3 Things That Make it More LIkely She Will Marry an Abuser

by | May 1, 2023 | Abuse, Parenting Teens | 71 comments

More Likely to Marry an Abuser as an Adult
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Not every girl has an equal chance of growing up and marrying an abuser.

The family circumstances and social environment she grows up in can greatly impact her chances. And these things are, to a certain extent, out of our control.

But there are things that are even more important, and these things are IN our control. Our survey of 7000+ predominantly evangelical women for our new book She Deserves Better showed how certain beliefs or experiences that we do have control over make it more likely that a girl will marry an abuser. And, conversely, other beliefs and experiences make her chances of being abused in marriage very, very low.

None of us want our daughters to marry an abuser. So this stuff really matters.

Today, I want to take a look at the three big categories that make it more likely she’ll marry an abuser, as well as specifics within those categories.

But before we do that, I’d like to take a look at a case study.

Late last week, video of conservative commentator Steven Crowder berating his ex-wife Hilary dropped.

The video was apparently released by a Hilary Crowder spokesperson after Steven had gone on his very popular podcast and been talking about how no-fault divorce in Texas is terrible, and complaining about the divorce.

I’ve been thinking over the weekend about how I’d like to respond to this. I think it’s an important video, because I think it helps clarify what abuse is and who is safe and who is not.

At the same time, it is a very, very triggering video, and I advise extreme caution when watching it. While nothing is violent, both of their postures towards each other reveal dynamics that are just awful, and can be very disturbing for some viewers. 

For that reason, I’m not going to embed it. If you want to see the whole thing, or read more on it, here is where it was originally published, and here is an article in the New York Post that takes you through it bit by bit. Otherwise I’d just like to make a few broad comments.

Here’s the background: In the video, which took place on their patio outside their house, captured by their Ring security system, the couple is in conflict over giving their dog medication. Hilary, who is eight months pregnant with twins, is worried that it is toxic for her to touch, and wants Steven to do it. He is berating her for this, and is telling her to wear gloves. She has decided to extricate herself from the situation and wants to leave the house, and that’s where the video starts–he doesn’t want her to leave.

A few things that I found very disturbing:

Hilary Crowder is exhibiting classic fawning behaviour.

Her pitch and tone are in stark contrast to his, which are threatening and loud. She is being exceedingly quiet and calm. She repeatedly tells him that she loves him and is committed to him, but she is setting a boundary. She is trying not to get dragged into debates over things, but is repeating that she loves him. She is obviously fighting back tears.

Steven Crowder is angry that he is being disrespected.

He repeatedly asks her how is she showing that she respects men? He tells her that she should be doing her “wifely duties” (presumably meaning giving medicine to the dog).

He tells her that she isn’t showing him respect. He tells her that she needs more discipline and respect. He complains that if she leaves with the car, he’ll be stuck there without anything to do.

He tells  her she should get an Uber so that he can have the car.

Remember–his wife is eight months pregnant with twins. 

Steven Crowder deliberately says things to hurt her.

While she is trying to assuage him and calm him down and reassure him, he does the opposite. At one point, when she tells him that she loves him, he replies, “Well, I don’t love you.”

Steven Crowder swears at her and apparently continues to swear at her after the video ends.

When she walks away, he follows her and apparently threatens, according to Hilary and the spokesperson, “I’ll f*** you up.”

Far too much commentary around this video has been, “we don’t know if this is actually abuse.”

I’ve been watching the conversation on Twitter, and I’ve been in the middle of some of it, and many commentators are saying that we don’t know if this is actually a pattern of abuse.

On the contrary, we definitely know. Her fawning behaviour shows that this has been happening repeatedly. This is not a one-off. And that is also what her testimony says, and we have no reason not to believe her. She separated just before the twins were born and has been raising them alone.

Nobody talks to a woman who is 8 months pregnant with his child like this who isn’t abusive. Why doesn’t he just give the dog his medicine? It takes no time at all. But he wants his 8 months pregnant wife to do it, with gloves on, rather than have to get up from his lounge chair where he is smoking a cigar. And he thinks that it is Hilary who is showing the lack of respect and lack of attention to her “wifely duties.”

No physical abuse is shown, and neither Hilary nor Steven is claiming that there was physical abuse. But we see here a pattern of emotional abuse and coercive control, and that isn’t okay. That is absolutely abuse.

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Many of Steven Crowder’s talking points boil down to entitlement.

He thinks he is entitled to her labour–to her doing things that inconvenience her, that are physically difficult due to her pregnancy, and that might even be dangerous, because he is the man and shouldn’t have to do “wifely” things. He asks her, “what about my wood pellets? What about my grill?” 

He feels he is entitled to her respect–by which he means “doing things the way I want.” At no point in this video does Hilary speak to him disrespectfully .She is simply standing up for her own autonomy.

He is the one who is being extremely disrespectful.

But this fits in with what we have said about Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect–Eggerichs believes men are owed respect, by which he means deference to their authority; allowing him to have the final say; going along with what he wants; and giving him sex on demand.

None of these things are actually about respect. They are merely solidifying entitlement.

And, indeed, Steven Crowder’s commentary about his marriage last week was that he should have picked better–meaning that Hilary was the problem, not him.

Can we raise our daughters to be more likely to avoid these pitfalls?

