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Reclaiming Hope and Safety in a Destructive Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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October 21, 2020 6:00 am

Reclaiming Hope and Safety in a Destructive Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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October 21, 2020 6:00 am

Drawing from her years of work as a counselor and her own life experience, Leslie Vernick offers guidance and hope to women who are in need of finding safety and healing from an abusive marriage. (Part 1 of 2) (Original airdate: Oct. 23, 2013)

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Do the issues in your marriage seem insurmountable. You can break free from cycles of pain with help from Focus on the Family's hope restored marriage intensive. We helped thousands of couples who thought that their marriage was over.

Find out which program is right for you and hope every ounce of mental and emotional energy I have. I need to survive this marriage. He's so harsh and negative toward everyone and everything that I feel like I can even bring just to feel safe.

His words, they cut like a knife.

He treats like the me but then he expects me to be available whenever he's interested. I'm tired of being his mother constantly blames and criticizes me for everything that goes wrong, nothing is ever his fault. Those comments reflect the pain and suffering. Some women are facing. Maybe on a daily basis is the marriage they wanted were expected and now they feel trapped. You know how they feel on today's Focus on the Family will offer some understanding and hope to both men and women who are dealing with abusive destructive relationships your hostess focus president and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. John this is such a difficult and challenging topic, especially in the Christian community.

For me, it's hard to fathom how a loving couple, who vowed to care for and cherish one another to become so dysfunctional in their marriage. But the research is clear in America nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute, one for women and one in nine men will experience severe violence from someone they love. If this is been your experience we grieve with you and for you and were praying that you get the help you need. Were going to offer that help on today's program along with some resources that can change the dynamic of your marriage there is hope.

Don't hesitate to contact us if you need help. We do have caring Christian counselors who are available to hear your story and advise you on some next steps toward healing our numbers 800 K in the word family 800-232-6459 and of course your call is confidential and Jim we should note that abuse can go both ways.

In the majority of cases, it seems wise and girlfriends are the victims of physical, emotional, and other kinds of abuse, but men can be victimized as well. That's an important point.

John and men we get it we know you're out there and we want to present a bounce message here, but our guest today specializes in counseling women who are experiencing abuse and much of our conversation will be within that context.

The fact is we don't focus on this issue.

Enough. We need to bring it into the light so we can better understand what abuse is and learn from it and ultimately bring God's healing and restoration to broken relationships. Our guest is certainly qualified to do just that. Leslie Bernick is a licensed clinical social worker she is committed to rescuing people trapped in destructive relationships and knows first-hand what those kinds of relationships are like Leslie has written a book called the emotionally destructive marriage and here's how Jim started the conversation on today's episode of Focus on the Family picture for us because you do work with so many couples and so many women at what does this look like.

I think we all understand physical abuse and the idea that we need to protect ourselves from that. If you're in that kind of relationship you need to seek safety get out of that physical location. All those things. It will talk about in a while, but the paint that picture for us. What were talking about with emotional destructive abuse.

The church is rather been silent on that whole topic sued instead. Of course, if your husband is beating you or threatening to kill you if he stabbed you a question. Need to leave the Bible is quite clear that reckless words. For example, appears like a sort, and that life and death is in the power of the time and it got where it is clear that what we say and how we say things to people regularly over time can affect their spirit, a broken heart or crushed spirit who can bear. And so I think that God validates the reality of our harsh words on someone's soul, spirit and body and I think we as Christians need to validate that to we all say bad things at times that doesn't mean that it's gonna crush a person, but when that continues day after day week after week, as in a marriage when you're with someone all the time and a consciously belittling your demeaning you are disrespecting you with that word to their tone, rolling their eyes snickering at whatever you say. It begins to undermine who you are as a person and can destroy you Leslie were talking today predominantly about women that are on the wrong end of this where their husbands are approaching life in that way. Perhaps people feel that they're in sync with the Lord and are going to church in their paint guides and they're doing everything they need to do, but verbally they can attack with their words, we don't put it in that kind of category help us better understand why this is as important, you just did a bit of that but you gotta get through our thick heads as men.

