Reader Question: When Does Anger Become Abuse?

by | Aug 4, 2021 | Abuse, Resolving Conflict | 77 comments

Fits of Rage and Anger in Marriage
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How can you tell if your husband has anger management issues, or if he’s actually abusive?

I’m starting a series on the blog this month on direct communication, and yesterday we looked at what hinders speaking directly. We’ll also cover what direct communication looks like, HOW to speak directly, and how direct communication isn’t the same thing as being mean (though it may seem so at first!).

But before we tackled that, I had a reader question that I really needs to be answered first. 

When we’re talking about direct communication, I’m not talking about yelling or being angry–no matter how “direct” that appears.

A woman wrote in with this question about a husband who can’t control his anger:

How can I help my husband control his anger ? He yells at the kids several times a day. I dread when he comes home from work, and weekends are horrible.

I think I would understand more if we were dealing with out of control children who had serious sin issues such as rebellion, lying, stealing, cheating, etc. But hearing him yell at the kids regularly for minor offenses like how they sit at the table or wash their hands is difficult. It is quite a turn-off for me too. Very difficult to get in the mood with echoes of the yelling and anger throughout the evening ringing in my ears. He also has high blood pressure, which makes things difficult since he refuses to see a doctor.

A couple years in a row me and the 3 kids have gone to visit my parents for a month so that he can have a break from the kids. He also switched jobs because he said his job was too stressful, and that helped a little for awhile, but for the last few weeks our home has been miserable again. My husband tends to pick on the oldest son the most. I don’t understand why, but he withholds affection and now our oldest son has become super sensitive and gets weepy easily. My son also craves attention and physical affection from men, which concerns me as well. I’ve asked my husband to get counseling from church, but he says “they” will just gossip about him. He doesn’t want everyone to know. Sometimes I’m tempted to use that to force him deal with the issue. To threaten him with exposure in order make it end. Would that be wrong of me?

I’ve read things about angry, controlling men and how it’s emotional abuse, but I’m not really sure where to draw the line. I’m not sure what emotional abuse is really. All I know is that his anger is hurting our family and I’m at a loss knowing how to resolve the situation.

This is not merely anger. This is abusive, and it needs to stop.

Before I give specific thoughts, let’s note the red flags in her story:

  • He is yelling at the children for minor offences
  • The family dreads when the father is home, and weekends are horrible
  • She is expected to have sex with him–and expects herself to have sex with him–even after he has been angry and has hurt the children
  • Her son is exhibiting major symptoms of abuse, including craving attention from other men
  • Her husband refuses to see the doctor or a counselor

These are all very concerning dynamics which, quite simply, need to stop.

But why has this situation continued? Simple:

Sometimes it’s hard to deal with anger problems because our focus gets misplaced.

Whose well-being is being prioritized in this story?

Over and over again, it’s the husband.

He is yelling at the children and she is mollifying everybody; when he is stressed, she takes the children away and gives him a break (does anyone give her a break? Or the kids a break?). He gets sex, even when he’s acted horribly. She doesn’t talk about what is really going on in the household because she doesn’t want to “gossip” or embarrass him.

So he is hurting the children and hurting her, but his well-being is what is prioritized.

This is so backwards from the heart of God. God cares about His precious children, and does not abide with people hurting others or acting unjustly. What this man is doing angers God.

And the reason that she doesn’t feel in the mood after he’s been yelling? Because our libido is tied in to our sense of emotional safety and security. That’s how God wired us. We’re not SUPPOSED to want to have sex with people who treat us badly! This is a defensive protective factor hard wired into us that helps us identify when something is wrong–and gives us impetus to change.

Nevertheless, so many women ignore that feeling because we’ve been taught, over and over, that our primary responsibility is to make our husbands happy, even at our own expense–or our kids’ expense.

That is not your job. You never have to enable abusive behavior. 

As a mom, your first responsibility is to protect your children.

She sees her kids are hurting, and her heart is breaking for them–but again, she isn’t acting in a way to shield her kids from her husband. She is acting in a way to shield her husband from the repercussions of his actions. In the words of the authors of the book Boundaries, she is disrupting the Law of Sowing and Reaping. Her husband is sowing anger and discord, but instead of reaping the results, she and the kids are reaping anxiety and fear.

She needs to start putting the repercussions back where they belong: on her husband.

And, ladies, I can’t tell you how important this is. You are the best and only advocate your kids often have. Other people don’t see what really happens in your home. If you do not stand up for your kids, who will? And your children are helpless. Your husband is not. No matter what you believe about the marriage or a wife’s role or any of that stuff, your children need you to be strong. Your children need you to protect them.

Okay, but what if this isn’t actually abusive?

I think it is, but let’s say you’re not in this exact situation, and you don’t think what you’re enduring qualifies as abuse. Then what?

I think we focus too much on the word “abuse”: If it’s abusive, then we can do something. If it’s not, we have to put up with it.

No. If there is an unhealthy dynamic in your family that is hurting members of your family, you deal with it. Whether some people would call it abuse or some wouldn’t doesn’t matter; you deal with the unhealthy dynamics. And when your children are cowering and exhibiting fear behaviours, then it is time for you to act, whether or not you think this fits the definition of abuse.

Besides, the Bible is very clear that “fits of rage” are not okay:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21

People exhibiting this type of behavior are not walking in the Spirit, and need to be dealt with as such.

Do You Have a Difficult Time Standing up to your Husband?

God wants us aiming for His will. That sometimes will mean that we need to confront our husbands when they’re doing something wrong.

Struggle with how to do that? Are boundaries a difficult concept for you? 9 Thoughts can help!

Some thoughts about next steps when dealing with abuse and and a spouse’s fits of rage

I can’t give a timeline for next steps, because so much depends on individual situations and the resources that you have. But I will say a few big things to think about:

1. Get everyone to safety.

Remember that physical safety is not the only safety we need to prioritize. Emotional wounds hurt, too. If you can leave now, do it. If not, start making a plan.

2. Recruit help.

Seek out a licensed counselor to help you through the process of drawing boundaries. Tell your close friends and family what is happening so they aren’t blindsided. Chances are many of them have seen it, too, and may be able to help you. If they won’t, then find support in online groups (Sarah McDugal, Leslie Vernick, or Flying Free Now are all great). You can’t do this alone. Dealing with this is likely destroying your self-esteem and sense of self, leaving you feeling helpless. It’s likely creating major trauma in your life. You need to help yourself, too. You can’t help your kids until you can get help. 

And that means that you stop keeping his secret. It is not your job to protect his reputation; it is your job to protect your children–and yourself!

