When The Respect Dare Doesn’t Work…

A while back, I posted about a woman wrote to me about doing The Respect Dare book. Having completed all the assignments, she found herself stuck on the last one, where she was to talk about what she had learned as a result of completing the dares. When I wrote about her circumstances originally, I was shocked with her situation.

Her husband was still beating her, although less frequently.

And the last time he assaulted her, it was less severe.

She could actually get out of bed the next day without too much trouble.

His words continued to lack gentleness and kindness, although he did say “thank you,” to her once, which was unusual.

He continued to criticize her at every turn, although for some reason, she felt the emotional injuries a little less.

At the end of her description of her struggles with this cruel man, she concluded that she felt led to model Christ to him, because he had no others in his life who knew Him.

She literally said to me, “I am led to be a martyr in my own home. I married poorly, but Christ’s light is shining in me, and I lay down my life for His glory. My husband is precious to Him, as am I. I choose to endure these things that my husband might be saved.”

I marveled at what she saw God doing in her relationship, and the tenacity with which she had developed. I also think I didn’t encourage her to separate and find safety strongly enough. I encouraged her to talk with her pastor, a counselor, etc.

What I didn’t know at the time was that there are too many in the church who are telling women to endure these things – that “submission” essentially means she has no voice.

That’s not biblical.

And I fully disagree with the many leaders who claim Matthew 18 has no place in marriage and is reserved for church discipline. That’s utter nonsense.

I also know now from psychological research, that when a wife gives her husband everything he wants, and hides sin like this, she is not just enabling him, but creating an environment where the sin gets an even tighter hold on him. She must be a respecter of herself as a temple of the Holy Spirit – and yes, that can be as scary and dangerous to do as enduring the abuse he’s dishing.

But every once in a while, someone like this gal lets me know she’s staying, enduring, and actively choosing suffering, because she feels led.

And I support her – even though I don’t personally agree with her position on staying – and I do my best to continue to share resources and encourage her to take action that brings life to their family, dangerous as it is.

I will tell you their stories help keep my own life and complaints in perspective. It’s tough to feel sorry for yourself when others are enduring physical and verbal abuse.

Proverbs 24 come to mind today:

11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death,

And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.

What’s mind-blowing is that the woman who wrote to me doesn’t have it as bad as some.

Each day, NOW, in this time period, every 3 seconds, a Christian is martyred for his or her faith.

Check the Voice of the Martyrs Website for a free copy of a book that will put whatever you are dealing with into a different perspective.

And today, I dare you to pray for the Christians who are persecuted around the world, some in their own homes, right here in America. Be thankful you aren’t one of them.

But if you are one of the too many women whose husband is abusive, I dare you to be brave. I dare you to get some help. There is a cycle in abuse, and you are not breaking that cycle by believing his apologies “this time.” He has to be healed.

So do you.

And you can be of great help to your husband, even though he won’t enjoy it, by putting an end to the enabling and helping him get some help.

It’s not your fault. No person has a right to hit, slap, shove, or threaten another. No one has the right to make you feel afraid, to call you names, scream at you, isolate you from others, control what you eat, drink, or spend.

And you can’t help him overcome this or change your circumstances by keeping quiet. And if you have kids, you are teaching them to abuse or be victims themselves.

It has to stop.

Yes, I am daring you to call your husband to a higher standard of behavior, to help him be a better man, by putting an end to the destruction. Understand that if he is treating your children this way, you have an obligation to protect them.

Here’s a resource from Family Life Ministries that will help you: A Way of Hope – Seven Steps Toward Breaking the Cycle of Violence, by Leslie J. Barner. It’s less than $2 on Kindle – and you can download a free reader onto your computer if you don’t have a Kindle. Here’s how to do this if you don’t know.

Dare you today to view your own circumstances through the lens of Christ and the Holy Spirit, paying attention to whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, and excellent (instead of being contentious with those you live and work with) and pray for those who do you harm. I hope you see yourself and your children as those positive things.

But understand that The Respect Dare book has little to no impact in these circumstances, but will grow you closer to God – it should be done after or with A Way of Hope, when jail time or reconciliation has taken place and you are safe.