So why do you know that little sarcasm that the negative thing that we say almost sometimes we think is humorously is really destructive. I think the biggest thing that I managed understand as well the woman is if someone sets out like this isn't funny to me, this hurts. That's when the person, the spouse, whether a man or woman is to wake up and realize that I don't get pleasure at someone else expands and expect to have a good relationship with them. And so, if your wife or husband is saying to you, you know the way that you talk to me is demeaning and disrespectful and it cuts me off at the knees and it makes me feel like I can't even respond makes people crazy inside because we never have a conversation it goes anywhere. It's always a blame or attack shifting truth around in reality is distorted. I can't know you and have a conversation with you if we can't talk about things honestly and freely and so whether it's a man is doing that or one who is doing that are both when one person is getting some one feedback that this isn't working for them.

That's when the person needs to wake up and say okay what do we need to do differently but in destructive marriages. That doesn't happen. Give us more of the example because again you counsel with so many couples you've touched on that there were a man might be verbally abusive. It played out for us. What would be a statement that's over the line.

Okay, so let me give you an example that we would just drop our jaws at and is not a recognized form of abuse that it is abuse and I'll call it indifference indifference to a person's feelings just like we talked about can be abuse that this regular and repetitive. So Susan I can have the name I called and about but I'll call her Susan how she felt her husband had been ignoring her for long period of time. Anytime she would ask him for attention or take a walk have a conversation do something together. He would always have something more important to do letter to sports. His work has television whatever what he wanted to do, always came first, except for sex when he wanted sex he expected her to be immediately available and warm and loving and friendly, and she found that over time, harder and harder to do so.

She wired up her courage and we work together on her having a very direct but respectful conversation with her husband and this is what she told him she said no honey, I know that you are unhappy with our sex life and that you'd like me to be more warm and responsive in the bedroom but I just can't manufacture those feelings. When you ignore me for long period of time and we don't have anything else in common. We don't do anything together you would normally most of the time. Whenever I ask you for something you shoot me down.

Wouldn't you rather have a wife who is loving and warm and friendly in the bedroom than someone who just doing her wifely duty to that was a question she asked him know his response was, of course I will. It if wifely duty is all I get good enough now that statement completely cut her off at the knees. Because what he's really saying to her is that you are an object to use, not a woman to love and I completely crushed her spirit and housing to live like that in a long-term relationship well and that what shocks me that statement is the lack of desire on the husband's part to actually want to do better. I think there is and it could be an excuse but some men again were thinking in a 1 Directional Way that we struggle thinking in multiple layers. You probably know that but it's not an excuse. I mean when your spouse says you I need help. There needs to be a response that's affirming and hopefully a thankful heart say thank you for pointing out these blind spots. Why is it so difficult for men to react in the better way to men have two things destructive men have two things in common that are real Achilles' heel for their growth monies they cannot tolerate hearing any negative feedback about themselves.

So when a woman would say something like that instead of reflecting insane while she's really hurt. I never thought about it that way before. I need to get my act together, they will crush her or they will withdraw from her but they won't listen to her and so the behavior never changes because he's not willing to hear it. Sort of like when you look in the mirror and you see that you have dirt on your face. Most people would then self-correct it with a oh my gosh the feedback on the merest tiny something's wrong. I need to design differently. But for these men when they receive feedback from their lives at something they're doing is painful, harmful, destructive, foolish, you don't spend the money on that investment. That's gonna crash the bank. They won't hear her, and they will use the hatchet card on the head. I could make the final say.

And then she has no say no voice and their findings go down the tubes and she supposed to submit be happy and never mentioned again. I want to bring a little bit of balance this because, again, where is the line where you're both trying hard. You want to do the right thing you want to be all you can be to your spouse.

In this case to your wife but yet you fall short.

Where is that line between abuse and just normal trying to do better and falling short. Sometimes you make a great point, Jim and were not talking about that can imagine, this book you just mentioned is a disappointing marriage a difficult marriage case, a disappointing marriage. You know, couple L has all 52 cards in a marriage there something that are missing and you learn to live with that graciously and you forbear and you endure and you grow when you work together and that's how it is how most of our marriages are maybe like to write a book someday. How do you live in a C- marriage because a lot of people are in a C- marriage. Most of the time they had a plus moments and they have D- moments and most the time it's the C- and we need to learn how to live that way in a godly way but were nothing but that can marriage in this book on would also not talking about a difficult marriage a difficult marriage is where there's a lot of external stressors. There could be in my problems, job stressors, financial difficulties, special needs children personality differences values differences and how a couple negotiates those if they're both willing to be respectful and both willing to work on things I difficult marriage is need to turn destructive.

