Hey, just a heads up before we get started.
Today's topic is heavy. And if you find yourself in this situation, we hope you'll take steps to get help. and everything, and then let's get you out. And then when you're out and safe, we'll give the guy a shot. But separation is key for safety and for healing and protecting your kids. And maybe it's the only way you're going to get this guy's attention. It's actually a loving thing because it gives that guy a chance. He'll never change otherwise.
I guarantee you that. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson, and I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app.
This is Family Life Today. Okay, I'm going to throw a question that I'm not even sure I know the answer to. And why are you going to ask me? Because you think I know it? You know the answer to everything. No, I don't. What percentage, if you could put a number on percentage, of spouses do you think are in an abusive marriage?
And I know I didn't define abusive. I'm just throwing it out sort of general. I have no idea. None? Well, just take a guess. Out of ten? I'm going to guess seven percent.
Seven percent. Well, it depends on abusive. Are you talking physical abuse? Emotional abuse? I was just talking emotional, physical, it could be any of the above.
Just they're living in a relationship that's not well. Then probably higher. Yeah. And again, I don't know.
I've read the stats, but we've got somebody in the studio today that I think, what do you think? Is he going to be able to answer this question? He'll have some good answers.
He'll answer it. He's got a Ph.D. behind his name, so you know he's smart. Dr. David Clark, Ph.D. Don't forget, call me Dr. David Clark, Ph.D. today. I'm kidding.
All day. But I do have a doctor. Every time we say that, we're going to say Ph.D. Well, would you mind?
Because nobody does that. At least Dr. Dave. That sounds pretty good. Dr. Dave sounds good. That does sound good, but Dave's fine. Dave's fine.
Really? Well, welcome to Family Life, Dave. My privilege to be here.
My great privilege. So tell us a little bit about what you do. I know you're a psychologist, married, a couple kids and grandkids.
How many? Yeah, we have four grandkids. We've been promised more. And that's their job. We had four. We did our job.
We replenish the earth, whatever it is. Hey, take care of it. Now it's on you. That's right. Come through.
We'll even pay for them. I don't care. You speak. You've written, I didn't know this, 15 plus books? I have. I have. Wow. My wife says I've written the same book 15 times.
That's not true. And I like that your dad has co-written some of those with you. He's your editor.
Yes, he is. Every book, except for the last one. I did a divorce recovery book, and dad had already passed. He passed a few months ago, but he couldn't help with that. But he helped with every single book.
We were a great team, godly man. It was like writing a book with Moses. I mean, it was incredible because he knew the Bible backwards and forwards. And he said, I'm over an edgy guy, as you've gotten to know, but he's soft and gentle. And he said, Dave, you can't say that in a book. You might say that in a speaking thing. You can't say that in a book. I said, why not? Well, because it's offensive. Really? Well, okay. So we were a great team. Now my new books are just going to be all offensive.
I won't have the softness to it. But your dad was a psychologist as well. He was. He was. He was a marriage and family therapist, paid for my education.
And so nobody else would give me a job. So I ended up coming to Florida and I worked with my dad for five years, which was awesome. And when he left, I got the big office.
But we would talk about cases throughout the day. It was great training. I bet you miss him. I do.
Man, dad was the greatest. And your passion is really about helping marriages in trouble. I mean, obviously, I'm guessing you do that a lot in your practice, but even your latest book, Enough is Enough, a step-by-step plan to leave an abusive relationship with God's help.
So talk about where we started. You know, I threw out to Ann, like, what percentage of marriages are in an abusive relationship? What is the answer? I'd say three out of 10, if you look at all the abuse altogether.
Wow. And that's in a Christian population. The numbers are about the same in my experience.
I travel and I talk to pastors all over the country and I've been at this 35 years. The numbers are the same in the secular and in the Christian community. No, wait, wait, wait. You're saying that in the church, it's no different. No different. Doesn't that alarm you?
Like, it should be better. That's right. That's why I wrote this book. I'm telling you. So what's going on?
Why is it no different? Well, Satan's good. And you notice in the Christian community, it's bad enough in the secular, but he wants it under wraps. He wants it to be secret.
He wants it to be denied. And most pastors will deny it and they won't handle it well. So we're hoping this book also educates pastors. Because women in the church know they're smart.
