Spiritual Abuse, Infidelity, and Divorce

It’s hard enough to go through infidelity and divorce, it’s worse when there’s spiritual abuse. When those you thought would bring comfort — your faith tradition, religious leaders, or church community — blame you.

In the latest Tell Me How You’re Mighty episode, we talk with Rev. David Derksen, otherwise known as Divorce Minister, about his work helping people navigate the dual harm of being cheated on and suffering spiritual abuse.

David is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, an ordained minister, a federal prison chaplain, and a former chump who gained a better life after leaving a cheater. (If you attended Chumpalooza, you may have met David and his wife Aubrey.)

What is spiritual abuse when there’s infidelity?

Spiritual abuse is when someone uses religious beliefs to scare, hurt, or control another. For someone who’s been cheated on, it looks like:

  • Blaming you for the infidelity (what did you do to make him/her cheat? What needs weren’t you meeting, etc.)
  • Considering divorce to be the greater sin than adultery.
  • Pressuring you to forgive.
  • Pressuring you to “stand for your marriage” or continue to reconcile regardless of whether or not your spouse is still actively in the affair.

In David’s case, his former wife was cheating on him. And then he was forced to answer to his denomination for his purported failings as a husband! At the time he was going through the ordination process and the church considered this a black mark of sorts on his fitness to be a pastor. Yes, for something he had absolutely no control over.

How do you reconcile your faith with abuse?

In David’s case, this painful chapter of his life launched him into an entirely new ministry (and a new church). From those ashes he started Divorce Minister to help others from an evangelical Christian background find support for divorce.

Now many of you don’t need scripture to give you permission to divorce. But if you’ve been bludgeoned with scripture telling you that you’re the problem here, it’s good to have a Yale Divinity School grad disarm that DARVO for you.

In the podcast, we talk about the blessing of unanswered prayers, sinister ministers, and not letting FWs steal your joy.

In your chump story, did you experience spiritual abuse? Was your faith community supportive of you? Did your cheater weaponize your faith?

I’m a big fan of David’s work changing the victim-blaming narrative around infidelity. Way to be mighty!

“There is beauty in the midst of the carnage.”

Divorce Minister
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susie lee
susie lee
28 days ago

No my pastor and his wife were amazing. FW’s relationship with the preacher ended, he had lied to so many folks including the preacher. (Preacher was also a PD chaplain).

I did have a woman at church stand there when she found out and sanctimoniously say “I promised myself I would never divorce”, I just looked at her and said “sometimes you don’t get a choice”. Preachers wife was standing there, she gave her a dirty look and said something encouraging and supportive of me. It has been too long to remember.

I don’t blame the church for what she did, but it sure hurt at the time. I never spoke to tht woman again, I don’t remember her name, just how she made me feel.

I read DM every day, and support his work. I has to be so much worse when church leaders do that; they should know better.

Elizabeth Lee
Elizabeth Lee
28 days ago

Oh wow, did he ever!

The ex basically said that he could do whatever he wanted and there was nothing I could do about it because divorce was not okay. He once listened to a sermon where the pastor said that obedience is easy for a wife when her husband loves her the way he is supposed to (by putting her needs ahead of his). He then got in the car and said that until I obeyed him in everything then he didn’t need to put me first. When the kids protested, he got really angry. And the very last time I was alone with him (trapped in an elevator) he said that he wasn’t a believer and it was all my fault because I never gave him an adequate defense of the gospel. That was fairly early in the divorce, and I never made that mistake again.

And, no, I haven’t yet figured out how to reconcile the spiritual abuse I suffered with my beliefs about God. And I don’t know how to be a part of a church when I have seen so much evil in so many churches. I’m looking forward to listening to the podcast!

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Lee

That’s awful Elizabeth Lee, like the Devil used your wicked XH to attack you to weaken your Faith. I think that’s what happened with my STBX and me , and he was the stick the Devil was beating me with, as I was wanting to get closer and closer to God and STBX was only ever lukewarm at best.
Anyway, don’t allow your X or sanctimonious or hypocritical people to come between yourself and Christ. Narcs are drawn to the Church, because it’s a very effective way to gain power over people and do evil whilst appearing to be “good” ( look what’s been going on in the RCC! A fair few of us feel we can’t even trust our Pope anymore!), the old wolves in sheep’s clothing! The Devil uses them to attack Christians of sincere Faith- don’t let him get away with it! God bless!

Divorce Minister
Divorce Minister
27 days ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Lee

“And, no, I haven’t yet figured out how to reconcile the spiritual abuse I suffered with my beliefs about God.” I want to tell you that such is understandable and okay. The God I serve understands and would never force someone into a situation that caused them more harm. Glad you are interested in exploring how to heal from all this trauma and moral injury.

BTW, if you have specific questions, you can always email me via my website. I’m happy to respond when I have time.

Elsie_
Elsie_
28 days ago

Yes, that was very much a part of my mess. My ex was from a family of preachers and missionaries, and he preached part-time.

I was slow to put it all together, but thankfully our long-term church got it after my husband took off to live the single life. They recommended waiting at least a year to see if he came to his senses. Deep down, I had given up. Things had been going down for over a decade, and I was worn out. On my own and at the one-year mark, I emailed my husband that I was done with relationship discussions. He kicked off the divorce from his “rebel wife” because I wouldn’t reconcile. His family blamed and shamed me, even saying that “God had only one path — reconcile.” Never mind what I knew of my husband’s bad behavior, his long-term cycle of addiction/sobriety, and his documented mental health issues. The victim shaming was thick.

When I finally sat down with an attorney, I felt both conflicted and committed. He turned out to be a man of faith, which helped. He got it done with dignity. I appreciated that. It was a wild ride, and I had no doubt when the judge signed off that it was the right thing. I had a lot of therapy and coaching and joined a 12-step group.

Closeout hit during the pandemic, and I did a huge amount of reading and study. I found Chumplady and Divorce Minister. I never lost my faith but had to rework it quite a bit. When things opened up again, my son and I went back to our long-term church where my ex used to preach at times.

Yes, it all came around to a good place.

OutButNotDown
OutButNotDown
28 days ago

I think the narrative in Christian communities of avoiding divorce at all costs because divorce is the big sin has GOT to end.