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3. Get in a safe community yourself

And take care of yourself! Often the reason that women tolerate such horrible treatment of themselves and their kids is that they’re in a community which tells women they have to do this or else they’re in sin. So the community itself is often feeding the problem.

Most Christian women who leave their abusers also have to end up leaving their church. It’s so cruel, it’s not fair, and it’s a HUGE indictment of the state of the evangelical church in North America today. But the church, quite frankly, is not a safe place for most women.

That may not be true in your individual church. 

I have known churches that have been amazing at helping abused women. But I have heard too many horror stories that my default now is to advise women NOT to go to their church unless they know their church helps abused women, and instead find a community that is safe. That may involve switching churches. It may involve joining some community groups.

But do not let a church, or a group of elders, tell you if you’re allowed to separate or if you’ve done enough counseling or if he really is abusive.

THESE ARE YOUR CHILDREN.

You are the final say. You are their last line of defence.

You do not need to listen to people who claim to be in authority over you but don’t lift a finger to actually protect you and your kids. 

Unless the focus stops being on the husband’s happiness and well-being, and starts being on your own mental health and the children’s safety, then no counseling or church help is going to work because the emphasis is upside down and not of Christ.

4. Document the incidents.

Here’s a tricky one. If the marriage falls apart, your children may be at even more risk if your husband gets even partial custody. You won’t be there to defend them.

So it’s important that you start documenting when abuse towards the children happens so that you have a record to use in court.

The documentation could take several forms:

  1. Keep a journal of the incidents, and if others witness them, ask them to sign the journal entries
  2. Ask anyone who ever witnesses your husband yelling at the kids to write their own description of what happened--as close in time to the incident as possible
  3. If it’s legal where you live, secretly record any diatribes (some jurisdictions do not allow for single party recording where the other person doesn’t know they’re being recorded).
  4. Call the police or child protective services whenever your husband is abusive towards the kids. Get child protection involved early, so that there is a record of what he did (child protective services may require that he move out, or may temporarily remove the children if you can’t get them to a safe place yourself without access to your husband, so have a back up plan. But getting the authorities involved early does produce a record).
  5. Take pictures of any physical injuries. 

5. Think about ways to support yourself.

Speaking up does not necessarily mean the marriage is over. Insisting on counseling and separating for a time does not mean that you necessarily are going to divorce. But we need to be able to support ourselves in case anything ever does happen to the marriage.

  1. Can you learn new skills so  you can get a job or find part-time work?
  2. Can you renew old skills that may have lapsed?
  3. Can you take money and put it in a bank account that he can’t touch?
  4. Do you know where all the financial information is? If so, take pictures of everything so that he can’t hide money later.

Even if you’re not thinking of separating, if your marriage is rocky and your husband has abusive tendencies, it’s best to make sure that you know where all your financial information is now, and that you prepare  yourself now to be able to support your family if anything ever happened a few years down the road.

Anger and fits of rage are different things.

I want to end with this: Sometimes we get angry for very good reasons. Maybe people have treated us badly; maybe we’re just really stressed and we have a short fuse. Maybe someone is treating other people badly and we want to protect them.

Anger itself is not bad.

Fits of rage, however, are a different thing. These are fits that often come out of nowhere and are used to intimidate and control. They aren’t related to what someone may have done, but instead burst out of the person having the fit.

The problem is not that this person is an angry person; the problem is that this person is a controlling and scary person, and that distinction is important.

Sometimes people have fits of rage because they never learned how to show any other kind of emotion. Maybe they grew up in a very abusive environment as well. It’s easy to look at him and know his story and feel like it’s not his fault.

And it may very well not be. But your children are still being hurt. His hurt is not an excuse to further hurt others. He needs to deal with his hurt while minimizing the harm to those around him. You can have empathy and compassion for him, but that does not mean that you have to subject yourself and your children to fits of rage.


UPDATE: I should have said–all of this applies if the roles are reversed and it’s the wife who has fits of rage and the husband who is wondering how to protect the kids. I should have said it above, and I’m sorry for the oversight. 

When your husband has fits of rage that become abusive

Does anyone else have any advice for women in this type of situation? Any words of encouragement? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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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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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77 Comments

  1. Jes

    Simply put, this guy in this readers email needs to be exposed to his church, his boss, coworkers, family and friends, and then divorced with no recourse. Staying in this abusive situation will only escalate things and make things worse. Also, the children will probably resent the mother if she stays And once children build up enough resentment, it’s very unlikely they will want to reconcile later on.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think that’s something many moms need to realize as well: When they don’t leave and continue to expose their kids to abusive behavior, the kids end up resenting the mom just as much, if not more, because the mom should have known better. She could easily end up with her relationship with them ruined as well.

      I know many women take years to get up the courage to leave, and I think kids ultimately see the turmoil the mom was in. But if she never makes moves to protect them, ultimately she endangers her relationship with the kids too.

      Reply
      • Kay

        THANK YOU. This was confusing to me at first, because I actually am angrier at my mom for not protecting us than I am at my dad for his emotional abuse. Or maybe I have to deal with this anger that no one fought FOR me before I can broach the anger at the abuse against me? I’m not sure.

        All I know is that I still really struggle to speak up against harmful theology for the sake of my kids, but I am channeling my own anger to fuel that Mama Bear in me. My kids **will** know that I fought for them.

        Reply
      • Gwen

        My husband had issues with fits of rage especially in the first few years of our marriage. I didn’t know what to do. I was stunned. I would tell people about it and they didn’t know what to say.
        I clicked after our first year of marriage it was emotional abuse. I don’t know why it took a year. About another 6 months later he got really angry and through a “fake punch” towards me but missed. I was so hurt and shocked. I told him we were going to counselling and he didn’t have a choice. We started seeing a counselor and also we both started attending Celebrate Recovery. For me because I needed support and him because he was curious what was this thing I was going to. His fits of rage have deminished right down. He still has them occasionally and it still hurts but he will apologise afterwards. I’m so grateful for CR and how it has helped support me and my husband. He grew up with an angry and physically abusive father who he was afraid if. He is relearning how to be when his temper flares up. But he is working on it. It’s not a perfect situation but I’m so grateful with how things have improved so much.

        Reply
      • Deb

        I wish someone had spoken these words to me thirty years ago. So many people were hurt over the years because I thought I had to preserve his reputation because he was a pastor.

