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Friends Helping Friends: Identifying Abuse in Marriage

Friends Helping Friends: Identifying Abuse in Marriage

Darby Strickland offers listeners guidance from her book Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims.
Original Air Date: October 20, 2021

Teaser:

Woman #1: I don’t know what’s going on with Kristen. We used to be good friends but she’s been so guarded lately.

Woman #2: I know, I’m concerned about her. She seems shaky and nervous all the time.

Woman #1: Yeah, when I asked her to lunch, she said she couldn’t make it. It seems like she barely leaves the house.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Well, I wonder if you’ve had a similar experience. That you can tell something is off with that friend, but they feel really out of reach. Today on Focus on the Family, we’ll have some advice on an important topic: how to walk alongside a friend who’s in an abusive marriage. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, many people are unaware of the hidden reality of abuse. Uh, about 75% of Americans will know someone who is a victim of domestic violence over the course of their lifetime. And there’s a good chance you know someone at church, or at work dealing with this. And as a friend, you’re in a natural position to help. And most people trapped in abusive marriages won’t seek out counselors, but they’re much more likely to talk with a trusted friend.

John: Yeah, that’s the basis. That relationship is the basis for feeling safe in, in sharing that. And we should acknowledge that, uh, abuse does go both ways. There are men listening who are suffering in an abusive relationship. And we do care about your situation, of course.

Jim: That’s right, John, and we want men to know we hear you. We’ll hear from some that feel we didn’t cover that today. Uh, today’s program will apply to everybody’s situation in many ways. Uh, but the focus of our conversation will be women, who make up 85% of domestic abuse victims. And our guest today specializes in counseling those women specifically.

John: That’s right. Uh, Darby Strickland is in a great position to offer help on the topic. Uh, she’s a counselor and author, and her book is a great resource for every Christian. It’s called Is It Abuse? A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims. Of course, we have that here at the ministry. Just call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Darby, welcome to Focus on the Family for the first time. It’s great to have you.

Darby Strickland: Thank you. It’s an honor.

Jim: This is really, uh, you know, a difficult topic when we talk about abuse.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And abuse is defined in so many different ways. Uh, you’re a counselor and, and you work regularly with victims of abuse. What would they want people outside of their situation to know? It’s a good opening question. What does that abused person feel in their heart?

Darby: Yeah, that’s a great question because I think the experience of a victim is often confused. Oftentimes, they don’t even recognize that they’re being abused. Um, they’ve probably… When I’ve encountered them, they’ve probably read every marriage book, prayed every prayer, gone to friends and asked for help with specific things in their marriage. But, uh, they know something’s not right. They can’t put their finger on what it is. Uh, they often think things are their fault. Um, their husband’s always angry and they just can’t make sense of their world. So I think the abuse victims that I work with, really just benefit when we slow down and we’re asking them careful questions, drawing out individual stories about what’s happening in their home. Helping them try to make sense…

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: … of what’s occurring.

Jim: And Darby, in that regard, um, you do encourage Christians broadly to be better equipped to hear the signs, if I could say it that way, of abuse and to understand them. That’s a bit of a, a big request because, you know, if you’re living in, you know, a comfortable environment, and your family’s doing well, and you’re going to work, and life is pretty good-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … this is a challenge to be tuned in to those around you, your friends and neighbors who might be in an abusive situation. Describe that desire.

Darby: Yeah, I think on three fronts, really. One is we don’t see abuse happen, right? It happens behind closed doors. So we’re not cued in. Secondly, I think we don’t see it because it’s a problem of imagination. I can’t imagine that the woman sitting next to me in a pew, I know her husband. I can’t imagine the brutal cruelty that she’s facing at home.

Jim: Right.

Darby: Or the coercion, or, uh, things being thrown at her. Because I don’t look or perceive her husband that way.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: Um, and I think it’s an important call because I think it’s what God asks of His people, um, to care for, um, the oppressed and the vulnerable. Those people on His heart in Scripture, and it’s what Christ did when He came. He tended to the needy. Um, the broken, the suffering.

Jim: Boy, that’s a good point. That’s so good. In that regard, um, we’ve mentioned this. And it generally is true that, that women bear the brunt of abuse.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And give us some statistics. There are going to be some men listening, and going, “Hey, I’m the one that’s in that situation.”

Darby: Certainly.

Jim: Describe that dynamic.

Darby: Certainly. So I have counseled male victims of abuse. Um, they are rare, because to be the oppressor, you have to have power and control on your side. And just naturally, men tend to have more power.

