Emotional Abuse, Grace, Hope, Pain and suffering

If I Would Have Stayed

I happened across this post at www.giverherwings.com recently, and I understood the emotions so well. I felt as if you, my precious readers, would resonate with Megan’s words. So today, I bring you a special guest post from Give Her Wings. I hope you will take a few minutes to check out their page and their amazing ministry!


Saturday morning, I quickly showered, dressed, had quiet time and then had to rush to the store with my two littles. My oldest daughter, Mila (12.5), saw me when I came out of the bedroom. She gave a radiant smile and said, “Mama! You look so pretty!” I smiled back and hugged her. My heart was full. It is natural, in our home, to say such things. We compliment each other; we are courteous; we smile at one another. We hug. There was no jealousy nor selfishness in what she said. It was kind and sweet. And she was pure and lovely. Once again, I was struck by how different our household is than what I grew up with . . . and how different our household is from what it could have been. And I am overcome with gratitude that we have joy and love and trust in our home.

When we lived with my ex husband, everything was tense all the time. He could say and do whatever he wanted and we all just had to be quiet and take it. And die inside. The last few years of our marriage, there was so little laughter . . . so much “quiet strife”. We were all so isolated. I remember my ex husband yelling, “I JUST WANT PEACE IN MY HOME!” Translation: I just want you to be quiet and do what I say and never object to the ways in which I hurt you and the children. 

My babies were being crushed. And they were being taught that that was normal. I was watching the light go out of their eyes and their personalities fade. And I knew what future they were facing because I had coped with the life-taking atmosphere for such a long time. And it was breaking my heart.

It has been almost five years (to the day) since we left. And, oh, the joy of seeing my children be who they were meant to be! We aren’t perfect (of course), but we do try to raise them in sincerity and authenticity. I love them all so much! I love the ways they thrive under their parents’ leadership and care. I love their mannerisms. I love how Josiah crinkles his nose when he laughs. I love his cleverness. I love how he takes care of his siblings so beautifully. I love Mila’s tenderness and beautiful sense of responsibility. She is so creative. She will be such a wonderful mother someday! I love Camden’s loving vulnerability. He cries when others are hurting and is a great comfort to those around him. I love that he is an introvert (like his mama!) and that he wants to do everything with excellence. I love that Bella has no guile. She is not competing with anyone. And, in our family, she doesn’t have to worry about feeling unsafe. She is adored by everyone. Last night, she hugged Josiah and I heard him say, “I love my Bella!” That would never had happened, if I had stayed.

If I had stayed, my children would have thought that their sole purpose in life would be to prop up their biological father. They would have thought that love is simply being used. If they did more or better than their father, they would have been pushed down SO QUICKLY, they would not have time to catch their breaths! If I had stayed, true Christianity would have been replaced by an acts-based religion where God could leave you on a whim. Relationships would be shame-based. Any joy would have been quenched because you cannot have joy when you are afraid of God. And no one else can have joy, either. If I had stayed, my boys might have thought that chronic porn was just something that all men do. They would have thought that women were nothings. And my girls would have thought that they were nothings. Or, worse, manipulative tramps. My daughters would believe they were “half a person” . . . . created to be used by men. And all of these things would be backed up biblically! Their idea of God would have been more demonic than anything else. They would abhor Him but feel chained to Him at the same time. There would be no reasonable conversation. They would have been spanked relentlessly, often and for the wrong reasons. He spanked them for what he perceived as “disrespect”, rather than disciplining them for their best, good and safety. He would have broken them . . . he spoke (often) of needing to break their wills. Oh, my babies. Oh, my very heart . . . 

Now, I look at their incredible health. They are well-loved and savvy, smart and fun. They know who Jesus is and they love Him. Their relationships with God are their own! They have a very full understanding of this world and their place in this world. They are good to each other (most of the time!). They experience emotions and they are beautiful.

So many people objected to my leaving my ex husband. But, I never doubt. All I would have to do is to look at my children and think — just for a second! — about what it was like before and how healthy they are now and I am overcome with certainty . . . . and flooded with gratitude that God made a dramatic way for our escape. We crossed the Red Sea and we did it together. And we are free. Then, to just seal the deal, God brought us David. He has taught us normalcy and love. He has provided a safe house for us. Safe to love, to laugh, to be, to fail, to cry . . . and oh! The healing.

