It’s All On You:  Part I and II


“The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.”  Proverbs 11:3

Part I

Whenever there is something in your relationship with your abuser that needs to be fixed, undone, redone, created, accommodated, facilitated, or apologized for, just know that it’s on you to do it.

From early on, the abuser establishes a precedent that what he wants or needs is always, always the highest priority in the relationship.  It doesn’t take long for you, his target-victim, to figure out that stepping out of line in any area will incur his overt disapproval, punishment or wrath.  Once he succeeds in implanting a healthy measure of fear in you, the man will incrementally connect trip-wires to every aspect of your life.  You will surely feel the unbreakable tether of obligation, an excessive desire to please and an increasing weight of anxiety to do everything exactly right.  You will find yourself treading lightly and striving for perfection while an ungodly form of bondage takes root and begins to consume every aspect of your life.

From there, the abuser simply works to ratchet down your life further, increasingly limiting your freedom while adding to your level of responsibility, putting all of the pressure on you to keep the relationship alive, if you can call it that.  If things fall apart,  the responsibility for its demise will lie with you.  You will have failed.

It’s not just a tall order; it’s an impossible one.  By accepting his terms and conditions, you can expect your life to be built on ever-shifting sands of panic-borne hypersensitivity.  Grow accustomed to sleepless nights consistent with a burgeoning undercurrent of stress that will find you battling physical and emotional exhaustion.  That’s okay with him.  That is merely evidence of his power over you.

For a time – years maybe – you will work to convince yourself that you can manage it.  You will quickly adapt to his unspoken mantra – that it is on you to forfeit your needs to ensure that his are met.  Be careful not only of what you say but how you say it.  A poor turn of phrase  will cost you.  Your calendar is subject to his.   Even though you make plans with the understanding that he will take care of the kids, when he is suddenly invited to go golfing or decides he has something better to do, you must know that your plans are disposable.  His demanding, controlling, callous and demeaning ways must be accommodated at any and every expense – and by that I mean yours.

Your wants and needs don’t matter.  Remember that.

To survive, you must live a hyper-sensitive, even paranoid existence to avoid stumbling into any one of a thousand trip-wires he has connected to your life, affecting your friendships and familial relationships, your job, your finances, your social life and household responsibilities.  It is up to you to make sure he gets the privacy, quiet and attention he needs.  And when it comes to your love life, just make sure you are ready, willing and able when he is in the mood.  Make sure he is not expected to do anything he doesn’t want to  and that no dust rests where he doesn’t want to see it.

Don’t get sick because he doesn’t want to take care of you.  He may well resent you for slacking off and may even compel you to quit your sniffling, get out of bed and do all of the things he expects of you anyway.

Don’t miss one of his phone calls, and don’t arrive home later than expected or there will be hell to pay.  Know that he probably won’t like your friends or your family members.  He will not hide his disapproval, demand that you shun them, and will exude a toxic air should they come around to make sure they know they are unwelcome in your home and your life.

On the other hand, you are expected to put on a good show when people he wants to impress are around – his boss, his co-workers, his golf buddies, or church folks. Don’t do anything to make him look bad.  Don’t even think about telling him or anyone else that you are unhappy, because that will reflect badly on him, and he won’t have it.  You must never complain about anything in your life or infer that he isn’t doing enough, and never ask him for a favor. Whatever stress you bear in your life is yours alone to deal with – and is deserved, as far as he is concerned.  In fact, he probably wishes you were suffering more than you are.

It is on you to make sure that he is not unhappy or even inconvenienced.  It is on you to ensure that there is no drama.  It is on you to say only what he wants to hear and nothing he doesn’t.  Make sure you don’t disagree with him and God forbid that you should ever think about standing up for yourself.  Should you fail in any of these areas, when he explodes, it will be because you foolishly or unintentionally tripped one of those tiny little wires.

Then you can expect to hear him spewing, “If it wasn’t for you,” “This is all your fault,” or “You made me do it!”

So, I ask you:  Is it that you alone hold the power to keep him sane, or is it that he simply wields a totality of dictatorial power to make you feel that way?

