CTBHHM: How To Be an Abused Woman

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 54-55

***trigger warning***

Debi starts this passage by laying out what she calls “God’s Blueprint for Marriage.” She first quotes several verses:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything (Ephesians 5: 22-24)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18)

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)

Next, she offers a short outline:

  1. God commands wives to submit to their OWN husbands.
  2. God informs men that they are the head of the wife.
  3. God tells the wives to be subject to their husbands in everything, every decision, every move, every plan, and all everyday affairs.

(Just to be clear, every time I capitalize or bold or italicize or underline something, it’s because that’s how it is in the text.)

Quick note: Debi emphasizes that women are to be subject to their “own” husbands for a reason. I remember once I was at an evangelical summer camp, and I said something affirming of female submission that was overheard by a male instructor. He jumped in to correct me, emphasizing that women are only to submit to their own husbands, and not to men in general. He made it clear that this was a very important point, and that he felt that it was this distinction that made the command for women to submit acceptable. Debi seems to be making the same point.

With this blueprint laid out, the entire rest of this passage is a sort of abuse apologia that just seems to get worse and worse the longer it goes on.

There will be times in your marriage when it will take faith and wisdom to believe that God is good, kind, and just in his command for you to submit to your husband in everything. Note that what God commands a woman to do does not hinge on the man loving his wife as Christ loved the Church. If it did, there is not one single husband who ever lived and breathed who would be worthy of his wife’s submission or reverence. … What God says stands, regardless of the man’s goodness or the apparent lack thereof. You were given your blueprints with words like honor, submit, and reverence. This is God’s will and … it is up to us to believe and obey God.

Debi is referring here to God’s command to men that they must love their wives, which accompanies the Ephesians passage she quotes above. Evangelicals often act as though there’s nothing wrong with the command that women submit to their husbands because it’s accompanied by the command that husbands must love their wives. I’ve touched before on the absolute inequality in between “submit” and “love” – one is an action and the other a feeling – but what Debi says here brings up another problem with the equation, namely that wives are required to submit whether or not their husbands love them as they are commanded to do. In other words, sure, a husband should love his wife, but evangelicals will go on telling women they have to submit regardless of whether their husbands love them. In my book, that means that the fact that husbands are supposed to love their wives doesn’t mean a fig when it comes to examining the command that wives must submit to their husbands.

There’s more, too, more that highlights the inequality of these commands. If a woman does not submit but a husband follows his command to love her anyway, he’s simply living with a woman wants to have some say in the decisions for the family. If a husband does not love but a wife still follows her command to submit to him, she finds herself stuck obeying the every whim and command of a selfish and abusive man. These two situations are not equal. And as we are about to see, Debi’s insistence that wives must obey, honor, and reverence their husbands regardless of whether their husbands are good or kind men is nothing short of abuse apology.

But first, let’s look at the word “reverence.” Oxford defines “reverence,” when used as a verb as it is here, as “to regard or treat with deep respect.” Respect is defined as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” In other words, Debi’s statement that women must reverence their husbands completely regardless of how “worthy” a husband is suggests that a wife must treat their husbands with “a feeling of deep admiration” that is “elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements” … whether or not their husbands have abilities, qualities, or achievements that elicit admiration. The reality is that it is not possible to reverence a husband who is not worthy of reverence. These words don’t work like that!

With that out of the way, let’s continue. Debi follows up her blueprint by talking about the importance of the gift of wisdom:

It has been the gift of wisdom that has helped me to understand that God is delighted in me when I want to delight and please my man. A gift is something you receive that has not been earned or merited God wants to give you the gift of wisdom. It is this precious gift of wisdom that has enabled me to see beyond the piles of dumped trash bags.

I’m starting to think that the whole trash thing was a bone of contention early in Debi’s marriage – that she expected Mike to be the one in charge of taking out the trash, but he never did, and she became angrier and angrier about it until it proved to be some sort of San Juan Hill in her marriage, when she realized that if she just stopped expecting Mike to pick up after himself or do anything she wanted him to do, and instead did those things herself, she would be happy and a truly Godly wife.

Now, what Debi is doing here with the word “wisdom” is, I think, important. Wisdom usually means things like “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement” and “good sense.” When someone calls a woman wise, that generally means she is capable of making good decisions and calling out bullshit. One would think that wisdom is what would enable a woman to see through Debi’s words. But what Debi is doing here is claiming the word wisdom, and claiming that rather than being something you do, it’s something God just spontaneously hands you, and finally claiming that wisdom is something she already has. In other words, she’s trying to short circuit the possibility that a woman might take her words and use her better judgement to question and reject them. Debi is using wisdom as a proof text, something she can just slap onto her beliefs about women’s role and then hand over to women as a package deal.

What follows is, I think, the worst passage I have found in Debi’s work so far:

Your life will be full of dumped-trash-bag situations. Your husband will be selfish. He will be unkind. He will not respect your rights. He will be foolish. He may be cruel, and that son of Adam may actually walk in sin. But he cannot victimize you unless you react outside of the wisdom of God. You can decide to be in a constant state of anger and bitterness, or you can ask God for the wisdom to live each day in a state of honoring your man for God’s sake.

I’m sort of used to Debi by now, so it’s not often I have to close the book and walk away for my own sanity, but I had to here. And yes, Debi really does have that sentence in bold.

I’d like to think that Debi doesn’t know what she’s doing here, but given how often she assures her readers that she’s not ignorant of the sinful world around her, I really don’t think we can give her the benefit of the doubt. Debi knows that there are abused women out there. She knows that there are women who live in fear of their lives. She knows there are women out there who are threatened and beaten. In fact, she writes as much in that very paragraph! Selfish … unkind … foolish … cruel. And still she writes this, and without qualification.

What Debi is doing here is so toxic I’m having trouble finding words to make sense of it. Debi is literally telling women that, so long as they keep obeying their husbands, they can’t be victims. I’ve never been an abused woman, but I can try to imagine what that would do to my psyche if I were, and it ain’t pretty. She is telling victimized women that no matter how much they are abused, rather than seeking help they need to just keep on obeying, honoring, and reverencing their husbands. No matter what.

You need the precious gift of wisdom to be able to hold your tongue and be thankful when your flesh would strike in anger.

Because your anger – your feelings and your needs – are never, ever valid.

You need wisdom to see how feeling sorry for yourself is far from the heart of God.

Because it’s feeling sorry for yourself that makes you a victim being abused or mistreated.

You need this gift of wisdom as a constant reminder of the limitations of your female understanding.

Because when you start to realize that maybe you should just get out, it’s important to remember that that’s just your ignorant ladybrainz talking.

The gift of wisdom will remind you that God’s rules are not there to put you in bondage, but to help you make a man want to cherish, protect, and love you.

Because if you let your husband abuse you long enough, he’ll eventually come to cherish and love you.

Most of all, the gift of wisdom will enable you to serve and honor your husband because you are serving and honoring God.

Because your husband’s commands are from the mouth of God.

You will find fulfillment in your nature as a woman.

Because it is your nature to roll over and let your husband walk all over you.

You know what, Debi? What you are doing here is unspeakably vile. What you have written is nothing short of a manual for perpetuating abuse, and you do it gleefully. If I could snap my fingers and have all of your books burned, I would. You claim to believe in a God of love, mercy, and justice, but there is nothing loving, merciful, or just about any of this. What you are doing is utterly despicable. There is anger burning in my bones, anger at the suffering and injustice your writing encourages, and I’m having trouble containing it.

Fortunately, the very end of this passage gives me a tiny flash of hope:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men [and women] liberally…” (James 1: 5)

Let us hope that Debi’s insistence that God gives women wisdom may backfire and help some women realize, if nothing else, that if they themselves can obtain wisdom individually, they needn’t be relying on Debi for it.

CTBHHM: Blessings and Vessels
CTBHHM: Playing Telephone with God
CTBHHM: What "Companionship" Means in Pearl World
CTBHHM: A Young Wife Should Be "Bored and Lonely"
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Nea

    I think it’s horror that’s making me dwell on minutia rather than the text… But it’s “unto the Lord…” “…men in general”.

    Sorry, am an editor in real life. Also, someone who was smacked around, so if I think about the meaning and not edit the text, I’ll chew through my keyboard. You pissed about trash, Debi? That the worst thing ever to happen to a woman? I can tell you the steps of suffocation, sweetie, from the moment the hands close around the neck to the convulsions before blackout.

