Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Journey from Marital Abuse

Posted by Hannah at 3:24 PM

My Journey From Marital Abuse
To the outside world, we were the ideal American family … but within the walls of our beautiful home, something was terribly wrong.

by Trudy M. Johnson

Have you ever found yourself in circumstances so difficult you literally wanted to run away? I was once in such a place. Like the psalmist, I wanted to cry out, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest" (Psalm 55:6, NIV).

As an adult, I literally ran away from home. I ran away from a 3,000 square-foot, custom-built cedar home with a pool. I ran away from a successful business. I ran away from a country club membership. In the world's eyes, I had it all. Yet I ran away.

When bruises would show up on my shins, I wore long dresses or pants. Makeup covered the broken capillaries on my right cheek or sometimes my chin.


Rocky Beginnings

Six months into my marriage, I knew I was in trouble. My husband brought a huge amount of unresolved anger into our marriage. His bad childhood became my bad marriage. When I married him, I was somewhat aware of his past, but realistically, I was still very naive about how deep his wounds were — and how his experience as a victim of childhood abuse would impact me and our two sons.

At different times, his brand of physical and mental cruelty included kicking me with steel-toed boots, trying to force my hands into the flames of the fireplace — even aiming a gun at me. For 23 years, he held me hostage with the threat that if I left, I’d never see my sons again.

At first, my optimistic outlook on life kept me believing that if I would just love him enough, he would change. I loved him, I prayed for him, I tolerated the pain he caused me, and year after year I ignored the lack of normalcy in my life.

In my denial, I never gave up hope that he would change. I made excuses for his behavior and hoped and prayed, never seeing any evidences of change. Perhaps it was my fault, I thought … if I were to just love him more.


Within the setting of our beautiful home, my two boys and I learned to live in survival mode. Like three little mice, never knowing when the trap would spring shut, our tolerance for name calling, intimidation, shaking, yelling, pushing and hitting was forced to grow.

The three of us kept our family secret very well. When bruises would show up on my shins, I wore long dresses or pants. Makeup covered the broken capillaries on my right cheek or sometimes my chin.

But worse by far than the physical abuse was the verbal abuse. I hardly remember a day when I wasn't insulted, put down or verbally assaulted. The words sunk deep into my soul and did almost irreparable damage. Truly, words have the power of life or death.

To the outside world, we were the ideal American family. We were country club members and successful business owners. My boys excelled in school and in sports. My children and I learned to cope, and our hearts shared our common secrets.

Too Much to Bear

By 1989, 19 years of this destructive lifestyle had taken its toll on my emotional health. People can be grumpy or negative and it will not hurt you deeply. But in a destructive relationship like my marriage, the abuser destroys the very core of your being.

They gradually wear away the very person you are until you no longer have a healthy image of who God made you to be. In the abuser’s presence you become so beaten down that you begin to expect bad treatment. What's worse, you actually "feed" on that bad treatment. It was in the depths of the resulting depression that I began to plan my own suicide.

By this time, my sons had finally left home and both were attending the United States Air Force Academy — well out of my husband’s reach. I began writing letters to my boys in case I ever truly got the courage to end my life. As I journaled, I began copying verses from the Psalms into small notebooks.

I had a tiny little Bible, the kind they give soldiers in the field. I would hide in the bathroom to read it. As I copied verses — Oh, how they penetrated my soul! It was the balm of those words that began my emotional healing.

'The Balm of Giliad'

Journeying through the Psalms and journaling were the tools that helped me survive three more tough years. I developed an intense appetite for God's Word and I read my Bible whenever possible. The Holy Spirit began to heal me from the inside out.

Eventually, I was able to become strong enough spiritually to have a God other than my abusive husband. This inner strength helped me break free of my domestic bondage. Once I "let go" of everything in my life, the Lord began to work.

At last, my relationship with God was more important than anything else. I let go of the house. I let go of the pool. I let go of the business. I let go of the country club membership. Hardest of all, I let go of my marriage.

Letting go of my marriage was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I'd hoped so long for change, but I finally had to admit to myself that I could not "fix” him, nor could I fix my marriage.

Your Maker Is Your Husband

I began to trust God for whatever the future might hold. Once I let go of what the world had to offer, the Lord miraculously began to orchestrate events whereby I was able to leave my emotionally and physically unsafe home.