        Reply
  2. Laura

    The dynamics you describe is very similar to what it was with my husband. He would be a bear on the weekends and weeknights weren’t great either. I placated and coddled him – according to what the marriage books said and the advice I was getting at church. I was even not refusing sex (which lead to a several instances of martial rape. The church took my agency. My husband was mortified when he found out.)
    At the time we had started helping friends who were going through domestic violence. I was reading about abuse cycles, etc. I realized that my husband was an angry man and he needed appropriate help. But at the same time, there were major major differences between him and abusive narcissists.
    It’s been about a 10-15 year journey. He’s on medication. I’ve learned how to let the consequences of his actions fall directly on him. I stopped absorbing his consequences (like I was taught to do through books like L&R, Created to be his Helpmeet, etc). It felt really weird at first. But we have seen some major growth.
    Recently my husband made a big mistake that resulted in a crunched vehicle back hatch. The kids freaked out and I told them to calm down and not respond. Then my husband came in and started to go off. I said, “This is your own thing. Go out and take care of it.” He cleaned up all the broken glass, took care of the insurance claim, found a body shop and got it repaired.
    Previously he would have said how worthless he is and how he was an idiot for making such a mistake. I would have hugged him and told him he wasn’t worthless…
    We don’t follow that script anymore! Praise God!

    Reply
  3. PennyL

    “Previously he would have said how worthless he is and how he was an idiot for making such a mistake. I would have hugged him and told him he wasn’t worthless…” – Wow! Light bulb moment. Did not realize this was the script!!

    I have been playing into this for 13 years, and just made the move to divorce. He’s threatened suicide five times. He threatened divorce more times than I can count. After he threatens divorce, fills out papers, pretends to file, talks through details, etc., he’s ready to make up the next day.

    Sometimes the signs are so subtle, it seems like a non-issue when you talk it out with someone, or it seems like the issue resolved itself.

    My advice to others: Write everything down, and you’ll be able to see the patterns and consistency. If there is a pattern of control, get out. He’ll continue to try to woo you. Stay strong. – It’s the advice I give to my own self as well.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, that whole drama king phenomenon is really real. You bring up an issue that is very, very important and hurting you, and he responds by sounding near suicidal at how worthless he is, taking the attention off of the pain that you were trying to express. it’s a toxic dynamic.

      Reply
      • PennyL

        Yes, and it can be so subtle. Even with therapy and trying to prove that he’s changing, he doesn’t want me to be angry with him. He sees me telling him to leave and filing divorce, and my assertive tone of voice as me being angry with him. I’m not yelling or hostile. He’ll say he’s acting out because he’s trying to tell me something and I’m not understanding his side. But then, I can’t be angry with him. He wants me to validate his feelings, but then won’t validate mine. Yes, a very toxic environment.

        I keep thinking of the Israelites leaving Egypt. It seems like they are doing the wrong thing – no food, constantly at war – seems better to go back to the harsh treatment in Egypt where they have homes and food. But God provides. Faith is knowing that there is peace on the other side, even when it takes a while to get there.

        Thanks for this article. It was very validating.

        Reply
    • Laura

      Well said. Recognizing the patterns is very important. Also important- does your man have the capacity or even the desire to change. When looking at my husband vs abuse dynamics, I realized that my husband had the capacity to change and wanted to change. Other men don’t have any desire to change at all. They want someone to continue that script.

      I tell women all the time:
      Consistency over time equals trust

      And-
      If they repent, they need to put legs on that repentance. They need to walk it out (for a considerable amount of time!) before you believe them. Words are just that, words. Watch their actions! It will become clear.

      Reply
  4. Diana harrington

    I had a father who would literally throw me across my bed when he would erupt, then my mom would say I deserved it. He was 6’2″, I was maybe 5. I do not remember any behavior except maybe me being too quiet and maybe sulky. Then I had 3 children ,2 years apart, and a hubby who had anger issues. I didn’t see how bad it was until he took it out on our oldest, way, way beyond what was appropriate. I left with the kids. Before we got back together, I realized we had a pact that we would support our choice of discipline and never question it in front of them. That changed, and he changed too. We had one more child and he never saw that angry behavior. The older kids really saw the before and after change and often remarked on it. We were not a part of a church at that time, but our pattern was religion based. This article is spot on about enabling and protecting the husband more than ensuring the children have a safe place.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Diana. And I’m so glad that things did a U-turn in your marriage. I love stories like that.

      Yes, we need to get rid of that idea that we will always support the other in front of the kids. NO, your first priority is always your children’s safety!

      Reply
    • Diana Harrington

      I was 5 r 6 years old😏

      Reply
  5. Meghan

    Oh look, it’s my father! His favorite method of communication is yelling, often for no reason at all (one instance I remember vividly is after I accidentally left the receipt for gas at the pump). I am not allowed to have needs or emotions other than calm or happy. He’s always telling me I’m childish and need to grow up (I’m 31 by the way).

    And he wonders why he doesn’t know anything about my life and why I rarely call. You reap what you sow, father. I’m on the verge of going no contact now that my daughter is old enough to notice this awful behavior. I feel guilty about cutting off his access to his only grandchild but I will not let him break her spirit like he tried to break mine.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Meghan, sometimes you have to. I’m sorry that he was and is like that with you. What a waste, eh? Like, he’s just missing out on great relationships he could have!

      Reply
      • Meghan

        Yes, holidays have been hard lately as I’ve been grieving what should have been. But thankfully my husband is the exact opposite of my father, and he’s the spitting image of his own dad. And my mom divorced my father 27 years ago, so we don’t have to reduce contact with her in order to stay away from him. So our daughter will still have good relationships with all her other grandparents.

        Reply
    • Rachel

      I have no contact with my angry narcissistic father. My older 2 kids remember him a bit, but my younger 2 have never met him. While it was necessary to sever the relationship, I was unprepared for the lingering grief my oldest son has over the loss of his grandfather. It seems its harder that he is alive and distant rather than dead.
      Wishing you the best as you navigate the relationship ❤

      Reply
      • Meghan

        Thank you, I appreciate it.

        Reply
  6. Carrie

    I LOVE this! I wish I could have shown it to my sisters years ago. They both thought their hubby wasn’t being abusive, so they couldn’t do anything. I love this part;
    If there is an unhealthy dynamic in your family that is hurting members of your family, you deal with it. Whether some people would call it abuse or some wouldn’t doesn’t matter; you deal with the unhealthy dynamics.

    Thank you for speaking up

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re welcome, Carrie! And I’m sorry about your sisters.

      Yes, we get way too hung up on whether it’s abuse or not. We are not meant to put up with unhealthy stuff!

      Reply
  7. Katydid

    It isn’t this bad in my home. He can be too much at times, but he does respond to correction and suggestions. So much is ingrained from the toxic culture he grew up in, but affection is given. There’s a lot of, “I love you” and hugs in our home.

    And I check in with the kids. I do make sure they are ok.

    One thing (among many) I am working on is not absorbing the negativity he brings and ought to own. When this happens I pray the God will shift that discomfort from me to him. He needs to feel that lack of peace, not me.