Jim: Mm.

Darby: And so if you’re a disabled man, or your wife is the primary breadwinner, um, those are the cases where the power dynamic can flip. Women particularly are vulnerable and make up, I would say, over 95% of the victims in churches specifically, and what that looks like. But I think this is even all the abuse work that I have done, and all the counseling I have done when I came across the statistic that said 25% of marriages are abusive, I was like, “No way. That can’t be.” Um, and then just learning it’s the same, the church, within the d- walls of the church, the statistic remains the same.

Jim: Huh.

Darby: Then I sat back and I looked at my own church of 400. And within five minutes I could rattle off the names to fill that list.

Jim: Wow.

Darby: And it just … experience has taught me, it’s in more places than we would expect.

Jim: Let me ask you the broader question, and then I’ll get more specific. And I know you have many examples in your book, and we’re going to pull on some of those. That broader context, it would seem there’s a failure to integrate one’s faith, if this is accurate.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: If a quarter of the church and a quarter of the culture, um, live in abusive situations, something is not working well.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: A- as a counselor, where would you put that? Um, I know we’re imperfect people.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I know that we struggle with sin, nature, and all those excuses.

Darby: Right.

Jim: But this, to me, seems like a- an unchanged heart, if you’re abusive and y- you’re claiming to know Christ.

Darby: Yeah. So it’s your thoughts and your values that fuel, um, abuse, and it’s this pernicious sense of entitlement that “I want my world the way that I want it. And I’m willing to wound and punish another to get it.” I would liken it to the evil kings in Scripture, right? They wanted their world the way they wanted it, um, and they harmed all those people under their care. They wanted to be worshiped, versus the good kings, they wanted to point the worship towards other people. And they served the people God entrusted into their care. And we all do it. I think that’s what’s so confusing about abuse. I can be entitled. I can say, “I’ve had a long day homeschooling, (laughs) I don’t want to get, serve my children anymore.” The difference of abuse is my, if I m- become an abuser, my entitlement is so great that I’m willing to put fear, coerce, and, and punish those to get my comfort.

Jim: Hm. And it’s good to get that definition. I think that micro-perspective, moving from that bigger definition and the percentages that we’re talking about, and that lack of faith integration in that group of people, comes down to h- kind of the fog of being in that abusive situation.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s how I would describe it. You’re not really sure if this is normal. And you start questioning yourself, and the environment you’re in. Maybe this is the way it is. Speak to that issue of fog, and y- actually had Addison as an example in your book, who describes this. Um, what was that initial, um, encounter with Addison that got you thinking that there’s more to this than what’s on the surface? What does she say to you?

Darby: She just posed a simple question. She asked me, “Does your husband ever get jealous of your parenting your children?” Which I thought that was a really curious question. Um, so any time I hear something, I just want to learn more.

Jim: Huh.

Darby: Her emotion, her eyes kind of betrayed her. There was a little bit more intensity behind what she was saying. She almost felt apologetic for asking such a question.

Jim: Hm.

Darby: Um, or questioning her spouse. All those things said to me, “There’s more there that I really need to draw out of her.”

Jim: Yeah. A- and I think the definitions are so critical here for people to understand. Um, how do you determine the difference between a spouse who is technically abusive?

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And that person who is negligent or sinful, but it’s not an abusive category? Is there a distinction?

Darby: There’s a huge distinction. That’s one of the reasons why in the book I spent so much time asking careful and detailed questions. Sometimes we can label abusive behavior and it’s easy.

Jim: Correct.

Darby: Other times, we’re … and this is much more common … you’re living under a climate of coercive control. And any one behavior; just think of that as a husband is ignoring his wife. Is it abuse? We don’t know. Did he just have a hard day at work? Right? So we have to look at how that behavior is functioning in the relationship. Does he do it often? For how long? Was it a retaliation for something? Can she say, “This is painful to me”? And him respond to that without further punishment? Does it accomplish something for him? Does he not have to go to the in-laws next week? Um, does it change her future behavior? So we really want to step back and say, “How does o- any one behavior … what’s it expressing about the oppressor’s heart? Is he trying to seek domination and subjugation of this person? Or is he just having a bad day, like we all have?”

Jim: Yeah. And these are important distinctions. Uh, you counseled a couple named Matt and Sarah-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And they’re a great example of how conflict is resolved when abuse is not in the picture.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, what was their story?