The reality is that he has created an impossible scenario that keeps him at the center, compels you to conform to his will at every turn, holds you captive to constant fear, deprives you of your individuality and freedom, and then holds you responsible for his terrorizing.

Now that you know what he’s up to, cut the trip-wires – all of them – and get away from him.

In case you haven’t figured it out, that’s not love.  It’s abuse.

Part II

“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”  Proverbs 17:15

When you get to the point where you cannot take it anymore and leave him, he will be all too happy to tell anyone who will listen that you abandoned him, you didn’t hold to your commitment, you let him down.  And people will surround him and console him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault.  Some people you thought you could count on will avoid you, or give you that sideways glance of disapproval, or may even come to you and tell you that he loves you, he wants you back and believes with his whole heart that your marriage can be saved.  And if you try to explain to those people how unbelievably cruel your relationship has been, they will look at you quizzically and urge you to forgive him and assure you that he wants to work things out.  Should you express any doubt about the legitimacy of his mindset, some will probably view you as unforgiving or downright selfish.

You may begin to wonder if you’re crazy and if you really haven’t done enough.  Don’t believe it for a second.  If you know in your heart that nothing has changed then, well, nothing has changed.  But, it will all be on you, and some people will not support you or decide not to be friends with you anymore and will speak ill of you behind your back.

With all of that put upon you, it will pretty amazing that you will somehow find the strength to survive the insanity of it all.  You will find the determination to get out in spite of the gossip and the pressure and your fears about the future because you know what is true and have decided that you are not going to live that way anymore.

And when the day finally comes that you find yourself free of the abuse, when you are breathing the free air and relishing the simple joy of contentment in your life, that’s all on you.

“For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord sustains the righteous.” Proverbs 37:17

Cindy Burrell

Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved


11 thoughts on “It’s All On You:  Part I and II”

  1. Cindy,

    Excellent follow-up to the “War Room” warning post.

    People who have NOT experienced cruel, blatant–and subtle–abuse, be it physical, mental, emotional, psychological, verbal, and/or spiritual, simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND, particularly if the abuser, who is perhaps even a narcissist and/or psychopath, knows exactly how to put on a good face in public, in church, and in the workplace.

    People who have NOT prayed, cried, prayed, counseled, prayed, read all the “self help” books, prayed, scoured the Scriptures for help, for sometimes YEARS to, perhaps, no avail for their (abusive) spouse who may not have any intention whatsoever of real, lasting change, again, simply have NO IDEA what it’s like to live with one.

    But when the abuser reaches the pearly gates, as it were, the question won’t be, “Don’t worry, it’s your wife’s fault that you abused her because she didn’t pray hard enough or long enough, in her war room, or with enough faith.” (Of course this applies also to some men who are targets of spousal abuse.)

    Nope. It will be the abuser alone with God. No shifting blame, then.

    As for “church leadership” that also tries to shift the blame to the abuse target? Same.

    Because the plain truth is this: God may well be behind certain events that could lead an abuser to repentance, but the abuser still has a choice.

    That’s called the free will doctrine.

    And as hard as it is for some to believe, especially for those who have never had to deal with a real abuser, he may still choose to go right on abusing despite his wife’s prayers and efforts.

    There were times even Jesus walked away from an unrepentant person (the rich young ruler) and there were certain villages in which even He could do little “because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5). And He moved on.

    In the meantime, I would like to add another enlightening and encouraging Scripture for women who really need to leave the danger of their relationships, whether or not the “church leadership” thinks they should stay and keep submitting or, to the film’s big point, get in their prayer closet and get to work: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions” (Proverbs 27:12 NLT).

    And one more: “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19 NASB).

    But of course, it sounds as if the husband in this fluff flick is not really abusive, just immature.

    By the way, from my own research on the topic of abuse, if the character in that movie were a real person, and the husband was abusive and not just immature or making bad choices, her somewhat cavalier attitude about her husband’s philandering heart would really be a sign of some kind of mental and emotional damage on her part, for several reasons.

    She would have responded like she did likely out of denial, fear, or despair. Or she would not have responded at all, fearing his response of blame-shifting and/or rage were she to dare confront him with this.