Thankful to be on the journey with you.


What about you? What are your thoughts today?

titus 2 women leadership

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

30 thoughts on “When The Respect Dare Doesn’t Work…

  1. I’ve experienced both physical and emotional abuse in my marriage. Both are very damaging to a woman. Coming from a background where divorce is not an option it makes it very difficult to speak about with others and in my circles its not something you talk about readily and many suffer in silence. I am thankful that God answered prayers for me and that the abuse has stopped. I’m also thankful that my marriage is so much better then it has been and I thank God that my husband has come to love Jesus more then he ever has. It’s amazing how that can change a person so much. Thanks for posting this subject…

  2. Hi, I am at the end of my tether, and I feel damaged inside. It took me 20 years to realise I had abuse in my marriage- that was 7 years ago. I have 5 kids. I feel really stuck and am trying to hold onto God and be strong in Him.

    • Prayers for you, Pimpernel. Might I suggest a few resources? One of them is just $2 on Kindle – and if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app onto your PC – “A Way of Hope, Seven Steps Toward Breaking the Cycle of Violence” and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick. Please keep in touch – let us know how you are doing as you walk through the journey. We’ll keep praying for you. And if you want to email, information(at)GreaterImpact.org will get you there.
      Love to you,

  3. Help. I feel pretty pathetic writing here but not sure what else to. I am desperate. I am not physically abused but I am so unhappy and incidentally having to control rising bouts of anger all the time. I have been put on antidepressant medication but took myself of it after 18 months where my numbness to things ended up making everything worse. My husband and I work together in our business…which has its own stresses. I have tried the love dare and the respect dare and read and tried so much understand to fix our marriage however it seems that he has only just realised there might be a problem and is convinced that the problem is my mental condition. This probably the one thing we do actually agree on. I don’t know what to do to get any help cos not many people can understand what I am going through. I have four kids and of late the two older girls being in mid teens have started to question the way he talks to and treats us all. He is ALWAYS DEFENSIVE AND ACCUSING in his response and unwilling to listen to our points of view. I am scared putting this out there as I am almost certain that the response will be that I am selfish and others are much worse off and at least he isn’t getting drunk and bashing me…..I don’t want to write any of this or admit to any of it….but I don’t know what to do. Whenever I reach out to people in the church for help they are not available and I feel that there is nothing left to do.
    My children are becoming fearful of how this will play out, but even if others
    That have tried to he along the way encourage me to move out …I am not able to and in reality don’t want to. I have thought at times this is because I don’t want to be seen as having failed in my marriage….bu really it is pretty obvious that I have not succeeded.
    Anything and everything that I try and talk with him currently about ends up in an argument with me in tears and him saying he is sick of it. Blah, blah, I will try and stay on the dare, but going to need a lot of support because even at the second time at day two I just can’t see any light

    • Sharon.
      I am so sorry you are going through this right now. As a depression survivor myself, I know how horrible and crippling it can be. I understand how much you hurt and how hard this is for you. Please know I am praying for you.

      I want to encourage you to redefine “success” and “failure” – neither of you have given up, and marriage can be messy! Marriage is HARD. I’m not going to accuse you of anything, but I want to encourage you to read, cover to cover, “Emotionally Destructive Relationships” and “How to Act Right when Your Spouse Acts Wrong” (start with that one) by Leslie Vernick. The Respect Dare experience takes you through the process, but understanding how it all works might help you. I love Leslie’s work and I think you’ll find it beneficial. You might also get more information about your situation by “A Way of Hope, Seven Steps Toward Breaking the Cycle of Violence” and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick. Even if he isn’t hitting you, there are steps you can take to stop the emotional battering that may be going on.

      I also want to encourage you to see a different doctor, and to not manage your medication yourself. There are TONS of different anti depressants – and I fully understand that “apathy” thing you want to avoid – but you CAN find one that works for you. They all have different side effects. There is also the possibility that anti-depressant meds are not what you need, but rather hormone balance. I didn’t know my thyroid was out of whack and that I was low in several amino acids. When my doctor balanced me out on those, I felt fine, rational, and was able to function better. I’m not a medical doctor, and I have no idea if that is your issue, but it might be worth checking out.

