10 Reasons Marriage Was Never Meant to Be a Power Struggle

by | Feb 26, 2019 | Marriage | 23 comments

Why Marriage Should Be Mutual, not about Power

Sometimes the way we talk about marriage makes it sound like marriage is a big power struggle.

I don’t believe that this was ever what God intended, and I think there’s a much better way of looking at it.

I’ve been following Natalie Hoffman now for quite a few years, in her journey out of an abusive marriage and towards freedom. She’s become so wise (sometimes horrible life circumstances are the best teachers!) and she runs an awesome blog called Flying Free. She’s posted before for me about how to recognize emotional abuse. And I’ve asked her to join us today, just after her first book, Is It Me?, was released, to talk about how we shouldn’t see marriage as a power-over relationship, but instead as a mutual one.

Here’s Natalie:

Is it Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage

You read Sheila’s blog because you are invested in your life, your marriage, and your family.

You give your relationships 150%, and you would eat candied scorpions (it’s a thing) if it meant the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.

But there is a profoundly important truth we all need to understand: the bedrock of a truly Christ-centered marriage is mutuality. This means we acknowledge the fact that it takes TWO humble, Christ-oriented individuals who are BOTH actively pursuing to honor and love the other one with all their heart, soul, body, and strength.

Not just one.

You know how important this is? The very spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ is dependent on how well we live in mutuality.

“I gave them the glory You gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With Me in them and You in Me, may they be so perfected in unity [mutuality!] that the world will recognize that it was You who sent Me and that You have loved them as You have loved Me.”

John 17:22-23

The opposite of mutuality is power-over. This is where one person in the relationship believes (for various reasons which may include religious reasons) they are entitled to be in a position of power over the other person. Power-over was one of the judgments God passed down to the human race as a result of sin (Genesis 3:16), and the Bible as well as all of history is full of stories that bear witness to the destructive force of people’s lust for power-over. Even, and especially, in the marriage relationship—a relationship that God designed to reflect the unity of Christ and the Church. But let’s get practical. Here are ten reasons a mutuality model trumps a power-over model of human relationships.

1. Mutuality is an expression of the humility of Christ in laying down His life for the well-being of others.

Satan was the first one who attempted to take power-over, and he tempted Adam and Eve with this same ambition: to be like God, having the power of knowing good and evil. Every expression of human desire to power-over another is an expression of the enemy’s lust for power. Christ modeled something radically different for His followers.
“…of his own free will, he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant.

Philippians 2:7

Is Christ’s example only for certain categories of human beings? Is it only for one partner? Or is it for any and all who follow in His footsteps? Where you see both partners mutually looking for ways to lay down their rights in order to serve the other partner, you’ll see a healthy marriage. When only one person is doing this on a regular basis, you have a parasitical relationship in which one person is giving and the other is taking.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves

Philippians 2:3

2. Mutuality is an expression of authentic love for one another.

All healthy relationships are governed by the law of love. The Bible says it best.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:9-10

(Does that sound like power-over to you? Also note that all Christians are called to both love and respect. Love and respect are not gender-distinctive requirements.)The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:29-31

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Romans 13:8

Did you see anything in those verses (and there are many more) that indicates love is something only required on the part of one partner? I’ve actually heard that twisted reality taught from the pulpit. “Only one partner needs to be loving for the relationship to work.This is half-truth/half-lie. The true part: only one partner needs to be loving. It is true that there are gazillions of “Christian” marriages in which only one partner is loving. The false part: for the relationship to work. That depends on how you define a “working relationship.” If it means “surviving with broken vows,” then okay. But if “working relationship” means “healthy, Christ-centered relationship,” then—no. THAT kind of relationship takes TWO partners living out those verses mutually. Power-over is an expression of self-love and a grasping for power over another human soul. It is self-seeking, dishonoring, and evil, regardless of any flowery, spiritual words used to say otherwise. (Remember, the enemy’s most prolific tactic of deception is to present his lies in a lovely and spiritual light. Lies don’t look bad. They look amazeballs.)