    Normal would be mourning the loss of the sanctity of her marriage not to mention feeling the humiliation of being betrayed. And of course the many, long term ramifications of the damage done to children in a real abuse environment bear their own sad weight on minds and hearts and spirits…

    It is outrageous that “church leadership” would still send abuse targets back to the danger zone or imply that they are responsible in any way for a real abuser’s unrepentant heart. There is enough information and research out there now for ignorance to no longer be an excuse–not to mention all that the Scriptures have to say about the topic…

    I hope many are drawn to the truth of your observations, here, and to the MERCY of the Lord, Jesus Christ, Who alone offers hope and deliverance for the abused–and, if he would yield to REAL transformation in Jesus Christ, hope for the abused, as well.

    It just might necessary for him to transform from afar, somewhere where he is no longer a threat to his wife or children.

    1. Hello, “P.”

      I think your response is a post in itself. You go!

      You offered so much good stuff here. I am with you in that what I find the most frustrating is the response of the typical church to abuse. But, I have to hope and pray that, with people like you and me and others like us sharing the truth about abuse, others in leadership will begin to take notice and try to a different tack. If not, we will still be here trying to offer validation and truth and encouragement to those who seek it.

      Keep up the good work, dear friend.


  2. I am so glad to have found your site. Found it thru crying out for justice. I am trying to separate, feeling crazy anxiety and fear. Thanks for your articles, they are awesome.

  3. I had tears in my eyes by the end of this post…this was me for 20 years of my life, well I suppose longer than that. 20 years o married life to someone who had trip wires set around every corner, lacked empathy and expected life to be all about him. Then when he walked out in ’09 telling everyone we had mutually agreed to a separation to work on reconciliation which was a big fat lie, I said no more and filed for divorce. The next three years were still a nightmare with him letting everyone know how sad he was that I wasn’t willing to reconcile and only wanted a divorce, which of course he did not want…all the while sending me nasty hate-filled emails letting me know how I wasn’t worth anything and had only contributed maybe 2 % to our family while we were married, etc, etc, etc.

    I lost who I thought were friends, had church members turn away from me because of how unGodly a woman I was, and was told to basically try harder and make it work because God hates divorce don’t you know.

    BUT something amazing happened when he walked out that door on a sunny Friday afternoon in all this fan fare of doing it to save our marriage…I was finally able to take a deep breath as this tremendous weight was lifted from me. I sank to the floor and cried, emotions spilling out of me like I’d never experienced before…and I breathed deeply of relief and freedom.
    God had set me free and over time I began to find joy in the contentment of life which I hadn’t ever really known in two decades.

    Thank you for writing such a powerful post…I pray your words reach those who need to read them.

    1. Hello, Amy, and thank you for taking the time to share some of your own experience here. It always breaks my heart to read accounts like yours, and I’m sure other readers will also see themselves in your story. I swear abusers all operate from the same playbook. Nevertheless, every story is unique and every broken heart hungers for truth and healing.

      I’m so glad you have found the peace and contentment you longed for – in spite of the odds and the unbelievable opposition. Maybe someday we will make headway in this battle. Maybe someday more people will “get it” and realize that they should be protecting the offended rather than their offenders.

      All the best,


    2. Blessings and healing to you amy. May God continue to lead you out of the darkness of abuse and into the light of self worth and knowledge. Read all you can on cindys site, filled with wisdom and a new and better future for you!

  4. I have been reading this blog as well as “Cry For Justice” for the past 6 months or so, and both are excellent and so helpful! I am going thru this exact thing in my 11 year marriage right now. I have ALWAYS felt that I had to earn the right to be in a relationship with my husband. He insists that I and our son have to constantly prove our love to him, and all the while he is controlling and constantly monitoring our words and actions. It is Exhausting!! Last week he told me and our marriage counsellor (we go individually not together) that he gives at least 20% to the relationship and I give 0%. He also said that he lowered his efforts to 20% to bring himself down to my level!

