One woman wrote, “He began to change when I began to respect and, subsequently, stand up for myself (and my children).”

Another pointed out that standing up for oneself sometimes involves no longer fearing what others think. “Part of why I continued to deal with it all those years was fear of losing important relationships, and being ostracized by the church. Finally, I just fell back on God. I stopped caring about what people at church may or may not do. I stopped being scared. When he would rant, I would just look at him and not cower. When he would threaten to tell everyone who knew me things that were private that I didn't want everyone to know, I finally got to the point that I didn't care. So, I stopped letting him intimidate me.”

A woman said of her former husband, “He told everyone that I had an affair, though I did not. Of course, he never mentioned his affairs to our friends and neighbors. I decided to stand up for myself and put him out even if the neighbors thought I was the bad person. Interestingly, he still visits my next-door neighbor, plays tennis in my neighborhood, and attends parties where he thinks I will be. It's annoying, but what can I do? I no longer let his trying to destroy my reputation control me. So, I show up, genuinely smile, and have fun. I know who I am. I will not allow him to win his cruel game.”

Got Help

Help included intensive marriage workshops such as our Marriage Helper 911 weekends, counseling, mentoring from pastors, and working through marriage materials together.

One respondent noted, “He still does many controlling things, but he is getting better after meeting with our pastor every other week. He also reads a lot of self-help type books and listens to marriage speakers. He has the greatest improvement when he reads the Bible consistently.”

Another woman said, “A turning point came when he gained a sort of self-acceptance that allowed him to be honest with himself and with others about the things he had done right and wrong. We are also in counseling together now which is helping to address issues past and present.”

A wife reported, “I attempted to get us into marriage counseling. He went under pressure for only one session. Recently I purchased The Art of Falling in Love book and the LovePath DVD that goes with it, and asked him to watch the DVD with me. He was angry with me after viewing the DVD but I think some of it sunk in, especially a story on the DVD about a woman who left her husband because he was telling her how to think and feel (disrespect). He is starting to understand and is trying to let go of his controlling ways.”

When nothing else seems to work: Divorce

We believe that every marriage can be saved if both people stop doing the things destroying their marriage and start doing those things that cause love to grow. However, some of our respondents said that their controlling spouses would not stop the devastating behavior. Finally, they divorced.

One woman stated, “Divorce. Whew. It was very difficult - my very straight hair is now curly from stress (yes, really) still 7 years later - and we still struggle with control over kids. He dumps them, I pick up the pieces, and he has to pay for it. Thank the Lord that I now have a wonderful new husband who is the complete opposite. He is a great mediator even though my ex blames him for everything.”

Another wife shared, “I came to realize that he was trying to set me up in a situation where he could justify divorcing me. We were in a male-dominated church that traditionally is very controlling. He was constantly accusing me of cheating, and constantly telling me that I was a bad wife because I was not submissive. In a fit of rage, he actually screamed that he wished I would cheat on him, leave him, or just disappear. That was a ‘light bulb’ moment for me. I stopped taking in all his criticism. I was just really matter of fact that I was his wife and I was doing everything I could. Eventually, he told me, ‘There is nothing you can do, I want you out of my house by the end of summer.’”