I liked Theresa Newberry's story and I'm grateful for her permission to use it.

Theresa wrote: "I was a wife who wanted to do everything that a Godly wife should do to keep her husband and marriage happy. Early in my Christianity, I went to many women's conferences and workshops to learn how I should be and act being as I had no role model from my home. One particular seminar included the following list. NOW I can see how I indoctrinated myself into accepting the emotion and verbal abuse that I enduring under the name of Jesus. See if you can identify yourself in this. We were taught that in order to 'accept' our husband and make him happy, we needed to turn any negative trait/characteristic into a positive one and accept him for his faults. The problem is that we were never advised when to recognize it as abuse.

Due to this teaching, abuse went unrecognized, was rampant and I did not consider it abuse. As I perused my computer files, I saw this and was amazing that I had encouraged women (early in my own marriage) to remain faithful to their mates because of what I was learning (below). I have asked God's forgiveness for my ignorance.  [Note: The following list has been lightly edited for clarity, and to include the reality that some women can be the badly behaved one in the marriage.]

How Church Teachings Cause Us to Miss Dangerous Traits

Notice how the church tells us to reinterpret the bad, sinful, and destructive behavior. The first column is the actual negative behavior. The second column is how we were taught to excuse it, minimize it, or reframe it.

Dangerous or Worrisome traits How we Reinterpret These into Good, Safe, and Pleasant traits
• Spendthrift, overspends He/she is generous
• Jealous He/she is protective, they really care about me
• Possessive He/she is concerned, devoted, loyal
• Arrogant, conceited He/she is self-assured
• Immature, childish He has boyish charm; She’s so cute
• Stubborn He/she is persistent
• Dominating/controlling He/she is strong minded
• Insecure He/she is vulnerable
• Uncompromising He/she is self-disciplined
• Tightwad He/she is conservative, economical in finances
• Fastidious He/she is discriminating
• Compulsive He/she is faithfulness, persistence, steadfastness
• Abusive/likes to fight He/she is competitive
• Moody He/she is Emotional
• Critical He/she is analytical minded
• Non-demonstrative He/she is stoic, calm, tranquil, not easily ruffled
• Hot head/ irritable He/she is excitable
• Instigator He/she is motivator
• Nosy, intrusive He/she is inquisitive minded, he wants to know me better
• Suspicious He/she is concerned


After I posted Theresa’s list on my private Facebook page, people added more traits and examples of how we minimize, reinterpret, or gaslight ourselves.
Here are a few more.

Dangerous or Worrisome traits How we Reinterpret These into Good, Safe, and Pleasant traits
Manipulative He/she is creative
Irresponsible He/she is fun loving
Foolish He/she is exciting and thrill-seeking
Sex addict/Sex offender He/she had problems in the past, but marriage will fix them.
Insensitive to others He/she “tells it like it is.”
Impulsive He/she is a free spirit
Rude He/she is authentic
Angry He/she has emotional outbursts
Insults good people He/she is open and honest
Deceptive He/she is a free thinker!
Subversive He/she thinks outside the box
Secretive He/she is open to new opportunities
Lying He/she explores alternate facts
Triangulating other people to gang up against you He/she is a team builder
Financial abuser (uses family rent/grocery money for their own wants) He/she is investing for the future. Or he/she wants to lift the family status.
Menacing, Intimidating He/she’s just intense.
Hypocritical He/she learns by trial and error
Desertion He/she is building a new future
Drug/alcohol problem He/she only drinks to relax and have fun; can stop anytime; doesn’t affect their job/school/family life
Pedophile He/she loves being around kids, it brings out their fun-loving nature. They're just a kid at heart
Watches porn He’s a normal virile red-blooded man
Displays weapons; points gun at you A manly man (or a no-nonsense woman) who is confident.  Good protector.
Gives you the silent treatment He/she is just quiet and non-talkative
Controlling He/she is a good manager who keeps a close eye on your every need and emotion
Fails to keep promises He/she is afraid of confrontation. Probably because I’m too aggressive. They’ve got a lot on their mind.
Fails to mention important information He/she is just forgetful
Ignores important holidays, especially your birthday He/she isn’t good at planning
Mean, contemptuous He/she has high standards
Stonewalls, doesn’t talk about options to solve major problems He/she needs more time to make decisions. You’re too demanding.
Falsifies achievements in sports or schools or jobs He/she exaggerates a little, but it’s no big deal. It’s like a fish tale, it just gets bigger and bigger.


When we see a problem, we have a lot of options on how to deal with it. Some common ones include: Denial, Self-Blame, or Revelation. See pages 370-373 in my book, The Life-Saving Divorce.



Start Here

Physical and Emotional Abuse & Infidelity

God Allows Divorce to Protect Vulnerable People

How to Find a Good Supportive Church


Divorce Saves Lives: The Surprising (Wonderful!) Truth About Divorce Nobody Told You

Will I Ever Find Love Again? Dating After Divorce: Good News

Finding Happiness and Health After Divorce


Thriving After Divorce: These Christians Tell their Stories

Self-Doubt, Second-Guessing Ourselves, and Gaslighting

Children and Divorce: Researchers Give Hope


High Conflict Divorce and Parenting

Recommended Reading List and Free Resources for Christians and Other People of Faith

Common Myths