The truth is, God doesn't ever call us to be destroyed trying to save someone else. He doesn't ask us to be destroyed saving a relationship. He only asks us to let Him be Lord of our life.


In order to make my escape, it was necessary for me to choose only my most precious possessions. After nine months of preparation and planning — and with the help of my sister who did all the behind-the-scenes legwork — on July 8, 1994, I became a "missing person."

I left behind almost every material thing I owned. With just my clothes and a few personal items, I ran away from home. My face could have been on a milk carton. I was an adult runaway.

The Truth Will Make You Free

Through my journey, I learned that Jesus Christ came to "bind up the brokenhearted [and] proclaim freedom for the captives" (Isaiah 61:1). The truth is, God doesn't ever call us to be destroyed trying to save someone else. He doesn't ask us to be destroyed saving a relationship. He only asks us to let Him be Lord of our life.

He calls us to let go of the things that hold us in bondage. He especially wants no other Gods before Him — including abusive husbands.

Ultimately, there are some situations and some people that only the Lord can change. I know my own spiritual compass had to be fixed before God would heal my soul from the damage done by the abuse in my life.

For me, God is restoring "the years the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25). I have no regrets about running away. As a matter of fact, I run on a daily basis. The difference is that I now run to the one who brought order and healing into my life, my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Trudy Johnson has been an employee of Focus on the Family since August of 1994, working in the Pregnancy Resource Ministry. She has been happily and peacefully remarried for seven years to her husband Lonney, who also works at Focus.


Copyright © 2004 Focus on the Family
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure why I choose to read your journal, I guess there was a reason. I am with a boyfriend that isn't physically abusive, but the mental abuse i endure is exactly how you said, it eats me alive. I think that I to have lost some of who I am. Away from him I am a total different person. I always think if I love him more he will change and see me differently. i am going to print your letter and carry it with me, maybe reading it i will get courage to leave. i to beleive God is the only way, and you know your right God doesn't want us to be sad and miserable. God Bless you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I am in an emotionally abusive relationship. we have a beautiful 15 month old son named Josiah. I have been believing for my husband's salvation, but at the same time I have suffered and reached my wit's end. I have been trying to forgive and forget as God does, but it is not possible when I am belittled and put down every time I may not meet my husband's high expectations or if he's just in a bad mood. Everything is my fault, i'm overly emotional, sometimes i'm even considered psychologically insane. Words do take a major toll. For me especially in the last month or two. my delimma has been the divorce issue, but i think you said it all when you said we are not to have any other God's before Him. This has stolen my joy, peace, my intimacy with the Lord and has almost put me into an emotional spiral of chaos. Thank God I have Him in my life. I think i can say with confidence that I must get out unless things change now. thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

Your journal has brought joy to my spirit. I am married to man that has verbally abused me for 20 years. I have considered suicide on numerous occasions. Recently I wrote what I thought was an anonomiuos letter to our pastor; thinking that he would preach a surmon on how a husband should treat his wife. Unfortunately he researched and found out I was the one who wrote it. He talked to my husband after I asked him not to. I believe he thinks that the reason my husband does these things is becasue he had an abusive childhood and plus the fact that he is bipolar and manic depressive. I think he uses his mental illness as an excuse to treat me the way he does. Financially he has ruined us on three different occasions. The only strength I get is from my relationship with the Lord. He belittles me and critizes me daily. Recently I told him I thought I would have a breast reduction and he said "Why don't you get a facelift while you are at it". If he feels this way why at times does he tell me I am pretty? Is it to keep me confused and off balance? I have left him 7 times in the 20 years we have been together. I don't know why I keep taking him back. I pray that one day I can leave and have a life of my own. I pray daily from deliverance from this situation.

Anonymous said...

I'm going through a very hard time. My husband (like most of the peoples comments that I read)is very emotionally abusive.I myself already suffer from depression and OCD,which is worse when he is around. Walking on egg shells all the time. I have told him how I felt for along time.I'm at the point that my heart and mind can't take much more. I have read so many verses though that say God hates divorce. Now that I finally have taken a stand for myself my husband says he will change,but I just can't beleive him because I have heard it for 4yrs. It took me leaving.He tried to use God words against me. Telling me that if I don't take him back or let him back in the house that I'm evil and God will disown me.Your words words make me feel a little better. I know that God wants us to be happy. I just don't want to dispoint God or anyone else. I don't know what to do. Even our preacher says that I need to work on it,but I have been for 4yrs. and nothing has changed and I feel that there is nothing left in me. I just want to give up. Thanks for listening and telling your experiences to others so that it may help them.