Can we make it less likely that our daughters will marry someone like Steven? Yes, I think we can, because we found that certain things make it far more likely that a girl will eventually end up in an abusive relationship.

Teen girls who grow up and go on to marry abusers tend to have three things in common:

  1. They have low self-esteem and feel that they shouldn’t take up too much space
  2. They believe “boys will be boys”, that men tend to act in entitled, predatory ways
  3. They believe that it is their job to help the boys and men around them not slip up.

When girls feel that they aren’t worth much, and that they need to keep boys from hurting them, they’re likely to marry men who agree with them. And when they think that predatory behaviour is normal, they won’t see these things as red flags.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1. Low self-esteem leads to greater likelihood of marrying abusers.

Anything that lowers girls’ self-esteem hurts their relationships long-term. And what things lower self-esteem? Things like:

  • Modesty messages that tell girls that they are responsible for keeping boys from sinning and that their bodies are dangerous
  • Lack of sex education–not knowing words for anatomy or for sex; feeling embarrassed about puberty or your period
  • Feeling like “girls talk too much”, or thinking that girls are an inconvenience and take up too much space

Any time we make girls feel like they are a problem; their bodies are a problem; their voices are a problem. Anytime we make girls feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with them, we make it easy for them to blame themselves when things go wrong in relationships, because they don’t think they’re worth more.

Are you going to a church that is telling your daughter how bad she is? That God is always displeased with her? That her body is a problem?

Or does she feel empowered to speak up, to have opinions? Does she understand about sex and her body?

If your church is telling your daughter that her voice is less important because she is a girl, that has a strong correlation with long-term problems.

2. Believing “Boys will be boys” makes it more likely that girls will marry abusers.

When we teach girls things like:

  • Boys are visual in a way that girls will never understand
  • Boys can’t help but lust if a girl is dressed like she’s trying to incite it
  • A boy can’t stop in a makeout situation, and so it’s a girl’s responsibility to stop the makeout progression–

–well, girls aren’t going to see boundary violations as red flags.

She Deserves Better Quotation

3. Feeling like she is responsible to keep him from sinning means marrying an abuser is more likely.

Finally, if she believes that the blame for a boy’s bad behaviour at least partially falls on to her, then she is more likely to marry someone who will abuse her–because she will likely marry someone who agrees with her.

So when we teach girls:

  • If a man lusts after you, it’s because of what you were wearing
  • If he can’t stop in a makeout situation, you should have known better than to start
  • If he’s angry at you, it’s likely because you disrespected him (as Shaunti Feldhahn said in For Young Women Only)–

–we make it more likely that they won’t see bad behaviour as a deal breaker, but merely as a sign that they aren’t doing their job to keep him from sinning. They will think of themselves badly, rather than think of him badly.

Shaunti Feldhahn, in her book For Young Women Only, taught girls that “if you want to stop, it’s safest to not even start.” Shannon Ethridge echoed Shaunti in her book Every Young Woman’s Battle, describing what could be a date rape situation, and then saying emphatically, “she should have known better.” 

And Feldhahn also says in For Young Women Only that a boy’s anger is often triggered by a girl’s disrespect.

Can we see how that is playing out in Steven and Hilary Crowder’s situation? He is angry at her and berating her and yelling at her and swearing at her–and all along he is saying she is the problem because she is showing him disrespect. 

In our book She Deserves Better, we break all of this down more deeply by individual teaching. 

We look at the long-term effects of many different teachings, like this:

The Effects of the Sexual Gatekeeper Message

Watching the Crowder video was like watching the natural outcomes of so many of our teachings.

It was entitlement; blaming her for disrespect; thinking that she is responsible for everything around the house. 

That she is less important than he is.

None of us wants that for our daughters. It was horrifying.

But this is the natural outcome of so much of what we teach. 

We teach boys that they are entitled to be catered to, and we teach girls that they aren’t entitled even to basic respect. We teach both that girls’ behaviour can cause men to “lose it”, so if he does lose it–it must be her fault.

We need to stop.

Hilary Crowder deserved better, and now she is raising twins alone. Our daughters deserve better than this.

And they won’t get better until we change things. 

Until we stop with the toxic teachings. Until we start valuing girls’ voices and not considering them an inconvenience to the men and boys around them. 

Sometimes we think these things without even realizing it. We have some deep uprooting to do. But it is time. 

She Deserves Better!

Because we all deserve a big faith.

Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

3Things that Make it More Likely Your Daughter Will Marry an aBuser

What do you think? Have you seen dynamics like the Crowders’ in your social group? Have you seen how toxic beliefs can lead to a girl being more likely to marry an abuser, or a boy more likely to become an abuser? Let’s talk in the comments!

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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. Codec

    Seeing that video what Hillary Crowder went through reminded me of abuse I saw my own mother go through with my stepfather.

    It is scary. I hope Hillary gets help.

    I also hope Steven gets help.

    I find it disturbing. There is this misogynistic undertow that is found in people. You have folks who are strong advocates for personal responsibility who do things like this. As someone who does strongly believe in the importance of individual responsibility it makes me sad to see this abusive behavior.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry that you witnessed that with your mother, Codec. That’s hard on a kid. It really is.

      • Codec

        It was a difficult time to be sure.

        I must admit those times have shaped me in ways that I myself am not entirely aware of.

        I believe that entitlement is a big part of why we are seeing a lot of the problems we are today between men and women. I honestly would love to see you address men with a book like She deserves better. I need to read it.