More and more victims of infidelity, and all forms of abuse (sometimes even physical abuse!), and sex addictions including degrading porn habits are beginning to wake up to the harms they put up with for far too long only to be harmed further by pastors and other church leaders who blame and shame them for even thinking of divorce.

I gratefully read Divorce Minister every day and I loved hearing from him on the podcast.

I was spiritually abused by my hot-shot missionary ex, and also the mission organization which sent us. They were supposed to provide care for us as a family, not just for my ex, but very much blew it, and I definitely experienced that dual harm.

My ex meanwhile masterfully spun things so that he continues to be a missionary leader with continued financial backing from several churches. I haven’t seen the proof, but I think he only managed this by spouting his nonsense that I was really to blame. I do know that he said about me to one pastor that “I couldn’t get past his affair”, and I “had a problem with unforgiveness.”

Same tired story…he has an affair with a local missionary working under him (abuse of power, spiritually abusing her, too) but gets away with it by pointing the finger at his faithful spouse.

We absolutely need more Mighty stories about the Christian betrayed not finding the narrative on abuse and divorce acceptable and doing something about it!

Props to our fearless leaders: Chump Lady, Divorce Minister, Natalie Hoffman and Flyingfreenow.com, Leslievernick.com, Gretchen Baskerville, author of “The Lifesaving Divorce”, Sheila Gregoire, and more. 👏👏👏

2xchump
2xchump
27 days ago
Reply to  OutButNotDown

Thank you to all the above names and to the free one hour session with a FOCUS ON THE FAMILY Counselor who told me point blank that what my husband was telling me, how he was using me and his behavior towards me was BULL SHIT and I needed to get out now. That was like a bucket of ice water in my face and it helped me continue with locking the door, filing and police protection. I still cry today and wrote a letter of thanks to this Godly man who got me to believe that my abuse was real. Chump lady kept me strong during my divorce process as I found her later. Tracy kept me NO CONTACT which completely saved my mental health. It took many miracles but I am free today due to a healthy Christian community that shined for me.

Bruno
Bruno
28 days ago

My divorce was all tangled up with Jesus Cheaters.
I had both supportive and aggravating experiences with churches and parachurch organizations during and post divorce, which left me confused and a bit angry. I found Divorce Minister while cruising the internet and he led me to Chump Lady. DM’s blog posts were validating to my experience in dealing with FW and church culture. His own experience with a cheater and deep immersion inside church institutions and training, combined with courage and compassion gives him insight hard to find elsewhere.

Viktoria
Viktoria
27 days ago

Ooooh really looking forward to listening to this one! My spiritual community was very supportive thankfully. The pastors in my life believed me, told me that I was in an abusive marriage and supported my divorce from day 1. They helped me understand how scripture has historically been used to shame & blame the injured party (chump) and make them think that they are going against God, in seeking divorce. They helped me get it. This helped my conscience, since it was my DARVOing eX who made a side job out of weaponizing my faith against me and saying everything in the spiritual abuse handbook against me (“I’m fighting for our marriage, are you?” “God is against divorce in ALL circumstances.” “I’m doing the hard work, what about you?” And ” You are so worldly, listening to your (Christian) friends who say it is okay for you to divorce me!” And much more attempted spiritual abuse based guilt tripping. Thanks for reminding me of this website, it is so helpful.

One last time
One last time
27 days ago

My former pastor and two Christian counselors I opened up with were all very supportive. They assured me that the Bible was clear that I should feel no guilt for ending the marriage because of my ex wifes adultery. That helped me, even though emotionally I continued to pickme dance for a while.

Ruby Gained A Life
Ruby Gained A Life
27 days ago

When I uncovered the vast extent of my first husband’s cheating (including the nun who led our pre-Cana class), I kicked him out and filed for divorce. Our priest said marriage is a sacrament; I needed to figure out what was lacking in ME that “made him have to cheat” and then I needed to work on myself to provide whatever it was he needed.

When I discovered my second husband cheating (with Father Steve), it was after I had already left him because of his determined but fortunately unsuccessful attempt to murder me. Father Steve said that what he and my husband were up to “is not cheating, because it is not sex.” He went on to explain that sex is for procreation and it has to be between a man and a woman because there is otherwise no chance for procreation. So Tom and I had been committing adultery (we had divorced our previous spouses, but had not annulled them through the Catholic Church.) Now Tom was no longer committing adultery because what they were doing was not considered by the church to be sex.

I am not a fan of organized religion and no longer attend church.

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago

I’m so sorry! That’s an absolutely horrific twisting of the teachings of the RCC! There absolutely NOTHIN in the teaching of the RCC that remotely supports what he told you! What stinking hypocrisy and wicked sophistry, twisting the teachings of the Church like that! That priest should be de-frocked, he’s not just a bad shepherd, he’s a literal wolf in sheep’s clothing!
I’m not surprised you no longer practise, but I am heart-sorry about it. It does seem that nowadays all Christian churches, of any and all denominations, have been infested by agents of the Devil, doing the Devil’s work, scandalising people and driving them away from Christ when their sacred duty is to lead us TO Him! I’m sickened!

Ka-chump
Ka-chump
27 days ago

Wow, they suck. That’s just diabolical. I’m religious and pray devoutly but also have a hard time joining a church group.

FYI_
FYI_
27 days ago

(including the nun who led our pre-Cana class)

What
the
HELL?!?!?!?!?

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
27 days ago

I’ve read your story before, but I’m still just flabbergasted every time I read it.

unicornomore
unicornomore
27 days ago

Your story is just wild…him having sex with the nun and the priest (who decided what they did wasn’t “sex” ?!?!!?) crazy shit. If I suffered that, I would be gone from Catholicism too.

Ka-chump
Ka-chump
27 days ago
Reply to  unicornomore

I think those are 2 separate FWs

Marco
Marco
27 days ago

If marriage is so sacred why did they shit all over it?

CurlyChump
CurlyChump
27 days ago

Holy mental gymnastics batman! Yeah, talk about religious trauma. So sorry you went through that.

Mehitable
Mehitable
27 days ago

I was raised as a Catholic (it didn’t take, lol) but I never understood how nuns and priests could give really good advice about marriage. It’s like asking a dog about water skiing.

