How do I deal with an abusive spouse?

Jay Dee

How do I deal with an abusive spouse?

May 26, 2016

I received this question almost a week ago from our anonymous Have A Question page: When we first got together my husband was a reasonable lover in that he seemed to care about my needs somewhat. He quickly turned into a raging bull, satisfying only

Anonymous QuestionI received this question almost a week ago from our anonymous Have A Question page:

When we first got together my husband was a reasonable lover in that he seemed to care about my needs somewhat.
He quickly turned into a raging bull, satisfying only himself and actually hurting me. Almost every sexual encounter was a violent quicky.
I explained what was happening to me hoping for a answer and he said he would take it easy.
That lasted a very short time and he was back at it.
I learned to position myself to take his abuse and just tried to deal with this. Occasionally I would bring the subject up because I felt used, abused and just taken for granted. I had no sexual pleasure and was literally only satisfying him. Nothing ever came of my pleads.
Recently ( years later) I admitted to him I felt like I had created the problem by not taking some kind of action but frankly I have not idea what to do. Again I asked him to get help with me.
Now he is saying he looses his reasoning and mind and can’t seem to help it. He does not want to get help.
I told him to find a way because I cannot take it anymore. I have not had an orgasm for years with him. My libido is very low by now but there are times when I do feel something. I love him very much for numerous reasons but find I avoid sex and try to find other ways to be intimate with him. Any suggestions?

So, I would consider this a case of abuse, that changes the discussion dramatically.  In other cases, my advice is typically to stick with it, pray, model for your spouse how to be a good spouse.  But, in cases of abuse, where harm is being done (be it physical, emotional or mental), I think the sensible approach is to get out of the situation.  I’m not saying divorce, but I think it might be wise to separate, for a time, in the hopes of reconciliation.  In particular, it’s this I’d want to see change:

He does not want to get help.

This tells me he doesn’t really think it’s a problem.  He think it’s okay to engage is spousal abuse.  Furthermore, this tells me that he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions:

Now he is saying he looses his reasoning and mind and can’t seem to help it.

So, I consider giving an ultimatum (which I’m not a fan of, but desperate times…): Get help, or I leave until you do.  But, if he refuses to get help (or delays), then I’d find another place to sleep, and I’d get myself into counseling.  In fact, getting counseling is probably a good idea either way. You need to learn how to establish healthy boundaries. Also, I’d say don’t be shy about why you left.  I’m not saying yell it from the rooftops, but don’t sugar coat it either.  People don’t need the details, but I think too often we bury our troubles, we hide them away, and then our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have a responsibility to keep us accountable and safe, cannot fulfill their role in our lives.

Also, this is not the time to be worrying about “don’t deprive one another”, (1 Corinthians 7:5).  I would argue that’s superceded by worrying about your husband’s relationship with God.

The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. – Psalm 11:5

Again, this is an abusive situation, I don’t want anyone going to their non-abusive spouse and saying “No, we’re not having sex because you need to pray more”.  That’s not the same thing at all.  Now, I don’t believe it’s that God hates your husband, Hebrew is a language where contrast plays a big part of how something is interpreted.  For example:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26

You don’t actually have you hate your family, in fact, you shouldn’t, but the contrast here is that you should love God so much that the love you have for your family should be so strong as to render all over loves hateful by comparison, if that makes sense.

Note: I know, someone (probably a seminary graduate) is going to say “but Luke was written in Greek”, to that, I say: Yes, but Jesus would have spoken Hebrew so, it’s still valid, and there’s plenty of evidence for that if you want to email me to have a discussion about it.

Also, I worry that it’s going to continue to escalate until it starts to turn even darker and more violent.  Stopping it now may save you a lot more pain and suffering, both in the continuation, as well as in further reconciliation, as well as increase the chances of success.  Another note:  If you are in an abusive relationship where you fear for your safety and/or life, get help before leaving and/or delivering an ultimatum.  That’s, again, a very different situation that I’m not qualified to speak into.

My point is that, whether or not you have past responsibility for keeping this dynamic going, you are evaluating it now, and so something can be done.  Be proactive.  Seek the change that you both need.  Get help.  Reach out to professionals who can assist in resolving this.  And just a heads up: not all pastors will be able to, or willing, to handle situations like this.  You may need to go to a few, or hire a counselor or therapist.  It may be that he can’t control himself, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn to, and until he accepts responsibility and endeavours to change, I doubt you’ll see him even try.

And just because the world has become a scary place, legally, I should point out that I’m not a doctor, lawyer, pastor, therapist, counselor nor do I have any other credential that allows me to take responsibility for your actions.  My opinion as written above is merely an option that you will have to choose to follow, or not, or modify, as you see fit.  

