Last time we talked about what you should not say to a woman in an abusive or addiction-fraught marriage, and now we’re going to talk about what’s okay to say. 

You must picture working with an abused woman as if you’re putting together a puzzle, while walking through a field of landmines. Say the wrong thing and you can set her back five years in her healing. Say the right thing and you can help set her free. This is not a one-size-fits all situation. Each marriage is unique.  Each pain needs to be heard and taken in and empathized with. 

Here are some of the kind words that were like healing balms to the women in the Facebook groups I moderate. Some are from the women, some were told to these women. Are these the kinds of words you use?

“I have a dear friend, a much older woman who had a challenging marriage and is now a widow, who I turn to at times. She is great at reminding me that God is faithful and He has never abandoned me.”

“That I would survive and that it is difficult but it will not kill me.  God is in control and He won’t let me down.”

One woman was told: “You don't have to make any quick decisions.”

“God does not ask you to live in bondage.”

“You are not responsible for the outcome of your marriage, only for your attitude, actions and relationship with God.”

“Regarding whether to file or not, my pastor counseled, “Let the bad guy be the bad guy,” believing my now ex-husband would show his true colors and divorce me.”

“No one person can fix a marriage by themselves. It always takes two regardless of how the issues started because there are actions and there are reactions.”

“My pastor and his wife came over the day I found proof of my now ex-husband’s affair. He sat with us all my kids and supported me while I ask my ex-husband to leave the home and told kids we need a break from each other. My pastor looked at me and said, ‘You are free of this marriage if you want to can I help you?’”

"This is your church home. I will do everything in my power to make sure you are safe. You can go to another church if you feel like you need to heal, but this is your home."

“My pastor was supportive and told me it was good I did what I had to for our safety.”

“When I told my pastor I decided to divorce my husband, I had been singing on the worship team. I said I knew I would need to step down and he said it was important for me to do what God called me to do. He said I was not in sin, so there was no "punishment" for me.”

“You gotta know…I’m on your side.”

“You are an honorable woman who desperately seeks His will and His way.”

"I love you, and I'm going to be with you every step."

My pastor looked me in the eye and said, with conviction, "This is not your fault."

“During a counseling session with just me, a Godly minister looked me in the eyes, and gently, but steadfastly, told me my husband had broken his marriage vows to me, the ones he made before God, by his continuing disrespectful, emotionally abusive behavior. He said to me, "Through no fault of yours, you are living in a marriage that is not God-honoring. Your husband has broken his vows. You may stay, or you may go, but it is your decision. You are not powerless, and you have choices. They are yours to make." From that point on, I no longer felt helpless.”

My heart swells over these words. Being in an abusive or addiction-filled marriage can be terrifying and emotionally paralyzing. It can take years and a multitude of incidents to even acknowledge and begin to believe your reality is as difficult and sad as it is. So to read the words of people who heard and understood and stood up for these women in their most vulnerable time brings me great hope.