How Dysfunctional People Make You Feel Dysfunctional


Dysfunctional people have a way of turning the tables on others. That is, they find a way to make those around them feel like they are the problem, when, in reality, their turbulent heart is the source of turbulence in their lives. (James 4:-1-2)



Are You Dealing with a Dysfunctional Person?


You might be dealing with a dysfunctional person, especially in marriage, if one or more of the following often occurs:


1. You find yourself constantly second guessing your actions and motives

2. You are often over-evaluating what you did wrong to make that spouse, friend, or family member mad

3. You are constantly playing a tape in your mind of what you may or may not have done wrong

4. You find yourself taking the blame or apologizing so as to smooth over a situation

5. You are walking an ever so fine line so as not to offend that particular person

6. You are constantly having to explain away the other person’s actions to others so as to keep the peace

7. The relationship is more of a source of exhaustion than refreshment


How They Turn the Tables Around


Dysfunctional people are almost ingenious at making others feel like they are the problem. Though this is mostly done in the subconscious realm, they are, nonetheless, extremely good at putting people in a defensive mode, making the innocent feel guilty, or portraying the perpetrator as the victim.

Let me supply just a few reasons how dysfunctional people have a way of making others feel like they are the problem:


1. They project their shortcomings on others


Titus 1:15 tells us:


“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and their conscience is defiled.”


Paul teaches us that a dysfunctional person views others through the lens of their own dysfunction. That is, if they have a problem with lust, then they project that on others. If they struggle with gossip, lying, and selfishness, then they typically assume others are guilty of the same.

For this reason, I have a rule that I follow: The accusations of others typically are revealing the sin of the accuser than the defendant. In fact, I have even heard some say that, in spiritually abusive and highly legalistic settings, if you want to find out with what sin the preacher struggles, listen carefully to what sin he denounces the most.

A dysfunctional person has a way of reading things into situations so as to cause those around them to either feel defensive, inadequate, or downright mad. Consequently, they have made those around them to feel just as bad as themselves, and, to be honest, this is typically one of their their goals as misery seems to love company.


2. They draw others offsides


The dysfunctional spouse, parent, or friend has a way of drawing others offsides. In other words, because they are hard to live with, they have a way of provoking others to lose their cool. Once this occurs, a vicious cycle starts in that the recipients feel guilt and remorse while the dysfunctional person feels a sense of empowerment or vindication because of the apologies they receive.


3. They lack self-awareness


Though we can psychologize and theorize all we want, at the end of the day, dysfunctional people are difficult to be around, and, they are usually far too self-absorbed to see that they are the issue.

Due to a lack of self-awareness, all they can see are people either getting frustrated or withdrawing from them. Unfortunately, instead of looking within, they blame without, and as long as this cycle occurs, they will fail to make progress in their lives.

The best day of my life was when I started to take personal responsibility for the environment that my sin and selfishness had created. Instead of blaming my wife and others for the difficulties in my life, I realized that even the tallest branch at the top of the tree of my difficulties was a result of my own root of bitterness.

In Matthew 7, Jesus said:


“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”


Jesus was fully aware that we see dysfunction in others easier than in ourselves. This is why so many are prone to heatedly accuse yet coldly repent.


Fight Against Dysfunction


For spouses dealing with a dysfunctional spouse, we would highly recommend fighting, but in ways that actually work. This is why one of our major steps for women as well as men is to lay down weaponry that is ubiblical in nature and start using weaponry that helps to forumulate what I call a win-win scenario for God’s glory and both spouses. We deal with this more specifically in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of our marriage book, How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting With One Another.


Ordering Our Marriage Book


For ordering information about our marriage book, How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting With One Another, be sure to visit our online store.

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Posted in Marriage Advice

91 comments on “How Dysfunctional People Make You Feel Dysfunctional
  1. Jan Kincaid says:

    What do I do when the dysfunctional people are my fiance’s parents?

  2. Crystal says:

    My second husband, not the father of my children from first husband, was very much like you stated in the article. We went to church often. He accused me of affairs and just crazy things while I would be at home. He was physically and verbally abusive. I divorced him when my oldest daughter was around 13. Since leaving him, my daughter who is now 20, acts just like he did. She’s manipulative. Controlling. Has fits of rage. Blames everything in life on everyone else. Refuses to get help. It bothers me reading this article bc what if this fits my daughter to a T and she refuses to get help. In the mean time she is ruining every relationship she has with anyone who cares for her. Grandparents… us- her mom and biological dad… sister… and anyone who actually tries to help her and not be manipulated or controlled orrr refuse to “keep the peace” so she doesn’t have a full on blow up. She verbally abuses ppl, hits, throws things, accuses us of never loving her… which is crazy bc she doesn’t love herself. I don’t know how to get her to take the steps to. She has almost killed herself a few times from drugs.

  3. Paul says:

    Wondering after a divorce that was a soul torching nightmare, if it was ME that was the dysfunctional one. I try to read this is applying it to her and to myself. It was a rapid, and hurtful divorce. She said she checked out a good while before we ended. Had a new man ready to go. 2 years later and she’s blissfully living a normal life and I’m still picking pieces up. Always wondering if it was me. Ugh.

    • Anonymous says:

      Read about narcissism. A narcissist moves on quickly. The target usually thinks they are/were the problem. Be free.

