What do you say if a dear Christian friend disagrees with your decision to divorce your destructive spouse? What if they accuse you of making things up? What if they are ill-informed about the tactics abusers use? What if they pressure you, saying "holiness over happiness"? What if they fear-bomb you, saying divorce will destroy your kids? Or that the Bible doesn't allow divorce for abuse? (It actually does.) Sadly, this happens a lot. People often think they know everything about your life, and feel entitled to shut you down. But only you know what's going on behind closed doors. Only you know how much you can take. Only you know when enough is enough. No friend or pastor or family member or counselor gets to decide if you've been abused enough.
So how do you set boundaries with well-meaning friends who just don't get it? A woman in my private Facebook group gave me permission to share her powerful letter (lightly edited)
The context:
I was just beginning to realize that I was in a destructive marriage. Two women friends came and stayed with us for a pre-planned vacation visit. During their visit, I told them my fears and concerns. I was mostly dismissed. I was asked, “What if marriage is to make us holy instead of happy.” Then they told me, after nearly a week of being there, that they hadn’t seen any abuse.
That was over 18 months ago. I didn’t have the words or the strength I do now. And while I hope to have one of those friends back, someone I’ve known and loved for over a decade, I’m at peace knowing that might not happen.
——————————————————
A letter to my dear friend:

Dear Friend,

I miss your friendship. I miss you. But if we are going to keep any sort of real friendship, I need to be honest with you and I need assurances that you are a safe person.

It was so harmful when you came to my home as an outsider and declared that you saw no abuse.

The rhetoric of "marriage making us holy instead of happy" is spiritual abuse when it is wielded in the way you used it against me. And it nearly kept me in an abusive marriage.

I don’t owe you a list of every interaction, every coercion and manipulation and suicide threat and the time/dates of neglect and abandonment.

Either you take me at my word because you support me, or you don’t.

If you cannot believe me and support me, if you continue to minimize, rationalize, or spiritualize the abuse done to me, then we cannot have a real friendship.

If you want to be a safe friend then I need to know that you are not in contact with my soon-to-be ex-husband. I cannot have honesty or friendship with you if I am worried that anything I say might be reported to him and used against me or as part of his smear campaign against me.

You don’t have to respond anytime soon. Just think about it. If you want to learn more, you can research Patrick Doyle, Leslie Vernick, Natalie Hoffman, Bob Hamp, Henry Cloud, Gretchen Baskerville, and many others who have written and spoken about emotional abuse, particularly from a Christian perspective.

I love you and I miss you.
Your Friend

----------------------------
This is a great letter. And many of us find ourselves in a situation where a close friend is clueless about what's happening behind closed doors. This may be a wonderful friend, but they have a blind spot about abuse; and you're not going to be able to convince them. I think it's OK to distance yourself from this person. It doesn't have to be a permanent decision. You don't have to shun them. It's okay to slowly remove them from your life for now. They may change. They may need some time to think about it. They may have trouble with transitions. Perhaps someday they will come to you and admit they were wrong. It doesn't matter. For now you need to separate yourself from them and find safe friends who understand and side with you.

Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians. Also, sign up for my email list below.

 

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