    The great thing about not being religious anymore is that I not only don’t have to submit, I don’t even have to try to forgive.

  • http://www.sunstonescafe.com/ Paul Sunstone

    To me, the fascinating thing is not that Debi’s advice is so bad — I expect Bible based advice to be bad — but that it is more or less logically consistent. That’s to say, she offers a logical interpretation and expansion of (mainly) Paul’s marital advice. There might be other interpretations of the same advice, but hers is certainly among those interpretations that are legitimate. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

    • Katty

      I don’t find her interpretations at all legitimate (faaar too literal and taken from context!), but I will grant that she doesn’t contradict herself as much as I’d have expected. She does take her interpretation of certain bible verses to their LOGICAL extreme. Starting from her (in my opinion false) premises, her conclusions are certainly logical.

    • AnotherOne

      The scariest fundamentalists I know are the consistent ones. I’ve always thought that Emerson’s line about a foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds must’ve been written about people like those I grew up with.

  • Karen

    I think Paul Sunstone is right — which just proves “Saint” Paul was a misogynistic bastard. Perhaps normal for his time, though, when Roman women could divorce — and they did.

  • Hilary

    On your last instalment of this I posted (#33) that she had crossed the line from giving abusive advise to activly being abusing to her readers. In a book or a blog, the writer and the reader are in a relationship thru the medium of the text. This is evil, and she is . . . . please read what I had posted there. I can’t think of what else to say other then this is true evil, and she is an abuser.

    • damianarose

      I was seriously just thinking the same thing. This woman is emotionally abusing every woman who reads this. It is a brain washing cocktail with a emotional abuse side car.

  • Nea

    Now that I’ve had a chance to calm down a bit and reread, I’m starting to wonder… Debi is undoubtedly an angry, judgemental, compassionless woman… “devoid of ruth” as the charming phrase in Jane Eyre puts it.

    But in going back over her words here, specifically, do you know what I’m hearing? Not Debi’s voice, but Michael’s. Michael, repeating over and over “you are stupid. I only love you when you obey. God only loves you when you obey. I am God. You are only worthy in how much you please me. You have no worth other than what I give you. You are nothing without me. How dare you talk back about what you want/feel/need? All you need is what I give you. You take what I give you — whatever it is — and be grateful I’m here to give it. Because if you displease me, I’ll throw you away and replace you; there are plenty of women out there who want me. I’m valuable. YOU ARE WORTHLESS.”

    On and on and on, the textbook words of an abuser crushing the self-esteem and will of his victim until she snaps and internalizes it. I guess because Debi was already an adult, he didn’t feel the need of plumbing supplies to cane her into obedience.

    … although, frankly, considering the way she talks about abuse as “okay” and how easily both of them use their power over the weakest of the weak, I still not-so-secretly think that Michael has used more than his words to bring Debi to heel.

    • HelenaTheGrey

      I still go back to where she told a woman not to complain about sexual pain. To me, that clearly spoke that she had or maybe even still has trouble. I doubt Michael is a gentle or considerate lover. And that can be used as a particular kind of abuse.

      • Nea

        As Debi has already said that her idea of a good time is to be dragged into the bedroom and “conquered” as “punishment” – yeah, I doubt he’s gentle at all. And yes, that whole thing about “don’t tell me about pain/your body is no different than anyone else’s” sounds a great deal to me like the first part is personal experience and the second part is Almighty God Himself, aka Michael, telling her yet again that he alone controls her salvation, her body, and her very reality. Everybody – and every body — is different. Most loving husbands would CARE if they were hurting their wives, not tell them to shut up because it makes it harder for the man to get off!

    • tsara

      I agree with this.
      I read (Libby Anne’s post on) the story of how Debi and Michael ended up together and I see a very different person in Debi’s (metaphorical) before and after shots — and I have to wonder just what the process of being shaped by your husband entails in Debi-land.
      And, what’s more, all of the stuff she writes has to be okay’d by Michael. I get images of an adult patronizingly ‘correcting’ a kid’s science fair project while leaning over the kid’s shoulder to do so. So we’re getting Michael’s words, one way or another.
      The type of relationship they advocate is unequivocally that of an authority figure and a subordinate, and it seems very similar to the one they advocate existing between parents and their children, so… abuse. Again.

  • Rosie

    O. M. F. G. Those are EXACTLY the passages, EXACTLY the interpretations, EXACTLY the words that my ex-the-evangelism-major said to me. Twenty years ago. And I internalized them too, though thankfully not quite to the extent that Debi has. (I left him after he raped me, despite all his arguments about unconditional forgiveness.)

    And in the end I concluded what Paul Sunstone says above, that it is in fact a legitimate reading of the text. Which is why I’m not a Christian anymore.

    • Nea

      Unconditional forgiveness is another form of abuse, tinged with victim blaming, in my opinion. “If you were a good and holy person, you’d forgive me!” or “How dare you not accept my apology!”

      • Rosie

        Exactly. In the end, I figured forgiveness is one thing (not holding onto the anger, and it did come eventually, long after I’d lost touch with him), but I won’t ever forget. Nor will I ever pretend it didn’t happen, which is what he meant by “forgiveness”.

      • Jessica

        I had a good friend who thankfully called BS on this sort of thinking. Her (very conservative supposedly Christian) ex confessed to committing terrible crimes as well as being unfaithful to her (not strictly adultery but close enough in her mind). He then explained that as a good Christian she should forgive him like Christ would. Her response — I can forgive you as a Christian but I don’t have to have you in my life.

  • Rosie

    Libby, this is quite possibly the most triggering thing I’ve ever read. Because if I hadn’t had the support of friends and family, if I hadn’t been able to get out of that abusive relationship in college, I could have written this book.


  • HelenaTheGrey

    There was a guest blogger on Rachel Held Evans this week and she touched on a much saner interpretation of these verses. I know that when you give them a blanket reading, it seems like the Pearls have come to a logical meaning, however the Bible can rarely be read in that way…especially when all the translations are at the bias of the beliefs of the translators. Given the society and writing style of the text, I think the gust blogger at RHE’s interpretation makes much more sense.

    • Red

      I second this. For all Debi’s hemming and hawing about listening to God, she can’t even grasp the basic rules of Biblical interpretation, and how to recognize ancient literary structures. She acts like the Bible was written in modern-day American style, which, if you consider where and when the Bible came from, is a very illogical conclusion.

      • HelenaTheGrey

        Not to mention that the version of the Bible she reads isn’t even “modern” English.

    • http:///krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

      That’s my piece; I appreciate the endorsement. :)

      • Hilary

        I read your piece on RHE, and I don’t get it . . . . how can you and Rachel read the same book as Debi and come up with such irreconcilable (sp?) viewpoints. Could you comment on this? How do you and Debi look at the same thing and you see green and she see’s orange. If you could talk to her, how would you council her to see the cruelty she’s endorsing, how would you use the biblical lingo you both take seriously to try and open her eyes?


    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

      Just read that post. Fabulous post.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      Hilary, the short answer as to why we can look at the same text and one sees green and the other orange, is that one of us is wearing green-tinted “glasses” and the other, orange ones. The “glasses” are our differing presuppositions in approaching the text, and our differing principles of interpretation, known as “hermeneutics.” As for what I would say to try to convince someone like her– first of all, she’d have to be willing to be convinced. Right now, she and most of those who think like her have poisoned the well against people who think like me, to where they’re convinced we’re twisting the scriptures for our own nefarious purposes. But for those who are questioning, and willing to consider a viewpoint that still takes the Bible seriously, but reads it starting with completely different premises about what it’s about and what it’s for– I have a serious of FAQs on the No Longer Quivering website. I would say about 2/3 of the FAQs here are by me:
      You might be interested in the foundational piece there, called “Quiverfull and the Bible,” which uses their own terminology in a respectful way, but gives them a different approach to Bible interpretation, with justifications from the Bible itself. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2009/10/nlq-faq-quiverfull-and-the-bible/
      That’s where I’d start. But it’s not a quick or easy thing.

      • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

        PS. I used my online name there, but “krwordgazer” is me– Kristen Rosser.

      • Rosa

        Those FAQs and the other articles you write are such a service to Christian women, I have passed many of them on.

  • Kodie

    What someone will convince themselves to put up with when they’re afraid of going to hell.

    • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

      Good point. Fundamentalism like this is all about fear: fear of hell, fear of punishment, fear of losing one’s place.

      • Kodie

        Recalling some other post review of the same book, I forget immediate fear (or threat) of having no place to live. You’re supposed to remember the shabby homeless woman and her dirty kids, and that could be you if you stand up for yourself. It’s hard to understand how they can make that look worse than getting beaten, and tell me why again, women aren’t supposed to have jobs because their job is “help meet” their husband’s fist.

      • William

        Exactly and fear is not love, fear is torment.

      • Rosa

        And that, right there, is how some conservative Christians can be against everything that is good for parents and children – safe schools, good child care, food security, help in leaving violent situations, support in unemployment, etc – and claim to be “pro family”. Because they are pro-patriarchal family only, and anything that makes homelessness and starvation NOT the alternative to submitting to a patriarch is destructive to those families where only threats keep people in the family.

  • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

    “…women are only to submit to their own husbands, and not to men in general. He made it clear that this was a very important point, and that he felt that it was this distinction that made the command for women to submit acceptable.”

    This pastor may have thought that he was softening the patriarchal content of the New Testament, but it’s still deeply, deeply sexist. Whether sexism is blatant or soft, it’s still wrong.

    “But he cannot victimize you unless you react outside of the wisdom of God.”

    Countless domestic violence victims would STRONGLY disagree with Debi! Maybe she should do some reading on trauma responses before she assumes that people can’t be victimized unless they’re acting “outside of the wisdom of God.”

    I don’t know what’s more vile: Debi’s ideas, or the patriarchal religious tradition that reinforces this kind of thinking.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    I have the biggest problem with this line:
    “You need this gift of wisdom as a constant reminder of the limitations of your female understanding.”

    I can read most of the text you quoted up until that point. It sounds like good advice to not be angry with the little things- he forgets the garbage once in a while. Any partner will be selfish and make mistakes, that’s being human. Don’t give in to impulses to hit. Feeling sorry for yourself as an end really won’t help you. That sentence in bold? I read it as a mandate from God not to be victimized because he loves you.

    My interpretation clearly involves some stretching and overlooking. It probably originates in the way I have learned to read the bible. You use what you can and consider other parts outdated and move on. I’m not really sure if I got this from Catholicism, my parents or my stint as a Methodist. I definitely see what you find so dangerous in these words. Much of it must play directly to what one is taught God wants. I read it and think “God wants to love me”, while many read it “God wants full obedience regardless of cost”. Debbie mentions ‘God’s wisdom’ so often but doesn’t fully explain what that is- I say that leaves room for a woman to interpret. I would never have assumed it was part of God’s wisdom to be beaten.

    The reason I often get so much out of this blog is, it helps me see facets of Christianity I hadn’t been exposed to growing up. There are pieces used in extremely negative ways. Some has been twisted, some amplified, and some were very negative from the start. (I’m thinking mostly of Paul’s anti-women stuff) For me Christianity was always such a positive force. I’d run across words like “female understanding” and think it was weird, wonder why, and shrug my shoulders and move on. It is very enlightening to have a more complete picture. For all the negativity I actually feel better knowing about these aspects so I can address them when interacting with the various Christians I meet in my church travels.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    I’m sort of going through that now. Although my DH has never put his hands on me (thank G-d), everything has to be perfect, or else. He’ll come up with 100 little chores to keep me home, call me at all hours and want me to drop everything to wait on him, and walk around in a huff if things at work don’t go his way. I have absolutely no friends that he likes. I can’t take my kids out of state to visit my family. Also, since he’s self-employed, he can literally walk through the door at any second of the day. While he has his good points, when things get bad, they get really bad. Also, he has made it clear to me that I can leave at any time, but my kids stay with him. When he gets screamy and cruel, I tell myself “fourteen more years, fourteen more years.” (My younger child is 4, so in 14 years she’ll be 18).

    • Rosie

      I’m not going to tell you what to do, but you might want to consider that if the situation isn’t good for you, it’s probably not good for your children either.

    • ako

      He’s abusive. Maybe not physically, but his emotional cruelty, controlling behavior, and attempts to isolate you from your friends and family are textbook abuser behavior. You deserve better, and so do your kids.

      Is there somewhere you can get outside advice about custody issues? Because even though he says the kids stay with him when you leave, you may have better options.

    • AnotherOne

      “Also, since he’s self-employed, he can literally walk through the door at any second of the day.”

      It is a very bad sign that this is a scary, unpleasant, or negative thing. Don’t listen to him, listen to your heart and use your mind. You have options. Hugs to you and your kids.

    • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

      Ako is right — this is emotional abuse. It’s a toxic situation for you and your children, and I fear that your partner’s behavior may worsen. If you need help, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence can put you in touch with services in your region.


    • Teri Anne

      I am sorry that you are going through such a difficult situation. When you husband tells you that you cannot get custody of the children if you leave, he is not telling you the truth. He is telling you this so that you do not leave him. Staying in such a toxic environment for the sake of the children is actually detrimental to their emotional well-being.

      You need counseling to help gain clarity about your situation, but please do not go to your church because the pastors will probably tell you to stay no matter how badly you are abused. This happened to a good friend, who is now being kicked out of the church for separating from her abusive husband. With your husband watching your every move and counting every penny you spend, obtaining counseling may be difficult. If you cannot go to a counselor, I recommend a book called Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward. One of the situations she describes is similar to your situation.

    • Sarah Jane

      Sweetheart, I have been there. If I could go back and encourage my younger self to leave sooner, I would. Your life and your children’s lives can be so much better. You and your children DESERVE so much better. You don’t have to live this way, and I think you know that. When the time is right, you will find the courage to do what you need to do.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

      Oh, AztecQueen. I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. The other readers are right–this is abuse, and it has the potential to escalate. You might consider seeking legal counsel. I’m not very familiar with this, but I know that pro bono family law practices exist, and they exist to help people like you.

      I hope I’m not out of place in saying this, but I believe you’re Jewish, and if this is relevant to your case, I’d just like to remind you that Jewish law does not trump the laws of the United States.

    • Emma

      Longtime reader, first time commenter, but this needs to be said. Some of the others have mentioned it, but your husband does not get to decide who has custody of the kids if you leave him.
      This is not a good situation, for you or for the kids. A good (hell, even a mediocre) family lawyer can help you fix it. I won’t get into all the specifics of how child custody determinations are made, but let me just say that even if you can’t prove abuse, the mere fact that you are the children’s primary caretaker (at least that’s the impression I got from reading your comment) means you would go in with a tremendous advantage. This man is blackmailing you, but he does not have all the power he wants you to think he has. Obviously, the decision is yours, but please think about what I said. Fourteen years is a long time, after all. I wish all the best, whatever you do. Good luck.

    • “Rebecca”

      AztecQueen, if you can, I encourage you to get a hold of the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. It will help you understand the mindset of angry, abusive men and it has advice on how to stay safe and get out of controlling relationships with men like this.
      Best of luck with whatever you decide to do. <3

    • Hilary

      AQ, I’m also Jewish, you might have seen some of my posts around. Granted I’m Reform not Orthodox, but listen to me, as a another woman who also loves being Jewish, and values it: THERE IS *NO REASON* AS A JEW FOR YOU TO STAY IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.


      Here are Jewish resources for help with abusive relationships. I can’t post more now, but I will be back tonight. Please, you are B’tzelem Elohim – and you should live with someone who respects that.


    • Rachel

      Hi AztecQueen, I looked at your blog and saw that you’re Jewish. I am as well, and I have some cousins who are social workers, so this is an area that’s very near and dear to my heart.

      There are a lot of resources out there for you within the Orthodox community. Here are a few:


      I don’t want to push you or anything — it’s just, I read your comment and thought, “that’s not how an aishet chayil is supposed to be treated.” And I’ve had some experiences with sexual harassment in the Orthodox community that make me very aware that Bad Things Can Happen Here, Too.

    • Don Gwinn

      “While he has his good points, when things get bad, they get really bad. Also, he has made it clear to me that I can leave at any time, but my kids stay with him.”