Sometimes, God calls us to stay; other times, to go. I felt I needed to stay for over eleven years. Then, it was simply time to go. And God made that clear. And I needed Him to for my own sensitive conscience. He will do the same for you. Don’t stop crying out to Him. I was so wrong about Him, friends! I thought that He wanted me to hurt! I thought I deserved it! My faith was misplaced. I allowed other people (who idolize marriage) to blur the lines between who God is and what marriage is. And oh, how I regret that! But, God knows. I remember confessing to Him my lack of understanding of who He is. And I remember hearing this:

Oh, my daughter! I know. I know. I knew . . . I saw it all. I was there.

And His mercy washed over my heart. And He has been so gracious to me to allow me to experience what a real and godly marriage is with David. He didn’t have to do that. But, He did. Because He’s like that. God is so much more loving and wonderful than I could ever have imagined. So much holier; so much more beautiful. And it just gets better and better. Are you going through a “Job-phase”? Through tremendous loss? Are you in deep pain and darkness? Are you being routinely hurt?  You won’t be there forever. You just won’t! Eventually, Job was able to heal and move forward into a different life. You will have that, too. Please don’t give up. Cling to that thread of faith because you will be rewarded. And you will be able to breathe the clear, fresh air of grace and life. Don’t give up.




42 thoughts on “If I Would Have Stayed”

  1. I admire your bravery. I cannot imagine myself going through the same situation. I am so happy you were able to get out of that relationship and improve the lives of hour children, even though it would been easier to let it happen. I wish you and your family the best in life.

      1. Dena, I came across your posts. I admire your bravery. I am also facing divorce after 9 years and I have a one year old son. My husband has been very abusive and I’m at the edge thinking it’s all me. He’s all I can have in this life … please help me

      2. Oh, Cynthia! Abuse is NEVER ok. And it’s NEVER your fault. I promise he is not everything you can have in this life. There’s an amazing life filled with more than you can ever ask or imagine. There’s beauty beyond your greatest thoughts. There’s health and happiness you could never hope for. It’s a long, hard road, but if you run to God He will carry you through. Praying God’s strength and blessings over you today.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I’ll check out Give Her Wings. 🙂 Especially powerful, “Sometimes, God calls us to stay; other times, to go.” Living in Christ is so much about listening and learning, wisdom and discretion!

  3. Thank you Megan and Dena. This week the 6month mark for my divorce has been crossed. It weighs heavily on me and the ‘what ifs’ are loud. Thank you for helping me remember the reasons why and for reminding me that God was and is the One who directs my paths. I appreciate your courage.

    1. Glad God could use our words to give you the encouragement you need. God is good. He will sustain you, put you back together and make you better than ever.

  4. Thank you, it’s amazing how timely that was. Thank you for your ministry. It’s truly lifesaving.

  5. I have written some of these very same words, thoughts, and ideas in my own journal over the last few weeks. Through song lyrics and a quote in a novel, I have been reminded that the Lord rescued me. He brought me through the sea. He has taught me to trust Him in the darkness. (Isaiah 45:3)

    1. Amen! So many of us can say the same thing. You will never convince me we were meant to stay in miserable, abusive relationships. God has taught us all so much as we walk through the darkness.

  6. I literally bawled when I read this article. My life has been so miserable for twenty years and now we have separated it is like I can taste that freedom coming. I know there is going to be healing, beauty for ashes and joy in the morning coming. Coming ….

    1. I’m so sorry for your pain, but love your attitude! Yes, freedom is coming! The healing is beautiful, and the joy overwhelming. Just keep holding tight to Him!

  7. I will forever feel I was delivered from my marriage. Even though it was the most painful experience of my life, I was delivered into freedom and joy. The trajectory for the future of my family was altered in the best way possible. The peace found when evil left our home is worth the sacrifices. Like the writer, the bonus has been an incredibly loving new husband who is a role model and leader for our home. May God be with us.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this Gemma, this should be read out in every church ! What an inspiration! I have travelled a similar path. Thank God you were strong enough to walk away! Dena, you too are such a woman of faith and courage! Thank you both for your transparency!!