Darby: They just have differences about how they wanted to spend their time on the weekends, and they just kept getting caught with how to spend family time. But it was really clear when you stepped back. Um, they clearly had different set of values, different set of desires for how they wanted to spend their time, um, with family in and outside the home. But when you talk to them, um, particularly Matt, he was broken. He was saying, “I don’t want to be selfish in how m- I spend my time. I didn’t recognize the impact this is having on my wife and how she’s relating to her siblings.” So he could hear the impact of his choices on his wife. She learned things about his heart, and what felt comfortable and important to him. And they just worked together mutually in a caring way, to negotiate conflicting desires. When abuse is on the scene, the oppressor’s, “This is the way.”

Jim: Hm.

Darby: “And if I don’t get my way, it just turns ugly quick.

Jim: Sometimes it feels that that definition could scoop up a broad, uh, list of behaviors, right?

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I think human beings at times, we can be very manipulative; Scripture’s full of that.

Darby: Absolutely.

Jim: Old Testament definitely-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … is full of manipulative people who are trying to get their way. Again, I want to come back; maybe it’s listing abuse from … as a counselor, your perspective what does abuse look like? Obviously we have physical abuse.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: We have emotional abuse. D- can you get a little more granular on what technically that means?

Darby: Those are just the fruit of our heart, right? They’re specific behavior, whether they’re sexual or financial, or withholding affection, emotional, spiritual, using Bible verses to shame. They are fruits of the heart that are demonstrating, “I want control. I’m trying to coerce out of you what I want.” You know, we want respect. But some people will settle for fear.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: And so, “Or I want order in my life.” And Scripture’s just really clear: our fruit showcases, it’s, we’re just looking at specific behaviors that we all have. And we’re just trying to see what is fueling them in my heart? What i- idolatry is going on me, within me?

Jim: Yeah. And a- another woman you mentioned the book, it’s a great example of, about this is Jenny, who came to you for advice because her husband wasn’t showing interest in her.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, uh, what was your initial advice? And what happened when you learned more about that marriage?

Darby: Yeah, I think my initial advice, having done abuse work long enough, is I’m very slow to give advice when someone comes up to me and says, “This is what’s going on.”

Jim: Hm.

Darby: M- abused women often send up a little trial balloon.

Jim: Hm.

Darby: Um, they’ll say something like, you know, “Does your husband ever do X?” And instead of saying, “No,” (laughs) “that would never happen in my home,” I would say something like, “Why did you ask?” Or, “Has that ever happened before?” Or, “Tell me about a time that that was particularly difficult for you.” So one thing I did with Jenny is I just got h- a lot, collected a lot more stories, drew out more about what was going on before I spoke into the situation.

Jim: Yeah. And in terms of encouraging us to be, um, mindful of those 25% that may be going through that; what are some of those tip-offs that you would run into? Now, you’re a trained counselor.

Darby: Right.

Jim: So you definitely have an advantage there.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But h- how would you educate us to be more in tune with a comment that should catch our attention, that might not?

Darby: Yeah. So if I’m … I think I’m p- stepping back and looking at a person globally as well. So if I’m looking at a woman who was once active in church, and now that she’s married and having children, she’s more withdrawn. Or she’s becoming unsure of herself. And abuse often takes, like, anxiety or fear. So she’s talking and you’re hearing anxiety in her questions. Or she’s afraid. Or her husband comes by and her posture suddenly changes. We s- observe those things in our small group about how couples relate. So I think we’re just looking: Do they have the freedom to comfortably be themselves?

Jim: Hm.

Darby: And again, I just want to say, we just don’t know. (laughs) And so I take every question, not with suspicion, but I want to know more about your heart. Um, so if someone says, “This is what’s going on in my marriage,” oftentimes a great question is to say, “Well, what have you tried?” And, you know, “How have you prayed about it?” Because these women have often done everything.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: Instead of just giving them the next step. And then you st- again, you just collect more stories about what’s going on.

Jim: Yeah. You counseled a woman named Katie, who was struggling to respect her husband. (laughs) You know, that’s a pretty common-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … issue in marriage. And she asked her friends for marriage advice. Uh, what guidance did her friends offer, and how did it backfire?

Darby: Yeah, I, they offered her great books to read that just were not applicable when there’s abuse. Um, many of Katie’s friends just pointed out her failings. Um, they told her to be more organized at home. Um, told her to work on the budget better. Keep-

Jim: So really enhancing those fears.

Darby: Mm-hmm. And feeding his entitlements. They took her husband’s list of complaints, um, and they validated them, because they didn’t understand the punishments that were happening-

Jim: Hm.