      This cannot be overstated: it is NOT up to him where the kids end up. He’ll have some say in it, but he’s not in control. The fact that he has gone out of his way to pretend to be in control of that outcome is an indication of his controlling/abusive treatment of you–making predictions of dire outcomes if you fight back and then reasoning from those predictions as if they were facts. It’s the same principle that child abusers use when they tell children that they’ll hurt their parents or siblings if they tell–it’s more effective to threaten someone you love than to threaten you.
      But it’s not real. It’s not that he couldn’t somehow end up with custody, it’s just that a lot of things would have to go wrong first. And remember that as of right now, he does live with your children, and he’s teaching them how men treat women. They’re watching you both.

      I do realize that it’s more complicated for most women than “just get out!” Even so, though, I hope you’ll read this whole comment thread carefully and give careful consideration to leaving. Your judgment is being intentionally manipulated by your husband. He’s altering and editing the information you use to make decisions. The people reading your description of the marriage and evaluating it with information from outside that bubble are, so far, unanimous in expressing fear and anger on your behalf.

      I have a friend who agonized over her marriage for years. She lives hours away, and I only really met her through other friends in the last few years of her marriage. She tried everything to fix that marriage, but it’s impossible for one person to create a livable marriage, no matter what Debi Pearl says. When she finally left him, she was terrified–and her fears were a lot like yours. He had her convinced that she would be found unfit, that he would take the kids, that she’d be homeless. . . . she kicked him out, filed for divorce, kept the kids, got a job and now lives in the same home with her children, attends personal and family counseling with them, and keeps coming back with new stories about this or that new revelation. She reports shocking differences in her children; not that they don’t miss their father or feel angry about the divorce, but that they see that she considered herself worthy of better than the way he treated her, and that she was willing to make the hard choices in order to protect them, too.
      Her friends came together in ways she might not have expected. People sent rent money, legal help, pepper spray, law enforcement and private detective contacts so he could be tracked down and served with papers . . . . people will surprise you. Good luck!

    • Mary

      I’m not Jewish, but- honey, there is no way you should stay in a relationship where “cruel” is a descriptor of your husband!! Remember Abigail- her husband was a lout, she went behind his back, and she was never other than praised or blessed for her actions. Yes, her husband died, but I think that was, if anything, more of a favor to her than a judgement. I don’t know the Talmud much, but nowhere in the Torah are abused women told to stay in that situation, and I think it breaks God’s heart to see it.

      Whether you decide to stay or not, though, you might want to consider putting aside, completely unknown to him, as much money as you can spare- even if you don’t think you can leave now, I’m afraid your situation may become even more untenable and it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    • HelenaTheGrey

      Oh Aztec, I honestly can say I fear for you and my heart breaks when I read your story. I pray that you will find strength to do what needs to be done. Although your husband is not physically abusive now, men with those tendencies will usually only get worse as time goes on. I know you believe that you are staying for your children’s sake, but as other’s have said, they are learning from your husband how women should be treated. Would you want your son to grow up to abuse his wife like you are being abused? Would you want your daughter to be the wife of a man who abused her? I hope you will find the courage and strength to reach out to someone who can help you. My words are not sufficient, but I want you to know that you have support out there. Even amongst those of us whom you’ve never met.

      • Hilary

        What she said – beat me to it. Do you want your daughter to think this is how she should be treated by a boyfriend/husband? That you can’t take your kids out of the state to see your family – that’s just wrong, and that is controlling/isolating you.

        “Choose life, that you and your children may live” Being isolated, kept too busy by someone who doesn’t help then makes more demands, lies to you about protecting your children, this isn’t life. That he would use his children as someTHING to manipulate and control you with shows that he . . . . well, I don’t know what type of father he is in real life. But just from that, that he would see his children as things to use to control you instead of very young people with their own needs, dreams, desires, and rights to both parents (provided they have safe relationships with each parent . . . . . ) that he is blessed with loving and rasising, that’s bad. Children, and pets, and any living person or creature is not a thing to be used. As Jews we have a tradition that demands respect for animals not to just use them without any concern that they are also living creatures, how much more so our children?

        Please listen to all of us. Shalom Bayit is not covering up fear or cruelty, but real peace in a home where you are safe, and can trust and be trusted. You are probably not going to read any of this until Sunday if you don’t use the computer on Shabbat, but when you do come back, please take us seriously.


    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      I don’t know you or your family or your situation, and I don’t want to stick my oar in … but your description of your husband reminds me way too much of my father. Nobody should have to be married to someone who treats her the way he used to treat my mother when they were married, and nobody should have to grow up watching their father treat their mother that way. That’s not shalom bayit, that’s straight-up tyranny.

      He doesn’t get to decide who gets custody! If it’s bad enough that you want to leave the marriage, please don’t let that threat stop you from going through with it, because it’s not true.

    • wren7

      AztecQueen, my heart breaks reading what you wrote. I was married to a verbally and emotionally abusive, alcoholic and bipolar man for almost 13 years. I did not have children with him, so my situation was not as serious as yours. He managed to turn me — an educated, intelligent, and (before I met him) confident woman, into a fearful, always stressed, codependent shell of a person. I finally gathered the courage to leave once I realized that being alone for the rest of my life would be better than staying with him.

      Please listen to us when we tell you that you have options. You do not deserve this kind of treatment; you deserve to be with a man who loves and respects you. And please listen to those who say that your children (two daughters?) are watching and absorbing what they see in your home. They also deserve better. Several here are Jewish and know much more about your religious situation than I do, but even they are saying that your husband is going against Jewish law. And I echo those who say that he does NOT get to decide who gets custody of your children. That is emotional blackmail designed to make you stay. It is a lie.

      Please seriously consider leaving. If you do, take your time and gather all the information and resources you can in advance. Protect yourself and your children. In my case, I told my husband I was leaving in the office of a trusted counselor (arranged with the counselor in advance) while my parents waited in the parking lot because I was not safe alone with him.

      I will be thinking about you and praying for the best for you.

      • Liberated Liberal

        This. This is my story. Luckily I got out in 5 years, but I didn’t even recognize who I was by the end of the relationship. How somebody who was previously so independent and intelligent could be turned into such a useless mess based on his emotional manipulation is beyond me. I wasn’t even in love with him! Seriously. I was too frightened to leave, and that wasn’t helped by how bad things became when I did leave. The first year was spent in lock down at my house. I literally did not leave the house by myself. The school I worked for hired a new security guard to stay with me at all times (they were wonderful!! and took it very seriously). Unfortunately, the police and attorney did not take it seriously at all. They were more concerned with disgracing his (locally prominent) family than my safety. The police officer assigned to my case (who admitted to stalking his ex) was sympathetic to HIM. The only thing that saved me was that he fell for another woman about the time that I moved.

        I started experiencing the sadness and anger (finally) about a year ago. It took that long for me to come out of the shock (and honestly euphoria of leaving) and realize how many hideous things he did to me that I never processed.

        Aztec Queen – get your children out of there. I know how hard it is to leave, even when you hate the man (as I did). You think you are doing them a favor, but they are being permanently and profoundly damaged by this type of parental relationship. If you stay they WILL grow up to believe that on varying levels it is normal and ok to live that way. It is not. Get out. Also, GET HELP. Don’t do it on your own and assume it will be for the best. Get a network of people and services helping you before you leave. Nothing may happen, and that would be wonderful. But make sure you have reinforcement in case it does.

        Debi Pearl – no words will ever express what a vile human being you are. It is advice like yours that proliferates the abuse of women. That is not what I want to scream at you, but I would probably be banned if I put it here.

  • TheSeravy

    The way Debi repeats the same ideas over and over again, using very similar wording and phrasing… it’s almost as if she’s trying to confuse and hynotize herself and her readers to believe in this BS. In fact, reptition is one of the key tactics to retain members of cults.

    • Kodie

      If she can justify this to other women, then she succeeds in convincing herself. Every time she wants to scream and demand and run away, she gets merry. It must be really draining to get merry all alone, so she invites readers to validate her chosen experience by following her directions. It seems to be the only power she has, and that’s really sad. If other women are like her, then she makes some sort of support network – supporting each other’s difficulties getting merry. It’s really very weird. Instead of being like a victims’ support group and recovering together, they are battling their true feelings together and sustaining a very difficult facade.