  9. How perfect the timing of this email. It is a God thing!! Today is the anniversary date with my ex-husband. I have had those thoughts: “what if I had stayed.” But thankfully I came out of that 28 year pit and now standing on higher ground. I have been divorced 3 years and I can so relate to this email and all of Dena’s. God has already turned my ashes into something beautiful. When we divorced, our children are adults so there is a lot of restoration that needs to be done so please pray that God will do a mighty work in those relationships. Thank you for your emails. It has been a huge encouragement to me that even though I lost so much through a divorce, I have a sweeter relationship with God like never before! 😊

    1. “…even though I lost so much through a divorce, I have a sweeter relationship with God like never before!” Isn’t that such a beautiful sentiment? Isn’t it such a beautiful truth from our Father? Keep clinging to Him. He will give you the future you so desire. I can’t wait to see what He does in you and through you!

  10. my ex husband was very abusive in every way imaginable.He was not saved but i am.he finally divorced me and is in a relationship with someone else. i dont understand why i struggle so bad to get him off my mind and not desire him back in my life. how can a woman thats been beaten and cheated on on a regular basis still desire such an abuser.i cant help wondering if i had of ignored his abuse and cheating instead of rebelling,if i had of just kept silent and put it totally in GODS hands would he of changed and became a good man and our marriage been saved.i was told by a friend during the marriage to ignore his cheating and pray and GOD will work things out.instead i argued,fussed,confronted some of the women and even physically fought with him.its been three years now and im still so hurt and confused.please pray for me to get understanding and release this man from my spirit forever!!!

    1. Your friend gave you very very bad advice. While not all your choices were perfect, you had every right to protest. I’m so sorry you feel like this is your fault and that it was on you to make it go the right way. NO! You deserved better. You deserve better. You could not change him or the outcome. He needed to change and HE chose the wrong path. God wants us to have faith. But he does not call us to be a doormat. He requires action with our faith sometimes. Don’t take on the burden of your ex-husband’s horrible treatment of you. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I know what it’s like to be betrayed like this and it is excruciating. The pain feels never ending. I hope your prayers to God heal your heart. Keep calling out to him.

    2. Staying silent doesn’t change an abuser. It only continues to give him power. I pray God will give you the ability to move forward, to put your past behind you, to know you have a beautiful future.

  11. This is something I really needed to read. I am in that space where I think I need to leave but there’s so much fear and shame and uncertainty. But reading this shows me what waiting on the other side of this and I want to have the courage to go find it. I’m praying so much for direction and clarity. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. The fear and shame are not from God. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, no fear when we walk with Him. Hold tight to Him and let Him lead you every step of the way. He won’t leave you.

  12. This is beautiful. Even though I am very much in the painful places to some extent, eight months into my separation, I can see so many positive outcomes already. Freedom to be me, which is overflowing in such good ways to the relationships with my children already. I am laughing and dancing and learning to trust God in deeper ways – for healing, for finances, for the future…

    One thing God has told me is that He is leading me to wide open places (look for verses regarding spacious places, there are many). This promise He has whispered to me has grabbed hold of my heart and given me such hope.

    So thankful for His guidance and presence and unfailing love.

    1. Yes, He is leading you to wide open places! Our sermon this morning was from the movie Collateral Beauty. God always gives us beauty in the midst of our pain. I have certainly experienced this truth in my own life. I have gained far more than I ever lost. He is good…always and forever.

  13. Somehow the Word of God doesn’t get mentioned in emotional blogs such as this. But for every woman who so-called escaped the clutches of an abusive man, into the arms of a more “godly” husband,..there are 100 more who prayed, gently confronted, and sought the support of the body of Christ see the husband of their youth, changed into the image of Christ, from the scarred upbringing he may have come from. I can’t help but think where her ex-husband is now that she took his children away and is sleeping with another man. I am a minister of the gospel and I just don’t see that as God’s provision. I’m sorry.

