Question: “How do you know when it is really time to say no more to the emotional abuse in your marriage?”

My short answer: really and truly, you will just know.

However, here are some possible signs for you to look for within yourself that things have gone too far:

Even though you’re getting plenty of sleep, it’s never enough and you’re exhausted all the time.
You have no energy to do regular tasks.
You have gone to the doctor and there is nothing wrong with you physically.
Your friends are telling you that something seems wrong.
When you’re with friends, your marriage problems are all you talk about.
You would rather be anywhere but at home.  Or, you’re okay being at home, as long as your husband isn’t there.
Your home is not your refuge; it is your scariest or most-anxiety-producing place.
You lie to cover up what is going on in your marriage.
You and your spouse fight all the time.
Your spouse has a growing addiction that is getting out of control.
You are constantly looking for hidden bottles of alcohol, or trying to determine if it’s okay for your spouse to drive.
You are sad most of the time.
You are scared of your husband.
You don’t say most of what you would like to say to him because you fear the repercussions or everything getting turned around on you.
You are called names.
You are told what to do and what not to do.
You cry yourself to sleep.
All you pray about is your marriage or, on the other hand, you have stopped praying altogether because it isn’t working.
Your marriage and its problems are all you can think about; you are fixated on how you can keep your marriage together.
You are losing hope for your future.
You have asked Jesus to kill you because you feel you can’t get a divorce.

If this sounds like you, you are more than likely in a very difficult marriage and emotional abuse might be a part of it.

Here’s what you can do to start the healing process:

Pray. I must sound like a broken record, and praying may be the last thing you want to do, but “help” is one of the most powerful prayers in the world.

Read up on emotional abuse. The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick is excellent.

Get yourself in counseling if you’re not already. You can’t do this alone. Find a professional whose values line up with yours and lean into the wisdom of a third party to help you untangle the mess.

If you can bear it, write down concrete examples of the abuse you believe you’re experiencing.  This exercise may be very difficult for you, but it will be eye-opening and will help you when you need to start asking for help.

Ask for help, but not just any help. Not everyone gets this, I’m afraid.  Some people will treat an abusive marriage the same way they would treat a regular old hard marriage.  These are not the same animals and should be treated completely differently.  If you are told to cook more, have sex more, praise more, hold your tongue more (in other words, just be less youto make your husband be less harsh), then you have not found the right person to help you yet.  But don’t lose hope.  There are people who will understand you, hear you and help you.

Keep asking for help if you don’t feel truly heard.  You’ll know you’ve found the right person when he is willing to talk with your spouse and take them to task.   You’ll know you’ve found the right person when he says he’s going to walk you through this, when he says how you’ve been treated is not right and it’s going to stop and he’s going to help you.  Sweet one, there are people out there like that. I know firsthand.

If you or your children are physically or sexually unsafe, get out. Like, yesterday.  If you or your children are spiritually or emotionally unsafe, set clear boundaries with a counselor, pastor or trusted friend.

If your spouse is defensive, proud, unrepentant, and/or unchanging, a separation may be in order to attempt to jar his way of thinking.

Let me add: there’s saying no more to the abuse and there’s saying no more to the marriage and though those are sometimes the same things, they aren’t always.

If you have let yourself be abused for years, there’s grace.  You cannot change the past.  But you can look at how you want your tomorrow to be, and if it’s different than your today, then it’s time to start doing something about it.  There is a time for stillness; this is not that time.

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.