3. Mutuality is an expression of noble honor toward another human being regardless of race, gender, or social status.

All throughout history mankind has marginalized and taken power over other people based on their race, gender, or social status. But Christ came to usher in the Kingdom of God in which There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 The power-over model of hierarchy grasps to exclusively have the honor that belongs to all human beings made in God’s image. We’ve all heard the verses that tell women to honor their husbands, and there are folks who like to just stop there. God doesn’t.
Honor one another above yourselves.”

Romans 12:10

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives.

I Peter 3:7

“Love does not dishonor others.”

I Corinthians 13:4

Treat everyone with high regard.”

I Peter 2:17

The Bible is crystal clear (for those who have ears to hear) about the fact that Christ-followers will both love and honor one another. Whether we are married or not. Mutual love and honor should be part of all relationships, and certainly a marriage relationship.

4. Mutuality expresses mature shouldering of personal responsibility on the part of both partners.

This is really about boundaries. Both partners own their own behavior and take wise stewardship of what belongs to them. You each take responsibility for your own words, actions, schedules, jobs, volunteer work, parenting, choices, and behaviors. You each wisely steward what belongs to you. This includes your mind, body, time, emotional health, spiritual health, opportunities, and finances.
“For each will have to bear his own load. One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:5-10

In a dysfunctional relationship, one or both partners are not taking personal responsibility. They are either putting the responsibility on the other person which looks like blame shifting, denying, minimizing, excusing, justifying, controlling, and accusing, or they are taking all the responsibility on themselves which looks like placating, appeasing, covering up, pretending, and overlooking. In a healthy relationship both partners can safely and freely offer feedback to the other one, and that feedback is heard, respected, and responded to (Proverbs 15:31). Personal responsibility is really just being an adult, and a healthy marriage requires two of those to work.

5. Mutuality is an expression of faith in God and trust that His ways are higher than man’s ways.

It is human nature to grasp for power. We want to control people and situations because it makes us feel secure. This is where both patriarchy and matriarchy come from. But this is putting our trust in ourselves and our own ideas of what works rather than God’s. Satan grabs for power and deceives people into believing this is God’s ideal way of reaching the world. Why does he do this? Because he hates God, and he hates people, and power-grabbing is the OPPOSITE WAY of reaching the world. Jesus modeled God’s way by using His power to empower others, not to power-over them.
“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Letting go of our desire to control others requires maturity and trust in God and in the other person. When both partners are mutually pursuing God’s ways, you’ll have a healthy relationship.

6. Mutuality engenders confident trust in both partners toward one another.

The pathway to confident trust in any relationship is a history of mutual honesty and integrity. If one partner is committed to honesty while the other one withholds information, twists the truth, or causes confusion and anxiety in the relationship, it will be a broken and dysfunctional relationship no matter how hard the honest partner tries. It takes two to create healthy trust.

7. Mutuality reflects God’s heart for humanity throughout Scripture.

God created all humans in His image, and Jesus Christ died to give all humans an opportunity to be made right with God. The heart of God for all of us, regardless of our gender, is that we would be free to reflect His image in our own uniquely created way. His “foolish” plan (I Cor. 1:25) is that humans, in all our frailty and weakness, would spread the gospel and show the world Who God is by our selfless love for one another. When it comes to mutuality vs. power-over, the gospel is literally at stake! We see over and over in Scripture that God cares more about human lives (relationship!) than He does about keeping the letter of the law and making sacrifices. He looks at the heart of a matter. Jesus broke religious laws that oppressed people in order to set men and women free (Mark 3:1-6), and this is the wisdom of God that the Holy Spirit gives freely to all who belong to Him. This means we can either fight to make a case for power-over in the Bible because it suits our human, power-hungry agenda, or we can embrace the heart of God and stand ready to lay down our power in order to spread the gospel and empower others. If we are unable to do this in our most intimate of human relationships—marriage—how can we expect to spread this kind of message anywhere else?

