I was one of the lucky ones. My church, after much counseling and work, had my former husband removed from our home. And they gave me clear instructions that he was not to return unless and until there was significant healing.
But what do you do when the church says to move back in with your narcissist? You don’t do it immediately! Take your time, make sure you listen to good counsel you have received, and don’t let anybody force you into a decision you are not comfortable with. Your body and mind, when healthy, will tell you when that time is! If your church will not support your needs still, it may be time to move on to a church that understands abuse and won’t destroy the victim in the process.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Table of Contents
Have an open line of communication between your counselors church leadership.
This point became the turning point in the life I lived behind closed doors. I had no idea back then how instrumental it was. I did now that my ex was a “wonderful, caring, sacrificing Christian” when we were in public. And he was a controlling, intolerant, scheming, lying narcissist behind closed doors. Worlds apart.
I excused all of that bad behavior. I thought I could make him love me. And I thought eventually he would see the way I loved him and follow suit. In real life, I just gave him more reason to abuse his family. He got all the benefits of a family that loved him unconditionally while he continued to abuse.
I didn’t realize that I had a voice in our marriage/family. Then my counselor showed me a whole new world! But she didn’t stop there. She said her agency made a regular practice of working with church leadership to help them see what was really going on. What a genius idea! My ex-husband would no longer be able to keep his two separate worlds from colliding.
Things had already started going south with counseling with my ex because the minute they started trying too look deeper into the issues, he didn’t want to address them. He wanted to keep them hidden. When they wouldn’t allow him to deny, lie, or make up facts, he didn’t respond well. And they took that to our church leadership.
All the years of putting on an act of church were unraveling for him. All because he couldn’t keep his separate lives compartmentalized. If you or a friend are dealing with the same issues, you will absolutely need your church and counselors to work in conjunction. BUT: make sure you are seeing a counselor who understands narcissism!
*Note: For the best resources on understanding and dealing with religious narcissism, click here!
Finding your voice and support through the abuse.
Honestly, finding your voice and support through your abusive situation shouldn’t be too hard anymore. Almost everywhere I have been there has been great support when they see me trying to work through this new life. That included my lawyer’s office, the guardian ad litem’s office, juvenile and circuit courts, court clerks, military personnel (not counting the people he worked with–because of his rank it was merely a good ‘ol boys club when I went to his superiors after he took our money and kicked us out of our home), and really, just about everywhere I went for divorce-related issues. As soon as I explained to them my situation and what I needed to do, most recognized what was going on immediately.
But, let me warn you–do not go in there and start telling them your story!!! Just the facts! For instance, I didn’t go in and say, “Hey, my husband has been abusing me and my kids for years behind closed doors, and now I am doing bla bla bla in order to make things right and I’m going to end up taking him down after everything he’s done to us.” This will not earn you the support you need!
What you need to do is go in and say, “Hi, I am going through a divorce and I need to file regarding bla bla bla. How can I do that?” By taking on a professional and calm manner, you show them without having to say a word that you are emotionally healthy and you’ve got this! They will be 100% supportive because you are handling it all well. They have seen plenty of the out-of-control other side. And they will see what is really going on very quickly.
Don’t make any decision quickly if the church says to move back in with your narcissist.
If you have a good counselor and your church is working in conjunction with him/her, this should not be an issue. Because my church (with the help of the counselors and a mediation team) actually ended up having my ex removed from our home while we were staying at an undisclosed location, they were not eager for me to let him back into the house just because he said he wanted to and had changed. When they asked him what changes he had experienced, he could not tell them. It was clear that he was trying to manipulate his way back into the house.
My pastor told me that if I had not told them I was planning to separate, he and the elders were planning to make it happen on my family’s behalf. He had seen how toxic our home became when we tried to start working through the issues and my ex did not want to go there.
The church took the position that if I did let him back into the house without significant healing, they would be extremely disappointed with me after all they had done to protect us.
How narcissists will get around having to deal with their abuse.
While my church handled this part of our ordeal incredibly well, it still didn’t end well for my family at that time. My husband pressed charges against my church with presbytery (equivalent to the state government level of civil government). Presbytery stood behind our church. They even sat down with my ex after the hearing, trying to explain to him why they ruled the way they did and ways he could heal.
His response was to call our whole denomination ungodly and move on to a church that refused to work with our church and counselors. They said that because our Christian counseling agency used secular psychology alongside of the Bible, they were ungodly. They ended up giving him grounds to divorce because I refused to let my ex back in the house and because we were not intimate during our separation. Yes, you read that right. Un freaking believable.