    • Lisa Johns

      I also hope Steven gets help, but at the moment that’s not likely to happen, as he refuses to admit he needs it. I’ve never listened to his podcast, and now I never will. 🤯🤬

    • Marie

      Same 🙁 Was very disturbing for me too, and I couldn’t turn the sound on. The sound of an angry grown man toward a fauning woman has an immediate panic effect on me from childhood memories of my parents.

      I see you man, it sucks to have those memories. Take care of yourself today <3

  2. Cynthia

    One of the things that stood out to me was that she was really trying so hard to just get away and have some peaceful space. It wasn’t two people yelling at each other, it was one person feeling desperate to get away and another escalating by yelling and insulting her and wanting the control over mobility.

    His comments to his audience were all framed as complaining that she had a right to leave him.

    So, that’s the context. It is an illustration of coercive control, and how that looks when someone is preventing the other person from leaving.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly. She was just trying to get some temporary distance because she was exhausted and distressed and scared. And he was berating her for that.

      • Codec

        She was trying to establish a healthy boundary.

        • Lisa Johns

          Yes she was, and doing it in as gentle a way as she could. Wow.

  3. Mara R

    And I guess there are a lot of Evangelical leaders who saw the video and still blam her. These leaders are still bemoaning the existence of no-fault divorce (along with Crowder and are calling for it to be done away with.

    So these teachers, like Eggerichs, push teachings that groom girls/women to marry abusers.
    Then others who agree with him (don’t know where Eggerichs stands with no-fault) wanting to trap these groomed women in a horrible situation with an abuser.


    I’m glad I got MY no fault divorce before this drama fest.

    Suzanne Titkemeyer talking about it a bit in the first part of this podcast for those who care to look.

  4. Suzanne

    The video is very triggering and the comment section after is really bad. I want to caution people to NOT read the comments unless reading the abuse apologist comments will not bother you, they really upset me.

    I had not heard this sad story until I saw the post this morning. I find it really insane that Steven Crowder is against no fault divorce and thinks that a woman should have to prove abuse or infidelity to be allowed to divorce. He wants women to be stuck in bad marriages so they can continue to be abused behind closed doors. I am so glad she removed herself from him and got herself safe. I hope their twin girls are not abused by him like he emotionally abused his wife.

    • Nathan

      > > He wants women to be stuck in bad marriages so they can continue to be abused behind closed doors.

      Because God cares more about the marriage itself than the people in it (another bad idea that’s taken root)

    • Nessie

      “…Steven Crowder is against no fault divorce and thinks that a woman should have to prove abuse or infidelity to be allowed to divorce.”

      Which is why he is so adamant to share that he has not physically abused her. (I’m also surprised he doesn’t argue against abuse being a biblical reason to divorce, too,- maybe he has?) I presume it is far harder to prove abuse when there are no bruises, no cuts, no hospitalizations, nothing 100% definitively tangible as “abusive” because they can keep claiming they didn’t, it’s just the “perception” of outsiders (or the spouse) and *their* bad belief systems. It really is demonic how close they come without ever *quite* stepping over that line of full proof. Seems pretty darn pre-meditated in many cases considering all that.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Well, Hilary Crowder HAS proof of abuse. This video is proof.

  5. Nathan

    > > And I guess there are a lot of Evangelical leaders who saw the video and still blame her.

    Because in their mind, she isn’t respecting him enough, she isn’t submitting enough, she isn’t praying enough, she isn’t having enough sex with him (pregnant or not) and she isn’t a good enough Christian.

    I’ve also heard that some women choose men who remind them of their fathers. So if dad abuses mom or the daughters, see Codec above), he’s grooming his daughters to become abused (and teaching his sons to abuse their own wives).

    As an aside, he could have said “You’re pregnant, I’ll take the uber” or even “since I have nothing to do anyway (by his own admission), I’ll drive you where you need to go”.

    • Carla

      She wouldn’t be safe in a car being driven by someone who is that angry.

      • Mara R

        I was thinking the same thing, Carla.
        If it were Codec, Phil or Nathan driving me, I’d feel safe.
        If it was SC, that would just give him more opportunity to berate and demoralize a victim.

        • Codec

          Thank you for the compliment.

        • Phil

          Mara – I took my safe driver training this morning while driving. You sure about that? 😂🤣 I promise you if I were driving you somewhere I would be safe. 😁

          • Kate

            My dad is a very verbally abusive man and one of my hard boundaries is never being in a car with him. He gets more abusive when he is behind the wheel.

  6. Nessie

    I don’t recall witnessing anything to this extent but I did witness much milder forms of fawning, excuse-making for poor husband behaviors. etc. in an SBC church. I overheard husbands griping about their wives over ridiculously small things the husbands treated as major problems. These things were said inside church walls, where most people put on their “best selves.”

    My husband gave me silent treatment (unintentional-stemming from family of origin, ADHD, etc.) for close to 2 decades. I was just about ready to take my life from the erasure. He never uttered hatefulness like this SC guy. No one ever believed me that he was vastly different at home than in public. (The stimulation of being in public masked his ADHD symptoms + trained to give good public perception.) No one, including him, ever saw/believed what I was dealing with. I felt like the Loch Ness creature- I couldn’t possibly exist, and the only people who “saw” me were disbelieved and discredited.