    I can’t emphasize enough that women need to be careful, be assertive, learn boundaries, be independent, and have a plan. I was taught all these things were feminist (aka evil) and contributed to the breakdown of the family, and that if I were just a good wife (submissive) and prayed enough, God would bless me no matter what marriage I endured. So, women tend to put up with too much evil because they are stuck. The freedom to be able to escape evil is important to have. The freedom to know you’ll be ok if he decides to leave is important to have.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for sharing your story, Katydid! And, yes, if your husband is also affectionate and realizes that this is bad patterns that he is trying to relearn, that’s great. I’m glad you’re trying to have him absorb the pain. I need to write more practically about how to do that–but first I need to do a lot more research!

      Reply
      • Katydid

        Thanks, Sheila! I do believe that if I wasn’t stuck under fundamentalist beliefs of not having a way to be an independent adult (no career, no higher education, almost no credit) I would have been more assertive earlier and avoided some of the more difficult situations, and not have been fear-controlling, myself. That whole belief system is extremely damaging. I only know a few who have navigated it in a decent way.

        Reply
  8. Laura Ann

    We’re not SUPPOSED to want to have sex with people who treat us badly! This is so true about sex in unhealthy marriages and explains why I was hardly in the mood when I was married to my ex. Like a friend said to me, “If he’s treating you badly outside the bedroom, why would you even want to have sex with him?”

    I also agree that church is not the best place to turn to for help in abusive marriages, unless you know your church handles abuse situations properly. When my ex was sexually abusing me in the middle of the night and it became frequent, I sought counseling outside of my church because of the fear that I would be told to “submit more.” During my first year of marriage and before the sexual abuse began, we did seek counseling through our church mainly due to my depression which my husband said was the cause of our problems. The main takeaway I remember getting from church counselors was this: Divorce should NEVER be an option. So, I did the best I could at trying to make our marriage work and tried to be a good, Christian wife.

    Well, I am very grateful that I chose NOT to go to my church for help when the relationship became sexually abusive. I knew that submitting more was NOT the answer and I believed that if I stayed in the marriage, it would have most likely escalated into physical abuse. I have NO regrets for leaving the marriage, though I used to feel guilty about it for years. Long after the divorce, I had talked about it (without going into details on why I left) in a women’s Bible study. The pastor’s wife had said to me, “Had you two gotten good godly counseling, your marriage would have probably worked out.”

    “Um, too late,” I thought. If she knew the real reason why I divorced, I sometimes wonder if she would have said something different. BTW, this is the same pastor’s wife whose husband will not let her wear jeans or cut her hair. This is exactly why I don’t trust churches to handle abusive marriages.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you got good counseling, Laura Ann! And I’m so sorry that the church wasn’t there to protect you.

      THIS is what grieves me the most and keeps me up at night and gives me nightmares–the fact that the church just doesn’t see and doesn’t seem to care about the harm that it’s doing.

      I hope that our book is going to start to change that conversation, but it’s hard watching what is happening and all the people being hurt.

      Reply
  9. Susan

    I would like to add that this is a problem with wives/moms, as well. That was the household I grew up in, and no one ever tried to intervene or help us. Even my dad who was there every day and saw what we were going through. He was treated badly, too. My mom had no accountability. My relationship with her was strained at best. Now that she’s gone, I still have little respect for my dad as a father. As a person, yes. He let us be abused in ways that he could have stopped if he had stood up to her. So it’s hard to see him as a loving father.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true, Susan! The dynamics can go the other way as well. And the parent who does not protect the kids and does not step in ultimately endangers their relationship with the kids as well.

      Reply
    • Rebecca

      Oh gosh, this was/is my mom too. I think she’s a narcissist, though of course when confronted for her hurtful and irrational behavior she says things like “the Lord has healed me”, which is just using religion to dodge her responsibility. My dad enables her, and since I made therapy for her a condition of our relationship, it’s been nearly 2 years since I’ve seen either of them. Her rages during my growing up years were always scary and at least once she physically attacked my sister. I don’t think she knows that other people and their thoughts and feelings are as real and as important as hers, and that really came to the forefront when I went through two devastating pregnancy losses in less than a year. She tried to hijack sympathy at my son’s funeral, to somehow take the spotlight from her grandson and shine it on herself. I don’t have words for what it’s like to be a grieving mother and watching your own mother fail to grieve for you. My life is much more peaceful since I went little/no contact with them, and of course I still love them, but I don’t have much hope we’ll reconcile. They don’t want to change and I refuse to accept their behavior.

      Reply
  10. Jane Eyre

    “I’ve asked my husband to get counseling from church, but he says “they” will just gossip about him. He doesn’t want everyone to know.”

    People WILL find out. The only question is how bad it gets before people find out. Divorce? Kids get into drugs, flunk out of college, get arrested? Kids completely disappear because they can’t take it anymore?

    Reply
  11. Anon

    This was difficult to read because this is how I grew up. My dad was always angry and yelled and hit us. My older brothers more than me but it hurt to see and it hurt when he hit us. I still remember being a small little kid watching my dad hitting my brother with an iron stick.

    I know I can’t hold on to the past and blame it but it messed me up. I dealt with it all the wrong way(porn) without realizing it. I became an extreme people pleaser and have sadly made important life changing decisions out of fear of people and afraid of making people upset.

    My mom stayed because that’s what she learned that she had to do. Divorce was seen as something bad. My mom has prided herself in the fact that she stayed and that she continues to be submissive. Not going to lie I used to think it was the best too because I thought divorce was one of the worse sins.

    But I realize now how messed up it was. My dad has more or less asked us for forgiveness. Our relationship is ok now but the damage is alsready done.

    No kid should have to live like this

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Anon, for what you went through growing up. Isn’t it interesting, too, that we think that divorce is far worse than enduring abuse? And yet we do. Gretchen Baskerville at the LifeSaving Divorce has done some great work showing how the outcomes are actually worse for kids whose parents DON’T divorce if the marriage is abusive/highly toxic. I shared the chart in my post about Wayne Grudem.

      Reply
  12. Helen

    Years in homeschooling culture and then in a patriarchal church taught me to be quiet, to keep a united front and always show respect to my husband, especially in front of our children. My strength, agency, and self-respect were very low because of these teachings and our belief in the power and position these beliefs gave the husband and father.

    Thank you for telling women that their safety and their children’s safety is first. It’s not the raging dad who needs support.

    Men in these power structures have been allowed to elevate themselves on the backs of women and children. And pastors are doing it, too. How did the church let it get so backwards and upside down; this is opposite to the pattern Christ taught through his words and behavior.

    Thank you for being part of a much needed reset.