      • Dave says:

        I had a narcissistic wife blamed me for everything. Divorced me for not making enough money accused menof affairs stealing money and her possession s. Finally left for another guy leaving the state and abandoned her minor son. I hope he does ok on his own. I finally told her I hope she married and change her name as she has disgrace d my family

  4. Jewel says:

    I’ve been with my spouse for 23 years and his emotionally abusive tendencies started after our son was born and he is going to be 22 soon. We’ve been going to church since our son was 2. I grew up in a Christian home, my husband parents rarely went to church but his grandma has been the main Christian influence all his life. His parents divorced when he was a teenager. His relationship with his mother has been estranged for 10 years now. I’ve only held on this far because of prayer and my parents spiritual support..we have 3 children now. I never realized that our home was dysfunctional until 8 years ago, and that I was in a emotionally abusive environment, I’ve never been called outright lazy but told things to make me feel like I was, he never wants to read or watch any videos about marriage or parenting, our oldest son has never bonded with him and they are not close. My oldest son is going on a path that is not right now because of this. I wanted to get counseling when we had problems with our son and him in high school, at the time he was willing, so was my son but that never happened. It seems as though my husband has an unteachable spirit on him, along with a lot of of this week my husband will not talk to me face to face n only talks to me through our kids and texts because I got upset with the way he was talking to me and I would not help him with something he wanted me to do, then after going to our bedroom and laying on our bed he tells me to get off my bed! I get mad and push him because i getting fed up of being talked to like that..this is the longest he’s ignored me, usually it’s 3 days..after a week if this he texts n says he’s been waiting for me to apologize..right now I know I should but I told him I’m not the only who should be apologizing and I’m tired of him ignoring me when he thinks I’m the only one in the wrong.
    So many times I’ve forgiven him without an apology or if there was it wasn’t sincere..I’ve put up with so much for so long, felt my heart harden many times but because of my faith in God, prayer, my mom and Christian friends I’ve kept on going…my mother dreamt my husband divorced me and had been praying for us even before this happened..there has been a spiritual battle in his fathers family for awhile now too..Satan has been working overtime..I made the Mistake of preaching at him in the past…but he has no one that holds Him accountable, no Christian brother he talks too either…his mother was very controlling and this was why they are now estranged..seems like everything is stacked against us but yet I am still trusting God for a breakthrough!!

    • Chuck Moll says:

      My wife and I have known each other for 28 years. After the passing of her late husband in 2012 in which was a good friend of mine,her and I began talking 3 months after his passing. I had just came out of a marriage of 13 years with my wife’s late husbands 1st cousin. Although his side of the family rejected us for wanting to be together, we fell in love and were engaged 6 months later. My wife and her late husband had 9 children, who I watched grow from infants to teenagers and I had 3 children from my previous wife. We have tried very hard to blend our family and it has been a very rough road. During our relationship I had a drug problem that at times my own mother would enable me. My wife tried to help me get clean and thought I was for five years but I relapsed and lied to my wife which created a huge trust issue. I have always been close with my mother all of my life. We decided to marry on 12/13/14 although we had issues. We have been married a little over three years and have filed for divorce. I love my wife dearly and can not let her go. I have often contemplated suicide from the thought of losing another wife. We fight a lot , over my parents, my children and my ex wife and so many hurtful things are said to each other. I will apologize for doing wrong and ask for forgiveness but she will not forgive me, but times she has been wrong or hurt me deeply she refuses to say I’m sorry and will not make any attempt to forgive me. She will hold onto everything and will always pick the negatives out of every situation and will never try to be positive. I know I have done my fair share of causing hurt and am from by far perfect but I will say sorry. I love my wife and want to be with nobody but her and it breaks my heart that after all we have been through, she just wants to give up and not fight anymore. I feel worthless like I’m not good enough to be fought for as a person. Can anyone give some light to this as to what we could possibly do?

      • Lisa says:

        I too have this. The emotional abuse is way worse than physical abuse

      • Anonymous says:

        What you’ve shared sounds like you were writing about my life. Wow! How do we know when to leave and when to stay? I just want to be free to live my life for the Lord and for my boys. Many prayers for you.

        • Anonymous says:

          At some point we all have to accept that covering up for an abusive spouse does not mean that it is ok – it is not! Our silence can also become a sin when we are leading our spouse into a perfect place for their repeated sin by – of all things, saying nothing to the world around you.

          If you are not speaking up because you are afraid of your spouse, listen to what you are saying by not saying anything! Go get help – find Godly counsel that will help you determine at what point safety and sin are more than enough and it’s time to speak up.

      • Dee says:

        Learn about Narcasstic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Sounds like a classic case

    • Claire says:

      Jewel, it sounds like your husband has a narcissistic personality. I highly recommend a book called The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick for strategies in dealing with him. Personally, I think.he is banking on you catering to him. He isn’t valuing you by how awful he treats you by withdrawing (a form of control) and his ego and pride are destroying your marriage. It isn’t “Christian” for you to be his emotional punching bag. Theirs is some misleadings in church circles about divorce and the situations that call for it. Your sound mind, sanity and gifts are to be used to glorify the Lord and build His kingdom and not take you to the pit of hell on earth with an unrepentant, divisive and prideful ego driven husband. Sorry if this is harsh, but tip toeing around him (unless he gets right with God and also you) will get you nowhere. You will know if his heart has been transformed by a radical change. Don’t continue going around the same mountain. ((Hugs))

      • Denise says:

        Thank you for this insight, Claire. I feel that our Father guided me to your words that help me see things in a new way. I’ve been giving chance after chance after chance to save what is more of a malignancy than a marriage. You wrote that our gifts are to glorify God and to build His kingdom, not to be used by an unsubmitted and unrepentant spirit to create for us a living hell on Earth. There is the hate which is so blind, so dark, that love only makes it the more violent. I left him but let myself be talked into coming back. It’s much worse now. It started up almost immediately after moving back. Finally, after 6 months of being told weekly, some weeks daily, what a disgusting person I am, being called horrible names, told the most horrible things about myself and my grown children and small grandchildren, him trying to make it so that I can’t eat (I’ve lost almost 20 lbs and I’m a thin woman), him telling me he’s going to change the locks, kick me out, take my 401K (smiled and said it was free money), etc., I decided to save $ to get my own place. I had been paying all the bills even though he makes nearly twice as much as I do but I couldn’t keep doing that AND save to move. He’s no longer profiting off of me financially and is furious even though he has been telling me to get the f out of his house, asking how soon I can be out. I suffer from migraines…stress is the main trigger and so they’ve become more frequent and unrelenting. I had to call in sick today…headache started Monday and today is Wednesday. Second day I’ve missed at the new job I got at his demand…he didn’t like my off shift so demanded that I get a first shift job. Day three and so intense I asked him to drive me to urgent care this morning. That was a mistake. He started yelling, threatening, insulting….agony I can’t describe. He had to go to work and couldn’t take me (salaried and his work would’ve been absolutely fine with a family emergency). I have to get away, this time no contact and for good. Your wisdom will help me. Thank you again.

    • Jenny says:

      Who taught you that loving somebody equates to tolerating abuse? You and your kids are way more important. Get out.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not a doctor or psych but dated a handful of narcissists and your husbands actions match up with the same mental and emotional abuse I’ve endured.

    • MHB says:

      What you’re describing sounds like boarderline personality disorder. Have you done some any reading on it before? Worth taking a look into. There’s a treatment called Dialectial Behavorial Therapy (DBT) that is highly effective. Prayers for you!

    • MHB says:

      What you’re describing sounds like Boarderline Personality Disorder. I know a lot of people suggested Narcisstisic Personality Disoder and although, both have some similar trates, you would know the difference based on your husbands actions once you read about the two. Have you done some any reading on these before? Worth taking a look into. There’s a treatment called Dialectial Behavorial Therapy (DBT) that is highly effective. Prayers for you!

      • Mason says:

        Was in an emotionally abusive marriage for over 15 years. Verbal abuse mostly. Toward end of marriage was getting more physically abusive. Constantly being berated in front of my children and openly accused of past mistakes that were not major sins (i.e. not adultery, not murder) and not practiced sins. PHd Christian marriage counselor with nearly 40 years experience told me to get out of the marriage as my wife appeared to have an axis 2 personality disorder. Counselor said most people with those disorders do not change. Those type disorders can include Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic PD or combination of 15 other types of PD’s. Counselor also stated that from his experience marriages that do not act or look like Christ and the church usually are not blessed. Was staying in it for the children but realized the marriage was not the best thing for the children.

        • Ann Young says:

          I was in a what became a misarable marriage going in 13 years. My husband and I had been happy at first, however, he started drinking. We had a son and a daughter. I took care of them, did all house work, cut the grass no matter where we lived, cooked 3 times a day, did all the grocery and clothes shopping, My husband worked and slept and when he began drinking, he got worse as time went on. When we were married 12 yrs I prayed and a friend of mine and myself fasted and prayed what for me to do because my husband was so bad that he was drunk most of the time and had began missing work, something he had never done. When I received the Word from God,and yes He did give me an answer, and it was to get my children and get out now. I did not think God would tell me to leave my husband and I talked myself out of it. Wrong, I should have obeyed the Lord, about a weak later, he got on a Big Red, went down in a coal mining strip, drank a whole fifth of whiskey, was drunk, started back up the strip pit to our home, when he could not get over a washed out place, he gave the Big Red the gas and it reared back on him, beat him in the chest and caused a chest contusion. He was taken to the hospital ER but due to many long and several complications, after almost 4 mos. in the hospital, he left with brain damage and severe motor skill damage. After he regained enough skills and could care for himself, I could not handle any more. A week before the accident he told me that he liked to drink and that if he decided he didn’t he would let me know. So if you need to cut off a relationship for good reason, pray and if agouti get the answer yes, or if you know to do it because of the Word and the situation warrants, do it now!

    • Anonymous says:

      Do not apologize. Period
      He needs you.

    • Jennifer Miller says:

      Just wondering if small things are said sometimes like “why wouldn’t/would I?” In response to a question where one feels confused about an action.

    • Genesis says:

      Jewel, I just read your comment and I can relate on many levels. My husband likewise thinks that he is always right, does not acknowledge his sin, but puts it back on me, is unteachable and not accountable to anyone. I even went to the church leadership, and they saw the same sin in him that I did. They confronted him according to Matthew 18, but he totally rejected everything, said they violated proverbs 18:17 b/c they never heard “his” side. My husband no longer goes to church, but still wields the Bible as a weapon against me (“you used to be submissive, the Bible says you must forgive, preaches reconciliation yet won’t acknowledge his sin). I also prayed in faith for years, not knowing exactly what was wrong in our relationship (married 21 years) but it was clear something was wrong. The blinders came off of my eyes two years ago and I realized that he was emotionally, financially and spiritually abusive, mixed in with his entitlement attitude and pride. In the months following that revelation, I have now come to the conclusion that God can change anyone’s heart UNLESS that person REFUSES to change, refuses to self-reflect. The Lord is a gentleman and will not force anyone to do His will, we have the freedom to chose our own course, and my husband has continued to live for himself and refuse to see the truth…..So, now we live as roommates in our home with 3 kids 13 and under, one with special needs. I am praying about what my next move is, regarding separation. I’ve heard it said that a person will not change until it becomes too painful to stay the same.
      Can I recommend a few books for you to read, if you haven’t already, that will help you in your situation? One is “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” by Leslie Vernick. She is a Christian licensed counselor and also has a Facebook page with wonderful, helpful articles.
      Also, “Fool Proofing Your Life” by Joy Silvanus. (i may have spelled her last name wrong). She uses the book of Proverbs to clearly define a Biblical Fool and how to protect yourself from one.
      “Healing From Hidden Abuse” by Shannon Thomas is another great book.