Interestingly, they also supported his remarriage 7 days after we got our divorce papers. He remains a member in good standing at that church, an OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church.) Unfortunately, that denomination is not known for protecting the abused. And that is why he found it so quickly and easily.
How this story ended.
While I said above that things didn’t end very well for me at the time, I can now say wholeheartedly that God knew what He was doing. I was so distraught that He wasn’t answering my prayer to heal my marriage. What he did instead was free my family from a lifetime of walking on eggshells. We were able to seek out healing.
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. My kids and I still have residual issues from so many years of difficult life. And while most of the kids found healing, not all of them have healed. But my prayer is that as we get further along the healing process will continue and life will get easier for all of us.
Don’t go outside of your comfort zone if your church says to move back in with your narcissist.
Hopefully, your church is not asking you to do something without asking you what you are comfortable doing. But on the flip side, when making big changes we are always going to be a little bit outside of our comfort zone. The trick here is to balance everything out and get good counsel before making any huge decisions. You cannot judge your comfort zone on the big move you’re about to make, but on the wisdom involved in making the decision.
If your church is working with your counselor(s), then this should not be an issue. Everyone should be on the same page. The minute someone is not on the same page, take a step back and re-evaluate to get back in agreement. If everyone is not in agreement, do not make any big decisions!
When your church (or counselors for that matter) says to move back in with your narcissist without taking the right steps, so much more damage will result. When he comes back after being gone, history has shown he will be angrier.
If your church is still saying to move back in with your narcissist and you’re not ready, consider moving on.
Unfortunately, this ends up being the result of divorce from a narcissist more often than not. The church is not equipped to handle narcissism, even when secular society has gotten much better. But it does need to be your last line of defense, especially if you have spent significant time in the church.
If your church will not back down on needing you to go against seeking emotionally healthy options, then you need to do what is best for you and your family. Take your time, even on this step. Give the church ample time to come around to what you are thinking and be able to truly see what is happening in your life. But when it becomes clear to you that you cannot pursue healthy options, it is probably time to start looking around for a better place for your family to go.
While I did have the support of my church during the separation/divorce process, I did end up leaving. They were not able to understand or support my divorced life. A few members that didn’t understand became very cruel, and it became impossible to worship there. This was in spite of 95% of the members being very supportive. The loud minority just got too loud. And they refused to see the situation for what it really was. Most of them were friends of my ex that refused to believe he could be a different person behind closed doors than what he was showing them.
It was a hard move to make. I had been in that church for 26 years. I practically grew up there. But they blessed my move to a church that had a Divorce Care program. It was a life-saving move for me and my kids.
Advice for finding a new church.
It was a very difficult journey for us to find another church. We floated around several churches in our denomination (Presbyterian Church in America–PCA). While I was blessed that most of the PCA churches in my region (Southeastern Virginia) understood my issues, it was still very difficult going to those places because they all already knew me well. We had never met, but the leadership of all of those churches was well aware of my situation because of the charges my husband had filed earlier.
It was nice that they were supportive of me. But my issues became bigger than life at church. I hated being the center of attention for such a difficult thing. (Okay, I hate being the center of attention for anything.) There were also no support groups or groups that understood what I was really going through.
So, I ended up taking a break to try to regroup. I needed to figure out how to find a place that my kids and I could go to worship safely without being hit with our past every time we went.
I actually thought for a short time that I was not going to find a church that the kids and I could feel accepted in as a single mom family. I had friends that had to leave their churches. I even have a close friend that went to a PCA church in Western Virginia that got kicked out upon her divorce. That was after she asked for help multiple times for her abusive husband. With the expulsion letter, they said they were praying for her salvation. And her husband is still a member in good standing at that church three years later.
My happy ending church story.
I was fortunate to be wrong about not being able to find a church my family could be loved in. Because I chose the church that had the Divorce Care program, they understood what we were going through. Fellow members knew how to relate to us. Life still feels odd because we are not the family unit that were were for 31 years. But it is much better as we emerge from the fog of living with narcissistic abuse.
And the moral of the story: when your church says to move back in with your narcissist, know that you have several really good options. I know how trapped your can feel when there is pressure closing in on every side. But take your time! You’ve got this! Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below!
If you liked this article, I think you will love the following ones as well:
- How Narcissists Use Religion to Control and Manipulate You - December 26, 2023
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