    Reply
  13. Katydid

    Ok, not trying to spam this eith a ton of comments, but I have so many thoughts on this, triggers, memories, things I’ve navigated….

    I think an important question ask a husband and father such as this is, “why do you feel like you have to rage over these little things? What do you hope yelling and scaring our children is going to achieve? Why is this your chosen go-to instead of loving patience and teaching?” Actually getting them to think about what they are doing and why is important. I see so many immature people (especially men) simply react to get a fast result back to a status quo. Some men will realize what they are doing is wrong and want to do better. Abusers will blame shift and justify and continue. The former may be redeemed. The latter needs to leave.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Yes, well said. Totally agree.

      On the flip side, if you are in an abusive marriage, these questions might provoke more rage. Proceed carefully, get professional counseling, make an escape plan if necessary. Be cautious.

      Reply
      • Katydid

        Yes, thank you for the caveat!

        Reply
    • Committed for the long term

      The only part of this comment that I take issue with is, “especially men”. As a man, I feel that this problem is not gender based, but that women have just as much a challenge with anger as men do. Replace “men” with “people” and it resonates for me.
      With that, its spot on.

      Reply
    • Helen

      I think you nailed it with this word: immature. This is a hindrance for many and, as we see, very destructive in marriages. Life Model Works addresses maturity quite a bit. The growth of maturity has to do with receiving and learning what is appropriate at each stage of development.

      Immaturity explains what we are seeing in marriages and churches. The misuse of power, authority, and position abounds and it is the working out of self-serving childishness. The manliest of men, Jesus Christ, showed a different way.

      Growth is possible, but the immature person is not likely to recognize it and pursue change.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I could have written this question. I am not brave enough to do anything about it. I did leave once and it was the hardest thing I have ever done and only lasted 3 days. My husband sort-of wants to change – but the counselor I found for him told him he is fine and doesn’t need counseling. I talked to a counselor also, but all she did was tell me that I have to leave him, which made me so miserable I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t know how to find help that will actually help us!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Sometimes there isn’t help that will help. That’s the thing. Sometimes there honestly is nothing you can do to get the abuse to stop. And if he isn’t willing to change–and if he isn’t going to counseling, he isn’t–then it could be that your counselor was right that there isn’t anything you can do.

          I do think it’s important to be in a community where you can talk about what’s actually happening and they can help walk you through it, whether it’s with a counselor or an online group. Follow some of the links in the article for some of the online communities. You may find that helpful. And I’m so sorry you’re walking through this.

          Reply
  14. JLM

    Oh wow…..this is SO triggering for me but so validating too! This is an exact description of my life. I tried to give him “time to heal” from his crappy childhood while doing my best to shield the kids. But that doesn’t work. If you rescue an angry (abusive) man, you’ll just do it again tomorrow. I actually deleted pics of broken furniture, handprints on my face, etc because I FELT GUILTY for trying to prepare for leaving. Plus the fear of him having even partial custody…. The thought of my babies having to spend time alone with him was enough to keep me putting up with whatever I needed to live thru to keep them close to me at all times. Emotional and physical abuse absolutely wrecks your self-image.
    The church is responsible for protecting the vulnerable. It needs to be a place where the vulnerable KNOW they can be safe!
    I can’t even put into words all that comes to mind from this post but THANK YOU for your blog! You have really helped me to process some difficult things.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad, JLM! And, please, seek help. It sounds like this is really dangerous for you. I don’t know what country you’re in, but call a domestic abuse hotline if you ever need to. I understand the fear of giving your husband partial custody. I’m so sorry.

      Reply
  15. Melissa

    The women’s group I used to be a part of had a member dealing with a similar situation, and I was the first person to speak up and say she should consider separating from her husband until he sought help for his issues and showed real change. For that, I was publicly reprimanded. It was humiliating and hurtful. I ghosted that group. I will not stay in a place that encourages women to stay in abusive situations.

    I want to get up on a rooftop and scream at churches to stop telling women to keep themselves and their children in these situations. It’s not our job to make our husbands holy. That job belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone.

    Reply
    • Helen

      Melissa, I’m sorry you were treated so when you had the courage and wisdom to speak. Your good words are refreshing to hear! Perhaps your observations planted seeds in the hearts and minds of those in your hearing. Maybe they caused just one woman to see that this is not okay. That emperor is buck naked and we need the courage of the little boy in the story to say it (just like you did).

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen, Melissa! And it’s okay for all of us to start speaking up. In our survey, the vast majority of women felt it was okay to divorce for abuse. It may not be what is normally said at church, but it is what most believe. If we all start speaking up–many others may feel free to as well.

      Reply
    • Laura

      Preach it, Melissa!

      Years ago, I was reprimanded in a women’s Bible study for telling a woman she needed to take time to care for herself in addition to caring for her husband. One of the ladies told me that I needed to get alone with God and pray for a submissive attitude. How is encouraging someone to take time out for themselves considered unsubmissive? After that, I don’t think I ever returned to that Bible study. I felt like some of the women there were encouraged to stay in unhealthy situations. One woman, who had chronic pain, informed us that her husband would not let her see the doctor anymore. Another woman’s husband would not let her go anywhere unless he went with her. If she wanted to go to a Bible study, she was not allowed to drive their car so she had to rely on other means of transportation. The advice these women received in our Bible study was this: Just submit to your husband and God will give you favor for being obedient to His Word.

      What ever happened to having open, honest communication? Nope, that’s not the case in that Bible study. If this was what being in a Christian marriage was supposed to be about, then I’d rather stay single.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Wow. All the red flags for abuse there! I’m glad you’re out of that church.

        Reply
  16. EOF

    My heart goes out to this mom, and I hope she takes your advice to heart.

    I could’ve written her exact letter in the earlier years of my marriage. I lived with chronic chest pains and other trauma symptoms such as going days without being able to function after some scream fests. Pretty sure I also had ulcers, though I never got a diagnosis.

    People at church told me to be more submissive so he would stop yelling so much. They told me to stop arguing back, because it takes two to argue. (But it only takes one to shout for hours on end!) People got tired of hearing me “complain”. I too was accused of being a gossip and that I should focus on my own sins and not just talk about his.

    Too many church people have no idea what abuse is. People would even complain to me that their husbands never say what they think, and how they WISHED they would get angry once in a while. What a thing to say to a young woman who could barely hold herself together because of her husbands rage!

    It wasn’t until I was on a secular message forum looking for help with my marriage that it was pointed out to me that I was being abused.

    I thought it wasn’t abuse because it wasn’t physical.

    This is important, something church people need to understand.

