Signs of a Toxic Relationship

By Deborah Tensley-Jones

Have you ever been so close in a situation that you didn’t recognize the danger signs or red flags that were present? This is often the case when in a toxic relationship. Something that is toxic causes damage to you, drains you, or depletes you. A toxic relationship similar, it is a destructive relationship that can definitely cause you emotional and psychological harm.

Being able to see a situation for what it is and accept that it isn’t going to change can be empowering. It gives you the ability to look at things through an objective lens and make a decision that is in your best interest. To help you get there, I have identified the biggest signs that you’re in an emotionally toxic relationship.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

• Lack of Communication or Poor Communication. If your partner no longer communicates with you in a calm respectful manner, but is critical, says demeaning things or even calls you bad names.

• Hypersensitive and Defensive. If your partner is always on guard, hypersensitive to everything you say – taking it negatively and is defensive all the time.

• Lack of Encouragement for your passions. If your partner doesn’t take interest in or supports your interests and actually criticizes and makes fun of things that are important to you.

• Lack of Acceptance for your flaws. If your partner does not have tolerance and forgiveness of your imperfections. After all, no one is perfect and you will make mistakes. If your partner does not have tolerance for your human-ness and blames you for everything that goes wrong, that is a BIG red flag.

• Lack of Acknowledgement of your Friends/Family. No one person is an island, and you had friends and family before you met your partner. A toxic partner will want to isolate you from your friends and family. This is a method of control and manipulation – RUN!

• Lack of commitment. If your partner wants 100% commitment from you, but is unwilling to reciprocate – that’s a problem. The relationship is unbalanced and headed for trouble.

• Passive Aggressive Behaviors. Healthy relationships are built on mutual trust, open communication and each partner accepting the others’ true, authentic self. If your partner is not comfortable with you, and uses passive aggressive behavior instead of being direct, this is a path to unhealthy communication and behavior.

To create a safer, more secure relationship you need to know what a healthy relationship looks like. Healthy boundaries are identified by being able to;
• Say no without guilt
• Ask for what you want or need
• Take care of yourself
• Do things out of interest / desire not obligation
• Behave according to your own believes and values
• Be supported to pursue your goals
• Feel Energized and alive
Setting boundaries is difficult, but possible.

For more information regarding identifying and setting boundaries dealing with a toxic relationship watch for the upcoming workshop

Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships: Dealing with Hidden Abuse” offered by Gateway of Hope.
SAVE THE DATE: July 15th, 2017; 9:30 am – Noon; $40 registration fee.

Another resource for you, website on defining healthy boundaries.  Click here


A Voice Against Sex Trafficking

My passion and vision for preventing the trafficking of children comes from a deep place, my own story of child abuse.

Barry Rodriguez, Director of World Next Door, wrote a series about desperate poverty and human trafficking in Cambodia. He said, “It’s normal for impoverished parents to sell or rent their kids for sexual purposes.”

It wrecked me to hear about a 6-year-old victim of sex trafficking.

Barry met with girls who had been trafficked. He also wrote about their families—parents who have to choose between watching their kids starve or selling/renting one daughter to be used for sex. Parents may earn up to a year’s worth of money ($500)—enough to feed the entire family.
These parents were not evil or callous. They simply felt utterly trapped by extreme poverty, and they made a choice for their family’s survival.

I felt empathy for the parents and deep sadness for the girls.

Barry invited readers to donate and partner with the Center for Global Impact. While my heart was stirred, I was overextended in ministry. Other than a donation, I didn’t think I had the margin to do more.

Later, I felt God prompting me toward further involvement with CGI. He opened my eyes to see sex trafficking as He does. I made a decision to let my heart break, to see as God sees. No matter the cost in money, time, or heartache, I would join God’s mission in Cambodia by partnering with the Center for Global Impact.

For me, it was about saying, “YES,” to God because I knew he was with me. My fears and insecurities prevented me from stepping out of my comfort zone. However, God gave me strength and courage to do what I couldn’t do without Him.

While I saw my experience as an abuse survivor as a weakness—through Christ, it has been a strength. God reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”

My compassion for these girls came from my own experience. My counseling training helped when I heard their stories. I could be a voice and an advocate for them, because my life story, gifts and skills fit God’s mission in Cambodia. As I shared God’s redemptive work in my life and the hope of Christ, I knew that Jesus bears their pain and shame. He will redeem it all.

It has been true in my own life. He has given me beauty for ashes, and I know He will do the same for these precious girls. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to love them with the love of Christ.

While it hurt to hear their stories, I feel closer to God. By engaging in His mission in Cambodia, I know my life will never be the same.