      Know you are prayed for by all of us here, and that where there is breath, there is life and hope. God wants to teach you about you and Him through the context of your marriage. Be willing to do hard things and learn. He loves you and means it for your good. And sometimes hard things mean dying to self, other times they mean gently confronting another sinner.

      So glad you are here. You are not alone.
      Love to you,

  4. Thank you for this post! I needed it.
    See i was raised in a christian home where it was not the husband that was abusive, it was the wife but they would say that it was biblical and that I had to do everything they said because it says in the bible to Honor your mother and father and they were not sinning. The abuse was not physical, it was mentally and it took several years after being out of the house and me taking Child abuse classes for work that I realized that I was being abused growing up. I am still working out the wrinkles that was caused from being raised that way, but God has allowed me to be able to forgive my parents for the things that happened, and we now have a really decent relationship. granted i do not live to close to them, but we do talk every weekend.
    I just want to say that I feel these women’s pains on here and I understand what you are going through even if mine was done by the opposite sex, abuse is abuse no matter who dishes it out. I just want to encourage you and tell you that it isn’t your fault, you don’t deserve to be treated like trash. God made us and we are the apple of His eye. I do want to encourage you to love yourself. God made you the way you are and He made you in His image.

  5. Thank you for this post. I’ve been married 38 years and the first 10 years I walked on egg-shells. My husband was very verbably abusive and mean. We have both had counseling and God has worked in both our lives, now life is much better.

    My husband was a Pastor of a small church and I was taking heat from both him and some of the people. It was a very lonely time. I learned to pray much! Crying out to God helped me through the isolated times. My husband left the ministry after 10 years.

    At the time I didn’t know what was wrong and though it was something I was doing wrong. During counseling we learned much and I learned to stand up and not take the abuse and my husband learned better ways of coping. The next 5 years were very difficult but better. I lived through cheating, lies, abuse, BUT GOD changes lives through prayer, his Work, good Christian counseling, and perservance.

    At this time God has done such a work that my husband seems more like the man I fell in love with. He’s more caring and kind. His story was one of childhood abuse and rejection in the home. He is now growing and changing. I had many years of counseling to grow past allowing abuse and understanding what “normal” was. God has done amazing healing in both our lives and we now live peaceful lives serving Him.

    • Loretta, what a beautiful testimony of God’s hand in our lives. Thank you so much for sharing and giving hope to others.

  6. This is a wonderful, Bible-based ministry with classes for both men who are abusive, women who are being abused, parenting classes, etc if they are in your area: armsonline.org

  7. My story is one of verbal and emotional abuse.

    Somehow, I’ve always been on the opposite end of the spectrum, I suppose. I’ve never had someone try to guilt me into feeling as though I should stay. Even my Christian counselors have questioned quite frequently why I stay, where I think the Bible says I need to stay, how much will be too much, etc. To me, the line between verbal/emotional abuse and physical abuse is too much to comprehend. For a long time, I found myself wondering, is it really abuse? Then I started seeing the pattern…. and realizing that if I kept myself from engaging, it wasn’t *as bad.* That led me questioning to whether or not maybe I really was the problem… for pushing too far. God has shown me a lot and I no longer bear my husband’s cross but I am continuously learning and growing. Any time that I take my eyes from God and my heart from prayer, I feel I stumble. It’s really just too much to carry alone.