But that's not what talking about these marriages.

You said they both are really trying hard in a destructive marriage. Both are trying really hard. One is in trying at all. What about for the wife. That is hearing this discussion. She's thinking okay that is my husband been trying for years to talk to him about this he seems respond occasionally but he gets a C- he still grading in that area. What are some things that she can do to better arrest his attention to get control here. I talk a lot about that in my book cut act right in your spouse.

Ask wrong because when a husband is acting wrong.

I think there are things that we can do to influence and invite our spouse, and healthy change and so when we, as a woman talking a respectful non-demeaning non-shaming way to husband.

We continue to encourage them and affirm them in the things that they're doing right. I think most men want to be better men. Most men want to be good husbands. Most men want to make their lives happy and so I think woman has a lot of power in a C- marriage to perhaps encourage her husband in certain areas but I also think she needs to understand that there may be certain areas that he never is able to change or wants to change I was getting my own personal story. My husband may not want me to say this but I'll say it anyway because I don't mind he's not a A+ handyman around the house with is probably painfully aware it doesn't bother him elect not A+ handyman. My father was in a plot. We got married. I was looking for an A+ handyman that was in his deal, he grew up in an apartment, he did need to fix a lot of things. Is that a need to fix all things they never learn those things and he can fix some things that most the time we hire out for those things and I have come to just that's okay. He doesn't need to improve that he does need to work on that. That's who he is.

That's what he is. He doesn't like to do the things he does a lot of other things that are wonderful, but that's not what were talking in these kind of marriages were not talking about C- were talking about D- and F behaviors. Let's talk about the shooting. On the other foot as well since were on the subject. How often does the abuse go the other direction that you know husband is trying the best he can and his wife is not responding. Maybe she's over the years to develop quite callous and there's a lot of suspicion about the husband motivations, but sometimes the shoe is on the other foot, absolutely, and I debated long and hard when I wrote this book if I was invited to men and women or just women and I have just been torn by that because I did write an article. Men are victims of mastic abuse as well and so I have information on my website for them in the end I felt like I had a better audience with women to talk to them about things I wanted to say and I used up every single word they allowed me and so I didn't have enough room in the book but yes men can be victims of these two. What does that look like Leslie and and how often do you see that in couples. I like to tell men who are listening to the story that I'm not anti-man. I have a great husband.

I have a great father who rescued me from an abusive mother and I shared that story in my book the most instructive relationship so I grew up with an abusive mother and I grew up watching my mother abuse my father verbally so I lived that story. And so I definitely know that occurs. I know that there are good men who try really hard that I wrote this book for women who are in the situation, but I don't let women off the hook because when you are abused you can lump sum pretty abuse of the verbal bombs back of your own. After you get good and angry and so part of what I try to help a woman is how do you deal with this situation in a godly way because you can become destroyed either by becoming full of depression, self-hatred, or you can become destroyed by becoming abuser yourself and make sure I understand what you're saying is, those that are being destroyed can destroyers be careful, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest today is Leslie Wernick sharing insights from her book the emotionally destructive marriage and we got details about in the episode's let's go ahead and return now to the conversation with Leslie Wernick on Focus on the Family Leslie. Let's speak to the woman, maybe you could describe for me a woman that is in an abusive relationship, but help me better understand because I'm may be lost in that I don't realize that I like common because everybody thinks everybody else is kind of reacting are living in the same soup that this person is living or how does that realization hit as you sing that work experientially in your practice wonders woman go wow that is me and I'm in trouble. I think that a lot of times that's true. We live with something like the frog in the boiling water live in it for so long they don't realize they are being burned and so I think that when only begins to wake up and realize that my gosh I'm in a destructive marriage. I'm in an abusive marriage. They have one of two reactions.

Either they can begin to start retaliating with some verbal abuse of their own but trying to be stronger trying to stand up for themselves and they may not do in the right way so it makes things worse and he said to shut down or they may try to shut down and just try to pretend all is well and I think in the Christian community with encouragement suited to do the latter leave. Encourage them to shut up, put up with that he's a sinner you're a sinner forget him, love him better and hopefully he'll come around. And that does not work in these kind of situations.