      In general – a lot of what I hear Christians say is that it isn’t easy. Like that makes it all worth it somehow. It isn’t easy dealing with a shithead husband who might even beat you. It isn’t easy to wait to have sex until you’re married. It isn’t easy to be straight when you are (tempted to be) gay. It isn’t easy to submit to someone when you have an ordinarily good trait like pride and self-respect. But there’s some reward for this. And the whole persecution thing when they get criticized – that is nothing to what they seem to voluntarily endure for being filthy sinners, to express to god how worthy they are for putting up with earthly distress, doing everything the way they think he wants them to. He’s the one putting the screws to them, and everything they’d rather do to solve these problems are the ways of the devil.

      But she shares her pain for the purpose of encouraging others to validate her and join her, some sort of sick “sisters in abuse” badge they all get for being help meets. How can I know I’m doing it right unless there are others? Because it’s too hard to do, and even if that’s what god wanted, you don’t believe it unless you can get others to be like you are and do like you do.

      • smrnda

        A very good insight here. She probably suspects that she’s living her life according to total nonsense, and is probably threatened because people who don’t follow her rules probably are happier than she is. She’s too weak or else too brainwashed to toss out the rules, or too ashamed to admit she was duped, so she has to dupe others that the scam of a marriage she’s got is something worth having.

  • Stony

    If I recall my days in the pew, the upshot of all this is the following: if you are the bestest, most submissive, loving wife ever, god will transform your husband into a loving, adoring husband. If your husband has not transformed yet, it is because you have some secret sin in your life, like holding a grudge or being petty about some damn thing and god can’t work on your husband until you have cleared all your decks. The onus is entirely on the woman…..if he’s abusive, it’s still your fault.

    This is magical thinking at its absolute worst. I can’t stress how unfair and asinine this type of thinking and behaving is to a woman’s psyche, and yet I heard testimony after testimony on how god “fixed” this or that man once the wife let go of that final little rebellion she had. Translation: I no longer have a personality of my own. The husbands, in memory, were still the same old assholes, just now they were assholes on pedestals, but the wife had a good testimony.

    • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

      Giving up one’s personality and self-respect is psychologically taxing, though. I wonder how many of these submissive wives have breakdowns because of the enormous emotional strain?

    • Rosa

      it’s not just magical thinking. It is the absolute reverse of reality.

      What makes people be better people is limits. Christians who preach submissive marriage believe in limits in every other area of life are how people become better: we need congregations and pastors and laws to make sure we don’t murder or steal or look at porn or drink too much alcohol, because all of those things are bad for our souls, and we should be prevented from doing them. Children should be kept on the straight and narrow by their parents so they can learn to live well and not sin.

      It is only husbands – and only in terms of how they treat their wives and children – who are supposed to become better when allowed to freely behave as badly as they want.

      In real life, I have seen many terrible husbands (including my own father) and addicts become MUCH better people when their submissive/codependent wives leave them. Because giving someone free reign to their worst impulses is destructive to them, as well as to everyone around them. It’s only recently that I’ve met any people with dominant/submissive marriages that didn’t destroy both partners – and then it’s only by the natural goodness of the husband. Not because he changed.

  • alwr

    What is more frightening is how common versions of these sentiments are outside of the fundagelical bubble. I had a friend tell me shortly before I married all about how hard and crushing marriage is and how men are programmed to “hurt and wound” you, but you have to find a way to carry on. If you knew this woman, you would think you knew a very liberal, very feminist, and highly educated person in a very egalitarian and happy marriage. I have a relative who remains single near 40 and thinks that a relationship is not “passionate” unless you are “so in love that you have to scream and tear at each other when you are angry”. And I had to sit through an eight hour workshop in the workplace once with an extremely popular motivational/self-help guru who talks about her own experience as a victim of domestic abuse and says there are “no victims only volunteers” and that changing her attitude could have changed the abuse. This unhealthy view of relationships absolutely permeates our culture.

  • Red

    I wonder if Michael is physically abusive and this book was Debi’s way of convincing herself to put up with it. We see a lot of signs that he may be abusing her in other ways. Just wondering.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    We aren’t there and don’t see know the full situation…but what you describe does sound manipulative at best. It is your call what to do. If you think your DH, Builder, would listen to your concerns, bring them up and don’t stay silent. If you feel it crosses the line into abuse, leave. It looks like I live a couple hours from you. If you needed it, I could drive there. Or if things are less drastic and you just want someone to talk to, we can email. I also know a child advocate lawyer who might be able to give you an idea of laws regarding custody and usual outcomes.

    • ND

      Unfortunately, AztecQueen’s religious beliefs probably require her to defer custody decisions to a religious court. But there’s no reason the religious court would necessarily give custody of two little girls to their father. The Jewish religion does say that small children, and especially girls, are best off with the mother.

      However, the husband has many options, including the withholding of a religious divorce until he gets his way. It’s a horribly sticky situation. If AztecQueen doesn’t get a religious divorce, she can’t remarry or even date. It sucks.

      • Rachel

        If AQ’s (or anyone’s) husband refuses to sign a get, there are ways the community can pressure the husband into it — I used to work at a Hillel where the rabbi actually called a man in who was refusing to sign a get and talked him into it.

      • M

        Also, if she’s lucky, she might have signed a ketubah (marriage contract) with the Lieberman clause. It’s a clause that’s added to a lot of Orthodox ketubahs that states if the couple gets a civil divorce, the husband is obligated to give the woman a get (religious divorce).

      • http://www.kisarita.blogspot.com ki sarita

        the spectre of not being able to get a religious divorce should in no way impede someone from leaving an abusive spouse. Let ones priority be on getting out safely, keeping your children, and getting on one’s feet again. starting a new relationship is a stage ahead in the game and you can decide how to cross that bridge when you come to it- do you forgo a new relationship, proceed discreetly, or openly defy the community and risk ostracism? That is a decision that is best made later down the road.

        (PS A separated “chained” wife, often gets a lot of sympathy and support from the community- as long as she plays by the rules and doesn’t start another relationship. it’s a catch 22).

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Wow. Good job for calling this what it is- abuse. Wow.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    Goodness, this is rage-inducing.

    I have a very intelligent friend who gave the same justification for submission–that women only submit to their husbands, not to men in general, and that it’s a command from God, not man. I was flabbergasted that she could believe that, but I didn’t know how to have a good conversation about it, so I didn’t pursue the subject. But no matter how you try to sweeten it, it makes women a subordinate class, always subject to men’s authority. That’s its logical conclusion. It’s not simply a matter of personal relationships; it creates a much larger social system.

  • http://concerningpurity.blogspot.com Lynn

    When I think about what it would actually mean to submit to your husband “in everything, every decision, every move, every plan, and all everyday affairs,” I am horrified. Can you imagine losing EVERY argument and disagreement, NEVER getting your way? Life would be an endless cycle of bitter disappointments, getting worse as your husband learns he can get away with anything he wants. Until you let your identity and all your desires die, there’s no way you could even convince yourself that you’re happy. How quickly could you turn an average man into a tyrant by submitting in the way that Debi defines “everything?”

  • smrnda

    What kind of weak, pathetic, immature self-centered men want women to be like this? Debi paints a picture of Michael as childish, incompetent, inconsiderate and obnoxious, even though she’s clearly trying to make us impressed with him sometimes. What would she do if a man said “If I treated my wife the way Michael treats you, she’d file for divorce. I guess you don’t have much of a husband there.” How would she handle this news?

    I don’t get the religious view of relationships. Yeah, they are a bit of work, but overall you should be finding someone compatible and the relationship should cause far more benefit than harm. It’s like buying clothes – if you have to *work* to fit into the shoes they probably just don’t fit, and you should have got a different pair.

    • Christine

      Speaking as someone who can only afford to buy off the rack, it’s not like buying clothes. You don’t HAVE to get something, you can always just stay single.

  • Bob Jase

    Just offhand – do we know if Debi met Michael through that dating service “Christian Mangle”?

    Arg their ads are irritating.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Here is how they met.

  • murollavan

    Just a general comment – thanks for doing this project. As I was reading I was wondering if I could even get more than a few pages into this book without wanting to throw it in the trash out of frustration.

  • Shayna

    You know this whole thing reminds me of the Stepford Wives (Note: I am of an age where I have only seen the remake with Nicole Kidman). There’s this idea that if the woman is a perfect wife, the man will somehow become a perfect husband, and it is such BS. Even if you could be perfect, it doesn’t make a cad into a gentleman, it only makes a cad into a cad with absolute power. And we all know the saying about absolute power, yes?

