What does the Bible say about abusive relationships?


I would love for you to help me with a perplexing situation that I face. What does the Bible have to say about abusive relationships? How can I identify and abusive relationship and what can I do to help? How can I help resolve the problem? When I say “abusive” I do not just mean a violent relationship between a man and woman. On another site, I read an article that explains that abuse can also be emotional as well as psychological. That site has another article that explains the reasons for abuse and how to recognize it. I want to know what the Bible has to teach on this subject. Thanks in advance for your help.

I read both of the articles that you posted links to and I believe that they are both very biased.

What God has joined together, let no man separate

This was the response that Jesus Christ gave to the Pharisees when they asked Him if it were okay for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all. I do not know what the author of those two articles has experienced in her life, what disappointments have come her way, but I do know that her writing style is extremely feminist and it seems that she does not respect men, may even hate them. If she had the same attitude when she was married (if they were ever married) then I am not surprised of the consequences. In this article full of hatred, according to my humble opinion, a person has the impression that there are no good men in the world, that all men lie to their wives, that there are no men of good character left, and that all men abuse their spouses either psychologically or verbally, if not also physically. Here is a short citation to prove my point.

Most discussions about men and the way they behave are almost always the same, especially if you get a chance to hear directly from the abused partner. It usually goes something like this: “All men are like pigs”, “all men cheat”, all the same, all over the world. “

I believe that the articles were written with bad intentions in mind, disguised of course, but the outcome being to destroy the traditional family. Women are encouraged to leave their husbands and divorce them the moment that they feel like they may have been abused verbally or psychologically. Here is another quote from the article.

Many people who are subjected to verbal or psychological aggression  usually try in every way possible to improve the relationship, such as ignoring the abuse, trying to explain it away, seeking counseling, trying to avoid the problem or the person, forgetting about their own needs, avoiding “asking too much”, giving up and just trying to become more understanding. None of these things work.

How could you have the nerve to tell couples who are trying to work through difficult times that their efforts are in vain? The author gives not encouragement or advice about trying to save the marriage. There is more.

If you feel that your partner behaves like a masochist, it’s best to break contact with him indefinitely, otherwise the usual scenario will just repeat itself and get worse.

By the way, the author intentionally uses the word “masochist” while referring to verbal and psychological abuse, not physical abuse. The question is, what the Bible teach about abusive relationships?

God condemns abusive relationships

Actually, the Bible refers to the woman who is abusive psychologically and verbally.

9 Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife. (Proverbs 21)

Men and women are equally affected sin, especially when they live according to the flesh and its constant desires. This does lead them to abuse other both verbally and psychologically. Sadly, it is usually manifested in the home, among those who love them the most. The solution is for each member of the household to enter the New Covenant with Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit which will give them the  strength to be victorious over the evil desires of the flesh. Let’s take a quick look at what the Apostle Paul taught the new converts to Christ’s in one of his epistles:

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart ; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4)

Then, he goes on to specify what he means when he writes about verbal abuse:

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4)

He writes to the husbands:

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. (Colossians 3)

One verse earlier, he also tells wives:

18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3)

When a wife is rebellious, it will affect her relationship with her husband and cause bitterness. Even if a husband does not want to obey Christ’s teachings, God tells the wife the following:

1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external -braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses ; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands ; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. (I Peter 3)

Men are also taught:

7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman ; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (I Peter 3)

Examples of families that excluded abuse from their homes

I was able to counsel a family that traveled almost 1,000 miles in the dead of winter with no heat in the car just so they could save their marriage. When they arrived at our house, I took a copy of “Marriage without regrets” from my shelf and gave it to them. During the first few lessons, all they did was accuse one another of all kinds of terrible sins. As we continued to study and the Word of God began to penetrate deep in to their hearts, they began to admit their own faults to each other and began asking for forgiveness for specific attitudes and actions. After 2 intensive days of study, on the third day, they both dedicated their lives to Christ, choosing to be His disciples and to enter the New Covenant. After that, they were baptized and joined a local church. The went back home but not too much time later, they came back and brought another couple that was on their previous path toward divorce. From both of these situations, I realized that the one who saw himself (herself) as the victim was actually the one who was more abusive, causing the most damage. We decided to study the lesson on “love” from the same course on marriage. As we studied about true love, that it comes from God and is only for those who are in the New Covenant, both husband and wife asked if I would lead them in the prayer of salvation so that they could experience this love and show it to each other. They repented of their sins and became true followers of Christ. Unfortunately, they did not join a church to continue being trained in the teachings of the Word and as a result are still going through difficult times in their marriage, unlike the first couple who are growing spiritually and enjoying their new lives in Christ.

If you are the target of verbal and physical violence in marriage, do not rush to end your relationship. Do not even consider divorce. Seek the counsel of God’s Word and do whatever is within your power to remove verbal and psychological abuse. Remember, God hates divorce.

Translation by: Erik Brewer