      I pray that the Lord would empower you and give you the wisdom to take care of YOU and allow God to deal with your husband. Whatever that looks like.
      God Bless you

    • Miranda says:

      Jewel, how are things now? Any changes?

    • Anonymous says:

      Putting it all in God’s hands is always the best to do, but- God also gives us brains and heart to know that He wants better for us than what you’re living- and by not leaving, you’re hurting your children by allowing them to continue to see the type of relationship (abuse) that is toxic and unhealthy. They will turn out the same way. I left horrible abuse after 17 years, with my 8 year old son and never looked back. Grass is SO a greener on the other side. Your kids lives and futures are much more important than you staying!

  5. Dave says:

    My wife blames me for everything that’s gone wrong and makes false accusations all the time. She makes me leave but then keeps calling me when she needs something.I spent most of the winter on street or in house with no heat or electric and been a long winter. I need to get the courage to not answer to her yet I still feel the commitment she never did. I need God’s strength to walk away once and for all never to speak to her again and perhaps then she will learn what she is throwing away

    • Dave says:

      BTW we both knew God brought us together 6 yrs ago but when things got tough she decides we are not equally yoked

    • Anonymous says:

      You must break away and have absolutely no contact with her. She’s a narcissist and is discarding you then Hoovering you back. Like a yo yo. No doubt she’s gaslighting you as well. B strong. Endure the big hurt and get away from her.

  6. Eagle says:

    Question. How do we know God put the marriage together? Did anyone ask him. I hate that scripture being thrown around. There is more iniquity being felt out than not. Most people assume it was God. But the enemy sends in those who lie cheat and take advantage of the real Christian in the relationship. And those were not sent by God nor did he put them together. This needs to be seen in the church and the church needs to discern between flesh presumption and spirit

    • Jennifer says:

      You are so right. A person can look like a gift from God then end up destroying your credit, having such trauma that your older children go to college and never come home, getting evicted, having cars towed away repeatedly, not working for ten years and blaming the wife’s sickness, neglecting all duties in the home, cars and yard then BLAME wifey for all errors. No vacations, no dates, bouncing the checking account dozens of times, loosing all family friends, and when wife gets healed for 9 days he drags her back to dr to get refills just in case she gets sick again. She refuses to go. But dear Pastor tells her to obey husband. Then the disease comes back 4x worse. Four years later no healing…… oh my. When I hear myself I wonder why im still here. Married 16 years. Daughter 15. Can’t keave. Can’t handle it any more. My vision to be a missionary was shared until day one of marriage. We agreed on everything in our short engagement. Nothing he says is ever done. He thinks he will do it but doesn’t. He had never fixed anything he’s broken. He looses his laptop and takes mine. Four times!!! Then sits on my new one and breaks it. He never replaces or repairs what he breaks. He has shrunk my clothes for 15 years and will not stop putting my delicates in the dryer. He just won’t stop. I’ve lost everything. My three children. My three homes. My credit. (My own BK was 2.3 million in real estate he put in my name) I had great credit when we married and no debt. We agreed not to get into debt. But the first four months he made no money and began borrowing. It’s still a crummy financial mess. . A decade later my credit still is below 600. The promises to fix credit are not fulfilled. Hard to rent a decent home with bad credit. Been homeless twice for long periods. Very scared. and lived in shacks with no utilities 3 times. I begged him to get a bookkeeper for ten years and he won’t -until last week. I yelled at him and told him to get out and don’t come home without a bookkeeper. The next day he had one. She quit after a week. Then I had to repeat the threat. I’m crying out for help. I’ve lost hope. Now he has dementia is setting in. He’s probably always been forgetful but dr said to use CPAP to get oxygen at night or this would happen. Can’t force a man to wear it. Agh.

      I try to be godly. My heart is in ministry. But being broke for a decade holds me down. Homeschooling my amazingly gorgeous daughter who now suffers with anxiety from our homeless times, fights in our marriage, sick mother (me) and poverty. So sad. So unnecessary. What a waste. I’ve learned I cannot make anyone do anything. I can’t make him get a job. Apparently there are none for him. Whatever!!

      I’m working my tail off. Yard work. Cjeanng cars out. Housework. Laundry. Cooking. Raising big dog puppies for income, taking care of mother with dementia. All for money. I’m exhausted. He’s a great evangelist -but god can’t bless him financially when he is not honoring his promises, doesn’t tithe or honor the sabbath. I’m not judging. I’m pointing something out. We used to write down our agreements. He lost the book three times. It’s hopeless. I can’t do this anymore. I love my husband but….

  7. Anonymous says:


    I’m married 10 months and 3 weeks ago my husband asked for divorce. It is the 3rd time in few months that he claims it.

    I guess he suffers of bipolar disorder because some attitudes he has that are very similar to a patient with this disease.

    My husband says that I’m too good for him, that I deserve somebody better than him, that he doesn’t know if he loves me the same way he used to… but before this crisis we were having amazing days together… it doesn’t make any sense.

    I don’t know what to do and what to think. I don’t know how to act face this situation. He said he would apply for divorce papers but he didn’t yet.

    Friends and family say that maybe it is going to be better for me to be apart, because he is a person very unstable and I will suffer too much if we keep married. I love him and I’m disposed to walk with him another mile… but it doesn’t depends on me anymore…

    I don’t know how I can save my marriage…

    • Kathy Mcgowan says:

      If you really love him, go for counseling for both of you. Being bipolar must be really tough for him and confusing. Maybe he can get on the right meds and you can save your marriage. He is probably scared.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is what my husband says years ago and I am in the divorce process. Set your boundaries, maybe he is suffering from addictions.