  • Lucreza Borgia

    “A gift is something you receive that has not been earned or merited God wants to give you the gift of wisdom. It is this precious gift of wisdom that has enabled me to see beyond the piles of dumped trash bags.”

    If it’s a gift that doesn’t have to be earned or merited, then why do I have to be submissive first in order to get it? Why isn’t got just gifting it to me in the first place?

  • Shari

    “You need this gift of wisdom as a constant reminder of the limitations of your female understanding.”

    This is one of the most rage-inducing statements I’ve ever read. This person has obviously been verbally abused to be so convinced that men are so intellectually superior to women. Unfortunately for men who need to feel superior, this isn’t true and MOST women now know it. I can’t imagine living a hundred years ago when this was the way people commonly thought. There is still a long way to go, but at least most people don’t believe anymore that all men are smarter than all women.

    • Hilary

      translation: you need god to give you a ‘gift’ to remember how stupid you are as a woman. Because if you ever trust yourself all hell will break loose – literally.

      This is just fucking horrible. Full stop.

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    Wow. I shouldn’t be surprised, because I’ve read a lot of the Pearls’ horrifying child-abuse manuals child-rearing materials, but OMFG this is really really horrifying.

    And it’s not as though women with abusive spouses needed more bad advice. The world is already full of bad (and well-meant but unhelpful) advice for victims of domestic violence. I feel like this is on a whole other level, though — it doesn’t stop at blaming the victim for her abuse, or even at telling her she doesn’t deserve anything better, it pulls out all the stops and basically says G-d not only doesn’t have compassion on your plight but wants you to suffer. (Or maybe what Debi is really saying is more like “If I have to suffer at the hands of my abusive spouse, at least I can have the satisfaction of making sure I’m not alone.”)

    Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.

  • Rilian

    The disgusting, sadistic, abusive ex monster I stayed with for too long was an atheist and still managed to espouse views like this. That he would not be happy unless I submitted, so that it would “gratify his ego”. His words.

    • Amyc

      I’ve met a few non-religious guys like that–my ex boyfriend being one of them (although he was more subtle about it and just let the abuse creep into the relationship). It sickens me, so when I hear it, I let those guys know where they can shove that submission crap.

      • Rilian

        It snuck up on me too, but then he was making all these “logical” arguments for why I should go along with it….

    • Liberated Liberal

      After abusing me in some way, mine would say that he loved it when he made me cry. It made him feel powerful. He wasn’t a Christian.

      This is what is so horrifying. These people exist with or without religion. But when you have religions justifying this behavior in men and submission in women, it is only making it so much worse. Women who otherwise might leave will instead stay, ruining their own life and raising children to believe that it is all just the way it should be.

      • Rilian

        He said that too, that he loved it when I cried. He would make me look up so he could see the tears and he would touch them. That look on his face, I can’t forget it. He loved to hurt me.
        Why did I stay? Because he would say after that he didn’t mean it and he would be nice for a while. It’s over.. but how I could have been so stupid still haunts me.

      • Rosa

        Rilian, you’re not stupid. You weren’t stupid. You were attacked in a way that tried to paralyze you permanently, and you got out.

        Please don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s not just that this is endemic to the culture – even though it is – or that abusers are given aid and victims largely aren’t – though that is also true.

        It’s that abusers tear you down so you don’t leave. You’re not stupid. You were targeted.

      • wren7

        Liberated Liberal, you replied to my post above (in response to Aztec Queen’s post). How eerily similar our stories sound. Wow. I’ve never met anyone else who has been through a relationship like mine, that left such deep scars. I actually didn’t even think I was abused at the time because, as I told my divorce attorney, “but he never hit me!” She advised me to go to a counselor at the battered women’s shelter in my city, and when I did, the counselor listened to my story and told me that it was indeed abuse and that it was pretty bad. I went to support sessions there for a while.

        Thankfully, when I got out my ex wasn’t as awful as yours. When he realized I wasn’t coming back (I had supported us for over 2 years while he — with a Ph.D. that I helped put him through — refused to work), he decided to make my life as hellish as he could during the divorce. He refused to speak to me so everything had to through the lawyers, costing a fortune (which I didn’t have because he was also a compulsive spender and had always spent every cent we had). When the divorce was finally over and I was allowed back into our house to get the rest of my things (he had refused to leave the house after the session at the counselor’s where I told him I was leaving), an armed state trooper was there to protect me. I never saw my ex again. But it took years for the rage to go away, because I stuffed all the anger down while I was with him because to allow myself to feel those feelings at the time would have forced me to act on them, and I guess I hadn’t endured enough hell yet.

        I had nightmares about him for years, and it took many years for the anger to finally go away. Like you, I didn’t allow myself to really feel that anger until I left, and when it hit me, it took my breath away. It was a white hot anger that I had never felt before. Or since. Thankfully, I met a wonderful man and have been married to him for almost 15 years, but baggage from that awful relationship still messes with my head and has caused problems with my current husband.

        I’d be interested in hearing more about your story sometime. Let me know if you’d be interested in exchanging emails.

      • Sgaile-beairt

        “Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
        George Orwell, 1984 Book 3, Chapter 3

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    Minor linguistic nitpick.

    “Reverence” is the state of revering (or venerating) a person or object, and cannot be used as a verb; the word-form you want is either “revere (~ing)” or “pay reverence to”.

    “She is telling victimized women that no matter how much they are abused, rather than seeking help they need to just keep on obeying, honoring, and reverencing their husbands. No matter what.”

    And I can tell you, from personal experience, that no matter how much you obey, “honor”, and “revere” an abuser, it is never enough. There will always be some minute detail that he will find “wrong”, or your body language is “too hostile”, or your “tone” is “inappropriate”, or he’s just in a rotten mood and looking to take it out on someone.

    “Because if you let your husband abuse you long enough, he’ll eventually come to cherish and love you.”

    That one’s intimately familiar — “If I just love him enough, and cater to his whims, he’ll change!” Didn’t work. By the end of that relationship, I was so anxious and stressed out that I was vomiting on a daily basis. The last fight — like so many others — was over something stupid. This time, he wouldn’t turn the volume on the TV down to a reasonable level so I could sleep. “Normal” volume on this particular television was around 9-12, and he kept cranking it up to 20+ (complaining that he “couldn’t” hear it, when he very clearly heard what I mumbled under my breath ten seconds later), and he refused to wear headphones because they were “uncomfortable” (headphones in question were cushy high-quality ones with loads of padding). All this led up to his staged “suicide attempt” with Ibuprofen, his assault on three of our housemates, a two-week stay in hospital while they got him stabilized (he’s bipolar, unmedicated, and non-med-compliant), a few months in jail, and a six month restraining order. Not nearly enough for a man who beat, raped, and continually terrorized a disabled woman.

    • wren7

      My ex-husband was also an unmedicated bipolar. Ditto on the threats to kill himself — the last time I heard that one was in the counselor’s office when I told him I was leaving. The counselor at the center for battered women (where my divorce lawyer insisted I go for counseling) helped me understand the cycle of manipulation my ex set up over and over in our marriage — he would do something that would make me stressed and scared (often involving spending loads of money we didn’t have; he was a compulsive spender which many manic depressives are), we’d get into a big fight, and it would culminate in him threatening to kill himself. The counselor helped me see how manipulative it all was. I don’t think he ever intended to kill himself. He knew the threat was enough to make me cave to whatever his newest demand was. And then the cycle would repeat. He was also by this time a raging alcoholic who was drunk every night.

      And as with all codependent women, I kept thinking that if I just tried harder, if I just took more of the responsibility for friggin’ EVERYTHING on my shoulders, he would change. The last huge fight, where he was threatening to quit the good job he’d just started (and let me work full time and be a human guinea pig for drug studies yet again to pay the bills), is where it finally hit me like a ton of bricks that he was NEVER going to change, and that being alone for the rest of my life would be better than staying with him. That’s when I started the process of leaving, which took several weeks so that I could do all the things I needed to do to protect myself physically and financially.