    No fault divorce may be the best way for many spouses to escape both an abuser and the added retraumatization if the courts find the abuser not guilty due to lack of hard proof.

    I had low self-esteem, believed boys are just that way, and felt it was my job to stop things. I am still working at not feeling guilt over that, trying to get my head and my heart to allign. I married a guy who unwittingly abused me. We never noticed it because the church dynamic gaslit us by setting it up as normal, mostly by making excuses such as, “I’m sure BOTH of you have sins to repent from. Remove your log before pointing out his speck.”

  7. Cynthia

    I read Yashar Ali’s sub stack.

    Crowder had a pattern of apologizing for outbursts of rage but not stopping them. There is also evidence of financial control, trying to cut off funds to his wife right as she is having his kids.

    When you put all the pieces together, it is a pattern of someone who is doing everything to coerce their wife into staying despite the abusive treatment. In some ways, staying and putting up with the bad treatment almost becomes a test of loyalty. What I’ve learned is that the most extreme outbursts are just the tip of the iceberg. It isn’t that there may have been some fighting, but things were fine in between. It was that she had to live every day with the knowledge that he could go into a rage, and be deliberately hurtful, and she was feeling increasingly vulnerable as the birth was approaching and her access to a vehicle and money could be controlled.

  8. Phil

    Lately, I have been thinking about this scenario I encountered a couple years ago. We were at the zoo and we were walking to meet up with my wife’s cousins family. We were standing at this intersection path trying to decide which way was the correct way to go. This man and woman with probably about a 4/5 year old girl and she was carrying a baby were walking by and the man and woman were arguing about something. The man was speaking abusively towards his wife swearing and calling her names. Fing B and so on. During the argument the man told the woman if she didn’t do as he said he had the keys and he was going to leave her. I was a mere few feet from them as they had stopped to argue. It wasn’t loud but I was standing right there. I stared at him hard as he was berating her. She caved to whatever it was going on and they moved on. More recently I have been thinking about the fact that I should have said something to the man. I am that type of person to intervene when I see where people need help. However to get into someones else’s stuff? Probably not so much is my history. But you know what? That guy was publicly berating his wife in-front of a small child/girl and a woman and her baby. I certainly would have been justified to call him out in public. Hind site is always 20/20 but for me this is a case where I should have called him out. My stare may have helped in some way but most likely she just caved out of embarrassment as I stared on. Where I come from, This Steven dude is what I call a F***** *******
    I have done my share of being nasty to my wife. Yes I admit this. But this story is beyond and is clearly abuse. It reminds me of another story that happened almost 30 years ago watching my friend fight with his fiancé over what they wanted on their nachos. It was so nasty I could’t stand it. Over freakin nachos? Just get two orders if you cant agree. WTF? Not where’s the fish…I told them if they didnt stop I was leaving. I was actually standing up for her because my friend was being a jackass. After I set my boundary she was the one that told me to leave. I got up knocked the chair over in my haste and walked out. Steven needs to be a MAN. Man up Dude! Like get the dog and give it the medicine you loser. The hope here is these women are now far away from these abusive men in the best interest if not only herself, but her children.

    • Mara R

      Phil, I don’t think intervening at the zoo would have done any good. These guys refuse to see that they are doing anything wrong. And I don’t know that it would have helped her. Maybe slipping her a pamphlet about recognizing emotional abuse would help. But we generally don’t carry those around.
      But your nacho friends. I think that was appropriate. But you see what happened there. Abused women are in it so deep they have trouble allowing others to take their side. But I still think that was the right thing to do.

      I remember one time I was walking through a grocery store looking for eggs when I walked by a very young couple. She started pushing the cart before he was ready and he rebuked her sharply in harsh, hushed tones. She stopped, glanced at the ceiling then glanced a me with a completely wilted and defeated look on her face.
      When we made eye-contact, I realized two things. One, she was just like I was when I was her age with my angry husband. And two, this was none of my business and I walked away hoping that she saw sympathy in my eyes rather than judgement. (Because women in those situations are perpetually judged and scapegoated). Kinda wish I had a pamphlet.
      There was no way I was going to intervene. Men like that have issues with all women. And they have a particular hatred of older women butting their noses in their business.

    • Phil

      Sorry for my non Christ like response. Some times you got a call a spade a spade.

      • Mara R

        Oh, gosh. I hope you don’t think I was correcting or scolding.
        I was just commenting that coming up on this situations is a no-win scenario for everyone except the abuser. And I didn’t want you to feel bad for not doing more for the zoo people.
        These situations are just hard.

        And for people we know who are victims of such things, sometimes we have to wait until THEY are ready to do something. Then when they are, we can help with everything we’ve got.

        • Phil

          No not at all. I didn’t refresh my screen and didn’t see your reply. All good. Appreciate the conversation. Those situations are hard. And you are correct. THEY need to take action. I guess I just wish I could have helped.

    • Carla

      It is dangerous to confront men like that unless it is in a situation where there is long term monitoring and accountability. They are bullies and cowards. They will take it out on her and/or the kids later. The best one can do is if you can catch her without him seeing or knowing and tell her you are sad she’s being treated that way with words or a look. It can help her see her situation more accurately to have an outsider’s reaction. She has probably gotten very used to it and it feels normal.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, that’s what I was worried about. That if you intervene you actually make it worse for her.