If you chronically feel afraid in your marriage that's a sign that your in a destructive relationship.

You shouldn't feel afraid in your marriage. You mean physically, very physically afraid, emotionally afraid, financially afraid actually afraid, spiritually afraid. You can open your mouth without something coming at you.

That's got hurt you, you feel afraid now into the always at someone can be harsh, partnered dominate and have control over you when you feel afraid in your marriage, then that's a red flag if you frame your dating relationship to red flag if you feel chronically controlled like you have no choice. You have no voice.

You have to do it the other person says you can never say no. It never goes your way is all about them all the time then that's a destructive relationship because you're not free to be the person I got called to be free to be yourself and not treat forget especially own opinion or your own ideas without being shot down or snickered at her told you ridiculous or crazy or ungodly or unspiritual stupid things of the woman feels man feels confused like I thought we agreed to this and now you're doing and that happens a lot.

I thought you told me this nice thing you didn't have this conversation. I had this conversation really knowing reality. That's right, your constant scratching your head saying give an example woman told Mrs. I told my husband I was really angry that he was late, he didn't come home from work for two hours and I said all you need to do is give me a phone call I totally understand that your schedules variable and some things come up. Just be respectful and call me okay I'll call you the next time you play. She said you told me you called me said that being controlling you trying to control my life and that we had this conversation that we are agreed that you call me now you're calling me controlling because all I want to respect and he's kind of circular crazy making conversations going on over and over and over again so you consciously feels confused Leslie how much of these behavior patterns. Do we actually bring into the marriage you talked about watching as a young girl, your mother and father and your mother abusing your father so you come into marriage. Bring a certain amount of baggage in that regard.

You maybe haven't seen a healthy marital relationship. So you're modeling these things. How do you sit down early on in your relationship and in your marriage to understand what's coming into the marriage and how we need to help one another. Can you be that honest in your first second third year of marriage, I think you have to be if you want to change us patterns you everybody comes into marriage with the cases he said Baggett and it's really important to know what's in your suitcase and it's really important to figure out with your spouse. If it gets to and if the two of you can work on that. Talk about that and understand how family patterns are family of origin patterns of what you thought was normal is not normal at all. I remember a woman saying to me, my counseling up and she said how often did you encourage that you and I said, my heavens never cursed at me really never ever never never cursed at me once she looked at me like I was on just I don't know a single other woman in all of my family.

We been Christians for generations that there has been as a curse and I can't believe it has nothing because it was totally normal that that should happen in a family even from a man who is an elder man is a pastor man who says he's a Christian that he has no verbally abusing her with bad words you're touching on something Leslie that I think we should probably address just ahead on and that is that many of us in the Christian community don't realize that there are abusive marriages around us. What are some of the signs that we can look for and how can we even begin to help somebody see that's not normal what you just described their husband cursing at his wife all the time that's just not normal, is it not only not normal.

It's not healthy or godly.

Anything we been afraid to say that I think we just been afraid in the church to say that to one another. I will be getting a phone like phone calls on the type of people I don't know what all that she sent him a small group leader and I have a couple in my group. I just stand there something wrong with the marriage.

You wonder how you tell she does. The wife never can talk every time we talk about something she's always looking to husband my saying the right thing can I say this is it okay with you. Are you mad at me but she won't open her mouth until she gets his okay that she can speak whenever she says something that he doesn't like you, not just her and she shuts down. If he says were going.

Now she can't say women I'm finishing up my conversation. She shuts down and goes and so she knows that this woman doesn't have the freedom to speak up to be herself, but that she's under the thumb of her husband. She's what'll I do I feel so afraid for her when you're describing their control factor. It sounds like to me you know that other person that husband is trying to utterly control his spouse.

The unhealthy nature of the that's right but sometimes we get really confused in the church because we some men and some teaching in churches describe headship was synonymous with control.

I found the head.

I get the final say on hand. I could tell you what to wear on head. I get to tell you what to do because I'm husband and I get my way and it becomes very confusing when you're growing up in that kind of church and you've heard those kind of words all your life to stand up against that say women.