God has a plan for your life. You belong to God. How is God calling you to care for the poor, for the marginalized and for those who face injustice?
My hope is that you will say “YES” to God when he prompts you to use your gifts, skills and voice to engage in His mission.

by Tasha Simons

Success !

Each month, we look back on the ministries of GateWay and praise God for the lives of women and how they are impacted by hope and encouragement. One example is Cassandra – not her real name, of course, because we want to protect her privacy and she would never think of promoting herself.

Cassandra came to us as a woman in trauma – severe abuse had colored her opinion of herself and mocked her trust in God. Through counseling, Cassandra became aware of the horrific lies she had been told. The truth of God’s love for her slowly helped her realize she didn’t have to live in the shadows or believe voices of condemnation. She could learn to accept herself as a much-beloved child of God.

As Cassandra began to trust again, she joined some of our support groups and classes. She learned to relate to other women and to receive their acceptance. She pondered the connection between body, mind and spirit while letting God sow the seeds of encouragement into her grieving soul. The women of GateWay encouraged Cassandra and welcomed her into their hearts. She continued meeting with her counselor and applied the group topics to her life.

Then Cassandra began to give back. She attended our volunteer training program and offered her skills and talents to help us with the many GateWay tasks. Although living on a tight budget and dealing with family crises, Cassandra managed to financially encourage GateWay with a monthly check. She told other women about the services that GateWay offers and helped us with a grant application. Even as she continued in counseling and groups, Cassandra found a way to keep the cycle going – to receive and to give.

At GateWay of Hope, we help restore women, equip and empower women to give back to their world. Cassandra is a perfect example of GateWay’s vision – to see women become all that God created them to be.

Not Our Fault

So many of us women have been taught, “It’s your fault.”

But that’s a lie.

While Jamie endured the sexual abuse, her perpetrator whispered, “It’s your fault. You’re so pretty, you lured me into this.” The guilt and shame traveled with Jamie all her life. But it was a lie. It was the abuser’s sin and his weakness. It was not Jamie’s fault.

Marcy’s mother-in-law blamed her for the miscarriage of her grandchild. “It’s all your fault, Marcy. If you hadn’t been so active and exercised every day, you would have kept that baby.” Marcy grieved her unborn child and believed her mother-in-law’s words. But they represented a lie. The miscarriage was not Marcy’s fault.

Throughout the early years of married life, Sandy listened to the rage of her husband. “You burned supper again,” he screamed as he beat her. “You can’t do anything right. It’s all your fault.” Sandy believed the lies as her husband destroyed her self-respect and scarred her body. But everything he said was a lie. Real men don’t beat their wives nor do they verbally abuse them. It was not Sandy’s fault.

Jesus reminded us that “the truth makes us free” (John 8:32). Of all the religious leaders in history, Jesus was the one who respected, admired and cherished women. He spoke kindly to women, he included them on his ministry team and he healed them.

Jesus knows it is not our fault.

Domestic Violence – 25 Ways You Can Help

In October, we became better aware of domestic violence.  If you’re like me, you can sometimes feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know what to do.  I’d like to close the topic of domestic violence with a list of 25 practical things we can do to help.  As with previous blogs, this list came from the seven Christian women who were survivors of domestic abuse.


1.      Listen and believe her story

2.      Accept and affirm her

3.      Be available

4.      Remind her that God still loves her

5.      Help her evaluate the safety risk, develop a safety plan, or file a Protection From Abuse order

6.      Give her permission to leave or separate

7.      Become better educated on domestic abuse

8.      Be familiar with resources she will need: food pantries, clothes closets, social services, counselors, lawyers, shelters, support groups

9.      Loan or give her a car

10.  Underwrite Christian counseling

11.  Assist her with attorney fees

12.  Help her find housing and pay her rent for several months

13.  Give her gas or food cards

14.  Keep the abuser accountable

15.  Offer to baby sit

16.  Help her to change the locks on her house or install a security system

17.  Repair her car or change the oil

18.  Offer to have her mail sent to your house

19.  Be a mentor or friend to her children

20.  Pray with and for her


1.      Ignore the situation

2.      Expect her to return home right away

3.      Counsel the perpetrator if you are counseling her; refer him to someone else

4.      Condemn her for leaving or divorcing

5.      Betray her confidences

Within the Four Walls…

This week we have a guest blogger.  Ruth Cowles is the Minister of Women’s Ministry at Olathe Bible Church.  One of her areas of responsibility is counseling and praying for the women who come to her.  Over the years, she has seen and heard about domestic violence within the Faith Community.   Below is a poem she penned about the effect of abuse on children.  You may contact Ruth at or (913) 764.8280.