    1. Here’s a scripture:

      And this is another thing you do: you cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands.
      14 Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth.
      16 “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously. Malachi 2:13-16

      You see, as a fellow minister of the gospel for well over 20 years, I, too, study scripture. I, too, used to think divorce was a horrible, awful sin (as I was taught in fundamental churches my entire life). I’ve come to understand–through biblical and cultural context–it was the mistreatment of a spouse that God hated so much. It’s right there in black and white. He can’t stand to see a man (or woman) abusing his spouse. He can’t stand for one partner to lord it over the other, treat the spouse as a lesser person. For in Christ, there is neither male nor female. We are all one–chosen, precious children of the Most High God. We are all of equal value.

      While I in no way recommend divorce, I have come to understand there are times where divorce is the only option…when one (or both) spouses have become so hard-hearted that they are abusing the other, those cases where the children are suffering great harm and learning the ways of a truly dysfunctional life. In my case, it was a porn addiction and repeated, unrepentant adultery–in spite of years of being on my face and begging God to give us a story of redemption. It was verbal and mental abuse that sucked the life out of me and my kids. We had two options: stay in a marriage with a man who would prevent us from ever becoming what God created us to be or walk away. After years of trying, we chose the latter (with God’s blessing).

      The years that followed placed my kids in his presence in spite of the anguish he caused them. You see, when they understood normal and healthy vs. what they experienced with him, they wanted healthy. And because they’ve seen both sides, they will always choose God’s way. And I thank God every day that He chose to set us free.

      I know there will be people who never understand, and I praise God you’ve never had to endure what Megan and I and an army of others have lived to experience. I hope you understand God’s grace that has allowed you to walk your path. And, I thank God for the grace to live my path–for the hope, the joy, the peace, and the intimacy with God that I never would have experienced by staying in an abusive relationship. And I am thankful for men like Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage) who are beginning to stand with us, to say it is NEVER right to “submit” to an abusive spouse. You see, submitting to sin is as much of a sin as divorce.

      To tell an abused spouse she simply needs to “pray, gently confront, seek the support of the body of Christ to see the husband of her youth, changed into the image of Christ, from the scarred upbringing he may have come from” is to subject a woman to abuse, to tell her it’s her fault she is being abused. I choose instead to stand with her, to say there’s beauty that comes from brokenness, that God can take a horrible, awful experience and use it for our good and His glory–if we only choose to follow Him.

      1. Until you go through it, you just can’t speak to it. I’ve told a number of people that if I hadn’t gone through what I had, I would still be a self-righteous wife looking down at others who were divorced because they should have “respected and submitted more and worked on their outward beauty”. If they had just done those things, their marriage could have been the godly marriage it should be.


        God has a way of smashing our illusions.

        It’s one of the things I’m very thankful for, actually. That He has changed my perspective on divorce and now I can understand rightly what others go through.

      2. I’m right there with you. My pride is gone. My compassion so much greater. I’m far more the image of Christ because I am divorced. 😊

    2. “But for every woman who so-called escaped the clutches of an abusive man, into the arms of a more “godly” husband,..there are 100 more who prayed, gently confronted, and sought the support of the body of Christ see the husband of their youth, changed into the image of Christ, from the scarred upbringing he may have come from.”

      Hmmmm…..really? I’d love to know where you get those numbers! 😀

    3. Some scripture that applies:

      1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”

      These abusive men have separated. Maybe not with their physical bodies, but they have separated emotionally and abandoned their vows to cherish and honor their wives….over and over and over. Even after being confronted by their wives. Even after having been warned of the hurt that the wives are experiencing. Even after their wives have worked on respect and submission and loving and forgiving. Even after others have confronted them. These men don’t seem to care. They are more interested in staying invested in whatever secret sin they are living for or more invested in keeping their pride than humbling themselves and letting God change their hearts. And, if this is the fruit they are showing, then they are showing themselves to be unbelievers.

      Thank God that He calls us to peace. Sometimes, the only way to find that peace is to live in the truth that we are not enslaved and that God wants us to have peace.

