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October 18th, 2012

Initiating a Difficult Conversation


Couple Communicating 

Have you ever seen a verse in the Bible for the first time – one that you were sure you never noticed before, even though it is underlined in your Bible?

John and Cindy frequently argued about how to handle their finances. John bought the latest electronic gadgets. Cindy clipped coupons and shopped second hand stores. As retirement loomed, Cindy’s anxiety about their financial future grew. Every time she tried to talk with John about saving more money however, he became defensive and shut down.

Many people don’t know how to initiate a difficult conversation with someone. Some may need to confront a wayward child, broach a friend’s dilemma, discuss a difficult family issue or address a co-worker’s harmful habit. When problems surface instead of talking together to resolve them, individuals tend to clam up, blow up or eventually give up.

Here are some steps you can take to make productive conversation with someone more likely:

Pray. Ask God for courage to speak up, wisdom to know what to say and when, and humility so that you will speak the truth, but with grace and love.

Prepare. Hard words need not be harsh words. This is too important a conversation to leave to chance. Take the time to write out what you want to say and rework it until it says exactly what you want it to say.

Practice.  Rehearse out loud what you’ve prepared. Listening to yourself say what you want to say over and over again will help your emotions calm down and better prepare you to speak calmly when the time is right. Your words will be better received if you are not overly emotional.

Plan. Don’t initiate a difficult conversation when someone is tired, hungry or distracted with other things. After all your prayer, preparation and practice, ask for a time to be set aside to talk where you can ensure the best chance of being heard.

Don’t forget a conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. When you’re finished, respectfully listen to what the other person has to say back. Extend the benefit of the doubt and when you don’t understand ask questions to clarify.

To learn more about how to handle relationship difficulties, see Leslie’s books How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It! Stopping It! Surviving It! Or visit Leslie’s website at www.leslievernick.com

P.S. I want to warmly welcome ALL new subscribers who have joined our community since last month! You are going to love the resources you find to help you grow. I'm thrilled to have you here!

P.P.S. Don't keep this to yourself! Forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues or send them to www.leslievernick.com so they can register for themselves.




Leslie Answers Your Questions

My husband says his verbal abuse is all my fault!

Question:  I read your blogs and books. My question is I’ve been married for 21 years. I’ve read and re-read your book on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. My husband fits the example of the “should” husband you talk about. He is a believer and has recently admitted to me that he has been verbally abusive after I told him the definition. For a long time he denied it, but he feels that I haven’t been submissive, respectful and obedient to him and that in order for our relationship to ever move forward I have to admit this to him and to our children, ages 17,15 and 11. We have been to counseling jointly and separately.

I have seen how my desire to please him has led to lots of problems. It has excused his behavior and allowed it for far too long. He is saying he has admitted his problems and I need to admit and change myself and the children’s attitude and behaviors toward him in order for him to stay. He has already seen an attorney as have I. Please help…I’m so tired.

Answer:  You seem exhausted trying to be heard and understood. It sounds like your husband is still saying that all your marital problems are your fault. Of course he now admits to being verbally abusive toward you but it’s because you haven’t been respectful, submissive or obedient. So if you change, in his mind, all will be well.

From your question, it sounds like you have tried to please him and that your desire to gain his approval has actually led to more abuse. He’s saying he’s admitted his problem but what exactly has he admitted to? Losing his temper when you won’t do what he says you “should” and then blaming you for his ugly words? That doesn’t sound like the kind of change you’ll need to turn this around. Does he not have any responsibility to learn to handle his disappointment and anger toward you in a godly way?

You might want to ask him, “Do you believe you’re entitled to verbally abuse me when I fail you, upset you, or disappoint you? How do you think other men respond when their wives upset them? Do all of them become verbally abusive or do some of them handle their anger or disappointment in a more constructive way?”

I also want you to consider whether or not it’s true that you have been disrespectful toward your husband and/or contributed to the children’s poor attitudes toward their father. Confession of wrong doing is important in relationships and is a very important first step toward healing and reconciliation. You’ll have to pray about that and examine your heart and past behaviors to see if there are specific ways or times you have been disrespectful, even if in the context of being provoked.

There are some husbands who believe that if their wife doesn’t give them carte blanche authority or if she questions his judgment in a situation, she is being disrespectful, disobedient and/or unsubmissive. I don’t believe God’s words teaches that submission means that we don’t have a right to question or challenge our spouse or that we are called to live with our eyes closed and mouth shut especially when we observe our spouse driving the entire family straight off the cliff. (For more on this topic, read my recent blog on Misunderstandings on Headship and Submission.)

On the other hand, there are many things that we as wives comment on that our husband’s may find disrespectful even if we don’t see them that way. For example, my husband hates when I question why he chooses to drive to the shopping mall a different way that I would have gone. He sees that as “You don’t know how to drive as good as I do.” I don’t mean it that way; I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t choose our normal route. But he’s different than I am, and he has every right to think and choose differently than I would.

People are not blank walls that do not have any of their own thoughts, feelings, and personality. Yet some men seem to want their wife’s entire life to revolve around loving him, serving him, and doing whatever will make him happy. If she balks, or wants to do something of her own, he finds that unloving or disrespectful. Trying harder to be that kind of woman will only result in more abuse and selfishness on the part of your husband. (See my blog, When Trying Harder Becomes Destructive.)

Going back to your question, you’ve both been to counselors and both been to attorneys. If you and your husband both want to make your marriage work, it begins by identifying what the root problem is. You can’t apply the right medicine to something if you don’t have the right diagnosis. I don’t think you’ve reached any consensus on this. Perhaps the best course at this time is to see a counselor (who understands the dynamics of verbal abuse), not for treatment per se, but to create a working definition of the problem so you can both decide whether or not you want to do the necessary repairs and changing to reconcile your relationship.






Connect with me:


Initiating a Difficult Conversation


Focus on the Family Broadcast of "Finding Freedom from Destructive Relationships" to air today!



New Website Has Launched!



The Emotionally Destructive Relationship book and study guide set by Leslie Vernick. Plus see winners of previous give away!



My husband says his verbal abuse is all my fault!


Join Leslie for the Focus on the Family broadcast of "Finding Freedom From Destructive Relationships" on October 17th and 18th. 

Focus on the Family Radio

It was a privilege to welcome Leslie Vernick to our radio studio here recently. She did an outstanding job addressing the various issues surrounding abusive relationships, and I''m confident many people will continue to benefit from her wisdom on this important topic. Leslie has a wealth of biblical insight to offer that''s sure to resonate deeply with anyone dealing with difficult people.

Jim Daly
Focus on the Family



We are so excited to announce that our new website has launched! Please take some time to visit us and sign-up to receive a free copy of Leslie's Webinar, Does God Really Want Me to Be Happy.

Our newsletter is currently being sent to our old mailing list as well as to those who sign-up at our new website.  However, in the future, we will only be sending it to those who have re-registered at the new site. To ensure you continue to receive Leslie's newsletter, make sure you sign-up at:


On Leslie's new website, there are many valuable free resources as well as a comprehensive listing of past blog topics, newsletters, products offered, etc.



Book and Study Guide

by Leslie Vernick 

Maybe it doesn't seem to be "abuse." No bruises, no sexual violation. Even smiles on the surface. Nonetheless, before your eyes, a person is being destroyed emotionally.

Perhaps that person is someone you want to help. Perhaps it's you.

Leslie Vernick has witnessed the devastating effects of emotional abuse in familes and relationships. She knows it must be talked about if healing and hope are to be found. Step by step, Leslie shows you how to...

  • recognize behaviors that are meant to control, punish and hurt
  • confront and speak truth when the timing is right
  • determine when to keep trying and when to shift your approach
  • get safe and stay safe
  • continue to be transformed by God as you build an identity in Christ

Do you want to change? Within the pages of this book, you will find biblically sound, straightforward help to take the first step today.

Just email your name to assistant@leslievernick.com by midnight Monday, October 22nd for a chance to win one of two copies!

Congratulations to Lori Torrie of Palm Harbor, FL and Sheryle Pruit of Los Luna’s, MN, winners of How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong.



Oct 17-18 Focus on the Family radio broadcast of "Finding Freedom from Destructive Relationships"

Oct 19-21 Ladie's Bible Conference, America's Keswick, Whiting, NJ

Invite Leslie to speak at one of your events.
Call us at 1-877-837-7931
leslie@leslievernick.com or
visit www.leslievernick.com




"Thank you again for your workshop presentation and participation at the PASCH Conference.

The feedback has been excellent, with many attendees mentioning the inspirational and educational value of the event. Outstanding! The highest rating overall."

Walt Goerzen
PASCH Conference


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Send your questions about dealing with difficult people, stress, or relationship issues to:


Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions thatLeslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.