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Leslie Vernick on Emotional Abuse
Friday, October 20, 2017 by Laura Bender

Dr. Leslie Vernick is the author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. She is one of the leading Christian voices regarding emotional abuse. When I was recovering from marital betrayal, I was extremely proactive with reading, therapy, classes, etc., and by far, Leslie Vernick brought the most clarity for me regarding all aspects of my marriage.

Leslie has several short YouTube videos explaining her book. I highly recommend watching each video, then diving into her book. After watching her introductory session, you’ll want to pull up YouTube and listen to each topic.


An Overview

In these YouTube videos, you will hear a little about:

  1. The difference between a difficult, disappointing, and destructive marriage.
  2. How to recognize emotional abuse and know when the line gets crossed.
  3. Freedom – an essential ingredient in all relationships.
  4. Misunderstandings about the concepts of biblical headship & submission.
  5. When trying harder becomes destructive.
  6. Whether or not God cares more about sex than love.
  7. Why consequences are an important wakeup call.
  8. What it takes to heal a destructive marriage.
  9. What to do when there is no change.
  10. Five steps to lasting change.
  11. Building your CORE strength.
  12. How to recognize when someone is truly sorry.
  13. The importance of forgiveness.


Abuse & Abusers 

Controlling vs. Reactive Abuse

As I said, this book brought me so much clarity, allowing me to understand interactions between me and my former spouse that brought confusion at the time. One area that was especially helpful for me was understanding the difference between controlling abuse and reactive abuse

When we live with an emotionally abusive spouse for many years and our personhood is being damaged, our attempts to protest his treatment of us can also be done in an emotionally abusive manner – that is “reactive abuse.” 

Unfortunately, this gives our husband something to point the finger at, and our reactive behavior can become the focus rather than our concern about his ORIGINAL abuse. 

Overt vs. Covert Abusers

Leslie also clarifies the types of emotional abusers. An overtly abusive husband makes it quite obvious for counselors to discern what's going on. But a covert abuser is subtle and manipulative, so that people surrounding the couple perceive the reacting wife as the abuser and focus on her instead. When helpers try to deal with a reacting wife FIRST, the husband is validated and all is twisted so that his behavior is presented as merely a reaction to her. When this secondary abuse happens, a wife can stay in trauma far longer than she should.

(A Note on Pornography)

When a husband uses pornography, that may be the primary place of trauma for a wife, but it can be accompanied by many emotionally abusive behaviors. Chief among these are deceit and disrespect, which often lead to gaslighting, minimizing, indifference, and so on. Never believe a man who says he’s finished with pornography, yet he’s never reached out for professional or spiritual help.


Be careful my sisters, who, when, where, and how you seek help for emotional abuse within your marriage. It must be safe for you! Above all else, guard your heart.

I would highly recommend reading Leslie's book, even before seeking counsel from a pastor, or counselor. Unfortunately, most are not trained or experienced in working with couples where emotional abuse is present.  The knowledge in this book will help you articulate correctly as you communicate with those who are trying to help your marriage. As you reach out for support, sometimes we assume our family and friends are safe to share with, but when they’re also close with our abuser, chances are high they’ll believe his manipulated version of the marriage.

Has a pastor, counselor, friend or family member ever quoted to you, "Love covers a multitude of sins"? I had this said to me from a family member who’s a pastor. He also asked me if I had the Fruit of the Spirit in my life! Really?! That’s like asking a person as they’re screaming and running out of a burning building if they feel the peace of God! When those who attempt to help us can’t see the issues clearly, Scripture can be applied incorrectly. Wrong counsel can compound your hurt and create secondary abuse. It’s deeply hurtful coming from those you EXPECT to support you; instead, they prefer to remain passive or indifferent, WORSE YET, they side with or support your abuser!

"To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it."
Martin Luther King

"Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act." 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I cannot recommend Dr. Leslie Vernick enough! Emotional Abuse truly is her specialty, and her mission is to create widespread awareness.

Visit her website at: http://www.leslievernick.com

Connect to her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/LeslieVernickFanPage

"Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their heart." Proverbs 26: 25

"Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you're an expert at telling lies. You love evil more than good and lies more than truth." Psalm 52:2

"If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it's you, my equal, my companion, with who I enjoyed sweet fellowship..." Psalm 55:12-14

"My companion violates his covenant. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let  the righteous be shaken.. But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay." Psalm 55:20-23


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Laura Bender

Laura serves as the Executive Director on the board of HER. She is passionate about helping  betrayed women who struggle emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and financially. She has been leading weekly marital betrayal support groups for several years. Currently, Laura connects with leaders, writers, and counselors, to unite the efforts of those who share a burden for betrayed women.

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