Darby: … when she wasn’t meeting them.

Jim: Well, and y- you said this, and I think it’s so critical that we do repeat it, and probably more than twice.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, this idea of being a good listener and really hearing from that abused person before speaking too much. And I like that. What are some other kind of basic guidelines that you would encourage people to zero in on, uh, regarding victims of abuse?

Darby: One is just understand that there are confused people. Um, so one week they’re going to be coming to you saying, “I’m really struggling with this issue in my marriage.” And the next week they’re going to come back to you and saying, “I think I was overstating it. I think I made my husband look bad.”

Jim: Hm.

Darby: Um, so they’re going to be going through that pendulum within themselves. Oftentimes because of the trauma going on in the home, they don’t speak linearly. Their stories aren’t clear. So it’s very difficult for us to follow what they’re (laughs) actually trying to communicate.

Jim: What’s the source of that?

Darby: I think it’s just the, a question of being in an environment where you live in fear. Um, and you’re so uncertain of yourself, and what’s happening-

Jim: Hm.

Darby: … that you lose your ability to communicate your story clearly.

Jim: That’s got to be such a difficult place to be. I mean, just always doubting.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And not knowing what’s solid ground. Uh, y- you mentioned in the book that it’s critical that we don’t use the abuse word too often, because it does wield a lot of concern.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, you know, it makes people around you kind of cautious.

Darby: Right.

Jim: So w- h- how do you manage that?

Darby: Well, one is we just want to be really precise in what’s happening. So if I’m sitting with a woman, the word abuse is, it’s a big word. But I need to find out what’s actually happening in the marriage. And abuse is not really a helpful word for that. So I’m going to drill down and try to find out is there cruelty? Is there manipulation? Are there harsh words? Is there physical intimidation? So I want to describe what’s happening in the home. And when I think about it, I want to walk away from the situation not understanding the content of argument. But I want to know as a screenplay: what was it like to be in that room: Were his fists clenched?

Jim: Hm.

Darby: Did he undermine you in your parenting? What exact words were said? So, we’re actually collecting a lot of data, um, and a lot of adjectives (laughs) and a lot of verbs to fill out what’s happening.

Jim: I think, uh, these are great insights on how to be … well, self-aware-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … obviously, in your marriage, for all of us. But again, particularly for men to understand where they’re coming from in the relationship and how they’re behaving in the relationship. But when it comes to friends-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … which the book is really geared to assuming you’re in a healthy place, and how do you observe abuse around you.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How should you respond if a friend comes to you and begins to describe an abusive environment? I- it would be completely natural to feel unequipped.

Darby: And overwhelmed.

Jim: And overwhelmed, (laughs) right.

Darby: Because I’m afraid-

Jim: This is out of my league.

Darby: I’m afraid to use the word abuse, right?

Jim: Right.

Darby: If someone comes to me as a friend. I don’t want to put that huge label on it. So- [crosstalk 00:18:00]

Jim: And I think, I’m just thinking of experiences where you have to know the go button-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … this is the go button-

Darby: Right.

Jim: … when you hear certain things-

Darby: Yeah.

Jim: … and you need to help that person get to a safe place.

Darby: Correct.

Jim: What are those go signals for you?

Darby: Right. So one is when you’re first in a relationship with someone and you’re exploring the abuse, you’re just going really slow. And it’s okay that it’s taking you some time to figure out if it’s abuse. Right? It’s okay if it takes months, right? I often tell people, helpers, “We can’t solve oppression. Um, women are even slow in the steps that they want to take. So it’s okay to go slow and be patient and work at a victim’s pace.” There’s another just other reality that abuse can escalate and become really dangerous.

Jim: You’re right.

Darby: And it can be lethal. So if you’re hearing things that, you know, someone’s being strangled, um, or pinned down, or certain acts of violation, then we start to think this person is in danger. And I might need to be advocating for them more quickly. But again, we can’t tell the woman to leave until she’s ready, because that puts her in more danger as well. So when we’re starting to worry about her physical danger, then we want to be consulting, like, the domestic violence hotline or expert and p- people in that area to help you walk through that when you sense it.

Jim: And again, I want to make sure people clearly hear that. Uh, you know, Focus can do some things-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … to help you in that situation. But you’ve got to contact us. And we can provide caring Christian counseling-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … to give you some direction and certainly provide you, um, some biblically based-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … approaches to finding help. Um, let’s say an abusive spouse repents in front of the church.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: It sounds like your church has done this, and your pastor is certainly in tune with these things. Um, h- how … these are such basic behavioral issues.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How do you verify that a person, that a spouse, a friend of your spouse-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … is actually in a better place? I mean, that, it sounds a little almost invasive. You know-

Darby: Yeah.