I don't think that's what the Bible says when it describes headship and frankly that distortion is what gives fuel to those who oppose the gospel, especially in the feminist movement to point out to these examples were that definition being distorted and separate communicating to the world something that's not truly from God's heart to give you a story that is absolute true story of change a lot of the details, but I work with a woman who was very afraid of her husband.

He never physically abuse them at all, but he was very scary, emotionally would rage make things pound this holes in the loss. One day his daughter didn't do something that she should have done and he was berating her and the woman was getting stronger and she said I want you to go to your mom.

She said that to her daughter and she said her husband.

Please stop talking her that way. That's not good for her while he began raging. Even worse, throwing things around so she ran to the bedroom with her daughter locked the door and he said, open toys, pounding then on a pounding, pounding, pounding. Finally she skipped with Karen called 911.

The police came, her pastor was still against what this woman did because she called the authorities because it's his house and he wants to break down the door to his house. He can break down the door. She had no right to lock the door and should know might call the police and they put her under church discipline for that for protect because she was trying to protect potential daughter will that unfortunately lose again in my opinion, just the real misapplication of that headship and in fact Leslie you speak in your book you talk about Genesis 2 and the helpmate as we close today. Give a better definition, and what the Scriptures actually telling us there in what the helpmate truly is.

So often we told women to just be quiet and prop your husband up. He has helpmate and in which we really set as being his enabler enable him to discontinue said without any consequence and that is actually the worst thing a woman can do a special on the marriage because if she can be a strong helpmate early in the marriage. She can begin to change some destructive patterns before they become entrenched in the relationship. Leslie, I want to make sure everyone is hearing what your say really the goal. And I believe this the reason God brings two people together so that we can become better and more focused on him, and as a helpmate what I hear you saying is so awesome that the Lord provides your helpmate so that she can make you a better person in God that God's character is shaped and new in part because of her relationship together. You guys are better and that's what you're saying is I'm saying that's the possibility that's the goal. And so it takes a person to receive that fighting on their behalf. But if a woman knows how to do it wisely.

There's amazing things that she can do and I have seen men wake up when they know that life is for them to be some tough consequences if they don't like that because they are just be damaged. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest is Leslie Wernick talking about her book the emotionally destructive marriage, John. I really appreciate Leslie's insights and her passion to help husbands and wives do better in their marriages and when we hear of this program in the past we heard from so many of you about how it impacted your relationships.

For example, a man named Mark described how his wife is been emotionally abusive. Over the course of their 15 year marriage, but he was quick to add that is not exempt from being abusive to her in return. That's a common dynamic in marriages today. If you hurt me. I'm going to hurt you back, but Mark went on to say how thankful he was that we address this hot issue and that it inspired him to call us for help with his marriage.

That's exactly why focuses here and why were sharing this program. Today we want to bring hope and healing to more marriages, just like Marx and if we can do that for you and your spouse contact us. Don't put it off. Don't wait 15 years to find a better way to live God's got a plan for your marriage and we would love to help you get on the road to restoration.

It all begins with a call and I will be happy to put you in touch with one of our Christian counselors who can pray with you and hear you out and point to resources that we have our number is 800 the letter a in the word family 800-232-6459 or stop by our website link is in the episode notes.

Another resource I highly recommend is Leslie's great book the emotionally destructive marriage. This is a challenging message for all of us but the words we say the nonverbal's that we communicate without thinking can be so damaging to those we claim to love the most, and I'd like to put a copy of this book in your hands if you can send a gift of any amount Focus on the Family today will send a copy right out. That's our way of saying thanks for helping us rescue hurting marriages and offer couples a better alternative. We hope you'll join our support team again. Our number is 800 K in the word family we can donate to get Leslie's book and more just check the link in the episode notes coming up next time will have Leslie back scrubbing what healthy relationship should look like in a marriage to get honesty have to give caring have to give respect. Both people have to give responsibility. I am going to take some responsibility for the care and maintenance of this relationship.

In both people have to be willing to be repentant on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back once more help you and Your Family Dr. in Christ, the seasons of your life are always moving forward, marriage, parenting, aging well, and through it all. Focus on the Family is with you 24 seven. Download the Focus on the Family app from the apps Google play

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