      • Phil

        Yeah your right. I probably handle the situation just right. However my reflection of the situation makes me want to go back and do it differently.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I remember a time we were on vacation and we heard this man yell at his wife and his two sons about being late for something when he was clearly in the wrong.

      We didn’t say anything.

      I wish we had. I’ve thought about that too and I’ve thought that what I wish I had done was say to that woman, “that isn’t okay that he’s talking to you like this. This is being abusive. I’m sorry this is happening to you.” Like, not even addressing the guy but addressing the woman.

      The only thing is that that could trigger him to be physically abusive towards her later.

      Maybe slipping a note is the only way, but I don’t even know how that would have been possible at the time. I should just carry notes in my purse that say something generic like, “I heard how he was talking to you. That is not okay. That is abusive. Please call a hotline, because you deserve better.” I don’t know.

      • JoB

        I think it’s a very important scenario for all of us to think about. It’s true that many abusive people are extremely vindictive and the danger is that if they feel publicly humiliated (or “disrespected”) they will take it out on their spouse later on. The articles below might be helpful, I like the idea of interrupting in some innocuous way. I think this could also work when children are being verbally abused by a parent in public.



        • EOF

          This is so true. Many years ago when I used to try to get help for my marriage in church, it was the people who stood up to him (or at least sided with me) who inadvertently brought me the most harm.

          I eventually figured out that I was better off putting up with his abuse than trying to get help because anytime someone confronted him (even lovingly) I would pay severely at home. It was better just to deal with the initial abuse than to have to suffer under the additional abuse of his fury over someone calling him out.

      • Taylor

        Unless you see something that you can call the police about, confronting an abuser in public is dangerous for the victim, for a couple reasons. 1) as another person pointed out, the abuser will probably take it out on the victim (and maybe kids too) later. And 2) Being with an abuser is often a weirdly enmeahing experience. Often the victim will come to the defense of the abuser because the abuser has repeatedly done the DARVO thing and the victim believes that the abuser is actually the abuse victim.

        If you’re going to say anything, definitely do it when the abuser can’t see or hear. And try focusing the comments on the victim, like “I just want you to know that you matter.”

        Also, definitely pray and ask the Lord for His input. Because He may lead you to help in a direction you wouldn’t have thought of.

    • Evelyn Krache Morris

      Yeah, you might have made it worse for her back home. “How you could embarrass me in public like that?” Etc., etc., etc.

      • Phil

        Thanks all for your feedback.

  9. Andrew

    There’s certainly a lot to be said for teaching that propagates the notion that girls are responsible for boy’s struggles in the realm of sexuality. I think the Bare Marriage team is doing a lot of great work to counteract a maladaptive way of relating that promotes a quasi-codependency between the sexes.

    The first reason you’ve highlighted for why girls end up in abusive relationships really hits the nail on the head. In fact, I think it is a necessary condition for the other two reasons cited (“boys will be boys” and believing it’s their job to help). Girls who have received adequate care from loving and affirming parents will for the most part have a healthy self-esteem. The same goes for boys. Healthy self-esteem is correlated with an internal locus of control which contributes to the belief that events are primarily a result of our own actions. This is the opposite of an external locus of control (correlated with low self-esteem) which attributes events to the actions of others or forces outside of ourselves. Someone with a high-self esteem and internal locus of control is very unlikely to accept the notion that “boys will be boys” or that they can control the struggles of others because it runs contrary to their own beliefs.

    I believe there’s a real need to look at the role of self-esteem in relationships and abuse if we’re to heal abusers and help those abused. The common trait between the abuser and abused tends to be low self-esteem. If you go a step further, you will find the low self-esteem is the result of trauma and/or abuse (including neglect) experienced in childhood. An abusive person isn’t evil. Their actions often are, but they are actually a severely wounded, broken and insecure person who has very little if any self-esteem. Hurt people hurt people. The sad reality is the people they hurt tend to be those (the abused) who have grown up in dysfunctional and similarly traumatic/abusive environments and derive their self-esteem and sense of self from others (external locus). They are unaware and unable to identify their own experiences as abnormal and so the abusive relationship reflects the maladaptive style of relating they experienced with one or more caregivers in childhood.

    Educating people is a great first step, but we need more ministries that help people explore and heal the childhood wounds that still impact them today. Emotionally healthy spirituality is a great first step towards this goal.

  10. exwifeofasexaddict

    This is the first I’ve heard of this story. I thought I’d be strong enough to watch the video, but just your description of what happened was triggering to me. My ex was also indifferent to my pain and suffering while pregnant, wanting ME to do things that would have been way easier for HIM to do. My ex wasn’t such an overt jerk as Steven Crowder. But this indifference, this callousness… over a lifetime, it’s demoralizing. You stop believing you deserve better. I’m so glad Hillary left him. I hope the judge believes her abuse case- just because it’s this clear on a video doesn’t mean the judge will believe it or do the right thing- and that she gets sole custody and generous child support and a fair settlement.

  11. Sarah R

    I would have checked 1,2, and 3 on your list in my early twenties… I have often thought how grateful I am that I didn’t marry then, despite really wanting to, as I would not have picked the right person and may well have picked an abuser! This is scary stuff. I’m glad Hilary is now out of that situation.

