Spouse Abuse and Domestic Violence Among Christians FAQ
For the Abused and Those Who Help Them
For Both Husband and Wife Abuse
Patsy Rae Dawson
We decry the abuse of women in third world countries all in the name of religion. Yet the same degradation of women goes on in this country among many Christians, who verbally, physically, and financially abuse their wives. In addition, verbal and physical abuse of men is increasing rapidly. The shame is on our heads, because God gives Christians the tools to stamp out spouse abuse among us.
- What is the first thing to tell someone in an abusive relationship?
- Do you have a survey to help a person know if she is in an abusive relationship or if he or she is an abuser?
- How common is spouse abuse among Christians?
- What can a person do when the elders and preacher won’t help?
- Why are we becoming a nation of verbal abusers?
- What are some of the bullying tactics abusers use to get their way?
- What are cluster sins?
- Are there levels of sin in the home?
- Is there hope for overcoming adultery and sexual addiction?
- Are wives obligated to submit to physical abuse?
- Does God trap women in marriages to abusive men?
- How is family abuse different from spouse abuse?
- What is a person’s responsibility toward the sins of family members?
- How did abuse by her husband and mother-in-law damage Jeanne Guyon’s view of God and the Song of Solomon?
- What secular material is recommended on spouse abuse?
- What Bible-based material deals with spouse abuse?
- Can I listen to an audio discussion on the danger of marrying a jerk and the description of a desperate wife?
- How can I sign up for your newsletter?
Answers adapted from the following materials:
- Marriage: A Taste of Heaven
What to Do When Sin Inhibits Love audio album
A Plan for Healing the Soul and the Marriage
Domestic violence against women, children, and even men presents a real danger in many homes. All writers and authorities advise those in abusive relationships to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their own safety along with that of their children. They should trust their “gut instincts” and avoid dangerous situations. Often abuse against women by men who claim to be Christians is more violent than for non-Christians, as these men mistakenly think God gave them the authority to mistreat their wives. These situations should be treated as highly dangerous.
For advice on where to obtain legal or other professional services in your area, contact your elders, minister, local women’s shelter, law enforcement agency, or other suitable agencies or professionals. Women’s shelters and other professionals can also give advice for specific cases and information regarding local laws to people helping those who are abused.
For additional help:
- The hotline for spouse abuse and domestic violence in the United States is 1-800-799-7233. They can refer you to women’s shelters and other services in your area.
- Search on “violence against women” in the various search engines to find information in the United States and other countries.
- If alcohol is involved, contact Al-Anon and Alateen at 1-888-425-2666. The Web site for both is www.al-anon.alateen.org.
- Take care that information you put on your computer cannot be accessed by your batterer in an effort to find out what you are doing to help yourself. If he has access, he can read your e-mail and follow your search of helpful web sites. If you do not have a secure computer, use one at the library or use a friend’s that you can trust.
For the Abused and Those Who Help Them
For Both Husband and Wife Abuse
This survey deals with both husband and wife abuse and is designed to help them analyze their relationship to determine if abuse is going on, who is doing it, how serious it is, and how effective various avenues of help have been. The section describing the different levels of violence against women was adapted from the training manual for Shelter Services for Women, Inc. in California. Other sections are adapted from previously filled out questionnaires by both men and women who are Christians and the author’s experience in working with couples and in attending training sessions at women’s shelters.
The spouse abuse survey is an excellent tool for people helping the abused, to help them analyze situations where they are called upon to help so that they do not minimize husband and wife abuse and to examine how effective their efforts have been. It can also aid preachers and elders, who are often naive about episodes of spouse abuse in their congregations, in analyzing how much and what kind of marital and problem-solving teaching their congregations need. Sadly, due to false assumptions about the Bible’s teaching in regard to subjection and leadership, women’s shelters report that violence against women who are Christians is often much more severe than the spouse abuse generally found among non-believers.
This survey is free to download for your personal use, mirror on your web site, and copy and distribute to others as long as the “Permission to Make Copies” conditions at the end of the survey on spouse abuse are met.
Click here for the Survey on Spouse Abuse.
Spouse abuse in the name of the Lord
We decry the abuse of women in third world countries all in the name of religion. Yet the same degradation of women goes on in this country among many Christians, who physically, verbally, and financially abuse their wives.
So I wouldn’t be naive when women talked to me about abuse, I went through training at the Women’s Shelter in Tacoma, Washington, one of the largest shelters in the US. The counselor said, “Even men who aren’t Christians use the Bible to justify their abuse.”