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I’ve often wondered this myself.

Divorce Minister
Divorce Minister
27 days ago

Wow. I am so sorry. That is terrible on so many levels. You are mighty to have survived and gotten through all of that!

lulutoo
lulutoo
27 days ago

OMG! The nun! The father! You are mighty!

Mehitable
Mehitable
27 days ago

I’m not an organized religion person myself but I am a Bible believer because I value the lessons I see repeatedly in the Bible and the history that shows that when you do A….B happens. Like when you practice polygamy….you end up with fucked up families whose wives and kids compete with each other. The Bible is endlessly full of examples of what happens when you fuck up and to me, that’s it’s biggest value. The Bible, both OT & NT, has always acknowledged that divorce is okay, indeed perhaps essential, in the case of adultery, because adultery nullifies the basis for marriage – that two people become one and support each other through life. It’s not Adam and Eve and Tiffany and Tyler….it’s two people because realistically we need that to produce a stable environment for children and continuation of the species and two people is about the limit that you can maintain real and lasting intimacy with. People need to start viewing sex differently – more in the traditional view as the glue that holds couples together and for building the future, and far less for recreational sex, which usually ends up as destructive in the long run. So divorce, at least for adultery, is ALWAYS AN OPTION. ALWAYS. I personally believe there should be other grounds in our modern world, but people who worry about religion and the Bible should recognize that adultery is always considered seriously and as a marriage breaker – not only for the two individuals involved, but its corrosive effect on society is shown by the common practice of stoning (killing) adulterers. Unfortunately this is usually women although I think men could be stoned too in some cultures. The reason for a death sentence for adultery is that it affects many other people than just the initial couple and seems to be contagious. It destroys families and sometimes communities. While I don’t obviously advocate a death penalty…..although it’s tempting…..I think it indicates how our much wiser ancestors were aware of how dangerous and devastating the effects of adultery actually are to society in general and tried to limit its effects.

Also, most organized religious people seem to be giant phonies and/or assholes to me, just my personal belief. I’d just ignore them myself. The minute I hear someone, especially a politician, going on about his/her religious beliefs….the faster I count the spoons.

Last edited 27 days ago by Mehitable
Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

You made some good points here.

Marco
Marco
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Hypocrisy goes a long way doesn’t it.

Mehitable
Mehitable
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Another thing that occurs to me is that Jesus’ treatment of adultery and general forgiveness are almost ALWAYS misused and misquoted to give (esp) cheaters an out. Jesus supported divorce TOO and he said to the woman taken in adultery “Go forth and sin no more”. He didn’t want her killed by the religious hypocrites because he knew that some of them had been with her or lusted after her (or maybe some other woman), and saving her life was more important to him than the usual practice. But he made it clear she was NOT to continue that way of life but to change herself and how she lived. Also, Christianity is NOT a suicide pact. People have to confess themselves and ask for and work towards forgiveness and change themselves and their lives. It is NOT automatic and people should not automatically be forgiven or exempted from punishment. He didn’t say to the Romans when he was on Calgary – “hey, take down those two thieves!” No, because that was the punishment for their crimes at that time. Do the crime, do the time. Forgiveness needs to be EARNED especially if you are to continue being involved with that person. Christianity is not a get out of jail ticket.

Elsie_
Elsie_
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

And that story involved potential victim-blaming! The Old Testament required that both be stoned. So where was the man? And Jesus told her, “Don’t get yourself into this situation again.”

Old Testament scholars say that they believe stoning both parties was actually not often carried out, and that if it did occur, it often involved only the woman because of the cultural norms. I like to believe that Jesus got that dynamic.

susie lee
susie lee
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Folks so many times talk about how Jesus forgave, but they only quote the “you are forgiven” they don’t add the “go forth and sin no more”.

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago
Reply to  susie lee

They don’t, do they? And, adultery being a Mortal sin, is actually not THAT hard to avoid, in fact, from what I and most of us here have experienced, cheats put huge effort into cheating, and living a double-life as many of CN’s cheats turned out to be doing, takes long-term sustained effort that one might expect of an MI5 agent! They certainly are prepared to work very hard to get their jollies, but not so keen when it comes to keeping their vows, even when it would be so much easier!

susie lee
susie lee
27 days ago
Reply to  Shadow

I can’t even imagine the effort my ex put in to it. I get that I was easy to fool, I wasn’t suspicious by nature, and I had my focus on working my hiney off serving his ambitions. But, he fooled a lot of folks, of that I have no doubt.

Mehitable
Mehitable
27 days ago
Reply to  susie lee

Selective memories are so convenient!

susie lee
susie lee
27 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

That was one of the things our preacher made sure he told fw, that he had to actually walk away from sin, whether we got back together or not; otherwise he is not walking the walk. I am sure his words were better than mine, but though he didn’t tell me everything, he made sure I knew that he instructed ex in the way of God, of the way of lust. He also told ex that there is no way God will honor a relationship built on the destruction of another person.

I know others believe different and I respect that, I am just telling my experience.

Chumpasaurus45
Chumpasaurus45
27 days ago

Another great podcast, thank you David, Sarah and Tracy for that really valuable discussion! I never miss any of these podcasts, every one has had great value and been done so well. Bravo!!👏

The FW of the week story hit home with me today.
The guy that magnanimously limited his whoring to just one gf for the benefit of everyone instead of strip clubs and sex workers. It’s just one little affair now, anyone should be okay with that. What a truly thoughtful man he is!

My FW told me on one of the early ( of too many!) D day discoveries with a very long term affair, that his mistress actually saved our marriage.
My mom was at the time dying a horrible death from mets to the bone with BC.
Jean, the helpful adulterer ( also married with kids) was so darn understanding to him and helped him get through that awful time. I had three young kids under three at the time and I’m sure needed no help with that at home, better use of his time, he concluded, was to love bomb his mistress.
Who, herself, had lost her mother early in life and could help him understand my grief process better,so he could navigate that. He was only able to stay married to me, he actually told me, with her assistance in being able to better see and deal with my grief.
How they convince themselves of the bogus lies they amazingly dream up and need to fully believe to cheat, will always remain one of life’s greatest mysteries to me.