8. Mutuality is an expression of selflessness and does not value one person’s needs, skills, gifts, or talents over another.

When both partners humbly recognize this and encourage and build one another up, they exponentially create forward momentum for the gospel. On the other hand, when one partner is criticizing or hindering or discouraging the other one from being who God created them to be, they hinder the gospel on many levels. We were all created to fulfill a purpose in life. To experience meaning in who God made us to be. A healthy relationship will foster an environment that causes both partners to flourish.

9. Mutuality is an expression of vulnerability and intimacy

When only one partner is willing to show up and be seen while the other one is exploiting that vulnerability, you’ve got a war zone, not a marriage. A healthy relationship is a SAFE relationship. Both partners trust that as they open up and share their intimate selves, the other one will safely care for them and not expose them to shame. This mutual vulnerability opens the door to deep intimacy in a relationship.

10. Mutuality can only be a reality when both partners submit to one another in love.

Christ’s sacrifice has provided the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives to overcome the judgment of power-over in relationships and usher in unity and oneness in Christ. No more hierarchy. No more patriarchy. No more matriarchy. We now rule as heir together.
“Husbands, likewise, submit by living with your wife in ways that honor her, knowing that she is the weaker partner. Honor her all the more, as she is also a coheir of the gracious care of life. Do this so that your prayers won’t be hindered.”

I Peter 3:7

“…and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.”

Ephesians 5:21

Submission can never be coerced. It must be voluntary on the part of both parties. And it is the grace-filled mutuality of that submission that lays the foundation on which a couple can build their Christ-focused marriage.

Marriage Should Be Mutual: Why marriage shouldn't be a power struggle

If you think your marriage may be unhealthy or even destructive, I encourage you to check out my new book, Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. Want the first three chapters free? I will send them to you when you sign up to be on my mailing list HERE. You can also find me on my website: www.flyingfreenow.com, Flying Free Podcast, YouTube, and Facebook.

What do you think? Does Natalie make a good case for marriage being about mutual love, mutual responsibility, mutual serving? Is this what you generally are taught? Why or why not? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Laura

    I’m not sure what I think about this idea. I’m still sorting out what I think in the midst of a marriage to an abusive and addicted husband. HOWEVER, I was reading Natalie’s book just this morning and found it SO descriptive of exactly where I’m at. The concept of a double boundary violation blew my mind, as that’s what I’ve been dealing with over and over. It’s connecting with me exactly where I’m at (preparing to separate from my husband) and I’m so grateful. Thank you, Natalie. Your words of truth are infusing strength into my battered heart.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m glad my book is helping you. It took me YEARS to sift through my beliefs (I’m still working on that life-long project!) and come to a different landing place. But now that I’m here, I feel more centered and at peace. I feel like things FIT together better. Things make more sense in light of Who Jesus is and what He showed us during His time on earth. The profound confusion and cognitive dissonance is gone, and this is what enables us to spread our wings with hope and confidence. This is our inheritance in Christ. Let’s take hold of it and FLY.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad you’ve found some help, Laura, and I’m so sorry that you’re walking this road. I hope that you feel God close to you right now.

  2. Kate

    This is packed with so much wisdom! Thank you for imparting the wisdom you have learned during those times. They are very useful and a great preparation tool for us single people as we head into marriage to keep these in mind. I’m sorry about your broken marriage 22 years later, it dampens my spirit so much. 🙁

    Many of Christ’s commands to us is sooo simple. His yolk is easy and his burden light. If the human race would just humble themselves and do unto others as they want done to them, relationships in all forms would be much easier, not perfect just easier. Several years back Sheila wrote an article that has stayed with me and which i have pinned. She said, often times what you do when you’re dating will usually happen when you’re married.

    That gave me so much comfort. Because the way marriages are today, couples make it sound like they dated an angel and woke up to a demon. So it’s good to know it doesn’t have to be this way. I gobble up every marriage tip i can find so i can be completely prepared when it comes time for me to marry. You have so much here i’ll read and reread until it’s been imprinted on my mind. Thank you Natalie! 🙂

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I highly recommend John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It’s a great primer for both dating and marriage. (And relationships in general!)