      • Liberated Liberal

        I’m so sorry for everything all of you have gone through. This is why women’s issues incite so much rage in me, and why people like Debbie Pearl need to be called out for what they are – abusers that need to be stopped.

        wren, Yes, our stories are so frighteningly similar. You were so smart to get help ahead of time. I wish I had done the same. My ex was not Bi-Polar, but I would say manic? He definitely had a host of issues that he would never notice. Months after I left him, he did end up in the state hospital for a week or two after barricading himself in his apartment threatening to kill me and then himself. For a few months, I would periodically receive calls from the police telling me to go somewhere safe, as he was threatening this. Suicide threats were obviously a big thing with him, particularly when I tried to leave and ultimately did leave. It was only when a huge part of me truly wished that he would actually just kill himself and end all of the suffering did I realize I was free from his manipulative tricks. Oh, and do you want to know what sentence he received after TWO YEARS of this following five years of an abusive relationship? A “Disturbing the Peace” sentence and a $50 bail after showing up at the police department (or court house, I’m not sure which). Yup. I had HUNDREDS of emails and letters he wrote threatening me and essentially laying out all of the abusive things he does, thinks and wants to do. It wasn’t even just my word against his. He threatened and terrorized everybody in my life. I had a college system with several witnesses who were actually the first to file reports and insist on restraining orders. Yet this is what men get after this kind of behavior. Then somebody smokes a little weed, and they end up demonized and in jail for a large portion of their lives. THIS is why religion and its suppression of women’s rights and all of this abuse apologetics are so foul to me. This is why I am irate and don’t have any patience for being kind to the people who perpetrate this culture. WOMEN ARE NOT POSSESSIONS TO BE ABUSED AND BROKEN AT WILL. And anybody who thinks so can FUCK OFF.

        I, too, didn’t grasp what was happening to me in the moment. I was young. I was a product of a Catholic upbringing that taught me that the most important thing was that I be a “Good Girl.” Women should be martyrs after all, and if you aren’t suffering, you aren’t loving. My mother is such an extreme and perfect example of this that I internalized some horrible justifications for allowing things like this to happen to me. In the most horrible moments, the only thing I could do is fight insanely hard to bottle everything up so as to not enrage the ex even more, and to hide everything so that my family and friends would see what was happening. I never fought with him, because I learned very quickly what happened when I did stand up to him. I just allowed him to do what he did and try to hide my anguish. (Boy, was I a Debbie Pearl poster child, or what?? Guess what, Debbie! It doesn’t work!!!!!!) I was terrified of what would happen if I did. And I still didn’t see it as abuse until later. I, too, had a counselor inform me that I had been (and was still dealing with) his abuse. She whisked me away to Victim’s Assistance and they took it very seriously. This was the first time I vaguely started to see my experience for what it was.

        wren, I’m happy to talk with you through email. How do we set that up? :)

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

        I hear you on the money thing. I was expected to cover ALL bills (including the cable bill that he promised he’d pay for) with my SSDI check, while his money disappeared into new toys for him. I was expected to buy food for both of us, his food card was used up on junk, most of which I couldn’t eat, and a large amount of which went to waste because he couldn’t be arsed to pick up after himself and it went bad, which was, again, MY fault, because I’m supposed to just follow him around and cater to his whims and pick up his messes and “service” him and to never, ever have needs or wants or thoughts of my own.

        It was always about him — what HE thought, what HE wanted to watch, what HE wanted to listen to, what HE wanted to eat, and so on. If HE was sleeping, it was forbidden to make enough noise to wake him, but I was not allowed to sleep. HIS belongings were practically sacred and not to be damaged in any way, even on accident. Mine were just things to be destroyed… especially if it was expensive or had sentimental value. His “friends” practically moved in and crashed on my floor. Mine were blocked from ever entering the apartment, because “I might cheat on him”. All about him, him, him, and his tiny, fragile… ego.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        WMD…oy! The money! Can’t count the number of times he would come home with some game or movie or dvd set that he had bought “for us!” My car (that I paid for!) was for his personal use and if I had to go into work later, he would insist that I take the bus. I think the worst was the pouting if things didn’t go his way. It very much was like living with a 12 year old boy.

      • wren7

        Lucreza and WMDKitty, the money — oh what painful memories that brings up. I really have to stop pecking on this tiny iPad keyboard — too slow. More tomorrow when I’m at my computer.

  • Lucreza Borgia

    Reread the article and read the new comments and it suddenly all becomes clear…these ideas that women should suffer for their man are not just coming from Debbie Pearl. They come from so many places that I can’t even pin down when or how they first landed in my brain!

    I spent several years in a very bad relationship. It wasn’t physically abusive, but it was definitely emotionally abusive tho very indirectly. He made twice what I made yet expected me to pay half the bills. If he was short, I was expected to pay the rest. I added him to my bank account and he promptly spent all of my money. There were times where we had no food in the fridge because he spent all of our money on drink. Then when he didn’t have enough money for it all, he blamed me because I dared to have a beer or two and that had forced him to go and buy more! If I got upset, he would start crying and sobbing about how he loved me and how amazing I was and that if I left him he would never ever be with anyone else again.

    It was the first time I was in a relationship and I had always seen my friends struggle with relationships and other people and hear all the time about how if a woman wanted to be happy in a relationship, she needed to work at it. There was never much thought that he needed to do anything for me in return than love me. Finally, I got so sick of it and left him because I was tired of working so hard for what seemed like nothing in return. Stupid me, I took him back because he joined AA and seemed like a different person!

    That only lasted a few months because by that point I felt dead. When I left him the second time, I laughed while he cried and begged me to stay. I told him no and went to stay at my mom’s a few days. He used those few days to empty out my bank account to the maximum overdraft amount and stripped our apartment of everything but my clothing and some furniture that was mine. Why? Because I owed him for all the money he had spent on me over the years!

    Now, I see a friend on FB struggling with a relationship and she’s always posting meme’s about how hard relationships are and so many of her friend’s twitter in agreement about how all men just don’t understand how much work women put in!

    • Lucreza Borgia

      He never told me that I wasn’t worthy or that he was better. His actions just expected me to do the work to make the relationship work and to make his life easier!

      • wren7

        Liberated Liberal, WMDkitty, and Lucreza Borgia, I have so much to say to you all because we have such similar stories. If I don’t have time to post tonight I will tomorrow. Liberated Liberal, not sure how to exchange emails except to just give you my email address — Libby Anne, I hope that’s ok. Mine is lmeacham[at]brorby.com (be sure you get both “b”s in there). Put “from Libby Anne’s blog” or something similar in the subject line so I’ll know it’s you.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        Leave a link in website that follows to a blog or something?

      • wren7

        I don’t have a blog … Just email.

      • wren7

        I will post more tomorrow when I’m at my computer keyboard — much easier than iPad.

    • Liberated Liberal

      Holy crap! I had entirely forgotten about the money manipulation!!!

      “Why? Because I owed him for all the money he had spent on me over the years!”

      THIS! I got THIS! Exactly this. No mention of the fact that my parents and I spent infinitely more money on him than he did on me. That didn’t matter. I owed him. He even threatened to sue me in order to pay back everything he had ever spent on me. When he left he took everything of mine he could get away with (with my parents watching – they didn’t know everything that was mine), claiming that everything was owed to him. Oh, and I had a little dog that a friend of mine gave to me. He threatened to sue me for the dog, as well, because he drove me the airport to pick her up!!

      Did we all end up with the same man or something? Seriously. How can different men be so exactly the same.

      “It was the first time I was in a relationship and I had always seen my friends struggle with relationships and other people and hear all the time about how if a woman wanted to be happy in a relationship, she needed to work at it. There was never much thought that he needed to do anything for me in return than love me. ”

      This, too. Great insight and it actually explains a lot. From family to friends, this is the information I was fed.

      • http://everydayisthorsday.wordpress.com Lusy

        You can even get the money manipulation without the person acting as though you “owe” them.

        I had this problem with a recent ex: we went on holiday together, and I’d paid for the air tickets, and then he was covering all our in-country expenses. This meant that while we were there, he kept all the money on his own person, and any time I wanted to buy anything, I had to go through him. Now, he never once refused when I asked him for money, and he never once made me feel as though I was spending too much money on myself (if anything, he tried to encourage me to spend more money than I was).

        BUT I didn’t like having to ask him for money every time I wanted something. I didn’t like feeling as though I had to ask him permission every time I wanted to buy so much as a bottle of water. So I asked him if he could hand some of the money over to me so I could feel as though I had some autonomy.

        He refused.

        I then pointed out that not having money meant that him having all the money meant that I couldn’t even buy myself a drink if we somehow got separated, and that it would be less hassle for both of us if I could just buy a drink myself. (As though me wanting a level of autonomy wasn’t reason enough.)