Yes, instead of being present and providing emotional support and love for his wife through such a heart wrenching situation, he truly felt he could better serve the whole scenario from his mistress’s bed.

I wish I had the eyes I have now and could have gotten free then.
Unfortunately I hung on so much longer, so many years more, always wanting to believe he was fixable, and I could help him get there.

Love conquers all but lying liars who lie.

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago
Reply to  Chumpasaurus45

Blimey! That’s so warped, I’m gobsmacked! I’m so sorry they abused you like that, it’s beyond wicked!

Mehitable
Mehitable
27 days ago
Reply to  Chumpasaurus45

I’m so sorry you went through such a horrible experience both with your mother’s death and that rotten cheating bastard making up such egregious excuses for such truly unkind and selfish behavior. It shows how truly lost and depraved some people are, they can twist anything into an excuse.

Cam
Cam
27 days ago

I met my cheater in a new age cult. He refused to acknowledge his cheating yet harassed me for months afterward demanding I forgive him.

I didn’t realize I was in a cult until much later. Not until the cult leader started sexually harassing me, and I found out his current marriage started as an affair. Turns out he had tons of mistresses and was raping his students. The cult’s hatred of women started with the man in charge and filtered down to all the men in the ranks. Sexual abuse was not only rampant but among the inner circle, it was organized. An orchestrated campaign of deceit, sexual abuse, and emotional terrorism designed to break people down and create sex slaves. Honestly, the similarities between this cult and NXIVM are too many to list.

In hindsight, I’m not surprised my cheater thrived in such a cesspit. The cult taught women we were stupid and taught men they had carte blanche to abuse women without consequences.

I escaped years ago, thank goodness. Since then, victims have started coming forward with huge allegations (including gang rape), and the media has started publishing investigations into this cult.

Predictably, the cult has freaked out, closed ranks, and run smear campaigns trying to save their skins, but I think their days are numbered.

CurlyChump
CurlyChump
27 days ago

Unanswered prayers certainly ended up being a blessing. I remember those last 6 months we were together, and fighting a lot. I asked God to help save my marriage, “If it was his will.” I think I added that last part because I had a hard time believing that God wanted me to stay in a relationship that had gotten as bad as it had. So yeah, my marriage was not saved (Thank goodness!).

That said, my ex knew how to weaponize my faith. During the divorce, we mostly mediated (I found Chumplady after and learned too late what a mistake that was). I remember him sitting in the mediator’s office and talking about how much he admired my faith, and would take our daughter to church on his custody time. Biggest mistake I made? Not getting any of that in writing. He refuses to let her go to religious ed on his custody days so she can make her first communion (something he knows is important to me, but is also something she genuinely wants to do). Fortunately, I found a church that has been understanding and is letting her make up work she’s missed. I didn’t realize he was so “nice” to me in mediation so I wouldn’t come after him as hard for more custody time. I hadn’t fully realized just how manipulative and full of crap he was until I was further removed from that whole disaster of a marriage and divorce process. I wish I had put it in writing in our divorce decree that he would take her to religious ed classes as necessary.

Fortunately, that saga will hopefully be behind us after this spring.

Still have a bunch of mixed feelings about my divorce. I’m very glad I’m no longer stuck in that crap marriage, but I’m sad about not being able to keep the vows I made before God, and meant.

I briefly considered getting an annulment from the church, but it’s apparently quite a long process (18 months) and $$ (some churches charge $1,000!). Also, since my ex is now married to the “Just a Wife” I’m rather content to let him remain an adulterer for the time being. Why should I go to the trouble of letting him off the hook spiritually? (I realize none of that stuff means anything to him, but it does to me.) At this time I have no desire to remarry. If my feelings change, I can revisit that process, but right now it’s not something in which I’m particularly interested.

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago
Reply to  CurlyChump

I know what you mean about being releived to be out of the abuse but sad that you can’t stay married, even though it isn’t us that broke our vows to God and our cheating Hs. I’m seeking an annulment; it might take a while, but Pope Francis has done at least one good thing and made it free of charge. That means it’s not just for very wealthy Catholics now, which was a form of discrimination against the poor ( and I’d say most of the world’s Catholics could be classed as poor!) but even people like me on a tiny income can seek annulment. Of course, the process will be rigorous, and the last step is called “Defence of the Bond” in which a member of the Tribunal presents a case for the defence and sustaining of the marriage bond but they have to do that I suppose, or there’s a risk of turning annulment into just another form of divorce. Our Lord does say in my Douay-Rheims Bible that a man can’t divorce his wife , EXCEPT for “fornication” , which means any sex that’s not between a man and woman married to each other and so includes adultery, and I will be pointing that out!
I do understand why you’re not though- why enable him to legitimise his Mortally sinful lifestyle and sweep what he’s done under the carpet? Maybe, by stopping him from marrying her in Church, you are helping them both come to true repentance? You’re certainly stopping them from making a mockery of the Sacrament of Matrimony anyway. But, if you do go for it, do it for your own wellbeing, to sever the bond with a grave and unrepentant sinner, for spiritual liberation, and don’t hold back just to punish them! God will sort them out one way or another, trust Him!

Conchobara
Conchobara
27 days ago
Reply to  CurlyChump

I know what you mean, CurlyChump about being sad about your vows being broken due to no fault of your own. I am a child of divorce (and adultery, but that’s a recent revelation) and FW is too. We both said we were in this for the long haul and never wanted to be divorced. We didn’t want our children to go through that.

Now I assume he was mirroring my convictions but at the time it seemed genuine. We did premarital counseling through our church but I also wanted us to do couples premarital counseling to really make it stick. We did A LOT and the only thing that was a red flag was finances. He was super conservative about money and I had grown up poor and was a little more of a spender from a history of scarcity. He and I both railed against adultery and how we couldn’t abide cheaters.

Of course, FW was lying to me that whole time. He told me his father never cheated on his mom, they only divorced when he came out of the closet. Since DDay I’ve learned a lot from his mom. For instance that dearest dad had 20 years of affairs with men, many taking place in his ministerial office! So f*cked up. Explains a lot about FW though.

Anyway, I accepted the things I didn’t love in FW because I loved him and thought that was just how marriage worked: you take the good with the bad and you love each other through it. Marriage was forever and we’d just deal with the hiccups.

