Home » When a Difficult Marriage is an Abusive Marriage

When a Difficult Marriage is an Abusive Marriage

When the difficulty in the marriage is because of abusive behavior, personal safety must come before the marriage.

We love to encourage husbands and wives who struggle with difficult marriages. We believe commitment, hope, and perseverance go a long way in helping couples get past their difficult season. But when there’s abuse, we have to have a different conversation.

There is a serious issue of abuse that is facing far too many marriages today. This issue should never be ignored or overlooked, by the men and women who find themselves in an abusive relationship, nor by the rest of us who have a voice to speak out against it.

Really an Abusive Marriage

In this final post of this series on difficult marriage, I want to help men and women recognize when Difficult Marriage is an Abusive Marriage. Because, when this is the case,  the approach to dealing with the marriage crisis must change.

When dealing with abusiveness, it is no longer about toughing it out and owning up to personal responsibilities. It’s about drawing healthy boundary lines that not only protect you the individual but also can hopefully in many cases, restore the marriage and create a proper foundation to build a strong marriage.

If you are a victim of an abusive marriage I hope you will take the necessary steps to protect yourself, and maybe your children from any further danger. This does not mean you have to stop loving your spouse. And it may not mean you have to give up on your marriage. But you do need to get real with yourself about the condition of your marriage.

You need to:

  1. Identify the abuse you’re dealing with.
  2. Determine the appropriate boundary lines you need to draw.
  3. Seek the help that is available to you.
  4. Take courage to make a bold move.
  5. Pray for healing and reconciliation.


1) Identify the abuse you’re dealing with.

2 levels of abuse, 4 areas of concern.

1st level: Emotional and Verbal abuse

Emotional and verbal abuse can be very hard to define sometimes because these are more psychological in nature.  Your spouse is not perfect. Their everyday sin issues will hurt you sometimes. But if they’re crossing the line of abuse you need to know. You need to know if what you’re facing is normal life sin and imperfection or real abuse.

This abuse can be very hard to determine by yourself. So, get help from a Pastor or Christian Counselor that can walk you through the process of healing and can advise you on what is acceptable behavior from your spouse and what is unacceptable.

2nd level: Sexual and Physical Abuse.

Sexual and physical abuse are both psychologically and physically damaging. While the abuse is very evident on the outside, the damage goes much deeper on the inside. It doesn’t take much to determine if you are a victim of this abuse or not. You either have been sexually or physically harmed or you have not.

The only gray area here may be in determining when that first slap or push was just a one-time deal or a sign of things to come. If and when you know this is more than a one-time failure that can be dealt with through forgiveness and accountability, then you have to start thinking about your next step.

2) Determine the appropriate boundary lines you need to draw.

Boundary lines are for protection. You have to be willing to put proper boundary lines in place for your own health, the health of your children and for any possible hope for the future of your marriage. Although there is a lot that can be said about boundaries, the main thing you need to know is it is up to you to decide you will no longer be a victim. You take personal responsibility before God to make sure you are treated in a way that is not pushing you into a helpless state.

It’s okay to be forgiving and to look the other way when you’ve been done wrong, but it is not okay to be forced to live with unhealthy treatment that goes unchecked. It is your responsibility to teach others how they can treat you. You decide what you will put up with and what you won’t, no one else has the right to make that choice for you.

For more on boundaries look for Boundaries in Marriage by Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend / Zondervan

3) Seek the help that is available to you.

Proverbs 24:6 “For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in the abundance of counselors there is victory.”

There is nothing wrong with asking for help from time to time. We are all here on this earth to help one another and to be there for each other. There are resources available to help spouses of abuse. You just have to reach out for the help that is offered to you. You can start with your own local church, or ministry in your area. Or, check out places like National Domestic Violence Hotline or Joyful Heart Foundation.

4) Take courage to make a bold move.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Your next steps are going to be challenging. It can be scary and it can cause lots of anxiety, but the worst thing you can do is stay in an abusive situation because you have learned to be comfortable there. You own it to yourself, your children, and the future generations after you to make this step toward a healthier future.

5) Pray for healing and reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”

God is all about healing and reconciliation. Nothing is impossible for Him and I believe He takes great pleasure in turning hopeless situations around. So keep praying for your marriage, your spouse, your children, and yourself. No man can say what God can and cannot do. Your marriage and your spouse are no exception, what is impossible with man is possible with God.



 Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Question for you… Do you consider a “angry, controlling” husband to be an abusive husband? In the same way that nursing home staff has to deal with irritable residents… a woman who is dear to me has been reduced to the role of “caretaker” in her marriage. Her husband cannot read, cannot handle money, cannot manage his own prescriptions, etc. He is constantly pointing out her mistakes. Small misunderstandings turn into big blowups. Now… this woman IS getting counseling for herself. But her husband will not see anyone and proudly proclaims that he has done nothing wrong. Understandably the wife in this situation is extremely frustrated and resentful, and that does come out in her tone and attitude towards him… which further sets him off. All her attempts to take a stand for herself are met with threats that he’ll leave her. All she wants is for the man to be nice to her, but it’s been going on for far too long.

    • jackandjanet says:

      My thoughts on your question is of course each person must work out their own salvation. This lady is ultimately accountable to the Lord so she has to first of all be true to her own heart and convictions on this. But in my own experience I will forever be grateful for the change that God did in me as a result of of wife saying enough was enough. Granted she did not make wise choices when she drew her boundary lines, but the point that I received was if I did not make the changes I needed to make I would have had no chance to restore our marriage. So in my opinion if this lady is able in some way to set some boundaries with her husband while staying true and obedient to the Lord she will have a much better chance to save her marriage. Better than she would if she lets this situation cause even greater harm to her emotional well being and thereby becoming bitter and resentful which will ultimately bring an end to the marriage.
      Thanks for all your comments, I’ve been meaning to reply.

      • Sonnyshell says:

        I was in a very similar situation as the woman described above. You are right saying we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, but when you are in a situation like this, it didn’t just happen over night. The woman at some point has been conditioned and manipulated to enable his behaviors and demands, therefore it’s not easy to know or figure out what your “true heart and convictions” are because she’s obviously lost that sense of herself. Even what is felt that God is leading her to do is confusing because the enemy uses the situation and what the Bible says about marriage to cause confusion. Therapist will never tell you what to do-they want you to make that decision on your own bc they don’t want to be held liable if the person ends up regretting it. At some point, trusting herself to make a decision for herself while not being considered selfish or against Gods will for marriage causes her to stay stagnant and just settle for unhappiness. What kind of advice would tell to someone in this situation knowing this?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.