In that same vein, I open the floor to anyone in the comments to add their unqualified opinion.


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18 thoughts on “How do I deal with an abusive spouse?”

  1. Mike says:

    You are right about pastors with little or no training in this area of abuse. Even schools, doctors, nurses, police get it wrong at times. When it comes to abuse, so many misinterpret the severity and report it to authorities who go overboard. They invade the home, make arrests, cause a legal battle that need not happen. I would caution about taking action without much prayer, counsel, and consideration of the consequences. I feel sorry for your situation, and will pray for you and your decisions ahead.

  2. Amy says:

    You are in an abusive situation, sexual and physical abuse. And yes, regardless of what some would say, sexual abuse can happen in a marriage. Your husband has been physically abusing you during sex, causing you pain and never taking into consideration your feelings or your safety.

    You are NOT responsible in any way for your husband’s behavior and actions. He alone is solely responsible.

    Get out, get counseling and be in deep prayer asking God to guide you in the direction which is best.

    I don’t know whether there is other abuse going on, but I am going to assume there is emotional, mental and possibly verbal abuse as well.

    Please get help. Not your pastor but a qualified counselor who has dealt with abuse. Call your local women’s shelter to get referrals if need be.

    Here are a couple sites specifically for abuse which may help you:

    And a good video series by a Christian counselor from my area:

  3. LatterDay Marriage says:

    There is a level of abuse that justifies divorce. Marriage is not a suicide pact.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Agreed, it’s justified. The problem I have is that most people think “justifies” equals “necessitates”. A divorce, even in cases of abuse, will still cause harm. And I know plenty of cases where abusive relationships have turned around. I’d rather advocate for a separation in hopes of reconciliation myself.

      1. Amy says:

        Unfortunately, abuse often does make divorce necessary.
        A divorce is terrible. But abuse is far worse. I often hear people say how divorce tears apart families but most often in cases of abuse, those families are already torn apart and much damage has been done well before divorce papers are signed.

        I do find it interesting that you mention knowing of many abusive relationships which have been turned around. Most often, abusers do not change, and my concern is whether there has been true change in those relationships or is the marriage simply being kept together because the victim of the abuse simply ‘reconciled’ from pressure to do so?

        A lot of what I read, and have personally experienced, points to very few abusers making true changes.
        For an abuser to change they must acknowledge their actions and take responsibility for them, and most abusers will not do either. They will not admit what they do and most often place blame on the victim for their actions and behaviors. And as in this case, the victim often takes blame for what has happened.

        Another excellent resource on domestic abuse is Lundy Bancroft —

      2. LatterDay Marriage says:

        Depends on the case. Some abusers can be reformed but there are some truly horrific cases out there, and if kids are involved that makes it all the worse. If some guy sexually abuses his own kids (or step-kids as seems to be the case so often) I’d ssy go for divorce unless God taps you on the shoulder and says otherwise. Making her a widow works for me too in those cases.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          I wonder if more would be reformed if we stopped talking about murdering them and showed love instead. I’m not saying let hem continue (that wouldn’t be loving either), but I think advocating for the death penalty is certainly too far…

  4. Gilbert says:

    So you’re going to make fun of seminary graduates that disagree with you. Really!? FYI contrast plays a big part in a Greek as well as Hebrew rhetoric, although it is more likely in Hebrew. Not bad, and before some one says other wise, you were actually consistent between yesterdays post and today’s, but barely.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Whose making fun of seminary graduates?

      1. Gilbert says:

        Okay, I stand corrected you weren’t making fun of seminary graduates, but you did make a kind of snide remark about us. Back to topic. Naive person here. My wife saying owe, or making sounds like she’s in pain is a quick way to pull me out of the sexual overdrive. The more my wife enjoys sex the more I enjoy it, just saying.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          It wasn’t intended as snide. Just my experience. Usually someone pops up when I say something like that, and they invariably have to point out that they’re a seminary graduate in some form or another (pastor, minister, university professor, or former of any of those).

          As for our spouse enjoying sex, yeah, I agree completely.

    2. Jay Dee says:

      I don’t know what was “barely consistent”. Same message: don’t divorce. If possible, stay together. If not, then separate until you can be reconciled.

  5. anonymous says:

    I have absolutely no first hand experience with anything like this but I feel terrible for you.
    I will say this that this does seem like a very legitimate case of abuse regardless of you allowing the behavior or not.

