Christian Counseling: Thinking about Domestic Violence


Can a marriage be saved by God when there has been physical violence involved?


The frequency of domestic violence is very high, about one in four women have had at least one experience. Of those reporting violence 85% are women and 15% are men. It is a very serious and devastating problem with far reaching consequences that can last a lifetime, if improperly handled. 

The heart of God desires reconciliation, even in the toughest of circumstances. The Apostle Paul perpetrated the ultimate physical violence by murdering Christians. God’s response was to seek reconciliation with him, but the choice was Paul’s. The reconciliation with God could only have been accomplished by Paul’s turning away from violence (and all other sin as well). Had Paul continued to act out his aggression, there would have never been any reconciliation.

God requires us to forgive when a person confesses and truly repents (Matthew 1815:18 and Luke 17:3,4), but there is no requirement to reconcile with other people. Although His great desire is that all people reconcile with Him and also with each other when possible. God does not save a marriage on His own, but only in cooperation with two willing partners.

Victims need to ask, "Do I want to save this marriage? Why? Do I want to save it out of love and faith or out of duty because I believe separation and divorce are wrong?" Scripture does not say one can divorce for domestic violence, but nowhere in the Bible does it say one must remain in such an extremely harmful relationship. On the contrary, I believe marital abuse to be as or even more damaging as adultery. It can be a relational deal-breaker. A marital partner should not enable the behavior to continue by remaining in the relationship without serious and sufficient safeguards.

Appropriate boundaries are necessary for a victim of abuse in order to remain safe under the same roof. Here are some examples that generally apply:

1. Since domestic violence typically escalates over time it is necessary that the abuser seeks professional counseling for anger management, impulse control and potentially several other underlying issues. That counseling ( I suggest insight-oriented counseling) is to be terminated only by mutual decision of the therapist and the client, and hopefully with some input by the victim. Marital counseling is not warranted for domestic violence because of marriage and family laws, as well as common sense due to the highly emotional nature of counseling that can illicit anger and further abuse.

2. Protect oneself by refusing to: discuss hot button topics, escalate conflict, allow felt anger of either to move beyond three on a scale of ten (warrants an end of discussion), or trust the often cyclic pattern of abusers—acting out, apology and lovingly reconciled.

3. Let an abuser know that if ANY physical abuse or threats occur the police will be summoned. It will be up to the victim to decide if he or she wants to file a complaint. If it has happened before and/or there is significant physical harm done, not only should a complaint be filed, but a restraining order should be sought.

4. The victim should seek counseling for himself or herself to gain understanding about oneself and one’s partner and learn how to manage the conflictual relationship.

Tough love must be taken not only to protect oneself, but any children living in the house, as well as the future of the marriage. No partner can afford to permit devastating behaviors to continue that threaten the love, trust and commitment of a marriage over time. To do so compromises the future of any marriage. One protects the marriage relationship by refusing to allow bad or negative feelings to exist over a prolonged period of time without some decisive action to correct the problem.

The suggestions in this writing are only a beginning. So, get the help needed from a professional counselor and seek the support of a couple of friends or family. Giving those in your support system gross details on marital abuse events would likely result in them giving the protective advice to end the relationship. Also, family and friends often have a difficult time accepting and relating well to a persecutor who once harmed a loved one, but has reconciled with the victim. Be cautious about what is shared with whom.

The Lord give you wisdom, discernment and a heart bent on immediate, strong and decisive action.

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