Anonymous said...

I too have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for 15 years now. Mine is the see-saw type of emotional abuse. My husband becomes loving and draws me in, I think oh God, maybe he's changing, maybe my prayers have been answered, he finally realizes that he was wrong, just when I start thinking that,he pulls the rug right from under me. All the cruetly he can muster up comes out of him. He'll start with total withdrawal from me, insulting me concerning itimacy issues, gets angry, punches walls, talk about my family, become totally ugly and
negative, he is also an alcoholic which adds to the problem. Then the cycle begins again. You realize that it's not going to change unless you leave, your self-esteem is something you lost long ago, and you just can't seem to end the marriage, even thou you know it is really not a marriage, it is a destructive, chaotic unhealthy nightmare. I pray for me and all other women who had their dreams of happily ever after yanked from them. We will get the strength one day, and heal and pray to our Lord to love again, only this time to love someone that is worthy of us!

Anonymous said...

I recently 'reconciled' with my husband of five years after living apart for four. I believed his words filled with scripture and his actions like joining a men's accountability group and attending church.I felt God was really at work in his life and it was an answer to years of prayer.No one- and I mean NO ONE thought it was a good idea to move back to the house, because of the level of past abuse to me and the children, and his unwillingness to talk with any of our old friends or church leaders. He said we needed to make new friends and get a new church for our new start, and if I was serious about committing to him, I would do whatever it takes to move forward-not live in the past with bad memories(neighbors,church, friends, FAMILY). I had used the years apart to get help and heal with professional Christian support, and felt capable, in-control, and discerning... so I decided to trust him. Within 3 weeks of moving back, the mask came off and there was the same man, but worse. The four years apart had been financially and emotionally disasterous for him,and he is furious with me because he feels it was all my fault, and I need to pay. (again)...There are no words to describe how I feel about the reality of being here. I guess I am writing this to warn others about how believable deceived people can be, and the stronghold Satan can have that convinces people they can do ANYTHING, including using God and God's people to get what they want. It's so hard to breathe when he is home... I have to pray contantly to keep from jumping out of my skin or wanting to argue or defend myself from his endless bizarre abuse. I am 50 years old, and I have to walk away from my bad decision pennyless and completely trust God. I sometimes think I see a better me on the other side of this nightmare...maybe this was God's plan all along... I pray.

Anonymous said...

somehow i have been called in by a friend to read these postings. My words are those of encouragement.
I was in a similarly physical, emotional and intense psychological abuse. I cried out to God out in desperation, asking for Him to move me far away from my ex husband.The abuse continued for three years, not only from him but even fro his family members.
The good news is that I walked out of the marriage to the UK ten years ago with practically nothing.
in a very sensible and Holy Spirited way, he released my two sons to join me. Today, I have established myself, in my profession and reasonable doing well. My sons are happy and well settled. Thanks to God for making a way for me. I have stayed away from men because it is truly hard to trust any other man after my previous experience. My sweetest and most reliable husband is God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as my guide and companion.
If God can do this for me, He can do it for you as well. GET out of SUCH ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP. Trust GOD to help you find yourself, settle and establish you, no matter your peculiar situation.
It calls for you to get serious with your God and know HIM. Remember Daniel 11:32b.
God bless you all!

Anonymous said...