They know the ins and outs. And a friend of theirs went to the pastor and didn't get help. So the vibe is, you're on your own.
No one's going to help you here. Oh, well then that just perpetuates the problem. We need to have pastors from the pulpits say, okay, if this is happening, you come to see me and we'll do something about it.
And there'll be a line out the door. And we can change marriages and save women and children's lives, almost literally, certainly emotionally, maybe physically if they'll do that. But it's never mentioned. We can't talk about it.
So it really hasn't historically been talked about. It's just sort of the quiet secret little thing going on in homes and families in the church. And what you're saying is, where are these people going to get help?
Right. They need to come to someone like me. And even a lot of Christian counselors, and I know a lot of these people too, passive, well-meaning, they'll drop the ball.
Because you've got to be tough. And when I have a couple in front of me and I find out the guy's abusive, or it could be reversed, right there in front of her, I'm not changing this guy in this session. And we're going to give him a chance to change, like the book says. But in front of the lady, I'll say, sir, you're an abuser.
And let me explain why. What she said, I believe her. Well, he leaves my office pretty rapidly.
We've had to replace a few doors. But hey, I want the lady to know, here's the truth. He is abusive. Now, we're going to give him a chance to change.
We've got to get protective. But most counselors won't do that. Let's do marriage counseling. Possibly, if you communicate better and handle conflict and you meet needs, that'll go away. No, it won't go away.
It's not a marriage counseling case. In fact, I want him to leave my office. I'm pretty good at getting them out. And then we will, I'll work with the lady, and the bottom line is, you're leaving. Let's get you ready. Let's get you stronger, because you're not ready today. It could be four or five months from now.
It could be a year. Let's get you ready and solid with a support team and everything, and then let's get you out. And then when you're out and safe, we'll give the guy a shot.
And that's where we're going today. You're saying, if they're in an abusive situation, you're saying they do need to get out. I do.
The way I'm defining it, this is not an unhappy marriage. I got books for that. And I've worked with those my whole life, my whole career. Now, this is a different animal. This is one person slowly destroying another person. And if they're children, them too. And frankly, even himself, if he's the abuser. And some will change.
Hey, and he'll have a golden opportunity. But that's after you're out. If you stay, you're just enabling him. You said earlier that often the woman, and I know it can go the other way. It could be the woman abusing the man. I'm guessing statistically it's more the man abusing the woman.
Yeah, it's about 80-20, I think. Yeah. Okay. You said earlier, often when she's sitting in your office, she doesn't even realize she's being abused or that he's an abuser. He certainly doesn't think he's abusive. And it's all her fault. And she's bought that lie.
If you'd this, if you'd that, if you'd fill in the blank, I wouldn't have to act this way. So it's all justified. So I have to convince her she's really my audience, not him.
He's a goner until he changes maybe down the line after she's left. I got to convince her this is emotional abuse. I do phone advice sessions now, ladies across the country, and they're calling in to find out if in fact they are being emotionally abused. A lot of listeners right now are saying, yes, I feel like I am, but I don't. What does that mean?
And how do I know if I am? Right. It's clearly defined. Well, of course, we'll talk about it now, I'm sure, but we're included in six chapters of defining it in the book. So we don't have any confusion about that.
Because that's the first level of change. If I'm in denial and I'm not being abused, I'm minimizing it, and so is the pastor, well, it's not happening. I won't have to deal with it. But if I am, I'm going to have to do something.
Okay, well, you are. And there's all kinds of things you can do to get strong and to change yourself and to get away. So what would be some signs of, I mean, I think we know of physical abuse. Maybe you should clarify that as well. But if you're getting hit... Well, yeah. What's the definition of abuse?
Oh, yeah. Well, the book really focuses on emotional abuse, any kind of physical. My dad taught me this, and this is, of course, from the Bible itself, how to treat a woman.
You love her as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. First Peter 3.7, gentle tenderness of utter sensitivity. So if you ever lay a hand, dad told me, you ever lay a hand on any woman other than in a loving way, that's physical abuse. Grabbing somebody's arm, that counts.
Women will minimize that too. Well, he didn't really hit me. He kind of shoved me onto the floor. I'm saying, are you kidding me?