    • Anapela says:

      I think bringing it before the Lord is best because he sees what we cant but if he is an unbeliever unwilling to live with u pauls says its ok to for me i have similar problems we been together 10 married for 8. We worked through that parts by me not being religeous but applying the word. Im trying my best because i want to see him saved and successful. If he leave pauls word still apply right now.he is so running feom the love he so desperately needs. Not from me from Jesus. Is that the case for u? Idk everybody get different call. Different purpose. All my love n blessings as u seek the face of the Lord

    • Anynomus says:

      Begin to pray for your husbands selfesteem!

    • Amanda says:

      Call it what you will…Bipolar, demonic influence, etc…

      The enemy will do what he can to destroy a marriage. Marital counseling is never a bad idea or anything to be ashamed of! Mental illness will wreak havoc on any relationship if it is not recognized or properly treated.

      I have a friend that has a husband who says similar things and breaks out the “D-word” off and on in a vicious cycle of emotional abuse. He says she isn’t good enough for him, however. That no one likes her in his family, and he brings up her painful past to try make her feel like she isn’t worthy of God’s love…it’s so hard to watch.

      In my opinion, any talk of divorce without truly 100% meaning it is abuse. You don’t just throw that word around every time you get upset! It’s a threat of abandonment and no one should have to feel so uncertain in their marriage. Pray for your husband and for yourself, ask God for discernment as to what you should do. I hope things become stable and joyful for you

    • Meadow says:

      You alone cannot save your marriage. Both of you have to be willing to put the work in.
      If he’s asked you for a divorce, give it to him. You deserve a man who loves and is committed to you.
      God loves people more than institutions. Remember that. If you don’t realize the love you deserve, neither will your spoiuse.
      My twenty year marriage to a “Christian” man ended and in looking back, I wish I would’ve given him what he wanted and deserved years earlier – a divorce. God has a plan and a purpose for you. Don’t let anything keep you from it. Live for Him and let go of those who don’t want you.

  8. G Coleman says:

    Would these principles work for other unhealthy relationships, for example, between siblings you love but who are, perhaps dysfunctional themselves and often casting accusations in others? If not, is there a resource for dealing with that type sutuation?

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m no expert but I have personally experienced this to be true. All glory to God.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi, have you researched “dysfunctional” people or narcissistic people? To get a better understanding of it.There are so many resources out there regarding family dysfunction.

  9. Mary says:

    I also recommend Leslie Vernick’s materials. She has some great videos online. I’m sorry for all- I was married to a dysfunctional cheating man for more than 30 years. I felt condemned for not having enough faith, not praying enough, not being a helpmeet. You can’t change them. Separate, and see if they’ll change.

    • Ava says:

      Amen!!! Leslie Vernick is a God send. Sometimes hard consequences are the only way a disfunctiinal spouse can be dealt with. Then the dysfunctional spouse can clearly see what the choices are and make one. Sometimes walking away and leaving it between your spouse and God is the most loving thing you can do.

  10. Tyna Begley says:

    Dr. Force,

    Do you have any advice for the marriage where only 1 person is trying? My hubby often apologizes for bad behavior, but the behavior doesn’t change. He’s not interested in counseling or even a book. He says he’s trying to change and that should be enough for me. He often tells me I’m hyper-sensitive, so I need to just get over it.

    • Hannah says:

      Sounds like classic narcissist behavior which this article largely describes. You need more than just you to help

    • Mary says:

      Oh yeah- like you’re the problem. He can’t resolve anything. I highly recommend Leslie Vernick. You can watch a lot of her stuff online. You’ll feel less crazy and spiritually edified.

    • Rebecca says:

      That sounds exactly like my husband wish I had more words of encouragement. Only keep your eyes on God

    • Denise says:

      I understand you pain and frustration. Iv been married 2 yrs when his cooler age daughter moved in wth us and things immediately changed. Suddenly I was blamed for all things that have gone wrong. I started counseling a year ago and neither m husband nor his daughter will go with me. My husband resents the fact that I’m gong now and he’s a wow daughters have him convinced that m the problem.
      I pray for Gods guidance and blessings upon my marriage all the time. However, I am dealing with non believers.


  11. Susan Smith says:

    This article makes me wonder who the dysfunctional one is-me or my husband. Of course it’s easy to point fingers, but I really am trying to work on me. He really has made me question what is wrong with me? How can I say that I am not responsible for his feelings, i.e. his happiness. He thinks we are responsible for each other. He is convinced he doesn’t matter to me, that I don’t need him. Well, let’s be real here-I don’t “need” him to survive. I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. But that has no bearing on the fact that I want him in my life and I want to be a part of his. We have been married 20 years. Our baby just graduated high school this weekend. We have been separated since the end of March. We went a month without seeing each other. There were emails and texts, not all of them nice. When we finally met face to face, that really broke the ice. We were having real, honest conversations about where we were and what we wanted in life. Just when I have started to maybe let my guard down and think I see a light at the end of the tunnel, he gets mad at my saying he’s not responsible for my feelings and, among other things, tells me to go live my life with my precious baby boy.
    I am trying to be still and listen to what the God is trying to tell me. At this point, I don’t know if this is the enemy coming in to steal, kill and destroy, or if God is trying to tell me to walk away.

    • Beth says:

      I encourage you to fight for your marriage. It sounds like your husband has some ideas about marriage that aren’t healthy, but your marriage isn’t something you just walk away from. The end of a marriage is a death. Seek God for the tools you need and find out how to fight for your marriage. Fight for life.