        He still refused.

        I told him that feeling like he was controlling my finances in this way reminded me of the way my shitty violent alcoholic abusive ex used to treat me, and that even though I knew he wasn’t going to be violent like that, I would still like it if he listened to me on this. I cried.

        He still refused.

        And then he was surprised when I dumped his arse not long after I returned home. It was as though he honestly didn’t realise that there was a problem with him maintaining such control over the relationship, even after I’d flat out told him – while obviously upset and crying – that I was unhappy with it. When we broke up, he actually had the gall to say that he didn’t realise I was so unhappy with him, and when I brought this up as an example, he said, “Well, that just shows that you are unhappy with my actions towards you, and not that you have a problem with me personally.”

        … And this chump is still not my worst ever boyfriend. Not by a long shot.

      • ako

        Not letting you carry money while traveling in a foreign country? Wow, that’s scary. I travel a lot, and I’d get nervous if the person I was traveling with wasn’t carrying at least enough cash for a cold drink, a phone call, and a ride back to wherever we were staying. (I can think of a dozen situations where being able to buy water or get a taxi could make the difference between a minor emergency and a major one.)

      • http://everydayisthorsday.wordpress.com Lusy

        I did at least have my card on me, so I could have found an ATM in an emergency. Or, seeing as I was the one carrying both cameras, the waterbottles we’d taken from the hotel, the phones and the Lonely Planet (cause I was going to take a bag anyway, so why should be bother carrying anything himself, right?), so if push came to shove, I could have pawned one of those off. But I hated feeling so dependent on him.

        I have no idea if he was just that entitled, or if he was just that oblivious to the consequences of what he asked of me sometimes. Like, one day, he’d be all on about how he had commitment issues and didn’t want anything long term, and then the next day he’d be asking me to quit school to go and live in Singapore with him… and then he’d be disappointed when my answer was, “No, because just ten minutes ago you were talking about your commitment issues, and me quitting school is a damn bigger commitment than anything you’ve ever promised me.”

        I think maybe he saw me as some kind of exotic pet.

      • Katty

        “Well, that just shows that you are unhappy with my actions towards you, and not that you have a problem with me personally.”
        Wow. Just wow. In what world exactly do one’s actions not define who one is?!? How could I have a problem with someone’s actions and NOT have a problem “with them personally”??

        Actually, now that I think of it, that may be the foundation of an abuser’s mind. That idea that although they might do some “unpleasant” things, that’s not who they ARE in their own minds so you can’t really hold it against them and it must always be someone else’s fault.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        Wow…me and the husband tell each other what we are spending the money on, but that’s more of a courtesy thing than a requirement. My ex’s money was always his money. My money was our money. *headdesk*

      • http://everydayisthorsday.wordpress.com Lusy

        I think that they often manage to believe that they themselves are the victims.

        My first shitty ex had an active victim complex (not “that just shows you have a problem with my actions” guy – much worse, actually). He somehow managed to convince himself that I had raped him – not because I had actually raped him, but because I had had sex before I met him. He actually said that discovering that I wasn’t a virgin felt like rape. I’m pretty sure that he has completely forgotten the time he actually raped me, but I’m not going to go ask him about that, for obvious reasons. I know that after we broke up, he went around telling people that I cheated on him and god knows what else – even though none of it was true. I think that he’s managed to 100% convince himself somehow that I’m an adulterous rapist, and he was the victim in the affair.

        The biggest commonality both my shitty exes had was jealousy. Whenever I watch Othello, I feel like I’m looking into this better-written mirror of my own life. They get jealous due to the most completely random stuff, and then they just get caught up in their jealousy that they assume that any pain they’re causing you is minuscule compared to the pain that they feel. I’m pretty sure that you could ask any abuser why they do what they do, and they’ll give you an answer along the lies of “But I was unhappy too!” They can’t comprehend that them being unhappy because they aren’t ready for commitment is completely different from you being unhappy because they called you a whore and request that you retroactively change the person who you were before you met them, because if you just did that then you would be perfect and they would be happy.

        They want to be with you, because they’ve decided that they “love” you, for their own definition of love, but at the same time being with you makes them unhappy, because they fear that you will leave them. “Poor and content is rich and rich enough, but riches fineless is as poor as winter to him that fears he ever shall be poor.” And so they try to control your actions because they feel that having complete control over you will give them control over their jealousy. Of course, this doesn’t work, and it just leads to the victim being suffocated in the bedchamber, but the jealous mind doesn’t think that far ahead. All they think is that if they control their partner’s actions enough, then they can place all the responsibility for their jealousy upon someone else, and they won’t have to feel it any more. Which is rubbish thinking, clearly.

  • http://everydayisthorsday.wordpress.com Lusy

    I think it’s worth noting that it’s not just the unequal nature of the submission that’s a problem. Even if both parties in the relationship agree to submit to each other, the whole idea of submitting ends up giving more power to the one more willing to abuse it.

    From my own experience:

    My recent ex had this idea that the way to deal with jealousy was for the person who made their partner jealous to stop doing whatever it was that made their partner jealous. So if I went dancing with some friends, for example, and he got jealous, then I should stop dancing. If he got jealous because I got a lift home with a male colleague, then I should find alternative transport arrangements. And, of course, if I got jealous because he did any of these things, then he would stop doing those things. Whenever I told him that I thought that this was being unfairly controlling, he would end up asking me if I would get at all jealous – and if I said, “Well, yeah, I might be a bit jealous, but I’d just try to deal with it rather than controlling your life,” then he’d take that as a victory and declare that it was therefore reasonable that he demand I “stop being like that”, because I’d admitted that I would also be jealous. (He did start considering the last part of my argument after I left him, but by that time it was too late, which he considered to be AWFULLY unfair.)

    Once he got upset with me because he didn’t know what a vibrator was. Seriously: I told him I had one once, and for some reason, he assumed clit stimulator, whereas I assumed the default would be the proper penis-shaped one. Some time later, this misunderstanding came to light, and I corrected him regarding what I originally meant. I didn’t think it was a big deal, until he started insisting that HE was right about what a vibrator actually was, and that I was wrong, and that I should just admit that HE was right and apologise for making him lose face. We had lots of this kind of argument – where a simple misunderstanding got blown out to massive proportions because he insisted that I give an abject apology in addition to correcting the initial misunderstanding. Apparently when he gets unreasonable, I’m supposed to just back down and apologise, and then when I get unreasonable, he would do the same for me.

    What he never considered that all of this was far more restrictive on me than it was on him, because I am, by nature, a far more easy going person than he is. I don’t get unfathomably jealous just because my partner has lunch with a member of the opposite sex and then doesn’t tell me until a few days later. I don’t get all pissy and argumentative because I don’t know the meaning of words. So even though it was theoretically “equal” that he thought we should both submit to each other in these matters, the way it worked out in practice was that I had to constantly monitor my actions, and he could just do whatevs.

    • Catcat

      Wow. This sounds like you are describing my ex-boyfriend/ex-relationship. Same dynamics. We had this rotating argument where I would wear “too much” makeup, or an “inappropriate” shirt, or simply an article of clothing he didn’t care for (for whatever reason, and there were many.) It always, always went like this:

      Him: Are you wearing that out…? Me: Yea. Him: [indicates that the makeup/clothing is not up to his arbitrary standards] Me: Um, but I like it and I want to wear it… Him: Well if I wore something you didn’t like, I would change! Me: But…I don’t really care what you wear, so I wouldn’t ask you to change, because I don’t care,and you should wear what you want. Also, you’re a guy who only owns like two shirts. Him: But if you didn’t like it, you would tell me right? And I would change! Because I *care* about what you think!

      It’s textbook manipulation. He set up an argument where I had much more of a vested interest (more clothes and makeup, more interest in experimenting with my clothing), put arbitrary limitations on that topic that disproportionately favored him despite the fact that they were “equal”, and when I rebelled against those limitations, I looked like the one being unreasonable. I ended up constantly monitoring my actions and worrying about the other arbitrary lines I could cross at any moment, without realizing it! And he just did whatevs.

      God, am I glad I didn’t marry him.

  • http://www.mauramulcair.com Maura Mulcair

    Your back-and-forth with Debi at the end had me in tears. Though I myself am with a wonderful, loving man, I have witnessed this caustic teaching in action.