Tag Archives: Divorce

“Help, Church Leaders Don’t Want Me to Divorce Husband with Porn Addiction”

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

In April, the following message came using the contact form on this website. (printed by permission)

“Thanks. Your articles were helpful. My Google search that led to your page was – ‘help church leaders don’t want me to divorce husband with porn addiction’.  We separated, with the elders wanting that time to be for us to work towards reconciliation. I still see abusive attitudes that are so tied up in the porn use. They see [his] tears and ‘repentance’. They haven’t spent time with me or the kids – only him. The emotional abuse is so HEAVY. That is what I feel most compelled to run from – someone who plays the victim while he is abusing himself, his wife, kids, and those used to make the content he has indulged in. I think this is the part where wives and kids need help – after YEARS/DECADES of this cycle (sin comes to light/tears and repentance and new accountability partners/ etc.) – when is it finally enough? Their argument is that he seems genuine this time – so who am I to not give him another year? These guys haven’t even chatted with me. That happens too often. And if we say, “but that seems unsafe to me” – we are told we’re being unsubmissive. I wonder how many people have been completely finished off by that sort of spiritual abuse. I hope you are able to help others still love God and trust Him, but navigate through these murky waters. Thanks again.”

The writer’s articulate description of the cycle of cheap grace hopefully draws you in, dear reader. Perhaps you’ve lived it, or are seeing her point of view for the first time. 

Cheap grace 

1) Sin comes to light. 

2) Tears and repentance

3)New accountability partners

4) Sin continues

This wife’s story draws tears to my eyes because she, her children, other watching families, and the testimony of Christ are twice hurt.  Both the husband’s sins and the church’s short-sighted response to pornography in Christian families have emptied grace of its beauty and power.  Along with her, I ask, when is it finally enough? How many observers have been completely finished off by that sort of spiritual abuse?

Here’s the thing, dear reader.  In my experience, most believers and followers of Christ want to do what is right. There will always be power-hungry leaders among us, however they are relatively few. The rest of us make these mistakes based on lack of knowledge. 

Christ’s grace

1) We all sin and fall short of God’s holy nature (Romans 3:23)

2) People return to sin like a dog returns to its vomit  (2 Peter 2:21-22)

3) Our “righteousness” is as pure as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)

4) Enter Jesus. He lives the life we cannot – one without sin (Hebrews 4:15)

5) He pays the blood-price for our forgiveness (1 John 1:7)

6) We confess our sins and turn away from them with his strength (Romans 8:5-9)

7) We become more and more like him, loving others as he did (Philippians 2:5)

8) In marriages, we lay down our selfish ambitions and pursue loving each other as Christ loved his church, and gave himself for her, submitting to each other as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:1-21)

Where does adultery, lust, and addiction fit in this picture? Where is the false repentance (that is actually only remorse) in God’s story? Did not Esau sell his soul for a pot of porridge? And though he begged for forgiveness with tears, he could not receive it. That is because his tears were remorseful, not repentant. (Hebrews 12:15-17)

True repentance is observable

Repentance accompanies  deep, honest and humble confession,  true understanding of the pain one has caused others and God,  long-lasting change (with the family as the star witness, not tears),  continuous humility,  and a blame-the-victim, blame-society, and blame-God ceasefire. By the way,  “I can’t help it” is blaming God. 

Cheap grace sounds as the wife in this story describes it (Romans 6:1-3).  When is enough?  In my opinion, it is easier to accept someone’s tears than to do the hard work of exploring their heart. At the very least,  I wish her church leaders would chat with her and the children!

There are common misunderstandings

  • Forgiveness and trust are confused
  • Submission as unto the Lord is diminished into enabling and endorsing sin
  • Separation and divorce are equaled with remarriage
  • We are unwilling to do as God did – allow divorce due to the hardness of mens’ hearts
  • There is little concept of the connection between porn and adultery, or porn and abuse
  • There is little respect for the death sentence emotional abuse hands down to victims 
  • Legalism trumps holiness. 

Thank you for reading today’s blog, and I pray you are encouraged by the truth written here. Let’s do our best to understand wisdom, and to love these families harmed so deeply by pornography.

Related Posts:  Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse pt 1, pt 2;   Series on Emotional Abuse in Christian Marriages pt 1, pt 2, pt 3, pt 4, pt 5and An Open Letter About Porn to Christian Husbands, Pastors, and Husbands-to-be

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*help sign and typing pic from kozzi.com

4-Eyes, the Big C, and Family Values


Compassionate Love:  Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   
(c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24729349-surprised-smiley-with-glasses.Fourth Grade in 1970. A little red-head returned to our classroom sporting new frames. She looked awkward and embarrassed. Mean boys wasted no time and started laughing at her expense.  They called her “four-eyes.”

