Lessons in learning how to never be ensnared in an abusive relationship again

Below is submitted by Lisa Stephan. She wanted to share some of what she (painfully!) learned in her marriage. Thank you Lisa for sharing some of your story!


Welcome words splashed across my screen each evening as a new relationship formed with a Christian man in Arizona.  Words I read hungrily as I learned about a man who might be ‘the one!’


At 42, I thought I had lived long enough to be wise in choosing. In retrospect, I realized that I made HUGE assumptions as I danced down the path into marriage, only 6 months after meeting – thanks to E-Harmony.  (Lesson One:  date someone for 2 years before deciding they deserve the immense privilege of becoming your spouse – NO exceptions!)


I wanted to marry someone Christian, among other qualities. Jeremy (not his real name) had:


  • grown up in the church,
  • helped found the church he attended,
  • read announcements each week (and had a knack for getting everyone chuckling),
  • taught the Junior High youth each Sunday,
  • was an accountability partner for two male friends of his (take a breath to continue!)
  • AND hosted a singles group meeting at his house each week.


Reading that list, as I did in response to my question about his faith, can you hear too what my spirit instantly recognized, but what I remember quickly disregarding under the lens of all his ‘Christian-ness’?  (Lesson Two: Don’t discount your gut reaction. If you don’t understand why you feel something is ‘wrong’, ask yourself why until you figure it out, or ask a wise(r) friend.)


My Assumptions: 

  1. A Christian man will be kind. Of course he will also have faults, we all do.
  2. A Christian man will want how he tries to live his life to be… well, Christian.
  3. A Christian man will pray with his wife. Oh, how I dearly wanted someone to pray with me. Not that I had a deep prayer life. I just knew how special this would be. (full disclosure)
  4. I will be able to tell who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’ quite easily. (NOW I can)


What I learned, and some of the RED FLAGS for you and me still to watch out for:


  1. What I instantly felt reading that long list of Christian ‘doing’ was ‘What about your own faith?’ All that Jeremy did was external. His faith is all about how others see him. Lesson Three: Controlling, abusive, legalistic men ARE found in the church too. 


  1. Jeremy moved quickly from visiting to talking about marriage. Lesson Four: Abusive men will rush you into marriage so they can stop working so hard at always being nice. Do not be rushed into making such life altering decisions as marriage (and moving to Arizona!)


  1. Beneath the pleasant exterior he works hard to portray, Jeremy is an intensely angry man.

Thus the emotional abuse began and never ended. I eventually learned that his brother treats his wife the same way, and that his Dad treated his mom the same way too.


Signs of anger that abusive / narcissistic men may show while dating: 

  1. Easily offended: ie. unwarranted road rage, hostile driving
  2. Angrily lay 100% blame on their ex-spouse for their marriage ending
  3. Calling their ex-spouse by a derogatory name rather than ever saying their real name
  4. Demanding or forcefully coaxing you to do something against your wishes
  5. Saying one thing but doing another. Actions DO speak louder than words. Turn the volume down on their words, and watch for tell-tale actions.


There are more red flags, but of course I didn’t wait long enough before giving 10 precious years of my life to an abusive relationship. If you wish to gain the full list, read When Love Hurts. Bookmark the pages, and if you are dating, or want to.

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