Silly me thinking he shared those values. He told me on DDay that he didn’t want to be married if he couldn’t have butterflies everyday. He also said that from p0rn he learned that he needed “different” things s3xu@lly that he couldn’t ask from me because I was too vanilla and would never go along with it. He tore me apart with all the ways I was no longer attractive to him and that’s what really mattered to his happiness. So much for love conquering all!

So I am still sad that the vows we made before God – that I truly believed in – were ultimately meaningless to him. But I’m glad to be rid of him. He didn’t honor those vows and he can deal with his maker when the time comes.

BattleDancingUnicorn
BattleDancingUnicorn
27 days ago

David is the reason I found my way to Chump Lady. He was the first choice of reason in a chorus of “Divorce is always wrong!”

You’ve all heard this story, but I was disfellowshipped for choosing divorce, despite my then-spouse’s multiple affairs. They cared about me and supported me right out the door, but I was always welcome back, provided I “be reconciled with my husband.” My biggest “sin” was ensuring that my former spouse would never become a pastor because they don’t ordain divorced men.

After I “went public” about it all by doing story hour at Chumpalooza, I got communication for the first time in at least a year, by text, letting me know that I’d been “quietly removed from the membership.”

Cool by me, bro. I’m at home in a new faith community (after a long break) and started writing more about my experiences in the last few months. Grateful for the example and safe space that Divorce Minister and Chump Lady have been for me and so many others.

Elsie_
Elsie_
27 days ago

I found Chumplady and then Divorce Minister from there. I was post-divorce with more time on my hands, and both were so helpful.

My ex’s family decided to blame me for the divorce because I insisted again (#2) on separation and then refused to reconcile a year later. With his family’s blessing, he went long-distance, about half a day’s drive from them. But my ex had been talking about divorce for fifteen years and ultimately filed. His “activities” after he left were questionable and added to my ongoing suspicions. So, who was truly at fault?

He told me that our long-term church would disfellowship us. I was so freaked out that I didn’t tell anyone that he was gone for quite awhile. But the leadership got it, and the church helped us move twice and more. And no, we were not removed.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
27 days ago

That’s almost funny (but not if you think about it) that the church was trying to prevent you from divorcing partly so they could ordain FW. But we really wanted a sexual predator and pathological liar to head our congregation so one day we could be all over the headlines and the subject of a Dateline investigation!

Though I think what you did was right and good in all senses, even if it was only to keep someone like that from having power over vulnerable parishioners, you did the most moral thing.

Cam
Cam
27 days ago

My biggest “sin” was ensuring that my former spouse would never become a pastor because they don’t ordain divorced men.

Or, you know, he could have kept it in his pants. If he can’t live a godly lifestyle, a) that’s his fault and b) he doesn’t deserve to lead a parish!

Honestly, I’m delighted to hear he’s been barred from pastorhood and a fresh supply of innocent victims. What a nightmare that would be.

Last edited 27 days ago by Cam
BattleDancingUnicorn
BattleDancingUnicorn
27 days ago
Reply to  Cam

Right? And for that, I gladly take the hit. I’m pretty sure I’ll be more than forgiven.

The whole bit about being disfellowshipped is complicated. He was assigned that church, so I didn’t get to choose it, and yeah, they definitely supported abusers. No overtly, but every time something came up (which was way too often for my liking) the abuser would stay with welcome, while the other would go. I saw my exact scenario play out about 6 months before I went though it myself. At the time, I was like “crap, that’s my future, I gotta gtfo.”

Cam
Cam
27 days ago

I’m sorry.

And I don’t understand how any church can still be pulling this crap after decades of bad PR from church abuse scandals. That’s crazy.

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago
Reply to  Cam

I don’t either, but narcs and all cluster B abusers are drawn to positions of trust and power, so that would include the clergy, and all sorts of religious positions in all and any religion, Christian or non-Christian.
As our psychiatric nursing tutor once told us “Be aware that psychiatric nursing attracts a lot of psychopaths, because of the power they can wield over vulnerable people!” Over the course of my career, I found this is sadly true! Over the course of my life, I’ve found it’s not just true of psychiatric nursing either, but of just about ALL occupations/positions and institutions/organisations where the disordered can wield power over the vulnerable!

Cam
Cam
27 days ago

I was disfellowshipped for choosing divorce

I actually didn’t know this! So your former church supports abusers? Screw them.

Conchobara
Conchobara
27 days ago

I think I’m one of the lucky ones in that I’ve received incredible support since reconnecting with my church following DDay.

FW and I initially met on match dot com and then discovered we attended the same large Episcopal church but at different services. Talk about meant to be, right?! We became a couple and attended together; eventually we had our premarital counseling and wedding there. FW’s father was heavily involved in the church so we were well known by everyone and loved the people and the church.

Unfortunately, I got laid off from my job and couldn’t find work in our county anymore and we had to move about an hour away. I searched for a while to find another Episcopal church that felt the same way. It took awhile but I eventually found us a new church home. We attended there for several years, becoming members, having our daughter, getting her baptized. She went to preschool and kindergarten there.

When she was in kindergarten FW’s dad died and then he became a different person. I now know that the cycle I was experiencing was devaluing intermingled with love bombing because he’d begun his second life. At the time he just seemed super needy and started pulling us away from our existing life. He started having issues with the church’s teachings so we took a break (I didn’t see what had changed).

Eventually, there was a scandal with our priest and that gave FW all the ammunition he needed to cut all ties. We were churchless after that, with him regularly telling me all the reasons he no longer agreed with the church and was questioning the existence of God, etc. Because I was becoming so busy working 7 days a week and parenting 90% of the time due to his ‘depression’ and need to take care of his mental health (ha!) I just went along with it all.

Fast forward to DDay. I was questioning everything. How could a loving god allow this? I’m a good person, I don’t deserve this, etc. I was spinning in sadness and depression. I had a therapist but I needed more. I reached out to our old church and the administrator was amazing. I was candid and told her everything. She instantly had me in to talk to the associate priest for counseling, my daughter and I went back to church, we got to know the new (well, of 4 years) priest (who is wonderful!), my daughter got into youth group and I’m making new friends. I have a woman who the administrator connected me with to become my guide and comforter and she has been.