      Once you understand the truth about what God says about divorce, you will never look at the divorce verses again and feel confused about them. I remember very clearly when all the puzzle pieces started to fit together and I knew that it was truth and that I had my questions answered on all of those passages that had puzzled me for so long and didn’t seem to make sense. They didn’t make sense for a reason. Many other Christians (and interestingly to me, they are mature and older Christians and many of them are men who once held legalistic views about divorce like we all did) have had their views changed about divorce. The men are Spirit-filled men whom I highly respect, who take seriously the Word of God.

      By the way, Dena, this whole “shattering” that God has done for me in my life on this issue has made me more compassionate on many other issues as well. I realize that what I thought I knew about many things, maybe I don’t know much about. For instance, someone who is sick –
      before, I may have self-righteously thought about the person’s eating habits or whether they might be harboring bitterness, etc. Now, I am quick to squelch those kinds of thoughts down, because the fact is I DON’T KNOW.

      I have been humbled. Even understanding my own struggle with a personal issue that many men could relate to — that started from a sexual encounter at the age of 4, God is using that to humble me and help me understand the addictions that men go through. However, that doesn’t mean we have to stick around and let someone treat us in destructive ways when they are drowning in their addiction and refusing to get help. We can separate, divorce if we need to, and still have compassion for the person that is blind and bound.

      1. People who hold so tightly to their interpretation of scripture (note: it’s a human interpretation they cling to, not the actual Word of God) are lost in pride.

        If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3

    4. H there. As a minister of the gospel i ask you if you ever take the adulterous or porn-loving husband through the biblical steps of wrong-doing? Do you go with the wife and gently confront him with his sin? Then do you bring it up before the church elders or church board and confront him with that? Or do you finally give him over to Satan/excommunicate him from the body of Christ so he will be confronted with his sin and possibly be saved? Unless you do all these things then you have no right to talk to these women who have gone through so much trauma at the hands of their adulterous husbands. Do you think these godly women have not already tried all the actions you have suggested? Of course they have. You are asking them to live with someone who is sleeping with other women and have no repentance Do you have any idea how painful that is? Jesus gave them an out because he knew the pain they were going through and some of us never had any choice anyway in whether we could work on our marriage. Be careful my friend not to judge.

  14. there is so much truth in whats been said but i must speak on the scriptures on sewing and reaping the world calls it karma. i know this does not pertain to all the situations being discussed but i conversate with a lot of people going thru or been thru a divorce.You cant cheat on your spouse , take someone else’s spouse, betray a friend with their partner or spouse or mistreat your spouse in any ungodly manner and expect to remarry and ride off into the sunset without reaping what youve sewn.i have a friend that cheated on his first wife got remarried and his second wife cheated on him.he thinks she’s such a horrible person because she cheated on him but seem to forget what he did to his first wife.when going thru situations whether in marriage or everyday life we need to examine ourselves especially as christians to see if what were going thru is a reaping season (something weve done to someone else) or just a test or trial to make us strong!!! i know GOD is a forgiving GOD but HE is also so wise that HE has it set up in a way that we cant hurt anyone without hurting ourselves.WHATSOVER A MAN SEWETH THAT SO HE ALSO REAP!!! some sins we commit has a reaping process attached in HIS own time.

    1. There is truth in what you say, but there are also many, many times when a faithful spouse is hurt deeply by a spouse with a hardened heart. I know that was my situation…just as it was the circumstance of many of my readers.

      1. yes as i stated i iknow thats not the situation with all but i know it is with SOME,for the ones that this situation is referring to as well as some that may be faced with the temptation to get involved in situations as such this is just something to think about beforehand. when we are weak and vulnerable its so easy to get caught up in ungodly acts only to have regrets later.we sometime forget when were going thru pain the pain we MAY have caused others at some point in our lives,as ive mentioned earlier about a friend i know that faced this situation.The word of GOD plainly states that we do reap what we sew.

  15. Oh my goodness! I loved this! I stayed for 29 years because I idolized marriage. I am now free and feel so blessed by God. My husband’s constant criticism of me and his repeated infidelity crushed my spirit. I did not believe in divorce and believed that prayer and christian counseling could change him. It didn’t.

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