      • Phyllis says:

        I been married 29 years raised his 3 children and my son all as one family in the church. Later raised 3 granddaughters. Years and years of me writing in my journals of things he said my tears and sadness. Very lonely marriage. I been on anti depressants with anxiety 3 yrs after marriage when he was always bursting my bubble and not backing me with kids with regard to God i.e. discipline. All kids older now and I think I taught them to suffer, never give up,and they all learned to treat me as he has. I separated and came back when he claimed to truly repent to God. I can see some changes but believe it to be because he knows I’m tired and done with the marriage. I’m hurt. I feel my relationship with God has suffered that I can not serve God as I did prior to him because he had always disapproved. I want to run to find me again, to heal and draw closer to my savior

        • Noreen says:

          Wow! I know your not alone because you just described myself. The running away and finding oneself eats at me all the time. When doing that I can applaud myself for time away and with the Lord, but it still feels lonely. I’m not totally convinced that we can resolve disfunction on this side of eternity. It’s just another fall of mankind or consiquences of it, but I do believe once we embrace the fact that no one is perfect and stop striving for perfection in human kind, (change our exspectations) we are able to give mercy and grace to all. I like the fact that God knows the desire of our hearts even when we are trying to comfort others imperfectly. I hope this was some help to you. My I recommend “when the hurt runs deap” by Kay Author?!

      • Annapolis says:

        God gives you the grace to endure in a dysfunctional marriage,But what you allow will continue. And allowing it,is the same as if you invited it. Emotional abuse is damaging to you as a person. God doesn’t want his children in abuse!

    • Linda Jacobs says:

      Too much for quick reply from anyone! I noticed one thing that concerned me: You call your high school graduate who is a young adult, a “baby”…and your husband made reference to that as well.

      • Lauree says:

        Sounds like ‘baby’ is the object of your affection instead of your husband. Your desires are to be to your husband not your children. When there is ‘spiritual incest’ between a spouse and a child the other spouse will act out like a jilted lover( because they are a jilted lover) and they will usually end up hating the ‘idol’, even abusing the idol and sometimes Incest will occur or they will go out and have an affair. It will manifest in the natural what is going on in the spiritual. It will look like the jilted spouse who hated the kid or abused the kid or was caught having an affair was the sinner, but in reality it is the other spouses sin of idolatry and putting the child/work/friends/church before their spouse that started the destruction.

        • Sheila says:

          Spiritual incest? I sometimes call my 28 year old son my “baby” because he was my youngest child. It is a term of endearment. I will always see that sweet little boy in him. He is obviously a grown man now and I love him dearly. He is literally a part of me and we are spiritually connected. Only a selfish narcissist would “act out and feel like a jilted lover”, because in their minds they are the only ones deserving of attention, no one else….ever….only them. Only a narcissist would put such a spin on something so pure as the love between a mother and her children. Instead of joining in and being a part of a loving family and being thankful for a solid family unit, they end up on the outside looking in and resenting the fact it is not all about them. They are miserable so it is easy for them to throw out weird accusations and cast blame to try to make everyone else feel guilty and bad about themselves. A spouse who thinks this way does not deserve to be put on a pedestal and worshiped! Take care of yourself and love your children! Don’t feed the monkey, they will just hurl crap at you!

        • Jm says:

          Your crazy, how do you read all that into it. It’s just a mother’s live for her child.

        • Sarah says:

          It just sounds so co-dependant! If the spouse sees that the love for her child might be more than for him then he can speak up in love and ask for more time etc. together. I relate because I am good at parenting but not as good in marraige. It doesn’t mean there’s spiritual insest. A spouse wanting the other spouse to make them whole is not biblical. God is the only one who can make us whole. And if a spouse cheats for what ever reason, they are responsible for that choice made and them alone. Struggles might have lead up to it but no one made that choice for you but you! Best thing I’ve ever done for my spouse is to surrender him to God. Entrust him to the Lord. You can’t fix his brokenness!

        • Kelly says:

          you sound like someone I know that was jealous of their female spouse taking care of the baby. He got so jealous that he ended up ignoring her and the child for many years. Very self absorbed thinking you have. CHILDREN ARE NOT IDOLS. God does not perceive someone loving their child and raising them on the scale of idol worship.

        • Ann Toung says:

          Where ever in the world or God’s precious Word did you even find the term “spiritual incest” ? Never have I heard that term, and I believe you should take that back, as you took this way too far as your own interpretation. You need to be careful when you are using the tongue as it can hurt, wound, and even destroy or kill a person. This lady has not committed any such thing. The “baby boy belongs to both of them, and it’s been proven that fathers have actually been jealous of their own newborns because they felt they were not getting enough attention after the baby was born. This father up is demonstrating jealousy over his own son after attending his graduation, when it should have been a celebration of a life milestone in their baby boys life! Instead he was picking a fight with his wife and being the narriscisstic person he as! He did not care for his wife nor his own son. He was only concerned about his own self and his needs/feelings. That is about as selfish as it gets. My youngest grandson lives with me and my husband and he is not even my husband’s blood grandson. I call him baby all the time, and I call my hubby sweetheart. My hubby, does not care in the least and this is how this man should have reacted. Not care because it was HIS SON and HIS WIFE. This is ahiggly jealous and self-centered man and unless he changes, this marriage will not make it snd this woman will either live the rat of her life in horror and terror or she may even may be killed depending on how much this man will go or do in a fit of rage when h gets extremely jealous of his wife and how mad he gets about how little attention he thinks he has gotten. Don’t think it won’t happen because it happens every day in America!

    • Been there! says:

      He sounds like he’s trying to manipulate you into feeling guilty in expecting him to take responsibility for himself. Don’t give in, in essence stick to your guns in telling him he is responsible for his own feelings, man up admit when you’re wrong and change your behavior.

    • DC says:

      I thought it was just me experiencing this, thank you for your honesty. Don’t give up!