That's physical violence. Now, emotional is even tougher to define because it's kind of nebulous, and the guy's going to lie his head off. And these guys are consummate liars. I've heard some women say, my pastor or this person just thought I was being overdramatic.
Exactly. Over-emotional. These women are so sensitive and overdramatic.
Are you kidding me? I've talked to a lot of these pastors, and I'm trying to educate them. Pastor, this is abuse. Now, what are you saying that you would say is abuse and they're not thinking it is?
Here's what it looks like. It's criticism that never stops. It is a constant barrage, and you're not good enough in any area. And this is the man or the woman. Your attractiveness, your weight, your mothering, your financial acumen. I mean, you name it, you're going to be criticized for it. Just a steady drumbeat. And most ladies will tolerate that for a variety of reasons and try to continue to improve. Well, you're never going to be good enough. That's the game. You try. I never let you be good enough. In that area too, well, the area of needs, your needs are completely neglected.
They don't even reach his radar screen. All about him and his needs. And the thinking is, if you meet my needs, you'll never quite do that, then maybe someday I'll meet your needs.
That day never comes because you're never good enough, and it's always about him. Silent treatment is one of the classic hallmarks. This guy won't talk about any topic he doesn't want to talk about. If it's difficult, if you have an issue, he doesn't want to hear that. And so he'll just shut you down, snap. Maybe your anger is often part of it, and then he'll shut down and ignore you for a week, 10 days.
I talked to three ladies this last week who are right in the middle of 8 and 10 days of being completely ignored by their husband. Over the dumbest little thing, I brought up that if you would do this in the laundry, and boom, you have to be punished. They will punish you for every infraction. Well, that's ridiculous.
That's not normal. Control, big part of narcissism and abuse as well, control of the money. I can't tell you how many ladies, probably a million I've seen, who have no idea what the man makes, where the investments are, what the accounts are.
There are no passwords. I say, what if the guy drops over dead today? You're going to be in really bad shape. Because he won't tell her? No, only he loves that control. Then, of course, it's everything is always your fault. That's one of the hallmarks of narcissists who are abusive, and most abusers are narcissists. Everything is your fault, every little thing.
He never owns anything. Now, if he's caught in some massive sin, and he's not sorry, but he'll be sorry it happened that he got caught, and he will brush it off and go, well, okay, I said I was sorry. Let's just move on. You can't talk your way through it like a normal husband and wife would have to do.
I don't want to hear that. So it morphs into not the horrible thing I did at a fair, whatever else, I lost money, but the fact that you won't forgive me. That's where they swing to. So they always swing it back to the spouse. Always. It's their fault that even when they acted like this, it's their fault. Yeah, and it's opposite world. These guys turn it on you every.
It's like a human backboard. If you tell him something that he's done, bona fide that he's done, he'll put it right back on you. Well, you didn't talk to me this morning. Well, neither did you. Or you did this. Well, you've done this.
You've done these 10 things. That's not how you handle your woman. You listen to her and you understand what she's saying. This is far beyond regular defensiveness that a man would bring.
Oh, no, it's shoved right back in your face. So when that woman walks into your office and she's been married a while, describe what you see. You see a woman who, and it doesn't take long, if it's just her and I and she's telling her story, and I'm the first person that's validating her and saying, I can't believe you do that. That's abuse. Tell me more. They're just like shocked.
Really? And they'll actually fight me tooth and nail because they don't want to believe it's abuse. What they want is marriage counseling. I'm seeing you first to kind of vet you. That's fine. Here's my husband. I say, look, I believe you. I'm not going to see your husband.
I'm not going to waste my time or yours. He's abusive. I believe you. The level of detail you've given, you love the Lord. I've gotten your background. Your dad was the same way.
Look, I believe you. We're not doing marriage counseling. A lot of those days won't come back to see me. They'll find some other counselor who will try marriage counseling. You don't do that with an abuser. The pre-step is getting away from him, which they don't want to hear, and then giving him a chance to, after seven or eight months of working on himself, some will do that, most won't. Okay, at that point, and he's proven it, still separated, that's when you would start a couple counseling process. And the first part of that would be him helping you heal from all the damage he's done to you. But Dave, that doesn't sound as spiritual. No, it doesn't. You know, because we feel guilty, like the first thing we want to do, and we feel like the biblical plan would be, we need to work on our marriage because this is the covenant that I'm in. And you're saying it's not going to help.