Jim: … to do that.

Darby: Yeah.

Jim: But you’re doing it as a friend. So h-

Darby: Yeah. And I appreciate you using the word “verifying.”

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: Right? Because it’s easy to display worldly sorrow. I’ve seen many oppressors cry tears because they’re ashamed or humiliated, or they want their world to go back to the way they wanted it.

Jim: Hm.

Darby: But they really haven’t been transformed by Christ to live as He would as a servant. Um, and so we have to … what is verifiable repentant look like? It looks like sustained behavioral change over a long period of time. Where they’ve repented of specific moments, specific patterns of control. Not just global statements: “I haven’t been loving,” or “I was scary.” We want them to say, “Last August, when I did this in the kitchen, and that makes me think of this time.” So there should be specific understanding.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: Then they also need to understand the impact that that behavior had. Um, a person who is truly repentant; and sadly, it is rare; but then they stop pressuring their wife. They stop pressuring to forgive. They stop pressuring for their [inaudible]. Because they recognize that’s coercion.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Darby: And so I always say, someone’s repented of oppression, it’s a whole different fruit. We often settle for lesser repentance because we want to see marriages flourish. Um, but we don’t want to see women and children put back in harm’s way.

Jim: Of course not.

Darby: Yeah.

Jim: That’s exactly why (laughs) we’re doing the program.

Darby: Yep.

Jim: I’m glad you wrote the book. Darby, let’s speak to that woman who’s listening right now, who has realized, through our conversation-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that she may be in an abusive marriage. Now, uh, part of that is, to your point, go slow.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Because we don’t want to create something that isn’t there.

Darby: Right.

Jim: But if the warning signs and the things that we’re describing are present, how would you encourage her to take the next step? And maybe seek out a friend she can float those trial balloons with, that you described earlier?

Darby: Yeah, I think it’s really helpful to identify friends who understand abuse, or who are willing to learn about abuse. So you might, as a friend, um, approach a friend, say, “Would you be willing to read this book with me? Can you sit with me and help me understand this?” And I think just finding a friend that’s willing to learn, and be an encourager-

Jim: Hm.

Darby: … and a prayer partner in this; Lord, c- would you be willing to pray with me that the Lord reveals these things? I think that’s one really important step. The other thing is you want to find a friend that doesn’t tell you what to do, right? As, as a controlled person, the last thing you want is to have a friend come in and now take over another set of choices from you.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: Um, and I think you want to just hold out until you really find someone who is willing to do that for you.

Jim: Boy, in that regard, I can hear a conversation that, uh, w- with that friend that would go something like this, you know, “I, I don’t need, uh, kind of prescriptive input here. I need just some balancing ability.”

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: “Can I ask you some questions, and I just want to hear your perspective.”

Darby: Right.

Jim: That’s a good way to-

Darby: Yeah.

Jim: … set that up.

Darby: Yep. Because any choice an abused woman makes makes her life worse.

Jim: Right.

Darby: If she confronts it, her life can become more difficult. If she goes to the church and they get involved, that can make her life more difficult. If she doesn’t deal with the abuse, the abuse is going to escalate, increase over time.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: So she has a really hard decision how she wants to walk this out.

Jim: Darby, the other thing … and I, y- you know, fr- again, from your own pastor’s experience-

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … these are difficult things to go-

Darby: Soo-

Jim: … head-to-head on.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, you know, I can imagine a lot of churches, a lot of pastors, you know, this is something can be done in counseling.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But you know, they wouldn’t encourage the flock to be on the lookout for these things. But it seems healthy.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: For people to be observant and help those that are in a, a downtrodden position, right?

Darby: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: And I think I want to end kind of where we started, which is the character of Christ.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And His attitude toward those people that are hurting.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Tie that in a bow for us: that Jesus Himself seemed to be looking for that person who has been abused.

Darby: Yeah.

Jim: Describe that in 1st-century terms.

Darby: Yeah, I think when we think of Jesus, right, He laid all His power aside. And He came down and He made Himself little. He made Himself approachable. He put Himself in a human form, so He understood what our world was like. Um, He was oppressed. His friends failed Him. Out of love for people, right, as He cared for people, He acted. I often think of Him when, in this work of Him healing the leper. But he also touched the leper’s lips.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: And that’s just a sign of that, “I am willing to contaminate myself.”