She continued, “But men claiming to be Christians can be the most violent of all. We keep secret the location for our shelter for Christian women, because their husbands are so dangerous. They claim God gives them the authority to beat their wives.”
Christians leaders often condone abuse
A Christian woman gave me the minutes of a men’s leadership meeting, also referred to as “secret counsel meetings of the men,” where they discussed her plea for them to discipline her abusive husband. Because of their mistreatment of their own wives, these men declined to censor their brother. They said:
“If my wife is out of control, then I can treat her as a child and spank her.” “If your wife is sinning, you can discipline any way you decide is necessary, including beating.”
“A man is to rule his household, and if he decides it is necessary to beat his wife, he has the authority to do so.”
“I can knock my wife out, if it would save her soul.”
Click here to read all of Slaps, punches, ugly names.
For Help with Spouse Abuse Among Christians
Dear Elders and Preachers, Women from all over the world e-mail me begging for help with knowing what to do about abusive spouses. In nearly every case, they have asked the elders, preachers, and some of their brethren for help, only to be told to go home and be submissive and let their husbands come to their senses. Or the spiritual leaders say, “If your husband will come talk to us, we’ll talk to him.” Many of these women have e-mailed me for years, and I have watched their situations deteriorate as they battle the sin in their homes alone.
One woman asked the congregation for help with her verbally and physically abusive husband who was also the preacher. They told her they were too busy winning lost souls to take the time to learn how to help her and their minister. They continued to use the minister in special soul-winning meetings. Child-protective services told the wife that if she went back to him, they would take the children away from them both–from the husband because he abused them and from the wife because she put them back in harm’s way. Isn’t that an impressive candlestick for that congregation? Too busy with God’s work to learn how to help a preacher and his family!
In another congregation, the elders referred to one of their deacons as “a junkyard dog.” Yet they allowed him to continue doing the work of a deacon. Many years later, his wife presented the elders with a shoebox full of her hair that he had snatched from her head.
Two women in one congregation asked the elders for help with verbally abusive husbands. Instead of giving help, the elders continued to use the two men to team-teach the teenage class. These men could not teach the love of God because they didn’t practice it at home. A generation later, nearly every young person in their classes fell away from the Lord.
I wish these extremes were the exception rather than the rule. My e-mails indicate that lack of spiritual help is all too common. Is it any wonder that many congregations are dying instead of growing? Perhaps Peter gives us a clue in I Peter 3:7 where he said that the prayers of men don’t reach any higher than the ceiling when they fail to live with their wives according to knowledge. Use of such men in the Lord’s service mocks God and creates stumbling blocks for their wives!
Today, I’m speaking on behalf of my sisters. I pray that you will let me plead their case before you. You hold within your hands the power to stop a lot of misery and to cause families to glorify God for his multi-faceted wisdom. I am convinced that without solving problems according to God’s word, it is impossible for us to really see the wisdom of God.
Click here for the full Open Letter to Elders and Preachers. If you want to paste the letter into an e-mail to send to your spiritual leaders along with your request for help, hit control A to select the whole letter, then right click with your mouse and tell it to copy, then paste into an e-mail.
Dr. Phil recently exposed that many parents, especially mothers, are becoming verbal abusers by screaming at their children because they can’t control them. One clip showed a 7-year-old boy sitting at the kitchen table. Inches from his face, his mother screamed horrible names at him. She told him she wished he’d never been born.
The little boy watched his mother’s face, and when she finished her tirade, he covered his head with his arms and laid it down on the table. He sobbed for a little bit until he gained control. Then he came up screaming back at his mother the same vile words she’d screamed at him.
While Dr. Phil’s program saddened me, I was not surprised that mothers are resorting to screaming to control their children.
Click here for the full articleWhy Are We Becoming a Nation of Verbal Abusers?
Lundy Bancroft, in his timeless book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, gives a list of common control tactics that abusive people use on their victims:
My clients have so many ways to bully their way through arguments that I couldn’t possibly name them all, but the abuser’s most common tactics are listed below.
- Distorting what you say
- Distorting what happened in an earlier interaction
- Accusing you of doing what he does, or thinking the way he thinks
- Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority–”defining reality”
- Not listening, refusing to respond
- Laughing out loud at your opinion or perspective
- Turning your grievances around to use against you
- Changing the subject to his grievances
- Criticism that is harsh, undeserved, or frequent
- Provoking guilt
- Playing the victim
- Smirking, rolling his eyes, contemptuous facial expressions
- Yelling, out-shouting
- Name-calling, insults, put-downs
- Walking out
- Towering over you
- Walking toward you in an intimidating way
- Blocking a doorway
- Other forms of physical intimidation, such as getting too close while he’s angry
- Threating to leave you
- Threating to harm you
Conversational control tactics are aggravating no matter who uses them, but they are especially coercive and upsetting when used by an abusive man because of the surrounding context of emotional or physical intimidation. I have rarely met an abuser who didn’t use a wide array of the above tactics in conflicts; if you consider an argument with a partner to be a war, why not use every weapon you can think of? The underlying mind-set makes the behaviors almost inevitable. [Female abusers often excel at the same tactics men use.--PRD]
The abusive man [or woman] wants particularly to discredit your perspective, especially your grievances. He [or she] may tell you, for example, that the “real” reasons why you complain about the way he [or she] treats you are:
- You don’t want him to feel good about himself.
- You can’t handle it if he has an opinion that differs from yours, if he is angry, or if he is right.
- You are too sensitive, you read too much into things, or you take things the wrong way.
- You were abused as a child or by a former partner, so you think everything is abuse.
These are all strategies he uses to avoid having to think seriously about your grievances, because then he [or she] might be obligated to change his [or her] behaviors or attitudes.
The abusive man’s [woman's] goal in a heated argument is in essence to get you to stop thinking for yourself and to silence you,If you watch closely, you will begin to notice how many of his controlling behaviors are aimed ultimately at discrediting and silencing you. because to him your opinions and complaints are obstacles to the imposition of his will as well as an affront to his sense of entitlement.
He makes sure to get his way–by one means or another. The bottom line with an abuser in an argument is that he wants what he wants–today, tomorrow, and always–and he feels he has a right to it. (Bancroft, pp. 145-147.)
One of the assignments in my class on “How to Fight Fair” in the Challenges in Marriage material is to analyze the normal course of arguments to plan ahead on how to deal with them. One woman who checked off the items on this list that her husband did and then practiced the how to fight fair principles wrote:
This morning I attempted to talk to him. I told him this was no way to live. He said it would continue as long as I continue to accuse him of awful things [sin on his part]. He turned it into a huge fight. I did my best to stay calm and in control. I stayed on topic. I realize now that this is his way of controlling the situation and attempting to keep me silent on the issue.
He accused me of everything you could possibly think of, calling me names and telling me I was looney and needed a psychologist. I told him that an innocent man would not respond in that way. If I was totally wrong and off the mark, a loving husband would want to know what led me to think that way and would want to discuss it. He wouldn’t immediately resort to defending himself by calling his wife all kinds of terrible dirty names and making her the problem.
He interrupted me constantly, and I just continued to remind him that I don’t interrupt him, that he couldn’t possibly know what I was going to say if he continually interrupted me. He called me terrible names to which I responded by walking away and letting him know that I would not listen to his verbal abuse.
I told him over and over again that he was getting off topic and I would gladly discuss things with him if he would stick to the issue and discuss it with me in an adult manner. I told him if he wanted to fight about it he would have to fight fair. No name calling, etc. I know my refusing to get drawn into a “knock down, drag it out” battle frustrated him greatly, and I think he was a bit confused about how to respond to it. I did raise my voice more than I should have, and I know I’ll have to work on that.
Later, the wife wrote about how her children were watching and learning:
Our teenage daughter told me I had changed so much in such a short amount of time that there was no way her dad could not have noticed. She said he was probably stunned and confused by it. She was amazed herself. I told her when we get serious about obeying God, He works changes in us beyond what we can even imagine. I knew the Lord was working in me through all this, but I was also beginning to see that much work had to be done in my own heart before some things within our marriage could be addressed.
I gathered my children around and shared with them, on an age appropriate level without going into details, that Daddy and Mommy had some problems to work on. I assured them that they were in no way the cause, or to be blamed in any way. We had a nice talk, and I could sense that it did them a world of good. I encouraged them to pray for both Daddy and Mommy, not to be fearful about the situation and that they could trust God to work it all out to His glory and our good. We all prayed together.
I also took the opportunity, because I know how detrimental my husband’s verbal abuse of me could be to their respect for me, to explain to them that I would not tolerate disrespect from them. I shared with them that Daddy’s sin of disrespect towards me does not mean that it makes it okay for them to do the same. That’s his sin, and it’s wrong. Also, if I show their Dad disrespect in any way, it’s my sin; it’s wrong, and God will deal with me regarding it. If they are disrespectful to me or their Dad, God will hold them accountable for their sin.
I shared with my children today that I was going to begin teaching them to fight fair!
Some women’s shelters won’t allow boy children 12 or older to stay with their mothers. These boys have already developed many of the qualities of anger that their fathers exhibited and would intimidate the other women at the shelter.
One woman noticed that every time she told her 4-year-old son, “No,” he would hit the wall or a chair with his fist. At first, she couldn’t figure out where he was getting it from. Then she realized he was continually seeing his dad put his fist through the wall or break things when he was angry. She realized she had to deal with the problem for her son’s sake.
The Bible frequently lists sins together in clusters. When working with someone, it is not uncommon to discover many other sins already raging or starting to develop. With the disrepect toward victims, it’s not surprising to learn that a verbal abuser is now a sexual addict or a physical or sexual abuser or has committed adultery. Unfortunately, if these sins are not dealt with, incest may occur. Notice how God lumps many sins together–red for verbal abuse; green for sexual sins:
The works of the flesh reveal common cluster sins:
Gal. 5:19-21: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Likewise, notice Paul’s admonition to Titus:
Titus 3:3: “For we also were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
Paul warned about verbal abuse:
Eph. 4:31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Paul called for church discipline on both verbal abusers and sexual sinners:
I Cor. 5:11: “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one.”
The word “reviler” also occurs in the next chapter of Corinthians:
I Cor. 6:9-10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Click here to read about the specific cluster sins that surround sexual addiction in “Adultery and Sexual Addiction: A Plan for Healing the Soul and the Marriage.”
Paul told the Galatians:
Gal. 6:1: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
To help Christians fulfill this command, Jude listed three levels of sin and three ways to work at restoring sinners. Sin naturally follows a predictable path that progresses one step at a time from just a slip to becoming more involved in bad conduct to becoming so steeped in evil that the person may become extremely dangerous. As the conduct gets worse, Christians need to increase their pressure on the sinner.
Jude urged his readers to recognize the different levels of sin and to take the appropriate action for each.
Click here to read Three Levels of Sin–Three Levels of Restoration.
Adultery and Sexual Addiction
The increasing frequency of couples requesting help with adultery and sexual addiction is a strong indication that sexual sin will be the number-one marriage problem facing twenty-first-century Christians. Often verbal abuse plays a role in these problems by preventing a couple from facing the sins and dealing with them. Fortunately, God provides a tested and tried three-part formula for overcoming both adultery and sexual addiction. Invariably, however, if Christians don’t know how to deal with these devastating sexual sins, they do great harm to both the sinner and the mate.
Click here to read the online booklet “Adultery and Sexual Addiction: A Plan for Healing the Soul and the Marriage.
One person wrote:
Today, I came across your website. I’ve been praying, searching the scriptures, hoping. And today I found answers, comfort and a sense that I am not alone and that doing the right thing is never wrong. It may be challenging, lonely at times…BUT IS ALWAYS right to seek God’s will and word because you will be lifted up. Today, I felt lifted up, I thank you!
Many involved in sexual sins have e-mailed to say that this material and scriptures gave them hope for overcoming their addictions for the first time.
Many religious teachers deny victims of spouse abuse the right to protect themselves. They offer platitudes such as you should suffer as Jesus or slaves suffered. Some tell wives if the husband gets too bad, God will strike him dead as he did Nabal.
Contrary to this advice, self-protection is a theme all the way through the Bible. Notice these verses of wisdom from Solomon:
The highway of the upright avoids evil;
He who guards his way guards his life. (Proverbs 16:17)
A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge,
But the simple keep going and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22:3, 27:12)
In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares,
But he who guards his soul stays far from them. (Proverbs 22:5)
Below is a short list of scriptures that deal with self-protection. This is only a sampling, not an exhaustive study, of scriptures that demonstrate that an abused woman has the right to defend herself and that God does not expect her to just submit to physical abuse.
Protection of Slaves
Job 31:13-14: “If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves when they filed a complaint against me, What then could I do when God arises, and when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him?”
The law of the Old Testament closely regulated the relationship of a master to his slave. For example, in Exodus 21:7-11, a slave who was also a wife enjoyed the right to expect food, clothing, and conjugal rights. If the man refused to provide these three things, she was to be granted freedom. The basic difference between a slave who was a wife (known as a concubine) and a free woman who became a wife was that the free woman possessed even more rights and privileges.
Click here to read the complete article Are Wives Obligated to Submit to Physical Abuse? and see how God expects wives to protect themselves from mistreatment from their husbands.
Review of Barbara Roberts’ book
Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery & Desertion
After 35 years of teaching on marriage, training at two women’s shelters, and looking back at what happened to many of my students, I highly recommend Not Under Bondage. Barbara’s insights and teaching is badly needed by Christians who often neglect God’s righteous solution of disciplinary divorce for certain problems that fail to respond to implementing God’s word into the relationship.
If more people exercised God’s way of escape by divorcing for impenitent sin in their homes, I believe Christians would exert tremendous peer pressure on wayward spouses as they acknowledge that God does not tolerate ungodly conduct among family members. Sin thrives on secrecy and a mate falsely thinking, It’s my fault, instead of demanding accountability.
As Christians, we often focus so strongly on saving the marriage that we turn a blind eye to the other person’s free will in choosing to be abusive rather than loving. Love is a choice as is demonstrated by the commands in the Bible to love others. We don’t earn another person’s love. And often the justifications for refusing to love are utterly ridiculous and selfish.
Sometimes God’s answer to marriage problems is divorce, and when we resist that answer, we are flirting with harm for our spouses, children, and ourselves. Counselors at women’s shelters report that unchecked abuse always gets worse. Sometimes it gets worse so slowly, that the violated mate does not realize what is happening until the sin is so entrenched in the marriage that reconciliation is impossible. Earlier punitive divorce may well have been the catalyst to turn a sinner from his destructive behavior toward his mate and children, and even himself.
Click here to read the complete review Does God Trap Women in Marriages to Abusive Men? and see one of the ways God provides to wage a spiritual battle against sin in the home.
After four decades of teaching on marriage, I now realize the expression “spouse abuse” addresses only half the problem and encourages naivete about the damages from an emotionally abusive mate. A more correct term is “family abuse.”
In every instance where I have firsthand knowledge, the abuser treated the children like the spouse. If the abuser failed to bond emotionally or show love and concern for the mate, then the children suffered from these same deficiencies. While the abuser blamed the spouse for everything and criticized continually, the children faced discouragement from an impossible-to-please parent.
One husband’s parenting skills consisted of threats and hollering at his wife to make the children mind. She and the children constantly walked on eggshells trying to control his temper. Yet, people outside the home praised the man as a great problem solver–a common description of many hypocritical workers in our churches. Failures at home masquerading as servants of God.
The main difference between abused spouses and children
Abused spouses usually possess at least some adult skills and reasoning abilities while the children do not. Children faced with a screaming, threatening, and criticizing parent learn childish ways to survive. Often doomed to repeat the same mistreatment with their own families, they grow into abusers or rescuers who perpetuate the misery.
I now tell abused spouses, “Step out of your own misery and look at your children’s pain. They have less ability to deal with their parent than you do. Then thank God every day for opening your eyes to the harm sin in your home is doing to your children so you can make intelligent decisions on how to protect them.”
Christians’ misunderstanding of how God hates divorce creates an environment where they try to save marriages at all costs. Unfortunately, the price is often the emotional health of the children who endure the family abuse and who keep the family secret. How Outrageous!
When I was a child, I used to speak as a child
In I Corinthians 13 on agapeo, love commanded of a husband and father, after listing the characteristics of love–patience, kindness, unselfishness, lack of score keeping, faithfulness–all missing characteristics in family abuse, Paul concluded in verse 11:
When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
As a Christian hater and killer, Paul had to grow up and put away his childish problem-solving reasoning learned at home and in the Jewish synagogues. He had to embrace real love in his daily life.
Perhaps the place to begin growing up ourselves is by correcting our terminology. It is not spouse abuse. It is family abuse of the grossest and most ungodly kind. God may hate divorce, but he hates sin in the home even more. If you don’t believe it, check out these resources:
- Read the review of Barbara Roberts book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery & Desertion
- Answer the questions below ?Responsibility Regarding the Sins of Family Members?
- Take the “Survey on Spouse Abuse and Domestic Violence Among Christians.”
Read Dt. 13:6-11 and Eph. 5:11 and answer the following questions:
- What can be learned about the wife’s responsibility in regard to sin in the home from the way God punished Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11)
- What can be learned about the wife’s responsibility in regard to sin in the home from the way God punished Achan and his whole family? (Joshua 7, especially verses 1, 11-13, 19-25)
- What can be learned about the wife’s responsibility in regard to sin in the home from the way God punished Ahab and Jezebel and their sons? (I Kings 21, especially verses 25-29)
- A husband, who has temper tantrums and verbally abuses his family, is nominated for elder or deacon. (I Tim. 3:2 [temperate], 4-5, 12) What is the wife’s responsibility?