    He has been controlling and emotionally abusive for many years and at times verbally abusive. It is stunning to me that someone would relate relationship performance in percentages. He also gave me a list of 3 or 4 things I need to do in order to keep the relationship alive, he then looked at me sadly, shook his head and said “I just hope you can do it”. As though all of the responsibility rests on me – in his mind I think it does. This feels abusive to me, it is not love. Love doesn’t have to prove or meet quotas. It’s freely given and received with joy.
    Any thoughts on this? I feel so confused, I don’t even know what’s normal anymore. I spent 2 sleepless nights and a 3 day migraine headache due to worry and stress over how I was going to prove this, do my duty, keep the relationship alive, etc.
    I might add that he was very happy, almost gleeful, for a couple days after this conversation. I think he felt like he had his power back, had me properly under his control and jumping thru his hoops.
    Any insights would be appreciated. I know each party his to give their all and sacrifice at times in order to make a relationship work …. But this just feels like pure legalism to me.

    1. Hello, Sonflower.

      I am glad you found ACFJ and my website, as well. I have the greatest respect for Pastor Jeff and the other contributors on their blog. The book he co-authored by the same name is also excellent.

      His comments and expectations go way beyond legalism. The comment you made about your husband being “almost gleeful” speaks volumes. I agree with your interpretation of his words and actions. He believes he has found the ultimate trump card, a position of self-proclaimed superiority in the relationship. In his mind, there need not be any basis of truth in his declaration, just a self-centered presumption of rightness. You said it well: That’s not love.

      Because you are becoming more acquainted with the abuse dynamic, how abusers think and what matters most to them (domination and control), I want to encourage you to look beyond his crazy-making, the lies and half-truths and guilt messages. You have to get back to a place where you trust your instincts about what is really going on, to a place where you can identify what is true about him and about your relationship.

      You might also want to consider my book, “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” (second edition). We offer it for only $8.95 as an e-book, and it provides a very thorough walk-through of the abuse dynamic – the way abusers operate, the way we enablers are inclined to respond, along with a constructive pathway toward healing, freedom and recovery. You can read reviews on Amazon (and I think there are some on the website) if you are interested. It is the quickest way to get a wealth of information into your hands.

      Regardless, if you are interested in delving into this a little more, you are welcome to e-mail me privately from the “Contact Cindy” page. I’m definitely curious about the priorities of your counselor, as many make it a priority to save the marriage rather than saving people from the marriage…

      I hope to hear from you and thank you for taking the time to write and share.


      1. Hi Cindy, Thank you for your quick response to my comment. I cannot find the “contact Cindy” page. Not sure if it’s not here or if I’m just not seeing it. I can respond to your question about our counsellor here tho.

        We initially went to couple marriage counselling approximately 6 months ago because my husband BLEW UP at my parents, in their own home, because they were not going along with his (husbands) idea to alienate my brother, who he HATES, because he feels my parents help brother out too much and pay too much attention to him. None of this is true in my mind, I think it’s pure pettiness and jealousy, ie nobody is allowed to get more than hubby is getting. He has even said, “they need to make me feel like I’m as important to them as your brother is”. Ridiculous!! My parents are sane and able and have a right to live their own lives and help whomever they want to. My husband has since told me that he will have nothing more to do with my family. Ever. This includes my siblings and their families (He has always, from day one, been critical and negative about them). I made it very clear to him that I will never cut off contact with my family and both I and our son WILL continue to see them. This is why we initially went to counselling. I always felt that hubby needed to go alone but he refused to go unless I would go as well. Eventually, about 3 months in, the couples counselling broke down because we were getting nowhere and hubby stomped out of the session. After that I told the counsellor that I would come alone.

        The counsellor has since told me that he also works in a recovery program for abused women, he specializes in dealing with men who abuse. He has been very forward with me in saying that my husband, “displays abusive tendencies and beliefs” and at times acts in abusive ways. He has stopped short of calling him an abuser, but really – how can you be anything else if you have abusive beliefs?! The counsellor has clearly defined for me that when we first came to him, we contracted him to help us with the relationships do so that will be his focus BUT He also told me that I can change that request and then he will change his focus. I believe he sees what is really going on but he wants me to see it for myself and draw my own conclusions.

        Sorry for this long post, just wanted to give some background.

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