    For me, it’s been God who has told me to stay. It’s been about 2 years since He told me very clearly to stay… to “just love [my] husband.” I recently changed counselors and when I shared how God had told me to say, she questioned, “how did God confirm this to you? Did you have peace after that? How do you know that was *really* what He said?” I stopped, thought, and worried.. had I really missed something? Had I been suffering all of these years for nothing? Then I prayed… I asked God for that confirmation… and the very next evening at Church, the message was on anger and, for the first time in quite a while, my husband was touched somehow by the message. I felt led to take my prayer request to the front following the service. A woman I’d already crossed paths and prayed with before was there… I had felt a connection before so I’d decided to wait for her. It was a long wait and I knew my husband wouldn’t be happy… but after I talked with her and she prayed for me, I knew exactly why. 27 years earlier, she’d been exactly where I was… and God had told her to stay, too… that night her husband was standing a few feet away from her praying for others just as she was. My question as to whether or not God could *really* ever ask someone to stay and endure what I’m going through was answered…. He’d given me the confirmation that I’d sought earlier in the day and things have changed dramatically since then. They aren’t perfect… they’re still really rough at times… I continue to pray that my husband will stop with the unwholesome and damaging words toward me and the children. Along the way, all that I can do is reassure my children. Sometimes that means I have to be honest with our children and say “what he’s done really isn’t right…” and show them how and why we can love him anyway. Only God knows where this road will lead us… in the midst of it, all I can do is trust Him and teach my children to trust Him, too. I pray that someday, God will use all of this for His glory.

  8. I was glad to see this update today. I remember that blog post and it was the only other time I commented even though I have read almost all of them. I’ve grown to understand more since then but at the time I’m not sure I was able to articulate why it bothered me so much. Those of us prone to be abused really don’t have a clue what’s happening until it’s gotten out of hand. In my case, I knew things weren’t right so I read several books including the Respect Dare, hoping I could do what’s right and fix it. (i even tried the e-course but didn’t make it far because my husband cussed me out the first day or two.) Problem is, me always being the one to jump in and fix things enabled my husband to continue down the wrong path. So reading about a woman that was enduring far worse abuse than I, made me want to proclaim to her what you said in this post. It took a lot of reading to open my eyes to the fact that my husband was emotionally abusing me and my children. Proverbs has a lot of wisdom on hanging around with fools… And a lot of it would apply to a abusive/foolish husband. The most helpful book for me was The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick. She has a frequent newsletter with good information and a new book specifically for marriages. Also books by Cloud and Townsend- “Boundaries” is excellent (and eye-opening). After I finally realized what I was dealing with, I saw a counselor at church. Coming out of isolation I finally had someone else to confirm I had let him get away with too much. I started with simple consequences like leaving with the kids when he threw a fit. I also made it clear I was done putting up with his behavior. I was going to protect the kids and leave if I had to. We also had more people praying for us since I brought things to light. As a result, he was moved to change. He became more interested in following God’s will and he got baptized. He controls his anger a lot better now. If I had continued keeping my mouth shut and walking on eggshells we would still be in the same rut. We still struggle and I constantly look to God for guidance. I know an easier marriage may have allowed me to think I could live without God’s help. It really is the same for my husband. As long as i kept life easy for him and catered to his out of control wants and emotions, he didn’t need God either. We have to be careful not to show Jesus to our husbands by replacing Jesus. I appreciate what I have learned from The Respect Dare. Women in abusive relationships need to know, however, that it will be hard to complete because not much will change until we start enacting some consequences. And a woman being physically abused may be in grave danger no matter what she tries.

    • Amanda, thank you so much for your reply here. I am thankful that God has brought both you and your husband through such a difficult time. I would absolutely LOVE to interview you and talk more about these things – if you are open to that, could you contact us via the Facebook page or email us at information(at)GreaterImpact.org? Put “per Nina’s request in the subject line to make sure I get it – if you are interested, that is. I would love to help you share your hard-earned wisdom and His glory with others. SO thankful you are here!
      Love to you,

  9. Wow Nina!!! Awesome words of wisdom about Christian women being abused-especialky by “Christian” men!
    I was in that position many years ago, and after a lot of prayer and being counseled and advised by my counsellor at church, I took out an intervention order against my husband. He breached it after a few weeks by abusing a couple of my kids, so I took them and we escaped to a women’s refuge to stay safe.
    We were seperated for 10 months. At first, my husband decided he was going to divorce me bse I ran out on him. I explained clearly WHY I had left him, and that I had NO desire to divorce him, but at the same time, he was not safe to live with and I and the kids would not return until he sought help.
    Well, he wwnt and got help. He found out he has bipokar and went on medication. Things were still strained between us as he would chop and change all the time. Many times I felt like giving up
    Finally, my husband started taking his medication properly, and within a few weeks, it was as though mthe man I fell in love with was back! ! We took things slowly, but I’m happy to say we are vack together and have been now for 7 years, and our love is stronger than ever before! He is sooo much kinder and more loving than he ever used to be, and best of all, he has not laid a hand on me EVER again! There is no more abuse in this marriage!!