Please help me. I have been married for 21 years. The verbal abuse started when my children were young. I withdrew from my family and friends and threw myself into bible study. The Lord gave me the strength to stay. Now I feel like I have suddenly awakened to what was happening through those years and I look back on them and say "what were you thinking", "Why did you put up with that". The abuse approached physical once. He kneed me several times in the back of the legs pushing me into the car--we were going to church and of course we were late. I turned on him and put my finger in his face and said "that is one line we are not going to cross" and he hasn't. But I am confused most of the time. He is very sweet and tells me that he loves me. He buys me things and places me on a pedestal, only to knock me off with his cutting words. Then he apologizes and back on the pedestal I go.....until the next time. He has withdrawn affection from me. He has criticized several different intimate actions-to the point that I basically have to just allow him to take care of his needs whenever he is in the mood. If I initiate intimacy- he turns me down. I can't remember the last time he kissed me other than the peck on the cheek every morning when he leaves for work and the habitual "I love you" at the same time. Yes, his words tell me that he loves me but his actions tell me otherwise. I have made excuses for why he acts as he does for many years. The reasons make sense to me but now I realize that the reasons dont make the behavior acceptable. Even my 17 year old daughter has told me "mama, I love dad and I don't want you to leave, but if you do, I will understand." I have tried to talk to him but he always turns it around to where it is my fault. I have asked him to go to counseling--he apologizes and acts like he will consider it but then when it blows over so does any thought of counseling. I just don't know how to go about leaving. I have 2 children still at home. Both are in high school and I don't want to leave them.Do I go back to work and save up enough money to rent a place? Do I get a legal seperation or do I just take a check and a credit card and leave?

Anonymous said...

How tears have come to my eyes reading others comments. My husband is a minister, always preaching the Word, yet far from it. Our children hate us and don't come around, my family hates us, his family hates me, my only social contact is him. My church family has no idea of my turmoil. He constantly critizes, ridicules, curses me, yells, demands. I cannot go anywhere without his permission, cannot talk on the phone (I have no friends, it is too much of a hassle explaining everything to him). I left once and came back. I have been married twice before and did not want to be a failure again in marriage. I truly believe God can change anything and feel trapped in my belief. Somedays I pray to go Home, other days I pray he goes Home. My life has become so unhappy, the laugh I once had is gone. One day I may run away and never look back.

Hannah on 1:24 PM said...


Please keep reaching out until somone listens! You can't control his abusive nature, but you sure can find help for yourself!

There are some links on the side of this blog that you can start with. Boards online that help those that are dealing with abuse cope!

God doesn't bless his sinful behavior, and that doesn't change just because others don't wish to see.

Praying for you.

Lorraine from England said...

Thank you for your honesty and for being so real. I was married to an abusive man for 7 years, I eventually forgot who I was and became reactive to his needs and demands. The worse thing was I believed everything was my fault because every bit of his bad behaviour was justified by something I had done wrong.
The God I know has restored me and gave me the confidence to leave him. As I am sure you can imagine going through the divorce meant most of my possessions I had to give up as he was convinced I had left to be with someone else, as he believed he had done nothing wrong and a divorce was therefore clearly not 'his fault'.
I remain concerned for him as he is now marrying again, somebody 14yrs younger than him. I fear for her safety and pray for her regularly.
Good news in my life, everything is being restored back to me materially and emotionally through my new husband. He loves me deeply, and I have had so much healing. My God prepared him for me and I dance with joy (literally) in what God has given to me through him.
When I look back on my 7 year marriage all the things I gave up and the humilation I was put through seem insignificant compared to the joy and restoration God has now brought into my life.
..God never leaves something half finished, amazingly even in the middle of the crap he is moving us forward to something so new and brilliant. My God has supplied/and is supplying all my needs :-)

Hannah on 11:52 AM said...

That's awesome! Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Well, just like to rest of you; I put my faith in God. It seems to me; the more I try to give, the more I'm put down. My body hurts and my soul hurt; my family have no idea how I hurt physically and mentally. Getting up every morning and thanking God for my Blessings is all I have. My family blames me if I can't wait on them hand and foot. This afternoon I was blame for my oldest son not washing all the dish. I spoke to him about he start to blame me for this and that. I have God and that is the only thing that is keeping me going. I know in my heart he is the only one that will not blame me but will love me.

Hannah on 4:24 PM said...

Anonymous - please find some support for yourself. Even if you can only find it online!

It helps to find clarity within yourself, and see things as they really are.

Is one support board that will hear you loud and clear!

Anonymous said...

