, six, seven, eight months, and it's getting kind of serious, if he won't talk about any issue, I don't care what it is. Sandy can bring up anything in the world, and I'm to listen and understand, and if it's about me, that's tough, but hey, I want to have the truth. This guy won't do that. He might say it quick, I'm sorry, and you move on.

He will not work through an issue. I tell young couples, you don't marry anybody. You don't want to get engaged to anybody. We're already engaged. Get de-engaged. And so we've never had a fight.

Are you kidding me? How many fights are you going to have in your marriage? You need to figure out how to do that right now. So you want to see the abuser when he's angry, when something hasn't gone his way. That's going to tell you what you need to know about the guy, because the abuser guy can't handle it. Well, the scary thing is, as you started sharing some of those red flags, I wanted to turn to Ann and say, wow, I had a lot of those.

Oh, you did? Which I think is a good discussion, because, no, honestly, I was thinking, oh, you talk about my dad, you talk about my mom and dad, you come see my family. I mean, I wouldn't say my dad was an abuser, but there was a control, there was an emotional abuse, they were divorced, there was alcohol problems. We didn't resolve conflicts.

We sort of avoided them because it was bad and it was loudness. And so anyway, as I was listening to you talk about it, I'm like, wow, I think, well, I could ask you, did you ever think I was even close to being emotionally abusive to you or others? No. No. But I had some of those flags.

So that's the question. Well, Dave, but let me talk about the difference. As he was naming those, as I think back, you were always willing to talk about yourself in terms of, this is where I came from. And you were vulnerable of saying, this is what I feel, these are some of my insecurities. You were strong in saying, I never want to be like that, but the thing I watched in you was your pursuit of Jesus and your pursuit of other men and discipleship and being under the authority of other men.

To me, that was like, other flags are like, oh, this guy, yep. And most of us have messed up backgrounds. But you were willing to look at it and you were willing to have other men speak into it.

And that's the question. You're an expert on this. You see this all the time. What did I do different that would say, oh, you've got some brokenness, but you're not an abuser, not even close. It's not a red flag.

It's a flag. And you're going to deal with that in your marriage. You have, but it's not like, wow, this guy is in that category.

What separates the abuser from somebody that's just broken? I think Ann said it beautifully. Because I'm not that concerned about the fact that maybe your background's a disaster, because Ann said, yeah, most of us have that. Okay.

It's what you do with that. And if you bring it up, you've been to his house and seen his parents or he's talked to you about the problems, how does he talk about that? Will he talk about it in detail?

Will he be vulnerable? Here's what I've learned from this. And here's the work that I've done to not be like them. Okay. That's key. The fact that he's talking about it all, that will take away a lot of red flags. If you'll have the discussion anytime you want. I'm concerned about this, concerned about that. Anything in the dating relationship. That bothered me. What you said this morning, you were 20 minutes late. Doesn't make a difference.

You're testing and he's always there listening. Okay. Abusers can't do that.

They can be charming and loving. They can't pull that off. Not for very long. And of course, Jesus, that not just says he's a man of God and I'm on the committee or I go to church. No. Will he spiritually bond with you? Will he pray with you on a regular basis? Will he open the word of God? Is he leading you spiritually? Is he open to really talking about his spiritual life, really following Jesus?

Does he have accountability? Is he in a men's group? Okay. That, that's a guy we can live with. Those are good signs.

Yeah. And it sounds like, as I'm listening to you, it sounds like, and it's what Jesus does in a man or woman's heart is he takes away defensiveness. I guess it would be arrogance, narcissism, where you are now. And you might not have been before Christ, but Christ does a work on the heart where it softens to the point where you're like, I have brokenness.

I want to grow, help me grow. Rather than anytime you point something out, you're wrong. You know, that's the control side, right? So there's a, there's a humility and a lack of defensiveness that's got to be there, whether you're dating or in marriage.

If it's gone, you're looking for trouble. That's what I was going to say. I can't count how many times you've come to me and said, I'm an idiot.

You know, just that. You're saying a narcissist would never do that. Never. See, they're not a work in progress. They're fine.

They're perfect now. And don't give me any input. They'll give some words that may say, well, I guess I messed up. Oh, no, no, no.

It's very rare. And they move right on. That humility.

If you've got a humble man who will be vulnerable and say, I messed up there. I hurt you. Period. Nobody gives a real apology in this society anymore. Were mistakes made?

Well, of course they were. That's not an apology. An apology is I was wrong.

I hurt you. And then if it's a woman, I hurt Sandy, I do it. You know, I don't want to, but it was a couple of times a week. And then not only am I sorry, blew it, my fault, period, but then she's going to talk it out.

What happened and relive it to make sure I know what happened and I get it. And that's how women operate. The abuser won't let you do that. If I'm going to give you and I'm sorry, that's all you're getting. Be thankful.

I've handed you the stone tablet of apology and that's it. Move on. Well, no, it's got to be talked out. Women want to be reassured.

Do you really get it? And that's how you bond. And they just won't do that.