Nope. It's called enabling. In this context, I've seen troubled couples for 35 years. That's a different animal.
It's balanced. What are you doing? What are you doing?
And it's very collegial, and we're working together. It doesn't work with an abuser. If I've defined that, and I believe it's true, totally different operation. And you're not saying get divorced. You're saying get out.
Explain that. Yeah, I'm very clear on this. I think it's playing God if you recommend someone get divorced. That is not my purview. God is fully capable of releasing you from marriage.
Of course, you have to have biblical reason. Even then, I wouldn't recommend because that's not my business. But separation is key for safety and for healing and protecting your kids. And maybe it's the only way you're going to get this guy's attention. It's the only way he maybe is going to change, and that's a big maybe.
And I'll tell these ladies, and it's hard for them because women are nurturing, and they're caring. It's all about him. It's been about him for 20 years. How's that going?
It's not working for you. Now it's your turn. Not selfishly. Protect yourself and the kids.
But I'm trying to sell them too, and that's why I wrote the book just to lay it out so they can really, before God, read the whole package and see all the different components. It's actually a loving thing because it gives that guy a chance. He'll never change otherwise. I guarantee you that. Pastors and well-meaning Christian counselors will tell you if you just love him more, just a little more, maybe five more years, maybe two more years, maybe try this, try this seminar, try this book, then he'll change. That's the hope.
It's bogus. It's not going to work with that guy. He loves the fact that you're knocking yourself out. Well, tell me this, because I'm listening to you, and I'm like, all these women are going through my head that I've talked to over the years, and then this will happen. The husband will come back and say, hey, I prayed a prayer, and now I'm a Christian.
We're all good. But, and I'll say, like, what's that looking like in his life? Like, is he involved with some other men? Is he going to church? Because the wife is so hopeful, like, finally.
Right. She'll run right into his arms. Even if he's actually come to Jesus, fantastic. That's exactly what has to happen. Many of these guys think they know Jesus, and they do not. But that's the first step.
Sanctification has not had any chance to play. He's sorry now, he gets it, but he has not changed. And so if you run right back in, motivation goes down to zero, you're going to have a couple of weeks, maybe even a month of nicey-nicey, he'll go right back to it. Because of his old patterns and the junk, probably, that he hasn't dealt with in his life. Right.
These guys, yeah, as I said before, have seven or eight months, if not longer, of real work. Why? What makes me abusive?
Why am I like this? Now, Jesus will help you do that. Without him, you can't even do it. But if you're going to find the right therapist, somebody tough with a clear plan of action, he's got work to do. But I think he's got it. No, he doesn't got it. And frankly, it's not just his work.
The lady's got the work to do, too. Get a voice. Get your identity back.
He's shredded it. You've allowed him to shred your self-esteem and your voice, and the kids have even turned against you. These guys will turn your own kids against you and enjoy doing it.
Because they have to win. Okay, we have to shore all that up. We're going to make sure. And there's all kinds of ways he can make sure. The guy will say, well, if I'm not living with you, how can I possibly prove it?
Any number of ways. And I'll tell you exactly how. I'll have him read this book. If he's really serious, read this. This is you.
Get a clue and then start working on yourself. And giving her space and time to heal is one way you can show her you're getting it. How often do you see marriages come back together?
I mean, you're talking about the guy leaving and working on himself, the wife working on herself. Does it work? Do you have stories of, wow. I mean, I know you have a lot of stories where it really didn't.
The guy never did change. But do you have some stories that, yeah, I got a few. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with David Clark on Family Life Today. We'll hear about those stories in just a minute. But first, if Family Life Today has made a difference in your life, would you consider paying it forward?
As you may know, we're listener supported. And this week, when you give a donation of any amount, we want to send you a copy of my book, actually, called What's the Point? Asking the right questions about living together. It'd be a helpful book for a young adult in your life who might be struggling with different views of dating and marriage and all the confusion surrounding that topic. We'll send you a copy as our thanks when you give this week at familylifetoday.com or when you 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. All right, now back to Dave and Anne's conversation with David Clark and the unfortunately few stories of abusers who've truly changed. Not many in 35 years. Four to six percent. If it's a bona fide abuser, bona fide narcissist-slash-abuser, now four to six percent. Now, I tell the ladies, only God knows if he's in that percentage.