    • Sarah

      Same here! I had absolutely no understanding of boundaries or emotional health, let alone solid self-esteem or non-toxic beliefs around gender and sex. Thank God I did not marry anyone then – the odds of finding a good man and having a healthy relationship were very much against me.

      I’m 30 and single now, and every year my standards for a man I would consider dating, let alone marrying, get higher. I see that as a good thing, and I’m very aware that may mean I stay single for my whole life. That quote that floats around the internet resonates deeply with me: men believe that they are competing with the top 10% of other men for women’s affection, but really what they’re competing with is the peace that women feel in solitude.

      • Angharad

        Me neither. I am so, so thankful I didn’t get married until I was in my 40s. None of the guys who were being presented to me as ‘suitable’ husbands in my 20s and 30s would have made emotionally healthy partners, but church leaders all thought they were wonderful.

        It’s funny how hard it is for the incel types to accept that they aren’t single because they can’t compete with the top 10% – they are single because they can’t compete with the guys who are kind and honest and trustworthy and treat women as equals, not inferiors.

  12. Andrew

    I think the Bare Marriage team is doing a lot of great work to counteract a maladaptive way of relating that promotes a quasi-codependency between the sexes (and harmful teachings).

    The first reason you’ve highlighted for why girls end up in abusive relationships really hits the nail on the head. In fact, I think it is a necessary condition for the other two reasons cited. Girls who have received adequate care from loving and affirming parents will for the most part have a healthy self-esteem. The same goes for boys. Healthy self-esteem is correlated with an internal locus of control which contributes to the belief that events are primarily a result of our own actions. This is the opposite of an external locus of control (correlated with low self-esteem) which attributes events to the actions of others or forces outside of ourselves. Someone with a high-self esteem and internal locus of control is very unlikely to accept an unhealthy narrative like “boys will be boys”

    There’s a real need to look at the role of self-esteem in relationships. Abusers and the abused both tend to have low self-esteem. Taking that further, the low self-esteem is the result of trauma/abuse/neglect experienced in childhood. Abusive people aren’t inherently evil. Their actions are, but they themselves are severely wounded, broken and insecure people who has very little/no self-esteem. Hurt people hurt people. The sad reality is the people they hurt tend to be those who have grown up in dysfunctional and similarly traumatic/abusive environments and derive their self-esteem and sense of self from others (external locus). The tragedy is their inability to identify their own experiences as abnormal because the abusive relationship tends to reflect the maladaptive style of relating adopted in childhood.

    • Bernadette

      Speaking of locus of control, here are two equally unhealthy mindsets.

      Believing I am a god and have complete control over everything that happens in my life

      Believing I am a worm and have no control over what happens in my life.

      Here is another problem:

      Believing that an abuse victim have the same amount of control over his or her life as everyone else. Thinking that if the victim simply believed that he or she was in control then it magically happens.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Excellent point!

      • Andrew

        That’s precisely why we need more ministry’s to help people through these difficult aspects of life! The teaching that you can just will yourself to change is not helpful. We need more emotionally healthy spirituality and church ministries that help people to invite God into the deepest parts of their heart so they can work through pain with Jesus and experience healing.

  13. Codec

    One of the things that I find weird about all of this is how it seems antithetical to some of the principles found in both Christian and classical liberal/conservative values.

    How is this accepting individual responsibility? How is this leading by good example? How is this sorting yourself out, making order out of chaos, finding beauty in others, and taking on suffering to become a hero? How is this loving your neighbor?

    It just confuses me. Though to be honest I know I don’t live up to my own principles.

    • Carla

      It’s not. Many utilize components of Christianity for their own ends without embracing the heart of it. It shouldn’t be too surprising given how little conscience they have about utilizing actual people. We are told to be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents. Our lack of wisdom as a community allows this to happen, to continue, and sometimes to even be celebrated.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is what really got to me too, because I used to follow (like a decade ago) a lot of these same people, and I thought they believed in responsibility.

      But now it seems like mostly they just believe in entitlement.

    • Nessie

      Codec- “Though to be honest I know I don’t live up to my own principles.”

      Many of us don’t. Fwiw, I feel you are already way ahead of many though just by admitting that and putting in the effort, as you’ve shared here before, to try to improve yourself. And that your brain can’t wrap itself around the nonsensicality of all this is probably a good sign.

      • Codec

        Thank you.

        • Taylor

          Also, saying something like “I don’t always live up to my own principles” is a normal human thing.

          That is completely different than designing a system that violates biblical principles, justifying it with proof-texts, and shutting down when people challenge the hypocrisy. It makes me think of Stephen in Acts chapter 7 when he calls out the accusers for being “stiff-necked people! You uncircumcised of heart, and ears! … you who received the Torah … and did not keep it!”

  14. Mara R

    Took a while for the Substack post to load for me but I was finally able to read it.

    All this issue over him trying to coerce her to do something that he didn’t want to do reminded me of an issue back in the day in my marriage. I referred to it ever after as “The Sock Wars.”

    Long and short, I did laundry and instead of putting his socks in his dresser drawer, I put them on top of the dresser. When he came home from work, he ordered me to put his socks in the drawer. A couple of things to know before I go on. One, when he takes his socks off, they NEVER made it into the hamper. Before doing laundry, I’d have to do a sock round up. They could be anywhere, just like his shoes, living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, the kids’ rooms. Where ever he took his shoes and socks off, that’s where he’d leave them. Second, he was a bit OCD about how he wanted his things put away and I was done being yelled at about that. So he can put his own socks away.
    In the past I used to just do what he commanded. But this time I didn’t. I politely made a boundary, explaining the sock roundup and everything. He yelled for a while then finally said that if I didn’t put the socks away, then I could leave.

