How to Set Limits with Abusive People

Danny Silk

When a relationship becomes abusive, things will only change when at least one person makes the brave decision to set a limit requiring a return to respect and responsibility. In this vlog, I describe the steps involved in setting and enforcing that limit.

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  1. This is good and what I want. It’s my current situation now. I am newly married and my husband has become physically and verbally abusive. Almost daily I was being accused of irrational things, threatened, or grabbed or restrained. I have left and staying with older friends as they try to help us. But some of these patterns are so deep and I have little hope. Please pray for me.

  2. Very true. There is something of an epidemic of narcissistic abuse going on right now. Both overt and covert. These people start realionships KNOWING that they are going to abuse. While the innocent person has no idea that after the idealisation phase they are about to be disrespected, devalued and discarded. Trauma bonding takes places which makes it very hard to ‘just leave’. I see this is clinic and in church – with folk encouraging the victim to keep loving these people. It’s extremelu dangerous to be around a person with narcissistic personality disorder. I understand, totally, that you are advocating that people love from afar – but those who are trauma bonded find that almost impossible. For anyone who thinks they are in such a relationship, I urge them to educate themselves on the covert and overt forms of this disorder and know that it can’t be changed or fixed and that you need to protect yourself from further harm. Just wanted to put this out there for anyone suffering in trauma bonding to abusive people

  3. Sarah, I am sorry, but I cant believe a trauma bonding can’t be healed or fixed. My God can raise the dead and defeat satan, so healing a trauma is a small thing for him.

  4. I was a victim of very covert control and manipulation for 29 years. I became so desensitized to my circumstances, because it started out looking like what I was used to growing up.

    One of the biggest things he did was to isolate me from friends and family – even church. He could always justify anything and I trusted him, because I grew up learning that you should trust your spouse. It’s such a long story, but I’m so thankful to be out. It has been 7 years and there is still healing taking place!

  5. Danny, I love love love this. I actually like how you identify how people actually end up in this situation, that alone is healing for me. I was an abusive marriage for 7 years and had I seen this sooner perhaps less but have been out of it for 12 years now and my ex has not changed so for me confirms I made the right decision. I know this is short but so powerful. Thank you for being prepared to talk about the tough stuff

  6. This is so incredibly helpful thank you. Words can not describe how thankful I am for such practical, Christ centred advice. I have watched it multiple times already and continue to glean from it. I’ll undoubtedly continue to watch it as I repent and uphold new standards and healthy boundaries in my marriage. The comment about calling the police when physical violence is occurring shocked me. After years of being pointed to the story of Noah’s drunkenness and my responsibility to “cover shame and sins” it’s liberating to think calling the police is an acceptable response in Gods eyes! For the first time in a really long time I feel like God actually see’s me. He cares for and loves me individually rather than a collective. It also gives me hope for my marriage, that Gods perfect light can come in now and will cast out the darkness. Thank you. I so sincerely mean this, God bless the entire LOP team and ministry!

  7. How do we handle emotional manipulation when the person involved is an authority in church? Many times setting a boundary is mistaken for dishonoring.

  8. I want to share something the Lord showed me the other day…. with regard to an abusive relationship I have put up boundaries in, and now we live apart….I said to the Lord "I still love him…and it hurts"
    He showed me what his love felt like….it was like an elixir…it was smooth and flowed over me like a silken river…it was safe…I felt loved…..then He said these words to me "Love does not have hooks and barbs…love does not hurt"
    I finally understood that what I had in my relationship was not love…it was something else.

  9. I have attempted to speak with someone about unhealthy dynamics and the person has chosen avoidance/no ownership (for a very long time.) The person is also unwilling to meet with a third party. Therefore I chose to not participate in the relationship by telling the person I care but I will not be acknowledging them at church or with mutual friends until we can have a healthy talk. Is there anything additional or different you advise to do at this point?

  10. I’d love a blog about getting through this type of scenario with a parent who probably has a personality disorder and is very manipulative when any limits are set. And how to lovingly stay safe from what’s been crippling even into adulthood but is invisible because things are OK when other people are around.

  11. Hi Danny. Unrelated, but I would like to hear your opinion on rebuilding trust in a marriage that has gone through, in part, emotional infedelity. Where you have decided to stay together and commit but now know you will never have the same trust levels again? How do you live like that, deal with that?

    1. Yes!!! Would love insight on building trust after varying levels of betrayal over a 25 yr marriage. How will the trust ever become automatic and safe after years of lies and betrayal. Although there have been occasional bouts of therapy a decade ago and even after more recent discoveries, now a recovery program and more therapy, my heart seems like it’s just a matter of time before my heart is broken again. How will there ever be trust? And joy?

  12. Thank you so much for this wisdom ! I am to the point I don’t know what to do . I need to first repent for my behavior then set the leave of respect. It has been very scary for me for a long time . Always feeling like it’s my fault for his behavior-

  13. Hi Danny I have been falsely accused of being abusive I have always promotedd freedom but have in fact been subject to control,passive aggressive and isolating behaviours trying to make me like her father who is extremely passive and compliant to her mothers control

  14. I notice that comments so far, are from women experiencing abusive relationships by men. Its so hard to raise the hand for help as a male on the receiving end of an abusive wife.
    I have walked the road of keeping my love on, repentance and forgiveness, setting boundaries, prayer and fasting, managing myself… and always got my nose rubbed in it.
    When I said ‘I love you" her reply was always ‘Really? Well why don’t you show it?’
    Last year she left the marriage for another man. Over the last 10 months I have come to realize just how toxic the relationship really was. But as the man of the household, the spiritual leader, the (expected) tower of strength… there is so little support, counselling or places to turn to… Just man-up and be strong and raise your three teenagers in the Lord’s love.

