Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Marriage is not Hard – You Have been Lied to

Gen 2:23-24 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (24) Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

One of the primary reasons churches are so filled with unbiblical teaching and man-made tradition parading as God’s Word is that those who are doing the teaching should not be teaching anyone. Wicked doctrine is promulgated by wicked teachers. And frankly, we have been having truckloads of evil teaching dumped on us in church for decades now.
One of these lies is that marriage is hard. You hear the mantra over and over. “Well, that is tough, but you know, marriage is hard. We are all sinners. You have to work at it.” Yada, yada.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Sure, we all have some bumpy times in our marriages. I have said unkind things to my wife on occasion. She has …. actually I can’t think of anything she has done!  But when we sin against one another, we genuinely repent and we don’t make such sin a habit. We love one another. We consider one another. But this is not what I am talking about when I say “marriage is not hard.”
When many pastors or professing Christians tell an abuse victim that “marriage is hard,” they mean something entirely different. They mean something like:

well, you promised to love this man as long as you both shall live, no matter what. And even though he is doing all the evil things you say he is, marriage is hard. You have to work at it. It is unpleasant, but we said we would ‘do it,’ and that is what God expects. It’s a lot like eating beets. They make you gag, but you have to eat your veggies.”

I have news for you. Marriage is not hard. Marriage as God intends it, as God gifted men and women with, is a very good thing. It is a blessing, not a curse. Even in this post-fall world.
So, let me tell you something else. If your marriage is a constant struggle, a characteristically miserable state of affairs, if you are living on eggshells moment by moment, then that is not normal! In fact, I will say that is not marriage. So don’t believe the lies about marriage being “hard.” If it is hard, it is because you are married to a hard-hearted person who is living only for himself. In other words, he lied when he said the vows.
Is it possible that there are some marriages that are “hard” or “troubled” because both husband and wife are being selfish consistently and characteristically. Yes. But even in such a case, the counseling mantra, “marriage is hard” is a lie. Marriage as given to us by the Lord as a blessing is not what is hard. Sinners are the ones who are hard. God did not create marriage as something that is to be an ongoing battle or a daily abuse of one spouse by the other. He created it as a wonderful union of a man and a woman to remedy aloneness.
Marriage is not hard. If yours is, then it is not a marriage. The abuser lied from the beginning.


The Abusive Man as a Servant of Righteousness — Sermon by Ps Jeff Crippen


Waiting for Sasha – The Believer's Certain Hope


  1. Leanne

    Thank you! Even tho the only marriage I have been in was an abusive one which God has rescued me from, I have been thinking for the past few years when I hear that mantra quoted over and over that it is meant to cover up abuse and sin, and not what God designed for His children.

  2. cindy burrell

    Amen, Brother! My former marriage was an insidious, toxic, incremental descent into a living hell. My marriage now is how marriage should be – easy – because we are always looking out for each other!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jesus’ yoke is light. His burden is easy. Where he leads us, he leads us into freedom. And even in times of suffering and trial – if we are there truly by His doing, there will come a way of escape and until then he empowers us by His Spirit to still be able to rejoice. It is men’s false teachings that keep us in bondages that destroy and kill.

  3. Tony

    Well said.

  4. MicroGal

    This gives me hope. I always wondered why I was miserable and depressed, feeling as if we were roommates rather than husband and wife. My ex abused me horribly when I would admit these things to him, because – of course – it’s my fault and I must fix it.
    I live in peace these days, and if the Lord sees fit, I look forward to the possibility of marrying a truly godly man someday.

  5. cindy burrell

    MicroGal – I’ve been there. It’s not your fault, and it never was. Relish the peace you have now and, should God bring a godly man into your life, that will be a sweet blessing. I only encourage you to trust your instincts going forward, and refuse to settle. It is so tempting to return to that which is familiar. Wait for exceptional. 🙂

    • MicroGal

      Thank you, Cindy. No, you’re right, his serial cheating and porn addiction never were my fault, though he loved to blame me for it. Healing is hard work, but God is faithful. I am forever grateful for His mercy.