I am a survivor of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. It took me 8 or 9 repeated "tries" with my husband to finally figure out that it wasn't about me. Although I've only been apart from him for a little more than a month now, this time is for good. After I left him, as horrible and hard as it made me feel, (because we women are made out of compassion), I found out than no more than a week had passed and he has reunited with his ex. His ex, who expressed to me in previous conversations how abusive he was to her and their son. So, as sad as it is and as hurt as I am and as unfair as it all seems to be to me, I've made the right decision and will stay true to myself. For that is all I have left at the present, aside from the support of my wonderful children who thankfully are not his. Ladies, if there is one thing I can tell you about all of this abuse nonsense that we get ourselves into it's this, you can get out the same way you got into it, JUST LEAVE! You may have to feel bad for a few weeks, maybe months, maybe forever, who knows? However, leaving IS the ONLY answer. The problems that exist have absolutely nothing to do with you, never have, never will....unless you ALLOW him to attach them to you. Healing takes time....sometimes a very long time, but it's still healing instead of hurting. I will pray for each and every one of you who are still in an abusive relationship and those who have already left one for healing. In my prayers I will ask God to bring you back to yourselves, for I know how hard it is to "find you" when someone has stolen your identity. Gods Grace and Peace to all....there is great power in prayer!

Anonymous said...

I was despondent and feeling stuck for life until i read your posts. The misery and pain has dogged me for years, the dreams were negative until a few weeks ago. Those negative dreams of the abuse left me feeling dead deep down. Now they are getting positive, but i mourn for the years i was miserable and tormented. I have had healing, but it gets too much at times when the pain hits hard. Thank you all and the prayers go both ways. Peace.

Anonymous said...

I don't how i come or think turning to this page so early in the morning at 3h45 when my abusive husband went to work? I met him 16 years back at my young age of 18 when i just finished my matric, a very handsome and loving man aged 24. He proclaimed he loved me. After 3 years we got a baby boy, years going we got a babygirl again when the boy is 4yrs. But by that time a realized his love for me has been shortned, but still not married but living together. We got married when my baby was a year old. I wasn't having a stidy job, i catered for everything throughout. He got a job on international vessels after that, where he stayed for almost a 6-8 in the sea with sendingan cent home. With my 2 children and their nanny i managed with my little salary of $2000 at that time. One day i asked him to send money 'cause we are starving,where he send$10000, with some hass wording followed, but i just accept and use the money . Not knowing that should share the amount with his family was a big mistake i made. Coming back home he harding spoke to me, hearing achos from their family members i ate up his trips money. I made peace with it, but situation in the house and relationship became hard for me. Emotional abuse,painful words starts from him and his family as well. Years goes, one day comes he came back from the sea he starts sleeping down,no knowledge of what now is happening, only heardafter 'i have slept with another man' while he is at work, forcing me to accept it. Verbal abuse worsened till one year one day he told me he has nothing to do with me anymore. He told me he prayed to God not have feelings for me any longer. But we still sleeping in the same bed. I still love him until now, feelings are killing me, that is now our relationship in married now for 8years. Days we are talking days we are not. Buying food whenever he feels like, doing it in bed whenever is his time. Not paying for any school fees or clothing for the kids,accusing me of having affairs for 2 men now. He is now having stidy job with reasonable salary, no more a seaman. He claims to be a born again, going to church almost everyday, coming back from church he never talk to me. I tried to be a man in the relationship rather then a mother, paying the bond, children, myself and him. But at the moment he never accept anything from me, not even a sweet for his 40th birthday today. Where i didn't try to do much 'cause i know he won't accept it. I'm the devil in his life now. I can't remember our last kiss or hug anymore. He just realise himself on me when it comes to sex, after he finishes i wait for him to wake up then i do it with my hands to-come with him knowing. I prayed for him hoping for a change, but nothing is happening. Go with him to church, now i'm giving up. Pains and tearing is in my everyday life now. I have a boyfriend now but he also married, we only had sex a year back now, but afraid to see each other to lose our marriedge, but we have alot in common and love each other alot. When i'm with a bf i feel so loved, secured and valued as woman. But one thing we afraid of divorcing is not from God. And now blaming each me and my bf of why we had sex. I'm so confused now, lying in bed after work every time. The greeting i got from my husband is the word 'hallo' and bye when he going and coming from work, nothing more to do with me or talk to me. I read the bible and cry out to my God for my life to change and not to commit suicide as in my mind everyday. My son of 12 years now look confused and my girl of 8 years not aware of the situation. I'm very much stressed and in darkness

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