      • LHW

        Interestingly, it was while reading this Gottman book that I realized I was dead-on for feeling something was “off” in my marriage. I found myself thinking, “These are the principles I automatically bring into relationships. I certainly don’t live them out perfectly, but my general pattern is to function in these ways. These don’t work in my marriage no matter how hard I try.” I’ve since learned that when my spouse is emotionally immature and abusive, it doesn’t matter how close to the rules I play the game: if I’m the only one, then the marriage still fails. This is a point Natalie articulates so clearly in her writings. Grateful for your gift of clarity in expression, Natalie. I have absolutely BINGED on your blog at times.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          This is so true, LHW! Glad you’ve found Natalie.

  3. Ashley

    I’m reading Natalie’s book right now. I’m not very far into it, but anyone who wonders if they are being emotionally abused should read it. I was reading on the treadmill at the gym the other day, almost in tears because of how accurate it was, and I’m not even married to him anymore. God bless you Natalie, and may your book help many women!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you’re finding it helpful, Ashley! (and way to go for exercising, too! I know you’ve had a hard year. Way to take care of yourself!)

  4. F.

    I have read half of “Is It Me?” and had to put the book down for now. I see so much of my marriage in this book and it certainly hits home. I am not unaware that things are not right in our marriage. However, I found the book to be so depressing because I felt like I was being told that there is no hope for my marriage, it can’t and won’t get better, and there is no room for Christ to work toward healing unless you break your marriage vows. I have put in 15 years of confusion and pain but I still have my eyes on Jesus and haven’t lost my hope yet I pray that God will restore, heal, and bring us both closer to Him in the future. I am still willing to work toward the way I want my marriage to be and pray that God will work in my husband’s life to help him to want that too.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi F,

      I’m sorry you’re in such despair! I’ll let Natalie respond, but I just want to point out that if someone is being abusive, THEY are the one that has broken the marriage vows already. It doesn’t mean that God can’t bring you back together, but that does rarely happen without a major change on the husband’s part. There’s very little that the wife can do. And being nicer will usually make the issue worse, because abusers feed on people’s attempts to pacify them.

      The simple truth is that few narcissists change. It could be that you’re not married to someone who is that bad, though.

      And Jesus CAN restore your marriage. He just may choose not to. He doesn’t force anyone to love, and He won’t force your husband to do the right thing, either. That is your husband’s choice.

      It’s great to have faith that God can restore; it’s more important, though, to have faith even if He does not. And many women have found that their lives are richer regardless of what happens with their marriage when they are able to put the responsibility for keeping the marriage together in the right place–namely, in the hands of the person who has hurt the marriage. Instead of trying to fix everything and keep it together, you leave it in God’s hands and pursue your own spiritual growth. And then see where that takes you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, yes, but not because He can restore your marriage. Because He is simply worthy of your worship, and He can carry you no matter what happens.

      I wish for great peace for you. I really do. I wish no one had to go through this.

      • Jessica

        I totally agree with you Sheila. I hope my story will encourage F. I have been married for 28 years and the first 20 were hard, but I didn’t really realize what a toll it was taking on me until I began to really seek God and He lead me through counseling and books to Boundaries. This was so foreign to me and it took me years to understand them and then more time to put them in place and make them consistent with my everyday life. I have 5 children and now 2 grandchildren and I believe I have been so focused on this part of my life, I didn’t really see what was happening in my marriage. It has been hard on me internally for the past few years because deciding to change after more than 20 years of marriage is frightening, but with every step, I have put God and His plan first, instead of my emotions. I have made decisions afraid and every step I say to God , “no matter what happens I’m trusting you, married or divorced”.
        My husband has made major changes and is currently seeking godly counseling on his own. I still have a lot a work to do on my part with seeing myself as an individual and having other relationships other than my husband and also giving up the “dream” marriage, but I do believe this is much more glorifying to God than the way I was living. Hope you’ll be encouraged that God is with you every step of the way and He offers all of us the same redemption, healing and peace. We cannot be responsible for those who don’t chose to receive it even if it’s our husbands. Sincere prayers for your journey.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Good for you, Jessica! And exactly–it is a much more godly way of living. Thank you for sharing!