  6. Liz

    Thank you…. the “marriage is hard “ statement has been lobbed at me as well as “marriage is to make you holy and not happy”
    Wow so if I didn’t know better, God ordains misery…
    But I do.
    I too have been rescued out of an abusive marriage to a gay man (he now says he isn’t) ummm…for the second time! My children won’t speak to him. What kind of holiness is this misery…

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Liz. You have grown wise. And free!

      • Debby

        I don’t even like to use the term “Christian marriage.” There are good, healthy marriages where the spouse (or both) are born again Christians and good, healthy marriages where they are not. Being “Christian” or claiming to be doesn’t make a marriage automatically healthy, and often is used to lure a spouse who is kind and giving into a false sense of security. Consistently showing the fruits of the spirit WHICH I HAVE SEEN IN THE SAVED AND THE UNSAVED is the key to a healthy relationship with anyone but especially necessary in marriage.

        • Jeff Crippen

          Debby – Just to be clear, and thank you for your comment – the fruit of the Spirit is only in a real Christian’s life. Not in an unsaved person. Now, what you may be thinking of is what is called common grace. That is to say, the Lord graciously restrains sin or else every sinner would be as evil as they possibly could be. He does eventually give the wicked over to their sin (See Romans 1 on that) if they refuse to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks. In reality, the unsaved person cannot do anything good. It may look like it, but for an action to be truly good in God’s sight, it must stem from a right motive, namely, love for God and a desire to obey Him. There are many outwardly moral people in the world, but on the day when they stand before Christ He will reject them if they have not been born again. Sheep on his right, goats on his left.

          • Debby Seguin

            Thank you for your reply, Jeff. It always amazes me the time you spend to communicate with us! I do understand from a Salvation standpoint that being kind and patient isn’t going to make a difference for that person in the end (and of course it’s the most important difference of all since it deals with ETERNITY!) I was pointing out that looking at a person’s ACTIONS and listening to their attitudes towards others is a much better indicator of the kind of person they are than having the label of “Christian.” It seems the label Christian brings automatic assumption of that fact when it is actions that play out the truth. Narcs are so good at playing the part long enough to catch you in the “locked cage of permanence view of marriage” that I don’t even know how someone without expetience CAN discern before they say I Do. I think I can now discern based on my experience, but no way would I have “seen” it back then. Helping others avoid my 30 year story from hell seems 2-pronged. Pre-teaching our youth that these people exist and their tactics, and debunking the permanence view in cases of abuse (which you do QUITE eloquently, thank you!) But we live in such a romanticized culture that to speak and teach the practicalities of manipulative people and their tactics just really rains on the whole romantic love culture.

          • Jeff Crippen

            Thanks Debby👍

          • Jeff Crippen

            Debby – A related thought I have had lately that I think goes along with what you are saying here. We “bless” people for marrying a “Christian” and affirm that a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian. And then churches and pastors demand that an abuse victim remain married to their “Christian” abuser. But we quickly quote scripture that tells us a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian. However, as you note, usually this “christian” business is in name only. When the Bible tells us not to be joined together with an unbeliever and to marry “in the Lord,” it is talking about REAL Christians. People who have been born again. That is a Christian marriage. Pastors all too often assume that someone they are going to perform a wedding ceremony for is a Christian just because they have grown up in the church, been baptized, etc. That does not make a Christian. And as you say, most “Christian” marriages, aren’t.

    • Stormy

      Yes that quote “marriage should make you holy not happy” from abuse apologist preacher Gary_______can’t remember his last name

  7. M&M

    This would be easy to apply if people only fit into boxes of loving and abusive, but my experience suggests that people are on a continuum from hard to soft with some in the middle. Some spouses are neither bad enough to biblically divorce nor good enough to make marriage easy. In such cases, the other spouse has to walk by faith not by sight not knowing if God will eventually make the marriage easy or eventually give them reason to leave, but looking for His will each day.