    Abuse is also emotional, spiritual, and financial. Probably more too.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, EOF. Yes, trauma has real physical impacts on our bodies. In a way, all abuse is physical abuse, because emotional and verbal and spiritual abuse take physical tolls on us as well.

      Reply
  17. Nathan

    One of (certainly not the only one, but an important one) the biggest stumbling blocks that some churches seem to have is the idea that divorce should NEVER EVER EVER an option EVER, no matter what. Stay in the marriage at any and all costs! Because the image of marriage and the church is infinitely more important than your well being and even physical safety.

    This needs to change, and hopefully it will soon.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, this is the major blindspot churches have. They focus on saving the marriage rather than saving the people in it.

      Reply
  18. Committed for the long term

    Thanks for that update at the end. It goes the other way around just as often.
    Sometimes the anger is subtle and hidden in offensive words as opposed to loud voices.
    The problem with both sides is that the offender rarely recognizes the problem in themselves, but see’s it in their spouse. Also, anger is frequently returned with anger. So, one spouse may feel that the other is the “angry one”, when it is in-fact, they that are the instigator of the anger in the relationship.

    Reply
  19. Hurting

    What does one do when you leave the abuse (in our case it was physical abuse from my husband during his fits of rage) and his response is to immediately take the kids out of school and disappear with them for several weeks while he files for custody and the courts and police and child protection side with him and go as far as to call the children liars when they report the abuse (including ongoing abuse)?
    This is a very real occurrence. To me and my children, and for many other battered women and children.
    In fact, the ONLY support I’ve had is from our church leadership who have seen my husband’s vile rages and have condemned it (but stopped short of asking him to leave the church) and have seen his abuse through manipulating the family court system and talking his way out of criminal charges, sweet talking child protection workers etc. while they have not seen his assaults of the children and me, they have seen his very nasty side including making serious false allegations against our senior minister in retaliation for the minister condemning my husband’s abuse of the children and me. False allegations that nearly got the minister fired and has left him unable to do couples counselling anymore. Our minister is literally scared of my husband’s rage and spitefulness.
    And yet the courts and police and child protection ignore the children, ignore me, ignore witnesses to the violence and so on and while my oldest child has escaped the abuse as they are too old to be governed by the family court, my husband has taken my younger children and continues to abuse them.
    As I said – the authorities know this. They’ve been told by our church, by family, by neighbours, the children themselves, reports of neglect have been made by their teachers and so on.
    The city I live in has a serious problem with 1-2 children dying per year due to authorities siding with violent fathers over protective mothers and I live in fear every day that my children will fall into this statistic if something doesn’t change.
    I am fighting hard to protect my children, my church condemns my husband’s action (while not actually excommunicating him), what else can those of us in this situation do? I’ve lot track of how many times that authorities have told me that my husband flying into fits of rage and smashing the children’s things, yelling and swearing at them etc, is acceptable and that the kids must be exaggerating (when in reality they are under reporting). I pray constantly, I battle on through the legal system, but the abuse continues.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Hurting. I can’t imagine not having my kids like that. That’s truly, truly terrible.

      I’d say seek out legal aid in the city that you’re in, and call all the politicians you can. Call the press even if you can. Make as big a stink as you can. People need to see what’s going on. Also join some of the Facebook groups I linked in the article. Many of them have women facing this same thing, and they likely have a lot of insights on what to do.

      Reply
  20. JL

    I struggle with what to do in a situation that doesn’t require leaving for safety, but is causing emotional harm to the children. My husband has never physically abused anyone, but he does use yelling and slamming things to intimidate the kids into listening when they’re misbehaving. I know many parents yell at their kids at times, including myself, but I’ve seen my 5yo have a strong startle reaction to his anger, and my 11yo son has cried to me several times about his dad’s anger.

    I know my husband grew up in a home where physical intimidation like that was normal, and he’s even admitted that he does it because he thinks it’s the only way to make the kids listen. His response when he was a child to his dad’s anger was to appease his dad, to be good so he didn’t get angry, so he thinks our kids will do that too, but our kids argue back, and besides it was harmful to my husband as a child and
    I think still affects him today. He has been unwilling to see what he grew up with as abusive, because his dad never hit him and because he is very close to his dad. My husband resents me calling what he does “abusive”, saying he handles his anger much better than his dad and I don’t appreciate how far he’s come in learning to control himself, and he says that I’ll never think he’s good enough. It’s true that my minimum standard is not that he “do better than his dad”, but that he keep our children safe, both physically and emotionally.

    I’ve confronted him, and asked him to go to counseling (which he did for a few months and then stopped), but I don’t know what else to do. He and I are both mental health professionals, and I think he’s right that his behavior has never crossed the line to something that would cause CPS to remove our children, but I do wonder if he might slip up someday and cross that line. And I know that this is unhealthy for the kids, even if it’s not illegal. I don’t want them to grow up with the same struggles of depression, anxiety, and anger that he has. I don’t really know what to do in this gray area other than ask him to go to counseling.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Could you speak up for the kids in the middle of one of his outbursts? Help him to recognize at the time that what he is doing crosses a line? That also lets the kids see you standing up for them. Or if he slams a door and yells, you take the kids and go get ice cream or remove yourself from the home, and announce why?

      Reply
      • JL

        He usually walks out on his own after a temper outburst. I think I’ve been hesitant before because I don’t want to create a situation with triangulation between us and the kids. I’ve always spoken to him privately after he returns, usually waiting until the kids are asleep so we can talk privately. But I understand that protecting the kids is a different situation, and I think I can do that when I recognize it as an inappropriate situation. It is hard to know in the moment whether that line has been crossed. I usually talk to someone I trust to try to unravel what happened before I talk to him.

        I also want to say it is sad to me that he views my limit-setting as an attack or a lack of love – “I’ll never be good enough for you”. But his dad has said similar things after his own outbursts, so I think it’s part of the same cycle of depression, anxiety, and anger. I definitely don’t want my kids growing up with the same pattern.

        Reply
    • Eliza

      I think it can be done in a way that does not lead to triangulation, at least there have been times when I have stepped in like that. It helps if you can talk about it ahead of time–maybe even, if agreeable, try a code word or something like that to help defuse the situation without tipping off the kids.

      But if he’s not able to have that kind of conversation yet, then you can still stay strong. “I love you and I know you love me and the kids and I’m not going to let your trauma repeat itself on the kids, so if you are getting too intense, I’m going to step in and give you an out, and if you don’t take it, I’m going to pull the kid out.”

      My husband has made so much progress in this area (and had similar self-loathing type issues) but it has taken many, many years of therapy to get there. Learning to recognize your own triggers and manage them so they don’t hurt others is a slow process.