Within the Four Walls of the Place Called Home

The children saw the nightmare that played out

Within the four walls of the place

They all called home.

They heard the cries, the lies, the shouts.

They saw the beatings acted out.

And Sunday they all went to church

To praise the Lord!

No one outside would ever know

What happened there.

It’d never show

Up on the outside.

But deep inside they’d bear the scar

Of all they heard and all they saw,

And it would fester there.

And they would smile and they would sing,

While saying all the good expected things

About how great life was.

No one would ever know or care,

Or wonder what was happening there

Within the four walls of the place

They all called home.

Domestic Violence – Advice for Friends, the Church, and Pastors

This month we’re joining others around the nation to observe October as Domestic Violence Awareness month.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I met for several months with seven Christian women who had formerly experienced domestic violence.  Today let’s look at what they told me when I asked about how they needed help.

What would you tell those to whom an abused woman first turns to for help?

1.      If she doesn’t understand that she’s being abused, educate her.  Explain to her the different kinds of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial, and spiritual, but be gentle and not forceful.

2.      Give her permission to leave, but help her evaluate the risk.  Be honest, and tell her she may be at a higher risk for being killed when she first leaves.

3.      If the kids are being abused, you may need to report it to SRS.

What can the church do to help women who have been abused?

  1. Offer them acceptance, especially around issues of divorce.
  2. Remind them that God still loves them.
  3. Educate men, women, and youth about domestic violence.

What would you like to be able to tell your pastor or other men in leadership?

  1. Don’t deny that DV is in your congregation.  (Remember that statistics say 25% or women will experience some form of domestic abuse, even those in the church.)
  2. See me as an individual in pain that you can help and not as a project for you to patch up a marriage.  I can’t be a “sacrifice on the altar of marriage.”
  3. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN to me.  Believe me when I tell you I’m being abused!!!
  4. Provide women I can talk to. (Men, including pastors, sometimes don’t feel safe.)
  5. Keep my confidences; don’t share it with anyone unless I have given permission.
  6. Offer me practical resources (gas cards, food cards, child care, and financial resources). Find out what kind of specific help I need and then either offer it or give me a referral.
  7. Keep my husband accountable for his actions through men’s groups or counseling.  Don’t believe his lies or let him manipulate you.

Domestic Violence – Why Women Stay

When we think of domestic violence, many of us wonder why women stay and don’t just leave.  That’s one of the questions I asked the group of abuse survivors I met with.

What motivated you to leave?

  1. I got tired of walking on egg shells.
  2. My children
  3. Friends and family who were Christians came to me and gave me   permission to leave.
  4. I was afraid of killing or hurting my husband.
  5. I was afraid of getting pregnant again.
  6. I was lying about being abused and I didn’t want to lie.

What were the obstacles in you leaving?

  1. I was controlled and isolated by the abuser.
  2. I couldn’t make it financially.  I didn’t have a job or anyway of making money.
  3. I was afraid of him taking or hurting the kids.
  4. I was hoping he would change.
  5. I was told divorce is wrong and a sin and that I’d get “crowns in heaven” for staying.
  6. I was told I should stay in the marriage, “no matter what.”

Put yourself in the place of the women who gave the above answers.  What would you do if you had their experiences?

Domestic Violence Awareness

Did you know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month?

One in three or four females will be a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault at sometime in her life.  I see some of these women at GateWay and I hate what abuse has done to them.  Domestic violence knows no racial, economic or religious boundaries.  It is in our community as well as our churches.

Domestic violence is a term you hear, but exactly what does it mean?  Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior that exercises power and control over an intimate partner.  This abusive behavior comes in various forms – physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, economic and spiritual.

The cycle of abuse begins with tension building, is followed by the abuse which then leads to the “honeymoon” phase.  This cycle repeats itself over and over.  Physical wounds such as black eyes, broken bones and bruises are easily seen.  Emotional wounds of betrayal, powerlessness and humiliation are often hidden.

Two years ago, I met for several months with a group of seven Christian women who had come out of domestic violence.  I asked them to teach me.  This month I want them to speak to you.  Below is a sampling of what they said to me.  You’ll hear more from them in future posts.

Advice to women considering leaving domestic violence – “Leaving is a process, not a one time event…  You’ll know when it’s time to leave.”

Advice to those whom the abused woman first turns to for help – “LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, and believe her.”

Motivation for leaving the abuser – “My children.”

Obstacles to leaving the abuser – “My children.”  (No, that’s not a typo.  Children are both a motivation and an obstacle in leaving abusive relationships.)

This month would you pray for women who are being abused?  For more information, please visit these two websites: