Lies About Marriage: Unraveling Spiritual Abuse and Lies Abused Christian Women Struggle With– Part Seven
“Marriage is not meant to make you happy, it’s meant to make you holy.”
“God hates divorce.”
“Marriage is a sacred oath, till death do us part.”
“You have to save the marriage, even if you’re the only one trying.”
“You need marriage counseling.”
“It’s bad for the kids to leave because they need a father.”
I’ve never met an abused woman who doesn’t take her marriage seriously and who is excited to get a divorce so she can go live an ungodly, carefree life, free the shackles of responsibility (which is often how a divorcing woman is portrayed in conservative churches).
Covertly emotionally and psychologically abused women are torn to shreds over having to get a divorce and it’s an agonizing decision that no woman of faith takes lightly.
When we decide to divorce, we’ve run out of options– and we’ve tried them all. We divorce because there’s absolutely no other choice. We face losing friends, losing our church, losing our family, losing our children, and losing financial stability.
We divorce because we are forced to by our unrepentant, selfish, toxic, blaming, crazy-making husbands.
The statistics show us the real story behind divorces among Christians:
2/3 of divorces are initiated by women in mid-life who say their reasons are:
#3 Substance abuse by partner
The other 1/3 is initiated by men with the reasons being:
#1 falling out of love
#2 having a different lifestyle than spouse.
(From this study)
Surprise, surprise, it’s the men who are divorcing for the frivolous reasons that women are accused of.
This is part seven of the series: Unraveling Spiritual Abuse and Lies Abused Christian Women Struggle With
Part One: Our Broken Church
Part Two: Lies About God
Part Three: Lies About What Godliness Is
Part Four: Lies about Forgiveness
Part Five: Lies About Wives
Part Six: Lies About Husbands
Part Seven: Lies About Marriage
Part Eight: Lies About Feelings and Faith
As I explained in Part Six: Lies About Husbands, it’s beyond the scope of this article to delve in to the exact meanings of the words in the verses that are used to spiritually abuse wives. My purpose is to expose the lies and the damage they do to abused women. I’ve included links to articles in relevant sections if you want to study more deeply.
As abused women of faith, we stick with our marriages for years and years past the point of hope. We pay for that with our emotional and mental well-being and our physical health.
These are the lies that have kept us in this bondage.
As we go through the following lies, remember to compare them against the 4 Cs:
The Character of God
The Consistency of what the rest of the Word says
The Context of the scripture in the book it’s in
Marriage isn’t meant to make you happy, it’s meant to make you holy
Those who say this are lacking in an understanding of what Christ’s death on the cross did for us. We’ve already been made holy by God.
But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Col 1:22)
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb 10:10)
Perhaps they actually mean sanctification, but that doesn’t fit either. Sanctification is a work done by the Holy Spirit in us. We can’t sanctify ourselves by our own works.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (Jn 17:17)
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes 5:23)
Do they expect us to come forth out of a lifetime of abuse looking like Jesus? Even if that were possible, and it most definitely is not, it contradicts what the Bible tells us about how are we transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (1 Cor 3:18)
Marriage is meant to be a union of love, not of suffering. In a healthy marriage, we’ll be changed by being known and seen, through loving sacrifice as led by the Spirit, and by being free to grow into who God created us to be.
Jesus suffered for us, it is DONE.
God hates divorce
GOD DOES NOT HATE DIVORCE!!!!!!
We really need to put this common platitude to rest FOREVER.
This teaching is a mistranslation of Malachi (from those misogynistic early translators) that has haunted the church and oppressed women for centuries. In Hebrew, it’s the man who’s doing the hating, not God. That verse, correctly translated, says:
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. Mal 2:16 (NIV 2011)
In the old Testament, God divorced Israel for not keeping their covenant with Him.
I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. (Jer 3:8)
How could He hate something He himself did? He’s not double-minded, confused, or hypocritical.
Let’s take a look at divorce from the perspective of who God is. We simply have to stop divorcing verses from God’s character. (If God did hate divorce, that’s the kind he’d hate!)
Jesus came to set the captives free, to heal our broken hearts, to show that women are equal to men, to free them from oppression and give them basic rights, and to show us that children are to be loved, among many other things.
How could this God also want women and children to be abused, to stay in oppressive homes, and to be ruled over by a man who’s wicked and has none of His love?
God is not a two-faced. He’s consistent from beginning to end. We must stop maligning HIS character by saying He hates the very thing He offers to abused women to set them free. Divorce is not sin.
As long as we’re on the topic of what God hates, next time someone tells you that He hates divorce, refer them to this scripture:
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Prov 6:16-19)
He doesn’t hate divorce for abuse, but he does hate abuse. And He expects there to be consequences for wicked behavior.
You can’t divorce for abuse, only for adultery
I was told that I didn’t have grounds for a divorce because my husband hadn’t been unfaithful and I can’t divorce over abuse. ~ Cover Abuse Survivor
Seriously? So now we’re going to portray God as being so cruel that He legalistically won’t allow a woman to divorce in order to save her own life, either physically, mentally or emotionally? What kind of God do these people believe in? Not our loving Father, that’s for sure.
Of course the Bible allows divorce for abuse. God is far too loving to do otherwise.
For a more in-depth look at where the Bible talks about divorce for abuse, you can read this article by David Instone-Brewer.
He explains, through a careful study of Scripture, three grounds for divorce:
Adultery (in Deut 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matt 19)
Emotional and physical neglect (in Ex 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Cor 7)
Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Cor 7)
Marriage is a sacred oath, till death do us part
I was told ‘You promised to love each other in front of God and it is your Christian duty as a wife to stand by him, support and love him no matter how bad things are in your marriage.’
~ Covert Abuse Survivor
The marriage vows are promises spoken by two people entering into an agreement out of love. When your husband spoke his vows, he was lying. The contract is void when one party knowingly entered into that contract under deceit, or continually breaks the terms of the contract.
As David Instone-Brewer explains in his book “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible,”
As originally written, there was no distinction between ‘covenant’ and ‘contract.’ There is only one word for both…. This applies not only to the OT use of the term ‘covenant’ but also to its use in the NT…. Throughout this period, the term ‘covenant’ meant a contract that could be broken if either side reneged on their half of the agreement.
In the New Testament and beyond, there was also a second, entirely separate meaning of ‘covenant’ as the ‘New Covenant’ (i.e. New Testament).
The theological meaning of ‘covenant’ is an agreement that a faithful person would not break even if the partner to whom that person is in covenant breaks the stipulations of the covenant. God promised that he would keep his side of the agreement whether or not his people kept theirs. This is different from every other type of covenant found in the ancient Near East or in the Old Testament. It is this difference that made the ‘new covenant’ so special.
What God has brought together, let no man separate.
Since it’s the abuser who’s causing the destruction of his marriage and the separation between him and his wife, this comment needs to be directed to the abuser rather than the wife. If he chooses to destroy the marriage, there’s nothing a wife can do to prevent that.
You have to make the marriage work, even if you’re the only one trying
Good luck with that. It makes no sense and it’s completely impossible. “Try harder,” “Pray more,” “Love more,” “Give more.” More, more, more.
Victims are told it’s their responsibility to manage the abuser and his abuse. All this just feeds the abuse and sets the wife up for failure.
Abusers are takers. They will take until we are empty, blame us for being empty, and then take some more. Saving a marriage requires effort by both people.
Why is it expected that saving the marriage is only on the wife’s shoulders? Especially when these same people will blame the wife for having a responsibility for the abuse by saying: “Everything in marriage is 50/50- it’s takes two.”
It makes no sense that these people say that both people are responsible for the problems but only one is responsible for fixing them. And how suspicious that it’s always the wife.
What a set-up! We just can’t win, can we?
These kinds of nonsensical beliefs always smell like sexism and misogyny to me. All we can do is walk away from these people. They have made an idol out of marriage and don’t care about the wife at all.
It’s bad for your kids to leave because they need a father
Children don’t need a father who’s covertly abusing his mother (and most often is also psychologically abusing them), who’s modeling male power over others, who’s creating discord and confusion in the home, who’s showing Christian hypocrisy, who’s teaching them that God tolerates abuse, and who’s causing PTSD in their mom and, often, in them as well.
Children don’t need a father who is lying, manipulating, gaslighting, word twisting and blame shifting.
Children don’t need a mom who’s so distracted and traumatized by surviving abuse and trying to make her marriage work that she can’t be the mom she wants to be.
No child needs a home where they are walking on eggshells, learning that they can’t trust their gut when something is wrong, learning that boundaries are meant to be violated, and learning that it’s okay for the dad to never take responsibility for his behavior.
What a child does need is a mom who is emotionally heathy, able to love them, able to be there for them, able to show them that love does not tolerate any kind of abuse, and able to show them that God cares for the oppressed.
They need at least one home that’s peaceful, and full of love and acceptance.
What they need is at least one emotionally healthy parent and an abused woman can’t be emotionally healthy while she’s being abused.
You need to go to marriage counseling
Marriage counseling is absolutely not recommended when the husband is an abuser. It’s a terrible idea, and dangerous for the wife. Marriage counseling is great for communication problems and other issues that both spouses want to work on together. But an abuser doesn’t want to improve the marriage. If he did, he’d stop abusing.
When an abuser and his victim go to marriage counseling, they have different goals.
She’s trying to save the marriage. When he goes to marriage counseling, it gives her the false hope that he’ll try to change. She’s willing to be vulnerable and share her fears, hopes, and her own issues with the counselor.
When an abuser goes to counseling, his goals are to keep his wife in the marriage so he can continue to abuse her, to gain more information about his abuse’s effects on her internal world so he can use her vulnerabilities against her, to listen to her perceived faults so he can use them to blame her, to convince the counselor that he’s either trying, or that the problems are the wife’s fault, and to recruit the counselor to be his flying monkey.
Marriage counselors are trained in saving a marriage, and don’t have very much training about abuse. And they have no training on covert abuse.
Abuse is not a marriage issue. It’s an abuse issue and the fault lies entirely with the abuser. Marriage counseling, and most churches, are the two least safe places for an abused women to seek help.
How many years have these lies kept you in abuse?
Through these lies, we are given burdens God doesn’t put on us. We’re being threatened that we’re being judged by God. We’re being told we’ll be shunned from fellowship if we take care of ourselves and our children.
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Mt 23:4)
God doesn’t want us burdened by these spiritually abusive lies. When you hear any of the lies I’ve been covering in this series, I hope you are learning that you can walk away. The lies don’t come from God. They don’t represent his heart for you at all.
He wants us to be loved, to love others, and to thrive.
He wants us able to live in His peace and comfort.
He wants us free.
If you are being are being abused, you are free to leave.
If you’ve experienced covert psychological abuse and spiritual abuse, come join our private Facebook group for women of faith who are covert emotional and psychological abuse survivors.