- A husband, who has temper tantrums and verbally abuses his family, waits on the Lord’s table and leads public prayer. (I Tim. 2:8; I Pet. 3:7) What is the wife’s responsibility?
- A husband, who has temper tantrums and verbally abuses his family, teaches teenage classes. (II Tim. 2:15, 19-21) What is the wife’s responsibility?
Jeanne Guyon’s popular book, Song of the Bride, reprinted from the 17th century, is a tragic irony of the Song of Solomon rather than a true commentary. Whitaker House published both her autobiography written in her later years along with her discussion of the Song of Solomon. The publisher’s introduction to the Song of Solomon acknowledges that her allegorical view of the book is in many ways “a picture of the growth of her own relationship with God, of her devotion to Him in the midst of the losses, illnesses, trials, and persecutions that she endured throughout her life.” (Song of the Bride, p. 8.)
Indeed, reading her autobiography first makes it obvious that the Song of the Bride is simply Guyon’s earlier autobiography of her own spiritual journey.
Guyon Suffered as a Victim of Spouse Abuse
Unfortunately, Guyon’s portrayal of her life is an antithesis to the beautiful message of the Song of Solomon, which she misses totally. The Song of Solomon tells the true story of the Shulammite, a young maiden probably 11-16 years old. She was wooed by the powerful, rich King Solomon who admired her beautiful body and wanted to add her to his harem. The Shulammite struggled throughout the story with whether to marry for flattery, money, and power, or marry for true love that respected her as an intelligent and worthwhile person. Again and again, the story reveals her inner struggles as her mother’s teaching and upbringing guided her into making a wise decision. God preserved the account to protect all young women and men in their search for true love.
Yet unhappily, Jeanne Guyon, a French Catholic, followed the opposite course, and she never learned the secrets of the Song of Solomon. She, too, was a beautiful young maiden with lots of suitors who offered her money and prestige. Instead of helping her find true love by wisely choosing a mate, at barely 15, her father tricked her into marrying a man 22 years older than she whom she did not know.
Her husband forced her to spend whole days with his mother, who lived with them and who continually degraded her both privately and publicly. Guyon wrote:
She found the secret of extinguishing my vivacity and rendering me stupid. Some of my former acquaintances hardly knew me. Those who had not seen me before said, “Is this the person famed for such abundance of wit? She can’t say two words. She is a fine picture.” I was not yet sixteen years old. I was so intimidated that I did not dare go out without my mother-in-law, and in her presence I could not speak. I did not know what I said, so much fear I had. (An Autobiography, pp. 33-34.)
The mother-in-law incited her son to also browbeat Guyon. This dual abuse caused her to quickly advance through the normal stages of becoming a desperate wife who fights for both emotional and spiritual survival. Prior to her marriage, she devoured romances. After marriage she said, “I laid aside the reading of romances, for which I lately had such a fondness. Novels appeared then to me only full of lies and deceit.” She put away all books and endeavored to “offend God no more.” (Autobiography, p. 35.) This disillusionment and self-blame by trying to correct her faults to stop the abuse is typical in the battered-spouse syndrome.
Click here to read the full review of Song of the Bride and see how spouse abuse damaged Guyon’s view of God and her interpretation of the Song of Solomon.
Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft: This book helps open the eyes of victims. Once their eyes open and they recognize the abuser’s immaturity and tricks, they often quit being intimidated and can think more clearly. Abusers are seldom motivated to change because their mistreatment of others gets the results they want. Bancroft insists that the abuser must take responsibility for his own words and actions. This must happen before other problems in the marriage can be resolved. The book teaches how to safely get out of an abusive relationship.
The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans: This book gives lots of examples of abuse and how to react so as to break the cycle of the abuser getting what he wants by mistreating others. Challenges in Marriage teaches the scriptures; this book demonstrates how the principles work.
Verbal abuse by women is as old as the Bible. Solomon described its misery in Proverbs 21:19 and 27:15-16. Statistics show that women are increasingly verbally abusive. College coeds are becoming more physically violent. Husband abuse is often a well-kept secret.
Unfortunately, books dealing with abusive women are hard to find. Basically, a person has to take the ones dealing with male abusers and apply it to women. Challenges in Marriage occasionally mentions that these teachings also protect abused husbands. God gives the same formula for both men and women to overcome sins of abuse.
Want to know more? Visit the Book Shelf for in-depth studies.