Grocery store circa. early 1970s. A woman wandered up and down store aisles looking tired. A bandana covered her apparently bald head. No one engaged her although many of us looked. She was, in my young judgment, either one of those crazy feminist-types or she had the Big-C.  Both ideas made me cautious in her presence.

Church service in 1977. A family of four sat toward the back of a mid-size sanctuary. Recently, they had been a family of five; this day a parent was missing due to divorce. Now it was as if they were sad oddballs as adults tried to not look while reprimanding their children for staring.

Stigma has always been damaging. It isolates people who hurt and keeps potential supports hidden behind ignorance and fear. When we agree to discuss ideas with people who are different from us, we learn and grow in exciting ways.

Stigma surrounding major depression is an unfortunate assumption that weakness equals failure. In the case of a suicide, failure may be attributed to those loved ones left behind.

Just yesterday, in only four hours at my table at a small, church basement flea market,  I met three people who told me about family members and friends lost to suicide decades ago. Two openly expressed helpless regret that they could have, should have done something to stop it, blaming themselves after all these years.

Culture changes. Glasses are now cool, designed to express the wearer’s unique personality.  Cancer is recognized and talked about. Divorce is always hard, but from what I have observed is not seen as the antithesis to family values.   

No one celebrates poor eyesight, cancer, or divorce. The pain is real. De-stigmatizing something doesn’t mean we ignore the negative side of the problem, it means we address it and accept imperfection as normal.

Next time you hear about a suicide, try to speak of it in compassionate terms. Suicide is sad and tragic. Talking about it opens minds and hearts.

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  NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*pictures from QualityStockPhotos.com

 

 

One Can Go Home Again

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

100_2578
George Washington stopped here to encourage his troops

This past Sunday I landed in Cleveland, Ohio, my home for 22 years before moving to Philadelphia six years ago.

In Pennsylvania I lived in a suburb oddly designated “King of Prussia.” KOP, as locals call it, is named after a 1700s tavern where George Washington once stayed. 

KOP has a healthy respect for the Revolutionary War. Generals are honored with roads named after them,  Valley Forge National Park sits at the edge of town, and everywhere one can find revered sites where George Washington stood or slept.

On one busy road, if you are driving north, a boulder juts out into your lane. You have to go around it, no one slows or scoots over to make it easier, and I’ve often wondered what truck drivers do as they approach the spot. Why doesn’t the county remove the boulder? Because George Washington once stood on it, addressing his troops. History over safety.

My stay in Pennsylvania was a lonely time where I experienced the worst major depressive episode I’ve had and attempted suicide. A fight against an eating disorder also began. In KOP, my marriage of over three decades ended.

PIC_0010
Delaware River where some say George Washington crossed

In my weakened emotional state, it seemed I could barely stand as wave after wave of trying situations came along. However, stand I did, with the help of answered prayer and professional support.

I grew. Sad and hurtful events taught me powerful lessons to apply new relational and coping skills. I fell, got back up, fell, and got back  up repeatedly. How’s the saying go? If you fall seven times and get up seven times you are winning.

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Cleveland, Ohio skyline

Cleveland is greeting a new person. I think differently, relate better, communicate in a healthier way, do not apologize for being me, and celebrate a closer walk with my God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

On Tuesday I slipped into an old pattern with my oldest son. It was no surprise to find I had fallen into “mother-mode,” something I promised would not happen.  This situation created an opportunity to open a helpful dialogue. Emotional safety over history.

I’ve come to understand life is hard, and it is normal for conflicts to arise. Yet there is so much hope as I apply my new-born wobbly legged ability to accept life on life’s terms.

History is history. Near KOP, Washington’s troops were probably glad when their trips over the icy Delaware River were over. For me, it is a relief to spot land after a toilsome passage in a foreign sea.

It is true, one can go home again.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

Emotional Abuse in the Christian Marriage. Part 5

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

Physical (including sexual) abuse involves emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can also occur without physical assault.

In this series, emotional abuse is described and put in context. A special focus on what it can look like in a Christian marriage, leads naturally to this last discussion, can the church sanction divorce on grounds of emotional abuse alone?

Attitudes

Clearly, a woman needs to leave a situation where she is beaten, threatened, or assaulted. Divorce ia appropriate in cases of sexual activity outside the marriage. I think those are popular opinions.

What I’ve noticed however,  is that when women from widely considered “christian” marriages, try to describe their husbands’ non-physical maltreatment,  a limited and judgmental viewpoint from the church may not recognize emotional abuse.