      But there were a few times when I just unilaterally stepped in and over the long haul of work and healing, it has not harmed the kids or created any kind of situation where they pit us against each other. Also as my oldest son has grown I’ve had the conversation with him, “Hey, you remember being the small person who was scared because someone was angry, even if they weren’t going to hurt you, and now you’re turning into the big person who will scare smaller people even if you don’t mean to, so it’s on you to find ways to deal with those feelings in a way that isn’t scary to others.” I think this has been helpful to him.

      Reply
  21. A2bbethany

    My husband is struggles with depressive episodes and has an entire childhood of trauma’s. His single mother had multiple abusive (in various ways) partners and he was suicidal at 14.
    I don’t want to force him into counseling, because he’s already got work stuff.
    But here recently something happened that we need to finish talking about. And I want to include a relationship therapist. Almost every disagreement has me tip toeing around his emotional state. And I’ve had my fill of ignoring his issues!

    But my brother has a violent temper, and has been trying to tame it. I’ve had to learn some anger managing skills too. Toddlers can bring it out of you!

    Reply
  22. Amber

    My mom met a man like this when I was seventeen. Most of my childhood my mom and I lived alone because she recognized physical abuse and got me away. Her father had been abusive and her first husband, my biological father, had been abusive. But they were abusive physically and both alcoholics. But she didn’t recognize emotional abuse as abuse. So when she met her current husband, who didn’t drink and was very religious, it was a new experience for her. It started pretty quick. He yelled at her for having lunch with a male friend who had been in our lives for many years. Later he apologized and said that he had been cheated on a lot in the past and was very sensitive. It got worse and worse. He’d even yell in public. He called me bad names and swore at me, usually because I hadn’t “honored” or respected him enough. We were at a theme park and he and my mom went on the carousel and my friend and I got some ice cream while we waited. He yelled at me for not getting him ice cream. He even ripped the sunglasses off my face that he had bought for me and broke them. He would yell about all he’s done for me and my mom and how he is blessed by God and I’m not honoring him enough. He’d yell and break things and whenever he “apologized” he’d try to justify his behavior by blaming me or telling us the stress he’s under or about how his mom died or etc. and cry and say how much we all meant him. And I guess that worked for my mom because she’s been married to him ever since. And she’s missed everything.

    In college because I was so attached to my mom I’d call a lot but I wasn’t allowed to talk to just her. So I would be put on speaker phone every time I called. I had to deal with so many things without anyone to help me through it or admit really personal things to him. I suffered some serious depression and had horrible nightmares about him almost every night. Normally a really good student, I started to fail some classes.

    In my twenties I read Love and Respect and did try to act more respectfully and we managed to have fewer fits of rage but I felt uncomfortable every moment I was around him. I hated his jokes that were mean and not funny or the way he hugged me or the way he whispered to my kids or the way my heart beat so fast every time his voice rose just a bit or the way he’d launch into speeches or insisted he was an expert at everything and we were awful if we didn’t ask his opinion or follow his advice. Love and Respect helped in ways I suppose but gave me a terrible feeling and didn’t seem right. I looked for other resources. Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend is the first one that really helped.

    I’ve been married fifteen years now. My mom has been married for twenty. It’s been a struggle for a long time and finally, the last four years he hasn’t been allowed around myself or my children. So my mom hasn’t seen us much either, although I’ve let her know she is welcome over and over. I’ve also said I’d be willing to try again with him if he’d do counseling but the counseling has not gone well the few times he’s been willing to try. He won’t take responsibility for himself and only wants to blame others.

    I’m not sure what made her decide to put the needs of her abusive husband over her daughter. I’ve mourned the loss of a mom who is still alive. I miss her and cry for her regularly. I had imagined my adult life much differently. I imagined a mom who would help me plan my wedding instead of one who yelled at me while I was dancing because my friend wouldn’t let her husband have the microphone to make a speech. (I have good friends!) I imagined a mom who would come help me take care of my babies after I had them and was the first one there to hold them. Instead I have a mom who doesn’t see her grandkids often because her husband isn’t invited.

    I say all this to encourage moms out there to go with their gut, be strong, and not miss out on the lives of their children.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Amber, that’s so sad! I’m so sorry. That is a real loss. Good for you for seeing your own worth, though, and standing up for yourself and your kids.

      Reply
  23. Anon

    I could have written so much of this letter, but it’s such a struggle to know where the line is. The thing with my husband is when he’s not angry, he’s SO great. He’s great with the kids until something they do annoys him, but he’s so great to me. And then he drops a pickle jar on the floor and talks about how he’s a worthless waste of space. Or he yells at a kid and talks about how he’s a bad father and I try to remind him of the good moments. He’s been in counseling for months, but no change, really. We’re happy when we’re happy, but the hot and cold is so hard. I just don’t even know how to handle it because he can be such a good dad.

    Reply
  24. Amanda

    My breaking point came when my ex pulled our then “not quite four year old” out of the family outting we were at, administered corporal punishment and threw him into his car seat- over simply “whining” about wanting to take a certain ride. I lost all respect for him and was OVER walking on egg shells. The changes in my son since leaving his dad has been immeasurable.

    I’ll add that while the kids may have to be around someone like this for a short period of time if you can’t prove the abuse (and many states don’t recognize emotional abuse unless it comes with physical) limiting the amount of time a child has with the abuser is a complete game changer for the children. Yes, you spend your time healing invisible wounds but the children get a safe haven to enjoy.

    Reply
  25. Molly

    This is also relevant to same sex marriages where abuse happens – and the church may turn a blind eye to it because of the stigma and victim blaming.

    I also think it is worth mentioning that the woman’s son who wants affection and attention from other boys/men is not inherently bad. He may not be straight or (more likely) he may be looking for a father figure, just as a boy without a father may look for, considering he seems to not be getting his emotional needs met. It is sad that his father isn’t filling the role, but it honestly seems better that he may want care and wisdom from someone better at showing it, like a family friend or church youth leader or sports coach, etc. As long as this doesn’t open up doors for more abuse, then it could be a good idea to encourage (and even facilitate), especially if this marriage doesn’t survive.

    Reply
  26. Mary

    “I think we focus too much on the word “abuse”: If it’s abusive, then we can do something. If it’s not, we have to put up with it.
    No. If there is an unhealthy dynamic in your family that is hurting members of your family, you deal with it. Whether some people would call it abuse or some wouldn’t doesn’t matter; you deal with the unhealthy dynamics. And when your children are cowering and exhibiting fear behaviours, then it is time for you to act, whether or not you think this fits the definition of abuse.”

    ^ That is the most freeing statement I’ve read in a long time. The amount of energy wasted on trying to find that “line” is absurd. A narcissist will know exactly where that line is and dance around it.