My church is one of the things that has saved me through this horrible process. They’ve prayed with me and comforted me through my tears almost every Sunday (I don’t know why it happens; I’ll be feeling fine but almost every Sunday I end up crying). It’s so easy to be cynical about church and faith — especially when dealing with something as horrible as we’ve all been through. And we know there are more than enough charlatans and abusive churches out there, sadly, but I can tell you definitively that there are also good churches and good people if you look for them.

Last edited 27 days ago by Conchobara
Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
27 days ago

FW’s mother was a devotee of a new age cult and remained so even after the sect was all over the headlines when the founder was exposed as a serial child molester and all the leaders covered it up, threatened witnesses and put out a training guide to discredit victims. I think this partly explains why ex-MIL regarded the fact that I was involved in victim advocacy as somehow hostile to her spiritual calling. The other reason is that she was the cliched “enmeshed” parent and always treated me as a rival.

Whatever the twisted reason for it, I guess you could call it spiritual abuse that ex-MIL spent years telling her fellow culties how I was spiritually dark and toxic, etc. I mostly ignored her like the ankle-biting lap dog she was until she escalated her attacks to accuse me of toxic parenting (she said I caused my son’s chronic illness with my super Voodoo negative thinking powers). After that FW went NC with his mother, probably only because she overshot her mark and strafed his parenting as well. I was relieved at first but FW rapidly went off the deep end without his covertly incestuous, ego-fluffing flying monkey mummy, rapidly spiraled into full blown alcoholism and ran out to find a mom-doppelganger.

I guess none of the office barflies within reach happened to be members of the exact same cult so he made due by pursuing a string of fundamentalist evangelical Jesus cheaters. He was repeatedly toyed with, plied for free booze and rejected until he found one desperate enough– another fundy cheater with an alcohol abuse problem. She turned out to be an extra dead ringer for exMIL down to the big lantern jaw and “spiritual condemnations” except the AP called me Satanic (thus my alias). It’s what FW’s mother meant anyway so same diff. Devil= irredeemably, inhumanly evil, therefore not only is it not unjust to harm and destroy such a scourge but in fact a sanctifying, godly duty. I get why the FBI views use of “devil terms” against public figures as possible fatwas or red flags for assassination attempts.

Oh well, too bad for these people that they don’t wield sway over violent mobs, that I wasn’t a member of their religious institutions and this isn’t during the Inquisition. Consequently, the bullies couldn’t use spiritual attacks as a stick to beat me with and isolate me. But they woulda if they coulda and my heart goes out to people who were castigated by their spiritual communities due to abuser and flying monkey blameshifting.

Even if it those types of attacks miss by a mile, I think even the attempt falls under a general category of coercive control. Call it “social abuse”– how abuser personalities triangulate to socially malign and isolate their victims. As I’ve said before, I think abusers intuitively know this kind of attack is especially potent and disorienting to victims because it can set off a hard-wired, prehistoric fear response that probably evolved from times when being cast from the “tribe” meant certain death. Even today “social abuse” can potentially lead to genuine tragedy– job loss, health-threatening economic crisis, loss of critical community or family support or even loss of child custody– so I see it as an extreme form of abuse and the perpetrators of it as bonafide psychos.

coolinmn
coolinmn
27 days ago

Why is it people never questioned Jesus about Judas’s betrayal? Why do they not ask Jesus what he should have done differently in his friendship to Judas so he wouldn’t get betrayed? Why do they never insinuate that Jesus should have been meeting Judas’s needs as a friend more adequately so he wouldn’t get betrayed? Why is it any different with a betrayal in marriage?

Marco
Marco
27 days ago

I don’t trust clergy or family in giving advice on infidelity because most aren’t knowledgeable enough to deal with it. Most often it’s stay together no matter what.
You must forgive suck it up and take it. Bullshit advice.

DrChump
DrChump
27 days ago

Loved meeting the Divorce Minister who is also a power lifter. He gave such a great lecture
Sorry to subject some through this again but it has been a while.
FW was a Eucharistic minister at the Catholic church and school where our son attended. She was president of the churches women’s guild and well know. One of the APs, I believe the first, was the maintenance man at the school. I didn’t learn this until 2-3 years after affair. I had no idea but now people tell me they knew.
After DDay flying monkey women’s guild friends went all in defending her along with priest. She had done a great job destroying my name. Mind you I had no idea. A bunch of old “religious” ladies giving me sneers and acting mean. This is after I had spent prior 16 years helping many of them with every medical problem they had. 70 year old neighbor physically attacked me in my house and then called cops on me. When they came I showed them video and neighbor got arrested. This riled them more and they became more vicious. It was horrible for next 5-6 months. Then an old nun and Monsignor,both of whom I operated on spoke up and pointed out FW’s ways and took to task all those old bitches. The old lady who attacked me and her friend were caught embezzling from Women’s Guild and now them and Cheater go to different church up the road who my friend is priest at. Ayer the divorce was final I crashed a woman’s guild meeting and gave the group a stern talking too. I am having the diocese audit their books. I am taking the diocese task about not firing those who knew the affair happened. The priest who turned his back on me tried speaking too me after 2 years of ignoring me like nothing happened. I told him to Fuck Off and that he was evil. I see him and harass him with scripture.
The people who run the church are not the church.

Divorce Minister
Divorce Minister
27 days ago
Reply to  DrChump

Really nice meeting you at Chumpalooza, DrChump!

Rarity
Rarity
27 days ago

I look forward to listening to this!

I’ve told my story in bits and pieces before, but my first husband was Mormon and I am Protestant (Evangelical Covenant Church). We were even on PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly back in 2010 giving an interview about our interfaith marriage.

My now-ex-husband used spiritual abuse / coercion on me in two significant cases:

– We were married in 2003. In 2004, he came to me and announced that he had made a mistake and realized he needed to be married to a Mormon, not a Protestant. He insisted I was the perfect wife and our marriage was perfect. He also insisted that there wasn’t a particular Mormon woman in the picture, that he just wanted to be married to a Mormon woman, in the abstract. He claimed he had gone to the Mormon temple and prayed about it, and God had commanded him to divorce me. I eventually offered to join the Mormon church, whereupon his story changed to, “Our marriage isn’t perfect, you’re awful, in fact, you are SO awful that I’m not going to give you any second chances or try to work through this with therapy, you’re that bad.” We eventually reconciled (without me joining the Mormon church) and stayed together 9+ years, but it turned out he was cheating on me and that was the real reason he suddenly had the urge to marry a Mormon. I did not learn of the infidelity until after our divorce in 2014.