    • Anonymous says:

      Matthew 19:6 “…therefore what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. God will take what is meant to tear your marriage apart to make it stronger. Pray for God to reveal your faults and weaknesses, as well as praying for your husband’s heart. Ask for His guidance in your communication, that He would ordain every word that you speak, you will see and feel the changes. I do not believe God would ask you to walk away. And I always say Thank you Lord for your mercy and grace. Prayers for your marriage, for God to put HIS understanding in your husbands heart , and for peace in your heart

      • Mary Jo Peterson says:

        What if your marriage was based on nothing but lies and affairs. Also alot of emotional abuse. Do you stay there until you are so sick and emotionally drained that you can’t function as a person. Or Do you get a divorce for your own personal safety?

    • Michelle says:

      I think we all have to deal with our individual personality issues that may need improving.
      Sounds like your husband is jealous of your relationship with your son. Not uncommon.
      Make sure to express in ways your husband understands that he’s your priority.
      If he’s not, then you can work on that.
      Your husband will have to work on his own issues. Nobody can change somebody else.
      Support each other and try to grow together.
      What God has joined together let no man or woman separate. God bless.

    • Anonymous says:

      Continue to work on yourself. When you are healed from the damage he has done, you won’t worry about what to do about him anymore. You will be strong and ready to move on with your healthy self and in the future, healthy relationships.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the spiritually healthy and whole plan. If every time I worried about any other persons behavior I would stop and work on my spiritual health – I am certain God would show me answers direct my path and even heal my heart from whatever I may face! He has done this before with what at the time appeared dire circumstances. Now looking back I see yes the were hard but I was only adding fuel to the fire to try to fix them and Satans biggest trick on my mind is to convince me I need to “figure it out” – maybe I’ll never know some answers, don’t even remember most of the questions – when God is completely in control in my heart and life it’s s different world – even when my circumstances do not change!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I couldn’t agree more, I have found the most peace and seen more change in my relationship with my husband when I pray for God to reveal my own imperfections, and to help me to “lean not on my own understanding” and trust him to work out the details

  13. Michelle says:

    I am so thankful for this article. As I was reading, I couldn’t believe, 1-7. I have the book aleeady.I guess I need to read it again. This describes my relationship perfectly. I really was starting to question my own sanity.
    Wondering, am I going koo koo…
    Thank you so so much for this article. Truly,the Lord led me to read this.

  14. Tiffany says:

    I am dealing with this right now. A couple of weeks after us getting married last year, this is when all of the controlling, dysfunctional arguments, nick picking, criticizing, accusing, blaming, yelling and name calling started. I couldn’t believe my husband was/would talk to me in such a way. So in defense, I became defensive and would say things back. We sought out a marriage counselor in December 2016 and ended Feb 2016 for financial reasons. The counseling was helping me a lot, my husband did not like the counselor so I suggested we find another, but he refused. We’ve had a few good weeks/days, but as soon as I say or do something that he doesn’t like, he blows up on me. He would disrespect my boundaries, lack of respect, belittle and demean me and hitting below the belt. So in defense, I would hit below the belt. I clearly understand wrong is wrong, right is right, but it was so hard living with my husband. Our marriage began to become unsettled at the beginning of this month. To the point that he ended up changing the house locks and I had to move. Now he sought out to a marriage counselor and coincidentally, its the same one that he doesn’t like to work to save our marriage. I feel that this separation would be good for the both of us and especially him. So he could reflect on how he mistreated me during 1 yr and 3 months of our marriage. I don’t deserve to be treated this way. I don’t want to divorce him, I just wish he’ll get the mental help that he needs and come out of his denial. I don’t know how long of a separation this would be but I am going to counseling for myself also. To help in rebuilding back my self-esteem, self-confidence and learning how to set my personal boundaries. Yet, I’m so sad and disappointed that my marriage is short lived. I don’t know what else to do after praying, improving myself, counseling and healing from the situations that had occurred in my marriage.

    Would you have any suggestions? I’m willing to fight for my marriage, but I need help…

    • Anonymous says:

      Obviously not a proponent of divorce but similar situation. I was separated from my husband for 2 years and as of last week our divorce was final. I think if you’ve prayed and have peace with the Holy Spirit about your decision that’s between you and the Lord and no one else. I was also with someone who didn’t respect boundaries, same instance with counseling- it was my fault. I’ve never been happier and closer to the Lord. Good luck in your journey.

    • Diana says:

      I have been though the exact same situation the first five yrs of my marriage!!! Not understanding why and where is this coming from? Trying to figure out what did I do so wrong!!! but for me not having no one to talk to or lean on soI looked to God. I prayed and ask God for a lot of piece and to give me the strength daily. Several times divorce came to thought but because of the very wise six weeks of counseling before marriage that we had I knew that I couldn’t give up.. I mean I could tell you some horror stories it was rough.. Though it all God allowed me to see that the satan was trying to destroy what he had joined together. I tried to explain to him several times it was a spiritual fight that was going on in the marriage but he couldn’t see it so I refuse to give up inspite of. I keep looking to the heels from which my help came from.. As time went on my situation slowly ceased. I asked God why is it hard for him to let someone close in his heart ?And the lord told me it’s because he never was showed love a a child and that he is harvesting a lot of bitterness and resentment in his heart. So now I have an understanding of why after so many years together. We have been married for eighteen years now and I am proud to say that we are happy with one another. So keep the faith my sister and keep praying and most of all don’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Mark Becker says:

      RUN! They don’t change! I spent 18 years trying to change my ex wife! Don’t waste your time!

