Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

spiritual abuse

What is Spiritual Abuse in Marriage

Is your spouse using scripture to try to control you? Do you wonder if you might be experiencing spiritual abuse? Or perhaps you are watching this video because your spouse has shared that he or she feels that you have been spiritually abusive.

Sharmen Kimbrough explains what spiritual abuse is and provides indicators to determine whether this kind of abuse is taking place in your relationship, as well as ways to move beyond this and heal.

What is Spiritual Abuse in Marriage?

Marriage is meant to be a sacred bond built on love, trust, and mutual respect. However, there are instances where spirituality can be misused within the context of a marriage, leading to spiritual abuse. In this article, we will explore what spiritual abuse entails, how it manifests in marriages, and provide guidance on identifying and addressing this harmful dynamic.

Understanding Spiritual Abuse in Marriage

Spiritual abuse in marriage occurs when one partner manipulates or coerces the other using their spirituality, whether it’s religious scriptures, ideology, or moral values. The abuser seeks to control and shape their spouse’s thoughts, actions, and beliefs according to their own desires. This form of abuse silences the victim’s autonomy and suppresses their voice.

Recognizing Signs of Spiritual Abuse

To identify spiritual abuse in your marriage, watch out for the following signs:

  1. Coercion and Manipulation: The abuser uses spirituality as a tool to force their partner to comply with their wishes and demands.
  2. Power Imbalance: The abuser exerts dominance and control over their spouse, disregarding their individuality and personal choices.
  3. Misusing Scriptures: The abuser employs religious texts to condemn, guilt, or shame their partner into obedience rather than using them for personal reflection and growth.
  4. Conditional Love: Love is offered only when the victim conforms to the abuser’s expectations, and withdrawal of affection or approval is used as a means of control.
  5. Disregard for Autonomy: The abuser undermines the victim’s autonomy and disregards their inherent right to make choices about their own life and spiritual journey.

Breaking Free from Spiritual Abuse

  1. Recognize the Abuse: Acknowledge the presence of spiritual abuse in your marriage and understand its detrimental effects on your well-being and personal growth.
  2. Embrace Unconditional Love: Understand that love should be an invitation rather than coercion. Seek to foster an environment of love, acceptance, and respect in your marriage.
  3. Reevaluate Scriptural Use: Use religious scriptures for personal conviction and growth, rather than weaponizing them against your spouse. Allow each individual to seek their own spiritual path.
  4. Focus on the Greatest Commandment: Ground yourself in the commandment to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Shift your perspective to align with God’s intention for love and relationships.
  5. Respect Individual Journeys: Give space for your spouse to respond to their own spiritual invitation. Encourage their unique expression of faith and respect their choices, as long as they are not destructive.
  6. Consider Healthy Boundaries: Assess the level of harm caused by the abuse and decide if staying in the relationship is beneficial to your well-being. Seek professional guidance and support to establish healthy boundaries if necessary.


Spiritual abuse in marriage is a serious issue that can severely impact a person’s well-being and their connection with their spirituality. Recognizing the signs of spiritual abuse and taking steps to address and heal from it is crucial for the restoration of a healthy and loving marital relationship. Remember, love should never be coercive or manipulative but rather an invitation to grow and thrive together in the light of God’s love.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How Narcissists Play Victim To Turn The Tables on You

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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