– In 2013, he was having an emotional affair with his Mormon co-worker (different Mormon). He was spending $300+ per month on gas, tolls, and rides for her, spending tons of time with her “as friends,” and partying with her until 6 AM on Friday nights, all while I was pregnant. (Note: he had previously told me that he wasn’t comfortable with me even having coffee with a male friend of the opposite sex!) When I objected to this behavior, he told me he had prayed about it and God told him to keep spending time with her, so I did not get any say in the matter.

He also had an exit affair (this one physical) with a Protestant woman. While the affair was going on, they actually showed up at the Mormon church arm-in-arm while I was there with his 9-month-old, and refused to leave even though they knew they were making things awkward for everyone. This woman later dumped him to marry a pastor, and he is now shacked up with yet another non-Mormon woman even though there are plenty of single Mormon women in their 30s and 40s out there, so I guess the whole “go thou and marry a Mormon woman!” thing wasn’t a big deal after all.

Anyhow, after the divorce I finished a divinity school master’s degree, am currently working on a PhD, and I teach Sunday school and occasionally preach at my church. I’m re-married to a fellow Protestant and deliriously happy.

Jesus Cheaters are the worst, spiritual abuse is abuse, and I’m sorry to everyone who has had to deal with this.

Cam
Cam
27 days ago
Reply to  Rarity

Rarity, I always appreciate your comments. Your level up journey is inspiring.

Also, where the heck do FWs even get the energy to act like college students? Partying every night til dawn? How??

Conchobara
Conchobara
27 days ago
Reply to  Rarity

I in no way want to generalize about any church group but I’ve had several friends abused by their spouses in the Mormon church. The most egregious was my friend who had trouble fitting in places (or thought she did; she was fine) and was groomed by a guy in his 20s and his friend group when she was 17. She ended up marrying him against her parents’ wishes as soon as she turned 18. She, of course, had to convert to the Mormon faith and got married in the temple which meant none of her protestant friends and family could attend (she had been in my high school youth group before this).

They moved to Texas, far away from her family and immediately had 5 kids. She wasn’t allowed to work and he was physically and mentally abusive. We are not close like we were in high school but are Facebook friends now and she has never told me if he cheated. He definitely sounds like the type though. When she couldn’t take it anymore she saved up money secretly (naturally she was completely dependent on him and his wealthy family who were high up in the church) she got out of Dodge and ran to her family.

She tried to fight for custody of her kids but he had the greater money and resources and got some big powerful attorneys to condemn her for abandonment. Nobody would believe her about the abuse. She found love here with an old high school friend she reconnected with as well as some of our old friends but she missed her children so badly. Her ex wouldn’t let her see them unless she moved back to TX. She and her husband eventually ended their marriage amicably so she could move back to be near her kids (he didn’t want to move).

She is now happy and her children are adults. Their relationship was strained for a long time because of the parental alienation and lies fed by her ex and his family to her kids. It took her tons of time and patience but she does have a relationship with 4/5 of her kids now.

Cam
Cam
27 days ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

“God told me to break his own commandments. I’m just that special!”

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
27 days ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

Agnostic here but I seem to remember the biblical passage about God’s reaction to Job’s friends telling Job that his suffering was God’s punishment. Something about God offering Job the option to send the presumptuous friends to hell for attempting to divine God’s will.

kokichi
kokichi
27 days ago

Listening to the podcast and had to pause to say that this comment really resonated with me. DM said that, “there is beauty in the midst of the carnage.” I have have found this to be so true and in particular in the chump community. I’m just so grateful for everyone who is banding together to change the narrative for the next generation and pray for a day when infidelity is recognized as abuse. A huge thank you to everyone.

kokichi
kokichi
27 days ago
Reply to  kokichi

What are the odds that you posted this TODAY, and this afternoon I got my Final Orders freeing me from my Jesus Cheater?!? I confess it feels overwhelming after 3+ years of legal abuse. During the marriage, my JC told me that we were supposed to have another baby. I told him that I had my hands full with home schooling our two children and juggling our overseas “ministry.” JC went so far as to tell me that God told him that I was required to give him a child and if I didn’t then I was not listening to God.

DM, your work on explaining forgiveness is life changing and I am forever grateful for all you do.

“Lucky” for me, JC’s double life was so out of bounds that no one dared ask me to reconcile (except one very spiritually abused/brainwashed individual who believes that JC is a saint). JC, at three failed mediations and through his lawyer at trial, claimed that he didn’t want a divorce. Yes, abuser, you are upset that you cannot continue to abuse me.

2xchump
2xchump
27 days ago

My church was a very sad situation. The pastors own marriage has instability and my cheater husband shed crocodile tears to 2 pastors and an Elder on his ” unmet needs”. Then described his need for a new girlfriend whom he found on a Christian dating site and flew in for his ” rebaptism “. For real. Another pastor married my XHCheater 7 weeks after our divorce was final. BUT I had so many angels in this same church cheering me on and giving me courage like a runner in a marathon..YOU CAN DO THIS!! Angels who found our pastors/ Elders actions reprehensible. The miracle side of this Saga is that 1. I found out who my true friends were 2. Cheater husband got the divorce done as fast as he could(1 year), even with his disordered thinking..so he could marry one of his harem quickly. And all my Switzerland friends were Duly noted so there is no longer a need to share or invest energy in them. Saves me so much of my inner power. I now volunteeer in a nursing home and avoid the santuary where my XH-C sometimes drops in to show off his newly fished out of the internet wife. I attend services at another location. God has turned my tears into joy INSPITE of the actions of my church leadership to whom my XHC will show his true colors one day,still I am not waiting for the judgment day. I am living my best life now knowing I dodged the bullet of believing I was loved by someone who did not love me. Dodged More STI than I already had. Dodged his progressive cheater habit or addiction..dodged getting old with a cheater who devalued me continually except as in the cycle of abuse, he would buy me chocolates and flowers. OK I miss the chocolate!! I do not miss anything else. The church can figure it out, I have nothing to prove anymore and my freedom says it all. Amen to that!

unicornomore
unicornomore
27 days ago

The spiritual abuse Cheater inflicted was specific to our Catholicism…I will try to explain but it is a little convoluted.