Jim: Hm.

Darby: “Out of love for somebody else. And I want to lift their shame and their acceptance and their knowledge of me. Them to feel known, and I’m willing to do that in an intimate and personal way.” And abuse work is hard. And it’s costly to us. But I just think that’s how the Lord moves.

Jim: Yeah.

Darby: His care for people moves Him to act.

Jim: Well, you’ve done a great job putting this in your book and, uh, I want to say thank you.

Darby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Thank you for being with us today and covering this really difficult topic.

Darby: Oh, thanks for having me.

John: Well, this has been so insightful, Darby, and, uh, you really have given us some really wise insights today.

Jim: I really appreciate the encouragement to step in and protect the vulnerable. And like Darby said, that you don’t have to have a counseling degree to do that. Now, I’d encourage you to lean on God, dig deeper, and learn how to come alongside friends in these complex situations. A good place to start is getting Darby’s book. It has, uh, screening questions, self-assessments, and great information to help you minister to hurting friends. You can order a copy of the book Is It Abuse? directly here from Focus on the Family. And join us in ministry. Whether it’s a, a spouse in an abusive, uh, relationship, a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, or a couple on the brink of divorce, Focus on the Family is stepping into these very dark situations every day, to provide real help. Uh, if you can commit to a monthly pledge, or even a one-time gift to support the ministry, we’ll say thank you by sending you a copy of Darby’s book. And if you can’t afford it, just get in touch with us. Uh, we are a Christian ministry. We want you to have this resource and get equipped to help others in this area.

John: And you can donate and get your copy of Darby’s book when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or you can learn more online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: And let me speak specifically to the woman listening who is in that abusive relationship. Focus on the Family is here for you. Please reach out. Our counseling team will listen to your story, pray with you, and point you to support in your area.

John: And again, the number to connect with one of our counselors is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Well, coming up next time on Focus on the Family, uh, facing an unplanned pregnancy after you thought your family was complete.

Preview:

Leslie Leyland Fields: The step forward is not “What am I going to do about this baby?” The step forward is, “Okay, Lord, help me. Help me through this pregnancy.”

Jim: I love that.

Today's Guests

Cover image of the book Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims

Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims

Receive Darby Strickland's book Is It Abuse? for your donation of any amount! Plus, receive member-exclusive benefits when you make a recurring gift today. Your monthly support helps families thrive.

Recent Episodes

Promotional image for Focus on the Family broadcast "Embracing Your Role as a Spouse"

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

Pastor Kevin Thompson explores three primary roles in marriage – friend, partner, and lover – and explains how spouses can live out those roles optimally by investing in their relationship mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Promotional image for the Focus on the Family broadcast "Praying Scripture Over Your Child's Life"

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life (Part 2 of 2)

Jodie Berndt, best-selling author of the Praying the Scriptures book series, offers parents guidance for how they can more frequently and effectively pray for their children’s faith, wisdom, self-discipline, character, life purpose, and more. (Part 2 of 2)

Promotional image for the Focus on the Family broadcast "Praying Scripture Over Your Child's Life"

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life (Part 1 of 2)

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Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

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cherish front cover

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Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

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Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Randy Schroeder

Dr. Randy Schroeder

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Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff Cropped

Dr. Tim and Mrs. Noreen Muehlhoff

Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication, apologetics, gender, and conflict resolution.  Tim and his wife, Noreen, are both on staff with Biola’s Center for Marriage and Relationships  where he is a co-host of The Art of Relationship podcast. 

Defending Your Marriage

Is your marriage under attack? Sometimes it can feel like the world is trying to tear your marriage apart. Internal conflicts or external pressures might make you wonder if something sinister is going on. How can you tell if you’re facing spiritual opposition? And what can you do about it? Tim Muehlhoff provides a straightforward resource for protecting your marriage from the threats of the evil one. He looks at what Scripture says about spiritual warfare and how our everyday struggles have deeper spiritual realities. And he provides practical steps for guarding our marriages with the whole armor of God.

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Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

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Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 2

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

Revival Rising

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Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 2

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Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

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Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage - Part 2

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Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 2

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

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Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

You can confidently and lovingly share your faith—you just need to learn some new tactics to do so! In this Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, apologist Greg Koukl outlines the “Columbo” tactic of asking questions, the “self-defeating argument” tactic to find holes in your opponent’s arguments, and other specific methods for engaging in faith-building conversations with others. Greg pulls from his over 30 years of experience debating atheists and agnostics to help you share your faith with grace and truth.

Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!