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Question: I was wondering if you would comment on a husband who is mentally and verbally abusive but who is also a Christian? I know this to be true, because while I do feel that he loves me, he also goes to church with me almost every Sunday and he and I are involved in Bible studies. (We just finished a couple's class through church actually), he has grown more accustomed to tithing with our church. He also on occasion will comment about Christ's upcoming return and saying how exciting it is. I do feel that he is a good person. He shows that by helping everyone who asks him. He even asks me to pray with him at night. But he is only abusive to his mother and myself, a learned behavior from his father. I believe that he struggles with anxiety/depression and low-self esteem but he refuses to seek help with or without me. He has said that he would read books or watch christian marriage seminars at home with me, and we have, but none have made him put anything we've learned into practice. We have been together for about 5 years now but only married for a year and a half.

So the "unbearable" I would describe as this, he is often agitated. So much so that anything I say or don't say will set him off. This means that he will start yelling at me, telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, that I'm so annoying and frustrating. He is a fast-paced individual and thinks that my calm - more slow nature is bothersome to him. He's called me names like, "piece of Sh*t". When I don't talk to him he asks what's wrong with me in a very ill-mannered way. Not as if he's concerned that something is bothering me. If I try to work things out after a fight or during a fight he often just shuts me out. Or he will just loudly interrupt with "LA,LA,LA,LA" so that I can't talk or he can't hear me. He has often said, that he doesn't know why we got married, that he doesn't know why I'm with him, that I need to accept that this is just the way he is and this is how he handles his anger. I would say that this happens at least once a week. We did go a good 6 months recently in which we were pretty happy, but I'm not sure how or why that fell away. I'm not doing anything different. I am positive that he is faithful to me. I also don't know if he would actually ever leave me even though he threatens me with leaving.

This translates into intimacy issues as I would prefer to connect with him when we are communicating well, or when I feel respected and loved. So when he feels that I am being a little distant he criticizes me for not being passionate or "fun" enough. I do not withhold from him completely, but it doesn't feel "real" for me and it almost makes me resent times that we are together.

I realize that you do not know me or my situation well but if you have any advice I would greatly appreciate it. I really want to do what is God's will for me. I have talked to my pastor and he advised me that I am unable to leave the marriage. That my husband must leave. I also wonder whether or not this is actually abuse. I feel it in my heart but I'm sure there are people who have much worse? My spirit is often just crushed by him but still hopeful that things will work out.

Anything is greatly appreciated.

Answer: Hello, thank you for writing; we are sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. We have been praying about how to answer your letter. Do take what we say to the Lord in prayer also, and see if what we have to say witnesses to your spirit as well.

I would say that just because a person goes to church or Bible study, tithes, and prays does not mean that they are truly saved or right with the Lord. Only God truly knows his heart so I will not judge this, however, neither should you assume that he is saved.

Reading your letter we were not quite sure why you two lived together so long before you got married. You don’t have to answer this letter if you do not want to, but I suppose you were saved and that is why you finally got married. If this is the case, you need to repent of the sin of living together before marriage. Make sure you are right with the Lord in your own life before confronting your husband about his problems.

Another observation, just because a person helps other people does not mean that they are saved either. A person could do it for a wrong motive, or also the unsaved do good things as well thinking they are earning salvation. Again, I do not want to judge a person’s salvation, but in 1 John it says that Christians do not practice sin. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us form all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Our suggestion to you—is to earnestly pray about confronting your husband about his behavior and if it does not change that you will move out and separate from him. You should not divorce him as your pastor says, because you do not have Scriptural grounds for this. However, there is nothing in Scripture that says you cannot separate, especially when there is abuse going on.

You need to, after much prayer, and possibly fasting, if God witnesses to your spirit what we are saying is of God, and that is to confront him about the abuse, then follow through with the suggestion. What you should say to him should be something like, he has to agree to go to counseling, or else you are going to move out. So the choice is his, if he really loves you and wants to serve the Lord, he must get spiritual help.

I would talk to someone, like a Christian sister in the Lord, to pray with you before you confront him. This person needs to be aware of when and what you are going to say and do, before you do it. This is in case things turn ugly. You need to have a back up plan and someone to call, or get a hold of in case of problems.

Expect that things will get worse before they get better. Yes, this is abuse you are facing and you need help, and to get out sooner rather than later. As hard as it is to do, we believe you need to give him an ultimatum; either he gets counseling help with or without you, or else you have to leave.

Again, we are not saying you have grounds for divorce, as you pastor has said, but you do need to get out of the abusive situation so God can deal with the heart of your husband! God can save him if he is not saved or else bring him out of his backslidden condition so you don’t want to divorce. Trust God to do the impossible with your husband. It does sound like he has issues that go back to his childhood that need to be resolved.

You may want to get help from a women’s shelter if you feel he will be dangerous to deal with, you will know if this is necessary. We will be praying for wisdom and courage for you as we know it must be unbearable for you at this time. God bless you and your marriage.

Yours in Christ,
Gary and Marlene Panell

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Keywords: marriage, verbal abuse, divorce, separation