Hello Dr. Buckingham,
I’ve just read your article about restoring trust. I am currently separated from my husband for the second time we’ve been married for 3 years and in January of 2014 he almost killed me by strangulation. In July of 2014 we attempted to reconcile. However, truthfully there are no boundaries set prior to him coming back home. The weekend leading up to our 2nd anniversary I actually felt really intimidated by something that he did. He raised his voice at me in front of others at my church and telling me to find a way home after he was apparently frustrated that I wasn’t moving fast enough to leave church. That in return brought back memories or feelings that left me feeling really uneasy. I asked him to leave again (the initial separation had to be done by law enforcement and through an order of protection). We are still separated, but just recently begin communicating more. I have never stopped praying, but it concerns me that my feelings, trust, and respect for him are still very minimal.
He speaks of us getting back together often. I am NOT totally against it however I don’t have peace about it. My faith has me holding on with the understanding that God can restore. So I’m pretty much just praying and waiting it out. Any advice or suggestions would be very helpful. In all honesty I don’t see how it can be restored after everything that I’ve experienced with him. There is so much more other then the physical violence: there is dishonesty, sneakiness and a host of other things that I have experienced with him. I don’t want to disclose all of them here because I still possess great concern and my life is involved in this.
Can God Change the Heart of an Abusive Husband?
I certainly look forward to your reply. Thank you and God bless
Dear Mrs. Faithful,
There are a lot of people who would praise you for sticking with your husband and trying to work things out because of your marriage vows. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who would tell you to leave immediately and never look back.
Before I provide insight about your marriage and husband, I am going to start off by encouraging you to seek professional counseling immediately. James 2:14-26 reminds us that Faith Without Works is Dead. There are many ways of interpreting the scripture and my thoughts are this: your faith in God is noteworthy, but unfortunately a damaged mind, heart and soul cannot be healed through prayer alone. I believe that we are justified by our work, not by our faith alone. God created Psychotherapists like myself to help people work through their psychological troubles.
I hear a lot of Christians talk about praying and waiting on signs from God. The problem with this thinking is that most do not know how to discern the right kinds of signs from the wrong kinds of signs. Which signs should you pay attention to: the signs that indicates that your marriage can be saved because your husband wants to get back together or the signs that indicates a troubled heart because you still have minimal trust and respect for your husband.
I believe that we focus on the signs that our family and friends encourage to focus on. Your church family is probably encouraging you to pray for your marriage and your husband and God will work things out. However, they may not be equipped or trained to help you understand or cope with the long-term psychological implications of the abuse that you have already experienced and will probably continue to experience at the hands of your husband. This is why you need to do more than pray. Please seek professional help for safety guidance and psychological support.
Now to answer your question! God gave every man the gift of free will. Given this, I believe that God provides us with what we need, but allows us to make our own decisions. Your husband’s heart can be changed only if decides that he wants to do the work. This work involves getting professional counseling, establishing a “serious and genuine” relationship with God and learning how to love himself. He cannot love you until he learns how to love himself. I believe that people who abuse others are projecting internalized hate and trouble outwardly. Do not believe or convince yourself that you can change your husband. His heart has to be transformed from within. He has to want it and work for it. Change is a personal journey.
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Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.