    • MEG! So thankful you and your husband are free! Would you consider sharing your story? I would absolutely LOVE to interview you and talk more about these things – if you are open to that, could you contact us via the Facebook page or email us at information(at)GreaterImpact.org? Put “per Nina’s request in the subject line to make sure I get it – if you are interested, that is. I would love to help you share your hard-earned wisdom and His glory with others.
      Let me know!
      Love to you,

  10. THANK YOU for getting the children in there.

    I needed someone to tell my Mum what abuse was (‘fortunately’ only emotional, most of the time, but for 12 years…) She trained as a counselor later, and in one of the teaching sessions it covered the various types of abuse – she then said that had she known that so many of the things which happened at home were classed as abuse, she would have gotten us out of there.

    I am so, so pleased that you are very clearly telling all and sundry what abuse can consist of, that it’s not acceptable, and that people have a DUTY to protect their children.

    So grateful. I’d post about this kind of thing on my blog, but my Dad reads it to stay in touch and as I’ve worked hard at establishing a good relationship with the man he is now (him having ‘Dealt with some Stuff’) I’m afraid to upset that particular apple cart.

    • Love to you, Considerer.
      Thank you so much for taking time to share with us. I’m really glad you are here. If you are interested in sharing more (even anonymously) we’d love to hear from you – could you contact us via the Facebook page or email us at information(at)GreaterImpact.org? Put “per Nina’s request in the subject line to make sure I get it – if you are interested, that is. I would love to help you share your hard-earned wisdom and His glory with others.

  11. Abuse is one of those cloak-and-dagger topics that so many are afraid of speaking about – especially in a Christian home. It is so hard to speak into someone when you are just worried about their safety and well-being. Alas, we can’t rescue all those that so desperately need reassurance. I fought with this daily in my first marriage, hence the past blog about divorce and leaving an abusive home. I figured that I was just doing something to cause it, and I just needed to work harder. After years of rape and emotional abuse, I finally came to grips that what I was doing wasn’t working… but not without a few emotional and physical scars.

    My biggest and most heartfelt prayers to any of you who are going through this. It’s a literal hell. Please get help. Please know you’re not alone, and do what you need to do to protect your PHYSICAL safety first. Love to all of you.

    • Jenn, I’m so sorry for all you’ve gone through, and marvel at where He’s brought you. Would love to talk more. Let me know if you are interested.
      Love to you,

  12. I was married to an abuser once, and his family was also active and complicit in the abuse. My faith, like my spirit and body, was taken to the very edge of survivability. I left, knowing in my heart I would not survive staying. Bless her for knowing where God wants her to be. I fell from one frying pan into another fire without knowing what God wanted, or even at that fragile time how to seek him as I do now.

    I appreciate that you advocate against abuse, especially in the popular face of churches preaching that staying with abuse is submission and is God’s will. Which is it not. Thank you for speaking up, and out, for us to serve our brothers and sisters who are being abused and doing the abusing better. It should be our call as the Body of Christ to minister to them, not to dismiss, diminish or otherwise take away from their reality with our own discomfort and desire for placid and safe places.

    • Shanyn –
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. These are raw and difficult things to walk through. I will be in touch – I know you will want to share more! 🙂
      Love to you, girl!

