MYTH: You can only divorce if they hit you.
TRUTH: Emotional/verbal abuse, financial abuse, and spiritual abuse are all unacceptable forms of treatment and are grounds for divorce, both from a biblical and legal perspective.
Myth Twenty-Five: You Can Only Divorce If They Hit You; Emotional, Spiritual, Financial, and Verbal Abuse Don’t Count
Some Christian leaders don’t consider other forms of abuse to be real abuse because they leave no visible scars or broken bones. It’s the old lie, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
However, this is not supported biblically, legally, or morally. The Bible says words matter—
- Cruel words are like stabbing someone with sword thrusts –Proverbs 12:18
- A lie is like a war club, sword, or arrow – Proverbs 25:18
- The words we say have the power of life and death – Proverbs 18:21
- Words defile a person more than physical things, such as food –Matthew 15:10-11
The Bible says words are deadly and likens them to weapons of war.
In today’s justice system, weaponized words and “malicious harassment” (making threats) can land a person in legal trouble.
Threats such as bribery, extortion (coercing someone to give them money), and blackmail (demanding money in exchange for withholding damaging information) are illegal. Financial abuse—such as identity theft and stealing money or property—won’t give you a black eye, but it is illegal and can destroy a person. It is a crime and a violation of the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.”
One woman I interviewed told me this story:
My husband opened accounts in my name online using my Social Security number and driver’s license. He slept with a bank teller to get an ATM card for my savings account and took everything. He forged my signature on the checks.
Taking money from someone without their permission or knowledge is theft. It's is stealing, and it's against God's Word.
But let's look at words themselves. Are they really harmless? No, they can destroy a person. The emotional pain from a cruel mother, father, teacher, or spouse hurt a long time. In fact, verbal abuse of children or elders is a criminal offense.
Malicious harassment (making threats) is a crime.
All of these do damage, and some of it is more devastating and longer lasting than physical injury.
Evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. —2 Timothy 3:13 (NIV)
For Bible verses that show that every type of abuse qualifies as biblical grounds for divorce, see this overview of Bible verses online. For a chapter on all the key passages in the Bible on divorce, as well as the Jewish and Biblical background, see Chapter 6.
For a list of 5 types of abuse see HERE.
For a chapter giving examples of 150 examples of types of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect) and explaining the term "gaslighting," along with many first-person stories, read Chapter 4 in the Life-Saving Divorce.
For a diagram of the Duluth Wheel of Power and Control and The Abuse Cycle, read Chapter 4.
For a definition of life-saving divorces, read What is a Life-Saving Divorce?