I was an Evangalical Protestant and he was a lapsed Catholic when we married. He was SO insistent that it be a Catholic wedding (his passion on this point encouraged me that he was devoted) but later I think he was trying to be difficult around every turn because he didnt want to get married.

I really thought he would become an evangelical but instead, I converted to Catholicism. Not only did I become Catholic, I was an “On Fire” Catholic…was even on Catholic TV

For a while we were devout Mass-attenders and I studied hospital chaplaincy. The kids got their sacraments and Cheater was a lector.

When he got distant and mean, he gave me a long, cruel lecture about what a horrible wife I was. He said I was “too sinful” because we had premarital sex…about 2 hours into his rant, he also said I was “too holy” because I care for dying children for a living.

I learned of his affair when I found a file in his computer “Susan and Christ” – a letter he had written to Susan of Seattle for her birthday where he said she was Christlike. In the letter, he said he would don’t pressure her to leave Buddhism, but Catholicism would always be a part of him.

He said he might marry Susan and just go to Church with her somewhere where people didnt know he had a previous wife.

On day, I asked him how he could reconcile his faith and his actions and he said “Im going to burn in Hell”. Later, various stupid stuff cheaters say spewed from him “I have cried in Church so I know God wants me to be with Susan.” “You and the kids are such good Catholics, you are my gift to the Church, so I can leave and go with her”

The more cruel part is when he told me that our wedding was not sacramental because he was so reluctant, his consent to be married was invalid and our marriage should be annulled. At the beginning of wreckonsillyation, he said if we lived (odd thing to say, we were both young and healthy) to our 25 year anniversary, he would renew our vows. We were at about 19 years by then and I waited but when the 25th rolled around, he had his friend tell me that he had no intent to renew our vows.

He wanted his “get out of jail free” card. He was SO MEAN and emotionally hurt me everyday.

The only way you can get an annulment is to divorce first. He didnt file but he refused to solidify our vows which he regularly said were invalid. I now think he was trying to piss me off so that he could tell people it was me who ended the marriage. He also said I should have had 7 children with/for him.

Soon after our 26 year anniversary, he started to act more dark, more mean, I was sure a bad rage was coming soon. I was ready to let him go and working at figuring out how I would handle the logistics and money. With no warning he dropped dead. I can feel it in my soul that he did not go to Hell. I prayed for his soul going to Mass almost everyday for 7 years. Im soothed by the idea of Purgatory and I trust that God is dealing with him with the perfect measures of justice and mercy.

oldDogNewTricks
oldDogNewTricks
27 days ago

I got completely exiled by my church community (I thought many of the friends I had there were real ones. Nope. I even learned that there were crazy rumor being shared in the community about the terrible things I would do. Um. Yeah, also nope, but it did tell me very clearly where I was in relation. On the plus size (and yes, file under”if it feels good don’t do it. Oh, well.) The FW in this situation was the kind of Jesus cheater who blabbed all the time about how Christian she was. So I emailed her minister with the lowdown. Apparently he did some kind of from-the-pulpit admonishment. Heh.

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
27 days ago

I’m not religious, but how the heck can divorce be a greater sin than adultery? What kind of crazy, twisted reasoning is behind this?

kokichi
kokichi
24 days ago

Having grown up in the church, with the pressure of helping my father retain his status as an elder, I grew up in the J. Dobson purity culture. If you go on the F on the F website, there is little to no support for leaving a cheater, only RIC. It is weaponized religious abuse. The idea is that the family unit must be protected at all costs. (Sorry for abbreviations, I don’t want to offend anyone. But Google Colorado Springs to connect the dots.)

Divorce Minister
Divorce Minister
27 days ago

Divorce is out in the open. Adultery can be hidden. Hence, divorce is often treated as worse in religious communities (among other reasons).

Cam
Cam
27 days ago

Sounds like people who haven’t figured out God sees all and our spiritual growth hinges on how we behave when we’re alone, not when we’re trying to show off.

I’m reminded of the saying, “Money is loud, wealth whispers.” Integrity is the same.

2xchump
2xchump
27 days ago

Divorce = failure –
adultery = forgive

Garden Lady Chump
Garden Lady Chump
27 days ago

There’s a commercial on local TV here for an Evangelical church where the Pastor introduces himself along with “my beautiful wife Shonda”, then it was I’m here with “my lovely wife Judy” only a few months later. Lately I see he is on only by himself inviting people to come worship etc. Maybe not the best PR for the church; someone finally realized it wasn’t a good look.Seems like the wives were easily interchangeable. (Names have been changed!)

Shadow
Shadow
27 days ago

I’m a Roman Catholic, and divorce isn’t recognised by the RCC but the priests I’ve talked to, in Confession and in pastoral support, have actually told me I need to mind myself and build my own life apart from him. One of them even said, in very shocked and appalled tones , that my STBX was “… a very toxic individual, isn’t he!”
Not a one of them has even so much as implied it might be my fault, or that I should continue to put up with his antics. Yes, we have to forgive, but that does not mean reconcile with anyone who has wronged you but not shown genuine repentance. All it means is you don’t seek revenge and are willing to let the anger pass and not let it turn into a grudge. You can go No Contact if you need to and that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven, as No Contact is not a punishment, it’s self-protection from people who hurt and harm and would continue to do so, as they have no remorse. Only repentance earns absolution and pardon!
Please God I’ll be granted the annulment, but, if it isn’t, that’s grand, I’ve no intention of having him back and he seems to have realised that anyway! He’s gone off to France with a gang of Travellers, doing the tarmac scam and is also committing bank/credit card fraud with them, so I think it’s safe to say, he has not one jot of remorse nor repentance, and is only getting worse!

LovedAJackass
LovedAJackass
25 days ago

Divorce Minister provides life-affirming advice for chumps who are stuck because their religion prohibits divorce.