They won't do it. When I see an engaged couple, and it's not very often, you can imagine why, what a surprise, I'm really hard on them. Almost trying to break them up.

I want them to have a real relationship before they get to the wedding. You know what we say? We say, you guys, you should go on a really hard mission trip. Yeah. See them under stress. Yes. See each other under stress, under no sleep, under hard living conditions.

How they treat others. Yes. Oh, I love that. It reveals a lot. It is.

You're sleeping on the hard ground. Are you kidding? Yes.

That's what I'm talking about. That's good. This could be a scary action step for a married couple, but I'm going to say it anyway. I think one of the greatest gifts you can receive from your spouse is truth.

And it's hard because we don't want truth. We sort of like, you're awesome or amazing. But I call it a gift because when your spouse speaks something maybe that's hard for you to hear, like I see something in your life I'd like to point out and goes both ways. That's the moment of truth where am I going to resist this or am I going to go, this is a gift. This isn't actually making me better. Now, I know I just might have set up a couple to get in a huge fight right now, you know, but I want to encourage you to be able to say, okay, honey, I want you to tell me something I need to know and I'm going to listen to it and not get defensive.

See if you can do it. Well, you might, Dave, at first because we'll do that, but then we'll come back to one another and say, I've said often to you like, okay, I overreacted and I got really defensive and I'm sorry about that. Let's talk some more. See, that's a healthy couple. My sanny is much like my mom. She's a tough cookie. She calls me out, but she's made me a better man. So much better because she's right. She's right every time. She lives with me. How could she be wrong? She's experiencing me. I spent the first eight months thinking she was wrong and I can always explain it. Okay, well, that's ridiculous. And she says, look, I'm a reasonable person.

I have a degree in college. I'm living with you and you're an idiot some of the time. Okay, but as I've taken that, of course, I love her. It has to be done anyway, but I've changed and matured.

Abusers don't do that. If your adult daughter is dating someone heading toward marriage and you as a parent are seeing these red flags, what do you do? You have adult children.

Yes, I do. They married wonderful young men, but if that wasn't the case, it's a good point. And this is like a one-time operation because they can marry who they want. However, like Dave said, truth. You sit down with that girl and if it's the dad, it can be the dad and the daughter.

I like a one-on-one because if it's both of you as parents, it's too much. Ganged up on. Exactly. Not a restaurant. She just can't talk.

She's filling my water glass. Whatever. Private place and it's a one-way statement. And the best way to do it is we're not having a dialogue in this first meeting. I've got something to say to you. I'm going to say it and I just want you to listen. I don't want any response. See that way we can get by the defensiveness.

It's going to be right there. I love Bob. Bob would never. Honey, listen to me.

I'm going to lay it out and you give specific examples. I've got a concern. I'm just saying. At least think about these issues and postpone the wedding and he's got some work to do. Not saying you can't marry him, but let's see if he changes. Think and pray about this, honey. And if she starts to respond, not now. In a couple of days, maybe there's a better chance she'll actually think about it and then you can have another conversation. It's worth a try. She could say no, but at least you've made the attempt. A lot of parents will.

I've heard this a million times. Well, we're getting married in three months. Maybe you're not.

It is not against the law to cancel all the money, the people, the wedding invitations. Who cares? You're on the verge of marrying a dirtball, a potential dirtball. Let's make sure that he's not. We've lived longer.

You pick up these things. You're not wrong. Oh, you're right. You're seeing things.

In the throes of love, you can miss it. Your parents are four. I try that one on one. Lay it on them and hope they think and pray and get back to you. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to David Ann's conversation with David Clark on Family Life Today. His book is called Enough is Enough, a step-by-step plan to leave an abusive relationship with God's help. You can get a copy at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. We have Family Life's President David Robbins with us today. David, tell us about what's been on your heart as you've been reflecting lately. I just want to take a moment to thank those of you who are partners of Family Life and helped give to keep Family Life Today reaching as many families as possible and bringing the timeless truth of God's Word and helping it meet real, everyday life. I wanted to share this message that the Family Life team received from a listener and wanted you to know how your contribution is helping people. Let them know how much I appreciate their authenticity, their dealing with truth, with forgiveness and kindness, bringing up topics that are so relevant, so needed, and I haven't felt that with other Christian programs. They're lecturing to me, but they don't lecture to the person that's hurting and needs healing from a bad, abusive 50 more years of abuse in marriage. As I hear her tender heart, it just reminds me that your gifts help meet people right where they are and help them experience God exactly where they need to experience God today, and your gift really matters.

Yeah, it really does. And again, this week, when you give a donation of any amount, we want to send you a copy of my book called What's the Point? Asking the Right Questions About Living Together and Marriage. This will be a helpful book for the young adult in your life who might be struggling with different views on dating and marriage and cohabitation and all the confusing stuff surrounding that topic. Again, you can give easily online at or call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. Do men and women have different roles in marriage? How about the church? Well, next week, Dave and Anne Wilson will be joined by Kevin DeYoung to talk about men and women in the church. Oh boy, it's going to be a good one. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-29 22:20:28 / 2023-03-29 22:34:21 / 14

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