    To make a long story less long, I started making preparations to leave. Called my parents and everything. However, after some time I found him in the bedroom crying. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that he couldn’t believe that I was going to throw away our entire relationship like this.

    Really. That’s what he said. He couldn’t see where he was the one that was doing the throwing away. He literally could not see that he was the one make demands, yelling, and threatening. All he could see was that I was being unreasonable.

    This is why, when I look at guys like SC doing these things, I know what’s going through their heads. He feels completely justified in his words, actions, verbal and emotional abuse, and threats. This is how the mind of an abuser works. They are never wrong.

  15. Jess

    Does the survey differentiate between worrying their husbands will do things and what their husbands actually do? My worries stem entirely from teachings, not my husband. They are completely unjustified and I am learning to be realistic, but would that mean I’d be labeled as married to an abuser?

    I am so encouraged (and shocked) to see some patriarchy boys defending Hilary. I’m so grateful to everyone who has put up with them on twitter, because they are starting to get it. We must remember how we were also once ignorant and judgemental to believe people can change, because it is happening!

  16. Cynthia

    As I was on Twitter to read some of this, I came across the news of Keira’s Law, requiring domestic violence training for judges, becoming law in Canada. This is a big victory!

    Unfortunately, I also made the mistake of reading the comments, including a few unhinged attacks against “feminists” and a comment saying the mother needed to “take responsibility”. Keira’s Law is named after a 4 yr old girl who was killed while on an access visit with her father, after her mother had desperately tried to ask the court and the child protection agency to require that his visits be supervised. She had done everything she could, and she is doing everything now to raise awareness and change things.

  17. Angharad

    My grandmother grew up with this kind of teacher, and as a result, she believed that even when my grandfather was physically abusive, it must be her fault and all she was ‘allowed’ to do was to ask nicely for him to stop. One of my most vivid memories from childhood, when my parents left me with my grandparents for the day, is my grandmother begging my grandfather not to hurt her – he watched her with a smile on his face, and when she had sufficiently ‘humbled’ herself, he hurt her anyway, and then smiled when she cried. And she still thought she had a good and godly husband because he preached in church on Sundays.

    It sounds horrific. And it is. But it’s the logical result of this kind of teaching – If women are inferior to men, they should be grateful for attention from any man, even an abusive one. If abusive behaviour is natural to all men, then all men are abusers so you just have to hope that your husband will be less abusive than some. And if women are responsible for keeping men from sin, then if your husband abuses you, it’s your fault anyway for not doing your job of protecting him from sin properly.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that is horrible! I’m so sorry for you and for your grandmother.

      It reminds me of something Charlotte Lucas says about Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice–when Lizzy asks why she’s marrying him, she says, “He isn’t a vicious man…”

      And it’s like–yes, that’s right. At a time when women basically had to marry, finding one who wasn’t vicious was a major plus, even if they weren’t fun to be with and were rather annoying. The bar was really so very low.

      • Lili Marleen

        (bit of a rant ahead)

        I’ve been reading through the history of women in Christianity and the attitudes of so many church leaders were so appalling – that we’re naturally inferior, stupid, and “created solely for procreation” – basically, we’re “two legged wombs”, to quote Margaret Atwood – this is all sending me into a crisis of faith. I know God is just, and humans are sinful so our standards don’t always match up with his, but I struggle to believe that God might actually think women are just wombs/property/sub-humans who deserve a lifestyle similar to those ladies living under the Taliban. Now the Taliban, despite being Muslim and not Christian, clearly are influenced by religion when it comes to how they view women.

        So I can’t help but read those Old Testament laws about the position of wives, compared to husbands, and wonder what God really thinks about us women while I shed tears of confusion, weeping for all my sisters who have been crushed in the name of “religion”.

        And yet… Jesus was always kind to Mary and Martha. Called Martha by her name, like a good friend would.

        I cannot help but imagine the friendship between God, Man, and Women in those days of Eden, and I sigh with longing.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I wrestle with this too! I think Jesus treated women beautifully, and honestly–so did Paul if you go by Acts rather than obscure verses. I wish the church hadn’t lost that.

  18. Anonymous Ponderings

    Will you more specifically address self esteem at some point? I know you have a lot of topics to cover, but how christians talk about self esteem has always been…confusing. So many go on about how sinful humans are and how much we mess up. I know humans have (sometimes very) dark sides, but I can’t help but think along the lines of “Well, then why did you marry your spouse? You admit you are not a good thing to offer them…and no, your spouse being a sinner as well doesn’t negate what you bring to the table.” I know many say we should have “christ-esteem” instead of self esteem, but I have never heard a very good practical definition of that, other than some bible verses strung together. There is also the “simply think about yourself less and others more” faction, but I still don’t see how that addresses your self concept, except to kind of ignore it. Maybe it’s because I need to work on my own self concept, but a lot of what I see written by Christians doesn’t appear to follow their own thoughts to their logical conclusion.

  19. Chelsea

    My husband is abusive like what you’ve described. We had a conversation last night and he told me I didn’t respect him. He’s a drug and alcohol addict with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. He’s no fun to live with. He’s up and down every day. It’s sad because we have 3 children and I have no idea what to do anymore.