        • LHW

          The magic word has been said again: BOUNDARIES. And inherent in boundaries are clear consequences when those boundaries are broken. The boundaries in each individual relationship and circumstance will look different. Again, EAR TO SPIRIT. One interaction, one situation at a time. I have truly felt the Lord give me confidence to stand firmly in new ways of thinking and responding to my husband, and though at times my responses have felt uncomfortable–wrong even, like “parent to child” more than “wife to husband”– He has truly made every step clear in this year of upheaval. I can truly say we are seeing the fruits of these “trust and obey risks.”

          My husband is healing in sustainable ways as a result of boundaries and consequences. I have a sense of sadness as I consider that his very selfish, narcissistic parents never taught him the basics of emotional awareness and regulation, of empathy, of genuinely feeling sorrow for causing someone pain, of owning his mistakes and contributions to problems, of confessing them honestly and humbly, and of apologizing and actively pursuing reconciliation. Because he didn’t learn these crucial skills in childhood, he has to learn themlov What we don’t learn in childhood we must learn in adulthood. Re-parenting ourselves with professional help and a community of trusted believers is essential for us all to mature in Christ and in our relationships.

          My absorption of my husband’s immaturity and emotional abuse for 17 years at tremendous personal cost was not sustainable for me or our children…and, more importantly, it didn’t allow him to truly know the beauty of the Gospel of Christ.

          When one refuses to look at his own heart and acknowledge his sin in a personal way, how can he know the purpose of the sacrifice Jesus made for him? When one blame-shifts, minimizes, and manipulates reality as a means of self-protection and self-preservation, how can he pursue Truth? When one cannot–will not–confess and feel sorrow and apologize for pain he caused, how can he experience grace and forgiveness? A person who doesn’t search his own heart and confess is one who cheapens grace. This is pride, untruth, and self-reliance, and it is the antithesis of Christ’s heart.

          Jessica and F, know I am earnestly praying for this painful journey you are on and I am truly proud of you for being courageous to slowly but surely call reality what it is, and to learn how to set boundaries. Without boundaries, there is little hope of change in our husbands. (They would have done it already if they we’re intrinsically motivated!) Humans aren’t eager to initiate the uncomfortable work of growth unless the pain or potential for real loss becomes intolerable. I pray that our husbands will see the value in our “tough love” and do the work of restoring what they have broken.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Such a beautiful and wise comment, LHW! I especially liked this part:

            “My absorption of my husband’s immaturity and emotional abuse for 17 years at tremendous personal cost was not sustainable for me or our children…and, more importantly, it didn’t allow him to truly know the beauty of the Gospel of Christ.

            When one refuses to look at his own heart and acknowledge his sin in a personal way, how can he know the purpose of the sacrifice Jesus made for him? “

            That last bit, too, is so important. When people don’t feel the consequences of their actions, then it is very hard to ever come to a place where there is a felt need for repentance. Not putting up boundaries in place for our spouse can actually drive them away from Christ. That’s something that too often people don’t understand! But it’s key. Thank you for sharing in such a clear way.

    • Natalie

      The first part of the book diagnoses the problem, and the second half was written to set women free! I hope you’ll explore that someday when you are ready. (((Hugs)))

    • LHW

      Dear F…

      Your situation is exceedingly painful, and your hope for a sustainably healthy marriage palpable. God has my destructive marriage of 17 years in a season of restoration at long last, but the road has been arduous, and the recovery from trauma exhausting at times. I know there are no guarantees, but for now I am tediously walking ahead in trust toward healing.

