A common theme running throughout our shared stories of abuse is a false interpretation of God’s intent for relationships and marriage.
I’m a Christian, and my faith is what helped me to heal from my experiences. I also understand women who give up on God, or even blame Him for their experiences; I’ve been there too. Unfortunately, I also understand a partner who uses God and the Bible to justify their behavior, and keep their victim under control.
Victims and survivors commonly face five dilemmas when dealing with abusive partners and the healing process.
1. Women are to obey their partners.
This is a gross misunderstanding of what God actually set forth in the Bible. As early as Adam and Eve, God gave men the position of leadership over women. In the New Testament, Paul speaks about marriage, and women submitting to their husbands.
Some men use these passages to justify having control over their partner. They lay out rules for the relationship that the woman is to follow, and any difference of opinion is labeled un-Godly and disobedient. Men will use this dynamic to ensure their partner is keeping the house clean, doing laundry, making dinner, etc. Claiming it is her God-given job, and any lack of effort on her part is disobedience.
This is possibly the most common abuse of these passages. While the Bible does place husbands as the leader over their wife, it does so in the context of Christ over the church. Jesus is the ultimate example of Christian leadership. He stood fast in the truth, and elevated others above Himself. He always acknowledged the power of God over even Him, and lived to serve and love others.
If your partner is using the Bible to justify absolute control over you, he is twisting how God intended the marriage relationship to work. Which brings me to…
2. Men are the leaders of women.
This is very similar to what I mentioned above. Abusive husbands have the tendency to control their wives by using the Bible to justify their actions.
Some men use those same passages to justify all men being over all women. Somehow lowering women to a sub-gender that should submit to men in general.
However, that’s not what those passages are saying. As a woman, the only man God has put in a leadership position over you is your husband. Not your boyfriend, or your father, or your pastor. While you are to love and respect everyone, only your husband has been placed as a leader in your life. If another male figure tries to control and manipulate you, using the Bible as justification, they are either accidentaly or purposefully misinterpreting what God intended.
3. Sex is your husband’s right.
If your husband or boyfriend has used the Bible to justify control, I’m willing to bet he’s also used it to demand sex.
Sex is a gift from God in a marriage, and an actual physical need in your husband. This is not a post to address libido issues or offer sexual marriage counseling.
If your partner is using the Bible to force you to have sex with him, that’s rape. Remember; men are commanded to emulate Christ as a leader. Christ never demands anything from us. We are allowed free will to decide if and when we want to pursue a closer relationship with Him.
Now, there are many, many benefits of an intimate relationship with Christ. Similarly, having a healthy sex life is important in a marriage. When the Bible says not to deny your husband your body, it is in the context of spite or manipulation.
Just as you should not withhold sex to get your way, he should not force sex to get his.
4. Women should not seek marriage advice.
There is an odd assumption among some Christians that marriage issues are a super-secret problem that should never be shared. I have actually met women who sought help in an abusive marriage, only to be told they were in the wrong by exposing their husband’s flaws.
While marriage is private, and there are most certainly areas of a marriage to be kept private, it is also very healthy to seek help if you believe it is necessary. God never requires us to sit in silence if we are in pain. He encourages truth, and seeking communion and fellowship with fellow believers. What He does not encourage is gossip, or seeking to humiliate and disrespect your husband by airing his dirty laundry.
If your partner forbids you seeking relationship advice with other women, or becomes irate when he learns you spoke to a friend about an issue, this is a huge red flag. God created the church, and the body of Christ, for a reason. If you feel the need to seek help with your relationship with your husband, there is nothing in the Bible that prevents or discourages that.
5. The rest of the Bible is irrelevant.
This may seem ridiculous, but it’s something many people believe without realizing it. As soon as a woman enters into a relationship with an abusive man, he can begin to make her feel as though the only part of the Bible she should be concerned with is that little part about submission.
Forget the ministry, the church, visiting orphans, making business decisions (Prov. 31), standing up for truth, developing your relationship with God, etc. The man is responsible for all of those things. Your only concern is making sure you are insignificant enough to allow him to give you permission to do other Christian things.
Sounds insane, right? Yet, many “Christian” men perpetuate this idea. They can make you feel as though you must wait on them to let out your leash enough to do what the Bible asks of us.
I have news for you- God calls you to be a Christian. Your husband is supposed to be a spiritual leader. If he is directly suppressing your spiritual life, and using the Bible as his reason, he is in the wrong. Everything the Bible lays out for Christians still applies to you. You’re supposed to seek fellowship, join a body of believers, grow in your relationship with God, and obey His calling for you.
Your husband is supposed to lead you closer to God. If he tries to control and limit your relationship with Him, that is a major abuse of his position as a leader.
This article is not meant to degrade imperfect men. There are many, many Christian men out there earnestly trying to be a Godly husband. This is not meant as a Christian/Feminist “all men are evil” rant. It’s not even directed at men at all.
It’s meant as a wake-up call to women in these relationships. Women with abusive boyfriends or husbands who manipulate the Bible to justify their control issues and insecurities. All men are imperfect, and will be an imperfect leader; this doesn’t make them abusive monsters.
However, as women, especially Christian woman, we tend to let abusers get away with their actions because, “the Bible tells me to…” God doesn’t want you to feel worthless. He didn’t create you to be a doormat. He didn’t reserve meaningful callings for men only. Your personality wasn’t meant to be white-washed as soon as a man entered your life.
If your husband uses the Bible to make you feel as though you must obey him without question, attend church only if and when he allows, and forbids you from connecting with other believers, he is using it out of context. It is up to you to take control of your spiritual life, and to fulfill your life’s calling. You do not need your husband’s permission to do what God already asked you to do.