    • Jeff Crippen

      M&M – the key is to keep a clear definition of the abuser in mind. As I always say, a marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended. Abusers all share the same fundamental characteristics – profound sense of entitlement to power and control, a conscienceless sense of justification in using an arsenal of abusive tactics to gain and maintain the power and control they just know they are entitled to. Some abusers may use more intense tactics than others, but the very same evil DNA is in their psyche.
      A person is a Christian or they are not a Christian. And if they are a Christian, the Bible says repeatedly that they will love the brethren. In fact, that is our badge to the world that we know Christ. A person who says they know God but hate their brother is a liar. So a person is either darkness or light, as the Apostle John says so clearly in his first Epistle.

      • M&M

        True, but even genuine believers take time to grow in love as a lifelong process.

        • Jeff Crippen

          There are things that are true of every single Christian, no matter how new of a believer they are. For example: 1) They are led by the Spirit (Romans 8). If they aren’t, they are not Christians (also Romans 8). 2) They love and have commonality and fellowship with other genuine believers, in contrast to the false Christians of whom John says “they went out from us because they were not of us.” 3) They are characterized by a heart desire to do the things Paul describes as the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5) and they are grieved at the things of the flesh. 4) They have all been “taught” by the Spirit of Jesus (1Jn 2:27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in him).
          I could go on, but there are many things that are true of every Christian and we must take care not to be drawn into the false and common claim “but we are all sinners.” The Bible never calls Christians “sinners.” It gives lots of titles to us, but that is not one of them. A Christian will never continue to walk habitually in sin so as to be characterized by sin. If a person is so characterized, they are not a Christian.
          This does not mean the Christian in this life is ever perfectly sanctified, but it does mean that there are many biblical standards that we must hold people to who claim to be Christians. A person who is habitually abusive to others and is not truly repentant about doing so is simply not a Christian.

        • M&M

          I agree that habitual abusers aren’t Christian, but I see more than 2 boxes of people. We have loving believers, evil controlling abusers, and I’ve met plenty of people who are neither. There are compassionate non-Christians and there are people who are selfish, but not controlling (for example-really lazy). PS. The comments via email aren’t working, I’m just re-checking the webpage.

  8. M&M

    I also feel complicated about testimonies where the husband cheats, repents, and the wife thinks that God wants her to stay married. If the repentance is genuine, I hate to assume the wife is wrong, but I hate the implication that all wives should do the same. One such testimony was presented that the cheater impregnated another woman after his wife gave birth and God saved his marriage and there was no mention of him supporting the other child. Even if his wife felt healed and happy, it’s still not inspirational until he supports all his children and spends time with all his children.

  9. Stormy

    Maybe Gary Tomas is not making excuses for abusers but his quotes are being used to guilt tender hearted women into staying in abusive marriages to become holy. It’s really so horrible for these women please stop it!!!

    • M&M

      Stormy, that’s a good example! I read the sex chapter of “Sacred Marriage” to see if he blamed wives for everything and was pleasantly surprised that it emphasized mutuality. Of course it didn’t explain when it’s appropriate to divorce, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.
      I’ve heard at least 2 other famous Christians who were inadequate at addressing abuse, but who at least emphasized mutuality and told husbands not to be critical. One said that the spouse who doesn’t want sex has the power so the one who wants it has to be loving, caring, and respectful to get it. I wish that were alway true but I know that abusers take what they want no matter what. It was a great idea for couples where both parties have a minimum level of respect.

    • Ginny

      Gary Thomas is very clear about the sin of abuse, and strongly corrects Christian leaders who keep abused women in bondage. He addressed this on his blog.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Ginny- as I recall, Thomas was not all that clear in his book. A lot of times people write these marriage books but fail to present clear teaching about abusers and abusive marriages. Then their comments are taken by abusers and by pastors and others as applying to all cases. The real bottom line test is whether or not they clearly and plainly without apology tell abuse victims God will bless a divorce. Many only come at this tangentially, not wanting to fall out of favor with the church power brokers.