      That said, I ABSOLUTELY understand why women choose to leave, and I would no longer question someone’s need to do so. The pain of repeated emotional and mental trauma can finally erode a person’s soul to the point she cannot go on. Heck, many days she can’t even see straight because the confusion is so overwhelming. Natalie has SIGNIFICANT street cred in such a marriage. Her writing has been crucial to my ability to see reality and act accordingly.

      Every story is different, but there is a reality we each have to face into: Is the pain of staying becoming too great? Is the
      cost of honoring the institution of marriage too high? Freedom in Christ exists for those of us who answer YES.

      In my story, the most significant changes occurred within me when I stepped beyond normal Christian marriage teachings (HINT: they don’t apply to destructive marriages) and into abuse literature, both Christian and secular (because it is FUNDAMENTAL to know the exact names and characteristics of the “animal” you are confronting). In doing so, I began to KNOW WHAT I KNOW, and in knowing this reality, I was able to set enforceable boundaries with the help of a professional counselor and close friends who turned a corner in knowing reality with me.

      A final piece of input that has made all the difference for me: “Ear to Spirit.” There are simply no clear answers, but there IS a God who knows and sees and longs to come alongside you.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very well said, LHW. Thank you. And especially your last paragraph. You need to learn to listen and genuinely hear God, which is much easier to do when you admit the truth about your situation.

        • LHW

          I have come to recognize a frightening truth in my 40 years: Denial of reality has NEVER served me other than to keep me in sin, or to give me the false freedom of allowing and even enabling someone I love to stay in sin. The more I accept and even embrace this principle, the healthier and steadier I become in loving myself and others as God loves. Such a process… lifelong, really.

      • F.

        Thank you for your words. I agree with the “lack of learning from growing up” with that behavior. I have recently learned the term “gaslighting” which describes perfectly my husbands behavior of repeated keeping secrets, lying, denying, downplaying, shifting blame, etc. even when confronted with evidence. It has come at great physical and emotional expense to me and I am continually baffled that a Christian can continue this behavior without the Holy Spirit burning their conscience completely up. I have suffered in silence for years, through prayers, tears, and sometimes screams and then trying to stuff the confusion and frustration down deep. I will eventually finish the “Is It Me?” book, but I needed a break to process. Thank you for your advice.

        • LHW

          Dear F,

          I am a mere 8 months into my painful journey of facing reality and setting boundaries with my husband, and I still can’t even read the word “gaslighting” without having an actual physiological response coupled with a myriad of scenarios that I must strategically reframe.

          I’ve had to read Natalie’s exceptional book in short bursts, because even her list of specific subtle incidents and behaviors abusers employ at the very beginning of the book was so deeply resonant that I had a trauma response just reading them. So validating, yet still so frightening to realize what has been happening for decades without my full awareness.

          I share this in hopes you will hear what I wish I could convey in person: THIS. IS. A. PAINFUL. AND. AWFUL. PLACE. TO. BE. The reality that you are discovering–unpeeling layer by layer–is terrifying and excruciating and mind-boggling. The paradigm shift required within the heart and mind of a wife betrayed and wounded in the ways in which our husbands, intentionally or not, have done to us is significant.

          I am learning that I must know just how egregious the sins against me have been, though, in order to begin the work of knowing, labeling, reframing in truth…and eventually forgiving. This doesn’t mean I need to get in my husband’s face and scream (but the visions of doing so have been tempting and fulfilling at times…), but it means I am ALLOWED TO CALL REALITY WHAT IT IS, and to ask Jesus to reveal His love and grace even in this darkness.

          The heartcry of the abuser is ultimately, “I get to do what I want to do and I’m not accountable to anyone.” This is so dangerous to everyone in that person’s life, but especially to the abuser himself. I pray you will learn to see yourself as God created you to be and love yourself as He loves you, and in doing so, that you will learn to hold your husband accountable for his sins against you.

          Praying specifically for self-compassion to burn warmly in your heart today, sister.

  5. Amy

    Just imagine, if not only marriages but churches lived this out daily, what a different world this would be.


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