    Thank you for saying (typing) this!! Mamas, protect your children!

    Reply
  27. R

    Yes. Mothers and fathers, please please please protect your children! My adult siblings and I are living the effects of growing up in a “not quite abusive enough” home. I’m in therapy to recover from serious self-worth issues and so I don’t repeat the cycle with my own children. I see my siblings and I struggling emotionally and physically through life (because trauma causes both types of problems). I see them repeating the “not quite bad enough”abuse with their own kids, and it all breaks my heart. I have no relationship with our parents beyond talking about the weather. I still ask myself why didn’t my mom protect me, and it hurts. I forgive them and accept the past, but I’m not going to invest in an unsafe relationship with them. Parents, protect your children’s bodies AND hearts!

    Reply
  28. Rd

    I’m the angry rage parent. This morning I’ve started thinking I might actually be being abusive to my older child. (This morning has been even worse than usual, with an impending period on top of insufficient sleep.) I don’t know what to do. I try so hard, I feel like I’m doing my best, it’s definitely not good enough. My children deserve better than this. I need help. I want help. I have no local family I can turn to for help, no local faith community either. No money to hire babysitter so I can have a break so I can take better care of myself and become a calmer more loving mama. I just don’t know what to do.

    Reply
    • Malin

      I’m the angry parent too, and even though I get breaks it’s like it doesn’t matter, sometimes it’s just one little thing and I’m back in angry mode/feeling completely wrung out and just “running on empty”. I stumbled across https://drjonicewebb.com/the-book/ and since it seems to describe me pretty well I’m currently waiting on the book. Praying for you to find your way!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, RD. That’s so hard. I don’t know where you live, but I know where I am child protective services is really invested in helping kids stay with their parents but also in getting parents help when they need it. If you call child protective services and say, “I can get into a rage sometimes, and I don’t want to hurt my kids and I want to do better,” they may be able to get you parenting classes for free.

      I just don’t know what would happen in other jurisdictions–if they would remove the children or anything. But I know here they very rarely remove the kids. But if you are concerned with your kids’ safety, I think calling is likely the best thing to do for their sake, and for yours. You can also call a domestic abuse hotline and they may be able to point you to some relevant resources.

      Can you talk to your husband about it (if you have one?) Or get involved in a mom’s group somewhere? Even if you can’t get any time to yourself, sometimes being involved in a group of moms is easier than always being on your own.

      Reply
    • Rebecca

      I have had hard times with my eldest child as well, similar to what you describe. Mostly linked to hormones, actually. It mainly happened when I was pregnant with his sister and also in her first year of life. My son was 4-5yo at the time, and was quite difficult and exhausting at times. When my daughter was a baby and my menstrual cycle resumed, sometimes I’d have a couple of days before my period started when I’d have constant feelings of irritation and rage bubbling under the surface. It was awful! Obviously I tried not to give in to it, but it was tough.
      I started taking some supplements to help balance my hormones, as well as things like b vitamins and iron, and over time those feelings over rage reduced to only a couple of hours before my period would start, rather than days at a time – and over a few months disappeared altogether.

      Rage can actually be a symptom of postnatal depression.

      I hope you see this reply, because doing the things I did made a huge difference for me.

      Some tweaks/changes to your parenting tool box might help as well with dealing with a child’s behaviours in a healthy way.

      Look up Dr Justin Coulsen’s Happy Families website; and another one called Connected Families might be helpful too.

      Hugs

      Reply
    • Kiki

      I would highly encourage you to find a therapist knowledgeable in post partum issues. Psychologytoday is a good place to search. Some will provide self-pay/sliding scale fees etc, so don’t be afraid to ask. Therapy did wonders for me. <3

      Reply
  29. Belinda

    I’ve said it before and it remains true: Sheila saved my life with her “Red Flags in Marriage” post. (Please feel free to link it under my comment if you can.)

    I could have written this reader’s email! I vividly remember the day he tried to physically drag me into our bedroom to “talk”. I refused to be dragged but did agree to walk into the lion’s den on my own. While in there, he told me he wouldn’t get so angry if the kids AND I would just do what he said. That moment was one of the final coffin nails for that marriage. We’ve been divorced for almost a year now, and separated for longer. It took me 4 years from “Red Flags in Marriage” to “I’m out”, but I don’t know that *I* could’ve gone any faster. Towards the end, he was saying, “Just tell me what you want from me,” quite often. I would tell him that I just wanted a Godly husband. Looking back, I believe we were on the precipice of more obvious physical abuse.

    One of our kids has told me that had I not divorced him, she believes she would be dead by now–at his hand or her own. She’s not being overly dramatic, either. (And she can be, so I can usually tell the difference.) She hasn’t been to visitation with him in over a year. He lost her when he cut her overnight bag off her arm for refusing to get out of my car.

    None of that helped in court because I did not have better documentation AND I allowed a settlement. I regret that, for anyone considering it. He is now constantly looking for ways to have me declared unfit instead of sitting in jail for soliciting prostitutes and aggravated abuse. I chickened out. I beg y’all to not. 3 of our kids still endure him.

    I took what I learned from Sheila & Leslie (Vernick) and I worked on my own anger issues. The same daughter told me recently that my obvious change that year and following was quite suspicious. She still struggles to trust me due to my allowing him to treat the kids that way and “flying monkey” it, myself. That revelation hit hard, but she isn’t wrong. I know better and (I believe) do better now.

    God promised to sustain me, and He has. I believe He has much better for His children, including me & my kids.

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  30. Kiki

    This is absolutely abuse; thank you for calling it out clearly. Have you by chance done any articles yet on emotional/psychological/verbal abuse that is very covert? I have a friend in a very dangerous domestic violence relationship that is abusive, but because there isn’t yelling, outbursts, physical marks, etc, she can’t get out. I’m honestly worried he’s going to kill her one day. The pandemic has made things worse. And he constantly gaslights her, manipulates, takes her money, controls what she can read…

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  31. k

    So what about the many, many, many women on the planet who have good reason not to trust their local police or “child protective” services, and are probably never going to call them, even if they are threatened and mistreated in ways that technically meet a definition of abuse, or even hit, at times? Can you respect their adult decisions about their situation? Especially if they aren’t saying that they are holier than the women who leave, but really feel that in their situation, God is not requiring them to call the police, or leave, or make the husband leave (partly bc of their reading of 1 Cor 7), and is leading them through a different strategy in which there are Christian therapists involved that are trauma-informed and respectful of the wife, and that the husband is respecting and learning from. I ask because I have known and currently know women like this, and I actually think they are way more receptive to someone like Piper, than people who keep nagging them to call the police and invite an untrustworthy government into their homes.

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