      • M&M

        Ginny, I read an article online by Gary that was correctly harsh on abusers and churches that enable them, but I read comments from others that his book “Sacred Influence” was harsh on women, which is why I was afraid of finding the same in “Sacred Marriage”. What I found is mixed messages.

    • Stormy

      Did Gary Thomas say “ marriage is not supposed to make you happy, it’s supposed to make you holy?” If he said that than it’s directly out of the abuse apologist handbook. As a victim statements like this made me feel I was supposed to suffer. The relationship was supposed to be horrible because I was dying to self and therefore the suffering was pleasing to god. How freaking sick is that. So yes Gary Thomas doesn’t get off the hook as a martyr for the cause of victims. These phrases need to be stricken from the books.

  10. IamMyBeloved’s

    I agree, Jeff! Excellent!
    I will only say this. Once the covenant is broken, there is no marriage without true repentance and a restoring of the covenant (vows taken again). That is my position. To remain married without a covenant simply makes the people in that marriage, fornicators.

    • MicroGal

      IMB ….can you help me understand the difference between a contract and a covenant? My ex used to tell me our covenant could only be broken by God and we were married for life (didn’t keep him from cheating the entire time we were married and also having many, many gf’s as soon as we divorced). One of my elders, also a family court judge, told me that my ex’s cheating was an act of divorce (broken vows).

    • M&M

      IMB, I hope you will understand if I say that only the cheater is a fornicator because the non-cheating spouse is in a very difficult position where neither staying nor leaving is easy. Therefore, if the non-cheating spouse stays in spite of non-repentance, I wouldn’t say “the people in the marriage” are fornicators as if both were guilty.
      And now I’m remembering a very depressing article about how in some parts of Africa it’s so normal for men to spend their paychecks on prostitutes and alcohol that wives have to charge their husbands money for sex to pay the rent or feed the kids. Some husbands comply and some get violent instead of paying. Human rights groups praised the women for taking a stand and “family values” groups criticized them for “acting like prostitutes” and I was angry at both. Angry that the “rights” groups failed to mention how this isn’t the final goal and isn’t how marriage ought to be and angry how the “values” groups failed to consider the desperate oppression men had caused to drive women to take drastic measures. How else did the “values” groups think that women would meet her kids financial needs? Some of these women even work but don’t make enough after husband’s spending. At the same time it still feels like prostitution-just prostitution done under duress (which most is-in marriage or on the streets). It feels like there’s no end to injustice 🙁 🙁 🙁

  11. Annette

    Hi Jeff, just wondering what you think of David Hawkins and his organisation the Marriage Recovery Center cheers,

    • Jeff Crippen

      Annette- I don’t know him or his program. But frankly I proceed on the assumption such “ministries” are based on false doctrine and are ignorant about abuse and abusers. These “marriage fixer” types have a terrible record of enabling abusers and keeping victims in bondage. If Hawkins can prove he is the rare exception then let him do so but I never recommend such people to anyone. I am not being haughty- I have simply learned from hard experience.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I looked at his website briefly. He is approved by the AACC ie, “biblical counselors” association. That tells me all I need to know. Steer clear of him.

  12. I Am Stubborn and Courageous

    Such a beautiful blog! We’re about to celebrate our first year (PLT!!!) And while we don’t have the experience of those who have been married for years, I can say the times where it has been bumpy are those times where I’ve learned sooooo much about myself and my best friend and my relationship with my First Love, Jesus. Thank you for writing this to break that awful lie that is crippling those who have lost hope. Again THANK YOU FOR THIS BLOG!!!!

  13. Debby

    And Jeff, in response to your reply, you said the church says not to marry non Christians and then insists we stay after finding our they are not (based on their actions toward us, not on their church attendabce, bible highlighting) and then throw the “stay and by your actions and silence you can win them to christ” which is ridiculous since I went into it without that even being considered since he is\was\says HE IS ALREADY A CHRISTIAN! It’s like, “Oh, so he lied and used trickery to get you to say yes? Well what an opportunity!!” Now I’m just laughing at the ridiculousness!

  14. Stormy

    Thank you for posting this.

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