  15. Phil, Abuse is not gender specific. Anyone with a broken soul can be abusive and any help spoken to a woman is also relevant for a man. Maybe some of the dynamics are a little different but concepts can be tweaked to fit the need. God’s value and love for me (you) plus boundaries plus responsible love work no matter who is doing or not doing what. For me the church was the greatest enabler in my marriage and every other aspect of my life. I was to submit and he was the head. When I tried to get help I was told to make lemonade. lol
    I had the concept that God hated divorce and so if I left then God would hate me and I just couldn’t loose my relationship with God. In the end God rescued me and has kept 2000 miles+/- between us for 10 years. Needless to say I now have a healthier concept of God’s love. I was in the relationship 34 years. When I finally started to ask questions and say "this isn’t right" he dumped me on the other side of the country from where we had lived and a month later I was divorced. I didn’t have to do anything. My/our children suffered and are still dealing with issues because I could not stand up and say "Hey, this isn’t right and I am not participating." He was a pastor for a time and we were in the charismatic flow of things. there is no condemnation from God and no shame either. Everyone is responsible for their own stuff. and you can’t help someone who has all the answers and doesn’t think they need help. I sure do wish I had understood some of these principles of life about 40 years earlier than I did. But God is faithful and He is healing and revealing Himself to me and my kids more everyday.

  16. Hi Danny:

    Really Good Vlog! I am a true success story of living in an abusive marriage; my husband was the initiator, but I, as you noted gave it right back. I think the Lord was actually wanting me to look at what I had been raised in, which was TOTALLY off my radar. All I saw was HIS abuse, and didn’t realize I was just as guilty, whether it was AS BAD or NOT. The good news is the Lord got hold of BOTH our hearts, we received personal ministry, deliverance, and counselling that has absolutely changed our lives. This man is my best friend, a confidant, someone I can truly trust and I could not imagine my life without him. That’s a pretty big deal when for years I hated him and felt trapped. Hallelujah that both of us took responsibility and got over our own bad selves!!! Victory is there when both are in to win!!!

  17. Danny, would you please talk more about what emotional abuse or manipulation looks like? I think many people do not know how to distinguish this as easily as they can physically abuse.

  18. Our friends and churches are are quick to oppress us further. Pastors and leadership do not have proper training to counsel victims of abuse. After been left in fear, with bruises and sprains, my pastor’s ridiculed and condemned me…the survivor NOT the abuser. I entered myself into a domestic violence program where I learned more about the advocacy of Christ from a secular program then I have any pew I’ve ever set in. I think my situation was an embarrassment for the pastors as my husband and I were ordained in this church. They were more concerned about getting us back together than helping me to heal or getting him help. The lead pastor was furious at me for not having told him before things got physical. But yet even with bruises and sprains they still didn’t believe me how serious the attack traumatized me. The churches response to me the victim was like being abused all over again. Abuse no matter what the form: physical, emotional, verbal all have at the source desire for power and control.

  19. This is SO great Danny. Wish I’d seen it 38 years ago. THANK YOU for speaking plainly, reasonably, and simply about an issue that no one wants to admit.

  20. Dear Danny -First of all, thank you for your Vlogs, e-mails etc. I read them with interest and it has helped me. You speak a lot about abuse in marriage and abuse on the serious side of the spectrum. I am interested in how one handles conflict in family relationships. Our family went through a huge upheaval, which started with gossip of which I (unknowingly) was the target. One day, it came out and I had a huge eye opener! I have spent many hours in prayer, seeking the Lord’s solution and also have sought counseling. I have (with the Lord’s help) worked on my own behaviours and have offered my mouth as a living sacrifice – what goes out as well as what I put in! I have "mended" the relationships by asking forgiveness if I have done anything to offend anyone. What I am struggling with, is that I cannot seem to get over the emotional pain. I feel betrayed, I cannot trust, I actually feel numb. To suddenly realise that the people who you thought loved you, actually cannot stand you. Christian values left far behind! The other parties seem to feel they can say and do whatever they like without consequences. They do not handle conflict in a constructive manner and think that because we have now all "forgiven" they can go on the way they previously did. Am I right in saying that I do not want to be manipulated? mind games are being played which are not constructive, ignoring tactics and all kinds of childish behaviour that does not resolve anything. So HOW practically do I move on? Now, in addition to this my stepson, whom I love and have raised as my own, has just "written me off" – on hearsay, untruths and skewed realities. The seed sown by his new wife – a new dynamic I am not coping with. My husband has been amazing. Supporting me, praying with me, seeking wisdom . Neither of us are interested in disrespect, being emotionally blackmailed and the like. If there are to be relationships, people must take responsibility for their behaviour. Unfortunately, they are NEVER wrong. Your insight would be appreciated, Danny. Thank you…at this point, I am holding on to the Lord’s promises for our children. They all serve Him and they have been taught by example, how to serve the Lord, love Him and serve Him. I just don’t understand what is going on. Kind regards Joan

  21. Hi Danny, I have a question I would definitely appreciate you to address!! My family and I live on the same property as my parents. I am 35 years old expecting my fourth child, and honestly living next to my mom really triggers me. I know you guys live in close proximity to Ben and Brittany. How do you do that well? How do you and Sheri allow them to be their own family even if it is choices you would make differently?

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