    • Lisa Johns

      Please call a hotline. They should have people with knowledge to help you navigate. ❤️

    • recoverymode

      I am very sorry you are living through this, it sounds very difficult. I think you can make a distinction with him that you respect him as a person (we can all show basic respect and dignity to all people simply because they are human beings created in God’s image), but you can’t respect his abusive actions, lack of accountability, etc. You can paint a positive picture and willingness to work with him if he’s willing. You want a bright and hopeful future with him and the kids, you want to be there to support — but on the condition that he takes accountability, willing to address his issues head-on (therapy, counselling, inviting others to mentor, hold accountable). Tell him you need to see these things and a change in order for the marriage to work and survive. Otherwise you are just left to placate and enable the poor behavior. I hope he takes is a wake-up call and is open to getting the help he needs. There can be a bright and beautiful future, but everyone needs to take responsibility for their stuff and reach toward healing instead of playing the victim and blaming/shaming those around them vs. looking inside to what they can do.

    • JoB

      I will also pray for you. I’m so sorry. If you haven’t already looked into it, have you heard of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)? They offer both online and in-person support for both individuals suffering from mental illness and family members who are suffering right along with them. Lack of awareness of mental illness is actually a symptom of mental illness- it’s called anosognosia. Substance abuse is an extremely common copathology with mental illness. I pray you can find support from others who have walked in your shoes and can give you wise counsel about how to protect your own physical and mental wellbeing.

      Another resource might be the book “I’m not sick, I don’t need help!” By Dr. Xavier Amador.

  20. Phil

    Awe Chelsea. This makes me sad. Please find some help for you and your children. I pray you find a path.

  21. Nathan

    Chelsea, that’s so heartbreaking. I hope that you and your children find a solution. It’s easy to say “just leave”, but with 3 kids it gets complicated.

  22. Emma

    And this here is how I ended up in a 10 year abusive marriage. All the red flags were there but because of what I was taught I thought it was either me doing something wrong or me not praying enough for him. I have experienced the extreme damage first hand that happens with this kind of teaching. Now in my thirties I’m still struggling with some of it, trying to unlearn it and making sure none of it gets passed onto my 3 daughters.
    I don’t want them to ever feel the shame, insecurity, guilt, responsibility and pain I have.

  23. Patricia

    What I really hope is that the mothers (and fathers) of today’s daughters are doing their part to instill self-esteem and self-worth in their daughters. I didn’t get that growing up and it’s terribly damaging when you know your own mother doesn’t think much of you. Not whining here; it was obvious to me even as a very young child. (My mother admitted to me in her later years that she never wanted children, especially girls.) Consequently, it was easy for me to fall right into the trap of bad treatment from men because I believed that’s all I deserved.

    Years later, after a failed marriage that was abusive at times, I was going to a church where a speaker came in to talk about marriage. According to him, God did not guarantee us happiness, so a miserable/abusive marriage was no justification for divorce. A Christian was supposed to be Christ-like and long-suffering. Yeah, I was so glad I was already divorced by then!

  24. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing a response on this Sheila. The video felt so very familiar to dynamics I went through in a past relationship with emotional/mental abuse, so it was wild to watch and remember how confused and crazy I felt in moments like that. And I only dated the person for not even 2 years, I can’t imagine the depth of being married to this dynamic for a decade or more. Thankfully with a lot of therapy, healing, and support I got out of that relationship and now am married to the most incredible kind and caring man.

    One additional thing I wanted to bring to the conversation though that I found interesting about this dynamic surfacing, is an old news article post I saw come up of Steven and his wife right after they got married titled “Waiting til the Wedding Night – Getting married the right way”. And it made me remember how, growing up in the church, the only thing I was taught as a moral compass for a good marriage was saving sex for marriage and that he’s a Christian. Really nothing else. So if you cover those 2 things? Would result in a good marriage. Don’t cover those 2 things? Result would be a bad marriage. Surely as two young Christians, this is what Stevens wife probably felt. Checked both boxes and would be all clear from there.

    Yet now I can look back and see so clearly how deceiving that was and how it was such a blanket over so many other serious issues and priorities we never learned to look for or have any value for. And this video / relationship is now giving prime example to that… along with all the other work you’ve shown in Great Sex Rescue! reflecting what so many women surely feel crazy and confused about after thinking they did everything right in choosing their spouse by the “2 christian rules” for marriage yet now having so many things uncovered that they never would have expected. So thank you for the work you’re doing.. I also feel so eager for the next generation of christian girls to be able to see, think, and choose by a different standard.

  25. Cynthia Bretz

    Oh. My. Word. Watching that video was like watching a scene from my previous marriage. I don’t think I had the words to describe my behavior as fawning, but the way Hilary was acting and speaking could have come straight from me. Trying to appease him, to calm him down, to feed his ego enough that he would feel he had won and would stop coming at me…he never laid a hand on me. But I lived with that for 29 years. And for 27 1/2 of it, I didn’t realize I was being abused. I just thought I wasn’t a good enough wife, because if I were, he wouldn’t treat me that way.

  26. Just Me

    Steven Crowder is wealthy. Why did they only have one car when he could have bought another car for his wife? It seems he is going to be divorced soon so the question now is pointless.


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