    Now, this is in no way equivalent but I wish to have ‘zombie sex.’ zombie sex is where my husband would fall asleep then about an hour later his subconscious would wake up and grab me forcefully and start to have sex with me. At first, it was a turn on. But very quickly it started to feel like abuse because with wouldn’t talk or touch during or afterwards and it was 100% about him, after he finished which was in only a few minutes he would roll over and go to sleep. Most of the time, I was very turned on and would lose sleep as a result.
    Anyway, long story short, I had to talk to him about it because I felt very used and I was not connecting in the way I wanted to during sex. I used to joke that he would have sex with anything warm and wet in his bed even if it wasn’t me (how would his zombie subconscious have known different especially because he never even talked to me)? He did stop ( thank god).
    Shortly thereafter though, he got in a cycle of sexual refusal with me and sex wss 100% on his terms with total veto power. Which wouldn’t have been a problem except I wanted sex 3 to 4 times a week and we wanted it once or twice aweek so I was miserable all the time. Our marriage was in serious trouble and we went to counseling. We finally started to turn a corner when he took responsibility for letting our marriage get so bad. He also admitted that he was a very selfish person who viewed sex as a chore and also saw me as obnoxious because my attempts both sexual and non sexual to reconnect with him were irritating because it was preventing him from doing things he wanted to do which ranged from house projects or watching YouTube videos, etc.
    So I guess I put my foot down and he starting taking responsibility and we both started communicating more honestly and we turned a corner.

    Blessing to you and best of luck

  6. JaxStyle says:

    God gave divorce as the ABSOLUTE FINAL option after trying and trying and trying and TRULY trying everything else. Even in abusive situations, divorce is not best. No, a person should ABSOLUTELY NOT stay in an abusive relationship – separate for a time and during that separation seek God with your EVERYTHING. He is the true deliverer/restorer/reconciler/healer, and everything that is amazing and good. So many are speaking of abusive situations as hopeless deadends but here’s the key: FAITH. IN. GOD. “With man nothing (restoration in am abusive relationship) is possible, but with GOD ALL things are possible!” That’s why divorce is the absolute final option, because God knows that if we TRULY trust in Him truly give to Him the horrible/ugly/despairing situations that we are in, He can restore tenfold, “the years that the cankerworm, the Palmer worm, and the locust have eaten” and He can give beauty for ashes in the darkest of situations! As Christians we speak, live, and walk in faith and believe and pray for this woman and others like her that God can and will turn this ugliness into a thing of beauty after He is finished with it. Lastly I reiterate, she , nor anyone in an abusive situation should NOT remain in that situation but SEPARATE while healing and reconciliation is being wrought. But with that, we must know first and foremost that God is a God of reconciliation, healing, and restoration and that He hates divorce! Divorce breaks Gods heart because He can see how beautiful the relationship would have been had we only truly trusted in Him.

    1. Amy says:

      God hates the violence which causes divorce. Abuse in a marriage breaks Gods heart because it breaks the covenant between a man and wife which He designed.

      And yes, God can and does restore all that has been lost and brings beauty from ashes, just not always by reconciling a destructive marriage. God can and does change hearts, but He also lets those go which have hardened their hearts and have chosen not to turn from their evil ways.

      It was through my absolute faith in God and complete trust in Him which brought me up from the ashes (a completely destroyed marriage from unrepentant abuse) and into a life restored to me after all those locus-eaten years.

    2. wife says:

      I can testify to God changing and healing a marraige from abuse. My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive. Things were very hard and were getting worse but he was willing to change, let God change him and speak to our pastor whom he respcts. Our marraige now (3-4 years later) is amazing and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. I know this isn’t the case for everyone and the abuser needs to be willing to work and change (with Jesus) but I just wanted to affirm that this is possible.

      1. Amy says:

        Dear Wife,
        How wonderful that your husband was willing to do the hard work of changing! Praise God your husband was open to Him working in his heart and life to produce a new man.
        It’s not often this happens in an abusive marriage so it’s refreshing to hear stories of such a turn around.

  7. JaxStyle says:

    Lastly, I pray for this woman, that through this situation she connects with Jesus like never before. I pray that Jesus strengthens her to endure during this difficult time and that through this she taps into the depths of His peace, love, and joy like she never has before, and that Jesus becomes the true source of her strength and sustenance in all things. My dear, I pray for courage for you to, “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Jesus and He will direct your paths.” in this very difficult situation. Let the Lord be your light and salvation, for whom shall you fear? Let the Lord be the strength of your life, for whom shall you be afraid. For Jesus said that He will never leave you nor forsake you. And I pray for your husband that He would hear the voice of the Lord speaking to him and in “the day that he hears the voice of Jesus, He would not harden his heart.” But that he would surrender and confess and repent and that the Lord would “take away his stony heart and give him a heart of flesh”. Again, “with men this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible,” if we only believe. God IS able to restore your marriage and He SO BADLY wants to restore it and make it shining gorgeous! God LOVES you! He ADORES you! He has NOT. forgotten about you and He NEVER left you!

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