He could be. We give him a chance. Yeah. We know what God can do if the abuser truly breaks. We've seen it in the Bible. I mean, the narcissist there, you know, Jacob fighting God all night.
Are you kidding me? He should have been scraped off the face of the earth. But God gave him a shot, and it worked out. So it's all not so good. Anyway, so this is a case where he could change.
He's going to have to really do some work, but I had a case, in fact, recently. Flaming narcissist, multiple affairs. I mean, solid gold, world-class narcissist.
In my office. He didn't last that long. I said, sir, you're an abuser. He was there for marriage counseling, so he could check the dumb box. Part of the narrative.
I tried marriage counseling. That clock's a quack. It didn't work. Of course it didn't. So I'm sitting there with a lady, and she got strong. She got a voice. He was out. In fact, she kicked him out. She had some leverage, because he was just caught in this latest affair. And he did leave, but, incredibly enough, he saw a friend of mine who worked with narcissists, and he did his work. Took him seven months. Giving reports to me and to his wife, who was growing and getting strong. I said, you be skeptical.
Who knows? But he really did prove himself, and they came back to see me as a couple. It's kind of a joke. Whenever I farm people out, I never see them again. But in this case, I did, because the guy doesn't change. I vetted him, and I saw him.
This guy is the real thing, and he could prove it. We came back together. It was a great story of restoration, healing. He really got it. He was unrecognizable. It was like Jesus.
I thought, whoa, now this is what I'm talking about. And you're saying it wouldn't have happened had she stayed. No way. No way.
He would have had affair after affair. If I'm the narcissist, and I'm not changing, if you will stay with me, and you'll put up with everything I do, I'm not going anywhere. You're okay with it. Oh, you can cry and kvetch and give me a hard time. I don't care. I don't care about you. I have no conscience. I don't care about you. I have no empathy.
So it doesn't make any difference to me. That's addiction. These guys are really addicted to narcissism and their own ego.
And of course, women are often part of it, other women or pornography, whatever, which is adultery too. And so if I can do it one more time and you're going to be okay with that, I'll do it one more time. But when I come back to an empty house and you and my kids are gone, I might get a clue and figure it out. So there's a wife listening right now and she's like, wow, Dave, you're describing my husband. And my life. Talk to her.
What would you say to her? Oh, you know what, dear lady, I am talking to you. Hopefully God threw me.
And Dave and Ann. Yeah, this is your time. It's a God thing. I'm telling you, this is not the life God has for you to suffer, to be destroyed. And there's a way out that you've got fears. You've got lies in your head. You don't think you can.
No, no, no. With God's help, we know you can do it. And I've given you a game plan. You can get out and protect yourself and the kids.
And so there is an escape hatch. There isn't God. Not only is okay with you doing it, he wants you to do it. I'm thinking of just the women that are listening to that are thinking friends who are living this same life. I think it'd be great if you shared this with them. And I just, I feel compelled, like I just want to pray for, especially the women that maybe are struggling with that right now, Father, thank you for Dave, that he's shedding light on some areas that have been in the darkness.
And a lot of times as Christians, we don't know how to deal with it, even as friends. And so, Lord, I pray that as women have been listening, or even maybe some men, and they're checking off these boxes in their heads, like, that's me, that's me, that's me. Father, I pray that you'd give them strength to reach out to a counselor, a friend, somebody that's safe, somebody that they can talk to that will biblically walk beside them, encourage them, love them, and help them to be strong. And even I feel like Dave's book is just such a gift to us because it's so practical, and it's a step-by-step journey, Lord, but I pray that you would remind them of how much you love them, how you see them, how you care about what's happening, and you don't want them to suffer. And so, Lord God, I pray you'd wrap your arms around them. And I pray that you would give them courage and help them to be brave to make these next steps. And I pray that you would give them even the words and how to talk to their kids of what's happening. And Jesus, you can do that.
So we pray in your name, amen. 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 familylifetoday.com or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. If you know anyone who needs to hear today's conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it'd really help us out if you rate and review us.
So how do you know the difference between your spouse just being a broken sinner or an actual abuser? Dr. David Clark will join David Ann again tomorrow to talk about just that. On behalf of David Ann 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.
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