A friend of mine was reprimanded by her pastor for making her husband “look bad.”  Another pastor told a wife, “Everyone says nasty things once in a while.” Emotional abuse is often confused with disappointment in a marriage. 

Recently, I met a young pastor who proactively sent a woman to counseling for the emotional abuse she endured. Domestic abuse is less and less taboo, yet in the United States we are a long way from knowledgable with regard to emotional abuse.

Results of emotional abuse

The best write-up I have seen about domestic abuse both physical and emotional, is found on HelpGuide.org.  One line reads, “There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner.”*

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)** is not limited to extreme trauma or war. An emotionally abused wife feared entering her home, and spent much of a frozen night in her car. Eventually, her husband moved out. She felt trapped in bed, tense, and scared that the noises she heard were him coming back.

Some women are jumpy, suddenly angry, or suffer bad dreams. 

Wives say their husbands treat them like prostitutes, ignore them and choose porn, express unspoken yet very real threats, practice gross neglect, or use back-handed put-downs disguised as jokes. Love is withdrawn as punishment, and promised as reward for cooperation. Gaslighting is frequent; this happens when a person purposely tries to make another question their own judgement.

Survivors of emotional abuse have to overcome the brainwashing that systematic blame, belittling, disrespect, dishonesty, lovelessness, and gross neglect cause. Negative beliefs about herself  can become a pervasive issue and undermine her ability to function.

God’s calling on her life often is replaced with a mutated rationalization, that by keeping the peace she is doing God’s will. 

Social interaction

A posting on a survivors-related facebook page reads, “Many [women]blame themselves for the abuse and continue to feel responsible and guilty for anything bad that happens to them or to other people they know. Survivors often feel bad about themselves and different from other people. They therefore isolate themselves from other people and avoid making close friendships.” ***

We need interaction.  Kind, nurturing photo-24779100-frowning-womanrelationships are God-given needs for fulfillment, productivity, and health.

I would argue that emotional abuse is life-threatening because in many cases it leads chronic loneliness which is diectly related to poor physical health, substance use, and suicidal thinking.  One woman I met, who remained in her emotionally abusive marriage,  eventually existed in a constant state of defeat and despair. 

Religiously unaware

It is convenient for abusers of any type, to use and count on a Christian victim’s 70 x 7 forgiveness obligation, and honest desire for relationship.  Misuse of scripture while cherry-picking verses to support power and control, is a common thread in abusive “Christian” marriages. Wives taught to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, are not reminded that the Lord does not abuse his bride. 

In The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages, author Amy White writes:

Unless pastors and counselors can recognize the often subtle and always complex dynamics of emotional abuse, women will continue to be victimized first by their husbands and then by the church or the community. An abusive man who is not held accountable is indirectly supported and given license to continue his destructive patterns, and those around him become enablers. Women are not treated with dignity and respect, as God intended, and so God is not honored.****

If you still do not understand the dangers of emotional abuse, consider this: it is used as a torure device to extract information from prisoners of war. When a woman is emotionally abused, her life as intended by God is dead or dying.

Of course separation or divorce are appropriate!  Escaping the control of an abuser is a holy action. We are not showing the love of Jesus to victims, or abusers for that matter, by continuing to enable grave sin. 

Love is to be the most telling sign of our faith in Jesus. We believers are to treat others as we want to be treated. Leaders are to be servants. Justice and freeing the oppressed are tenets of our faith. 

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See  Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse  and More on Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse

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Today’s Helpful Word : 

Proverbs 10:10 

 Winking at sin leads to sorrow; bold reproof leads to peace.

**http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/index.shtml  

***https://www.facebook.com/wearesurvivors1

****”The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages” by Amy Wildman White  http://christiancounsellingcentre.ca/sitecontent/ur3P9wM1inxspbnup9fYhQ–/mfiles/the-silent-killer-of-christian-marriages.pdf

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

Emotional Abuse in the Christian Marriage. Part 3

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

She stood staring at the door moments after her husband left, slamming it behind him. Beside her stood her 12 year-old daughter, watching with wide eyes.

The woman turned and silently walked back to the table where she had done paperwork. She resumed her duty as if nothing had occurred. The girl understood photo-24803258-residential-houseshe was on her own again to process what she had just witnessed.

Emotional abuse can make victims retreat into shamed silence. Not only did the husband in the above scenario hurt his wife’s feelings, but he humiliated her in front of her daughter. The mother did not know what to do.