  13. Dear Nina-
    Thank you for posting this blog entry, it is very important! Many women are dealing with a spouse who has a mental or personality disorder and they are not aware of it! All the advice in the world will not help until they realize this and start acting accordingly! Here are two good books and a ministry to help you realize if you are in that situation or not: : “The verbally Abusive Relationship (How to recognize it how to respond)” by Patricia Evans and “the emotionally abusive relationship (how to stop being abused and how to stop abusing)” by Beverly Engel. Here is an anonymous, safe web-site of Christian women who will also help you, http://www.focusministries1.org/ . This web-site also has some short quizzes to help you identify if you or your family or friends might be in an abusive situation. Please share. Abuse within the church reflects very poorly on the Church and on the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please get help! Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for the wise words and the additional resource!
      Glad you are here!
      Love to you,

  14. Dear Nina-
    Thank you for posting this very important blog about abuse. Some women are not aware that they are dealing with a spouse who suffers a personality or other mental disorder. These will not get better on their own and they are very damaging to the spouse, the children, and the church.
    Here are three books that can help someone tell if they are in an abusive situation. “the emotionally abusive relationship” by Beverly Engel and “The Verbally Abusive Relationship (how to recognize it and How to Respond)” by Patricia Evans. Also a good Christian Web-site is FOCUS Ministries. They are anonymous and can help. http://www.focusministries1.org/
    Reaching for help could totally change your situation for the better and reflect positively on the Church and your walk with the Lord.

  15. I really appreciate this. There was violence in my first marriage and I developed that very same mindset: I will be a martyr and my marriage and sacrifice myself for God. Even thought about writing a book that I could call “Martyr in my Marriage”. After being out, though, your thinking changes. I think that is a mindset that you have in the middle of it when you want it to stop, want to be married, want to please God and do what is right, and are scared to get out or feel like you shouldn’t get out from what the church has told you. I don’t think that is necessarily pleasing to God, or what He would want or ask us to do. Marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the Church and God says he hates a man covering his wife with violence in Micah so I don’t think that pleases God in any way. And as a helpmate, it is not helpful to our husband’s growth to enable him to keep acting that way. As I have healed over the years of being out and tried to counsel a few others, I think what a woman needs to do is to be sure she and her children are safe physically and emotionally, do all she can to work on the marriage and act in a godly manner and get help from any source she can, but if that doesn’t work (any many times won’t if the guy is a classic abuser) then she needs to let go of the marriage with a clear conscience knowing she has done all she could.

    For anyone thinking about getting out, it is still a very difficult road, even if you get out of the marriage. If you have children, you will always have to deal with their father, and he will still try to control, manipulate, drag you through court, etc and will still cause a lot of pain. It is certainly not all easy after the marriage ends. Don’t get divorced unless you really have to. But make sure you and your children are safe. Both abuse and divorce are damaging to children, so be in prayer and get good counsel and weigh your options very carefully.

    I, too, was condemned by pastors/elders when I tried to follow Matthew 18 and started opening up and talking about it and trying to get help. Then, in their eyes, I looked bad. I think I looked to them like I was critical, accusing, couldn’t see my own faults, didn’t realize marriage takes two, etc. I tried several avenues and couldn’t really get help. It is hard to find people who really understand abuse AND someone that your spouse will listen to if you do find someone that understands.

    • Colleen, this is a well thought out and blessed response, one that cost you much. Thank you for sharing it here with us. Glad to have you on the journey, beautiful.
      Love to you,

  16. Thank you for this blog today! I have been the victim of domestic violence in my past marriage. It was not as bad as the lady you wrote about. I too thought it was what God wanted me to do when I first made the decision to stay. I felt like I was dissappointing God if I chose to leave. It wasn’t until I cried out to God telling Him I cannot continue to live this way. That I couldn’t be effective under my circumstances. It was then that I heard Him “I did not tell you to stay, it was your decision.” As heart breaking and tough as it was I chose to leave. I needed my girls to understand that abuse of no kind is acceptable no matter the reason.
    I believe that God has placed the desire in my heart to help and encourage women who go this. Showing them that they are limiting God and what He can do and wants to do in their lives. Had I stayed I believe I would be dead by this. Today I am free not only in Christ but to share His love and grace with others. For me more importantly His hope with those who truly believe their situation is hopeless.

    • Kerry-Ann, thank you for your brave words today. You make an excellent point – and we can’t disappoint God – He already knows what we’ll do or not do. Praising Him for the freedom you’ve found! Thanking Him that you are safe. SO glad you are here today and all days.
      Love to you,

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