      • Anonymous says:

        Mistake #1: (for future reference) You cannot change anyone else. With God’s help you can only hope to change yourself. To attempt to change someone else usurps God’s authority, it’s contoling behavior, and it never works. But to pray for positive change in yourself is selfless. To pray for your spouse is what we are also called to do.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your problem was trying to change her. That isn’t your job. God calls you to love her to the point of giving g your life. When we are obedient, God is the one who does the changing.

    • M&M says:

      1 Corinthians 7:16 basically says you don’t know if you can save your husband so I wouldn’t assume that you’ll have a happy ending like Diana. Only God can show you when to stay and when to leave.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your husband sounds like a narcissist. There’s no help for them. They kill you slowly! Get out! Research narcissist/sociopaths/psychopaths

    • Sandee Kingston says:

      I went through that too. We are approaching an 18 year anniversary. First year of marriage was like yours and actually went into 13 more like it. I am a believer. I had a ton of spiritual support through those years. The problem in ours is that my husband has never been willing to let God be first. I have been the spiritual leader. Years of prayer drew me closer to the Lord but life in my home was hell being alone serving him. We have raised our adopted child together and she has been the glue to keep us together. My husband has not changed through the years. He has mellowed but he’s still the same guy. I have stayed longer than I should have though. What I want to say to you is… don’t be guilted into staying married because it’s what everyone says to do. I did. I did not want to fail in my faith and disappoint the other people in my life. With God all things are possible! That is so true! We must listen to our hearts. The Lord hears them and he does not want any child of his to be verbally abused either. Don’t make excuses for your spouse. He entered into marriage with you and has to be responsible for his actions. I hate to say this and be synical but the truth is people don’t really change. I spent a lot of years hoping for that but then I became tired and lost track of me by keeping the peace too long. Be wise. Take care of you. Your spouse will need to grow up without your help. Hopefully he will. For me, I am getting a divorce. I have decided that God can’t use me while I am not being true to myself and my daughter. He will help me get through it and I will breathe easy one day again. I’m on a new journey and that helps me know my life will be restored. I pray you have great discernment during this time. God Bless you.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have been married over 40 years. We have 3 kids all grown & gone. Still same problems. It took me many years to change. We both came from dysfunctional families. Went through counseling, filed divorced once & didn’t follow through. Left so many times & came back because he promised he would change. Always went back to previous behavior. I became a Christian, raised our kids in church. He believed but didn’t grow, rarely went to church. I’m in my 60’s now. Wish I had’nt given in. I should have left & not looked back.

        • Anonymous says:

          Prayers being sent from this believer, we serve a merciful God. I pray for your peace and happiness, fulfillment and contentment of your heart. I pray for your husbands heart, mind and soul, that God would reach him and heal him and that your relationship would be a testimony of Gods reward for His faithful servants. That you would both have fulfillment through God’s healing of your marriage and find peace and happiness that you’ve never known. All for the glory of our Heavenly Father, In Jesus’ name. I pray that joy would abound and people would notice! Amen

      • Anonymous says:

        I really needed to hear this!

    • Vane says:

      My sister sounds like your husband is Bipolar. Need to check with a doctor. My husband is bipolar and medicated, but still it’s a struggle been married for 10 months only and I on the verge of filling for divorce … I found a Facebook closed group for spouses with Bipolar sposes, and it’s helpful information, I learned a lot.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are in a good place seeking counseling and out of the “fire”. Continue building and setting boundaries for yourself, remind yourself that you are valuable to God. Don’t hurry getting back together, loneliness can be sad and disappointing but think of the emotional freedom and peace that can be had when you don’t have someone devaluing and disrespecting you. Don’t think that you being out of his life will cause him to gain self-awareness, if anything it just adds time for them to plot how they will use feelings of loneliness to their advantage. Rest and wait for true change.

    • Kari says:

      Be grateful you saw this now. There are some good books about the verbally abusive relationship. Likely he can not self reflect. Very likely he is incapable of change. I was married to one for 17 years. Kept thinking that if a counselor could just explain to him that he doesn’t get to call me names etc., things would get better. Look for the book “Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft. I left nearly two years ago. Cried everyday for months. I feared for my safety so I left while he was at work and made sure someone was with me anytime we exchanged the children. I thought maybe he would realize how I did contribute to the family and household once I wasn’t there. Never has. He is just still pissed at me and still calls me names and twists things around so everything is still my fault. We now only text when necessary and I avoid him whenever possible. We have two school aged children so we must have contact sometimes. The books will help you see. Over the last couple of years I have felt like layers have been lifted from my “eyes” little by little. It’s been amazing what I’ve realized about him. You will heal and get stronger. Check out the book “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst. Title doesn’t tell it all. Good for healing. You only get one life and it’s yours to live and not for someone else.

  15. Marla says:

    So I’m struggling with this circumstance. I’ve read your book as well as my spouse. If one loses their cool, and pushed the other…who is actually the dysfunctional one? I’m seeking all sorts of help to fix me thinking I’m the problem. I’m so sad by this. How do I pray?

    • May I ask a question? Do you both have chapter one down? That is, do you both wake up feeling spiritually healthy and whole? If not, then you will both keeping “digging into” one another to fill that void. This is not an insignificant point. Do not simply add this to your list of marriage counseling tips. It is not just a good point, but rather the point for many couples as healthy individuals make up a healthy marriage.

      Dr. Force

    • Kingston says:

      You are not the problem. Do NOT make excuses for him! Get counseling for you only. Marriage counseling won’t work till you feel like a strong, whole person. He should do the same.

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Marriage and Relationship Coaching

Over the Phone
Call Us at 1-888-642-3036
Talk Now - Live 24/7 Help
Order Our Marriage Book
How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting with One Another


  • Learn our 2-step Process to Solving Marriage Issues
  • Use for your next Bible study
  • A Biblical and Refreshing Approach