She was overwhelmed with emotion and had no more room for empathy for her girl. She had rationalized long ago that silence was the safe way to protect her children. In silence, repercussions from her husband would be deferred, she could tell herself she was sheltering her children, and could focus on urgent chores. Discussion meant more pain caused by the emotions of others, so she shut herself off and out of the family dynamic.

We know that other victims were present. The daughter for instance, learned and relearned to keep her mouth shut. She had observed her father kissing her mother on the cheek- the only “affection” she had ever seen between her parents. The kiss was followed by hatred, and a slammed door.

This was a mean man treating a woman like dirt. Since no one discussed it, the girl did know any other relationship between a husband and wife was possible. Emotional abuse kept her family segregated to an extent; her mother’s lack of friendships was reaction to fear of her situation being discovered. Both mother and daughter believed themselves to be nothings.

Sometimes we want to ask, “why didn’t the mother just leave?” Think about it financially. She had a roof over her head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. So did her children. While she may have been willing to risk her financial circumstances, she did not want her children to pay such a price.

Her work history was meager because she and her husband had agreed she would stay home with their son and daughter. He discouraged her from working because in his opinion her job was to tend to him. She earned her college degree later in life and was emotionally unfit to use it.

As she fought to promote the image of “all is well” in public, he shamed her and undermined her efforts with the children. He told them their mother was crazy and would be leaving them soon. He said he was going to die young. He told his children why he hated their mother. Eventually he divorced her declaring her an unfit parent.

Now picture this family in church. She wears a pasted smile, he acts like a peacock, the children do not behave normally. Against all the false advertising about her attitude and family life, the woman was seriously angry.

There could be no confronting her husband as he would find a way to make everything her fault. She had shut herself off from church fellowship and extended family by wearing her fake smile and never opening up. Her pent-up emotions overflowed until she was hitting her children, and there was little warmth between them.photo-24710349-church-entrance

Think about the dynamics here. The father emotionally abused his wife in her face and behind her back. He corrupted her relationship with her children and caused everyone in the household to feel unsafe. The mother retained a solitary lifestyle after he and then the grown children left because she felt worthless. The son and daughter married people like their parents and the legacy of the “Christian” home continued.

The wife had felt trapped in her situation. She lashed out at the kids. Image became her god because she couldn’t risk losing her standing in the church. Truth never made its way into the open. Imagine then if she had (and she did not but many women do) decided to leave him? The outside world would have been shocked at this poor, normal husband dumped by his senselessly angry wife.

These are some of the reasons women in emotionally abusive marriages do not leave.

Please read more at:

http://cryingoutforjustice.com.

https://dannimoss.wordpress.com/articles/abuse-in-the-christian-home/does-god-want-me-to-stay-in-an-abusive-marriage/

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015  Nancy Virden

100_2376February 21 was a messy, slippery, gray day here in southeastern PA. Safety warnings on television, radio, the internet, and even a phone call from the township told residents to stay home. But I am from Cleveland, why concern myself with a little snow?

One half hour from my warm apartment, I passed spun-out vehicles, and worked to avoid a car weaving across the lane on a hill covered in ice. The took two hours.

I’ve been able to tell only 3 people the cause of some of that delay, a car accident I drove up on soon after it happened. Due to more urgent upheaval, my emotions have not caught up to the month gone by. I don’t know how to speak of or process having watched a family burn alive.

Yesterday though, I purposely drove twice past the scene. There are no flowers by the side of the road, no evidence of a car fire or accident. People continue to zoom by ignoring ominous street signs cautioning us to watch for aggressive drivers.

I wonder how the emergency crew feels who was forced to stand by helplessly near the roaring flames. From about 6 cars away I had a close-up of the double line they formed to privately remove bodies. One little bundle taken to the ambulance looked perhaps to be a baby. The ambulance did not leave; no one could have survived.

I guess now I am talking about it although silently to the public. Maybe you are wondering the point of this story? There isn’t one except sometimes we have to find space in the middle of life’s chaos to allow our emotions to vent a little.

Also in the past month I found out I’m getting divorced, finished and started two big work projects, comforted two suicidal friends, and continued to watch my dad’s dementia steal his brain. Add the strain of other decisions and challenges, and yes, sometimes it is too much.

There is no truth to the statement that God will not give us more than we can handle.

What is absolutely foundational to maneuvering all this is the fact I am not alone. Beyond what caring people and calmer circumstances can provide is the promise of walking with my Savior now, in reality, despite being unable to articulate aloud what is on my heart. He hears the unspoken words, and comforts, teaches, leads, and loves.

Real truth is found in Saint Paul’s words, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” *

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

*(Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)