The Fallacy of Shared Blame in Every Marriage Problem
If you have not read our article on Pastor Voddie Baucham’s “permanence view” of no divorce allowed for anything, ever, no way, no how and no remarriage as long as a previous spouse is living, I encourage you to do so. It is My Notes on Voddie Baucham’s Permanence View No Divorce Sermon.
In Baucham’s teaching of the permanence view, he tells his congregation that if any of them come to him and say that they are going to divorce their spouse, they are always and only going to hear one thing from him — “No, go back to your marriage. You are the problem. You are the problem.” In other words, Baucham insists that no matter what the situation is in the marriage, the blame is always, always, always shared by both spouses. And if one spouse does divorce the other, the one who is put away cannot remarry as long as the divorcer is living. That is Baucham’s position, and the position of other permanence view adherents.
Let me prove him wrong. Also, following my comments, I have pasted Jaell’s comments directly into this article so they have more visibility. She expands upon what I have said and adds some crucial points.
Consider the following Scripture:
Malachi 2:13-14 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. (14) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
In this context, men of Israel were treacherously divorcing their wives so they could then take new wives from the pagan nations around them. The Lord, through Malachi, soundly denounces this evil and commands that they repent.
So, here is the question. How does Baucham look at such a marriage? Let’s say that one of these Jewish wives found out that her husband was about to treacherously divorce her in order to take on a pagan wife, and she comes to Baucham for help. His take on this scenario would be that what the husband is planning is absolutely wrong, but he would also assume that the wife shared part of the blame for the troubles in the marriage. Right? I mean, how else can he stand in front of his congregation and say “you are the problem, you are the problem, you are the problem” in every single marriage issue that comes before him unless he believes that in every single marriage conflict both husband and wife share in the blame?
But clearly, God does not do that. The blame here lay squarely on the husbands who were doing the treacherous divorcing. There is no mention at all that the wives were guilty or had contributed to the problem.
There are, indeed, marriages where there is a guilty party and an innocent party.
In the most effective lie, there is some truth. An abusive person knows and uses this. A person with a sensitive conscience knows their own faults, weaknesses and sins. They feel it deeply, and it needs the merest reminder sometimes to divert the focus to the ‘fault’ of the victim.
Dr. George Simon (see In Sheep’s Clothing and also Character Disturbance [*Affiliate links]) has some very helpful insight into the neurotic traits of many victims: “Neurotics often have well-developed and sometimes excessively active conscience or superego. They have a huge sense of right and wrong. They strive very hard (perhaps too hard at times) to meet what they believe to be their social obligations. They will sometimes set standards for themselves that are difficult, if not impossible, to meet. The demands they impose on themselves frequently engender a significant amount of stress. They are prone to taking on inordinate burdens, proverbially carrying the “weight of the world” on their shoulders. When something goes wrong, they quickly ask themselves what more they can do to help make the situation better. They also judge themselves harshly when they don’t feel that they have done enough. Neurotics hear quite clearly that little voice that speaks to most of us about how we should conduct ourselves, and they become easily unnerved when they don’t do as they believe they should.
The conscience of the disordered character, on the other hand, is remarkably underdeveloped and impaired. Most disturbed characters don’t hear that little voice in their heads that urge most of us to do right or admonish most of us when we’re contemplating doing wrong. They don’t “push” themselves to take on responsibilities, and don’t “arrest” themselves when they want to do something they shouldn’t do. If they do hear that little voice, they can silence (or “compartmentalize”) it with great ease. But for many disturbed characters, that voice is quite weak in the first place.”
I believe this is the reason that victims tend to wilt and crumble when they hear things like ‘it takes two’, ‘you have your part in this’, ‘there are two sides to every story’, ‘you’ve contributed to the downfall of the relationship’, ‘it’s not just him, you’re unhealthy, dysfunctional etc.’ and etc.
I look at it this way. Most couples experience relational bumps by simply being human and living in a broken world. For these couples, marriage counseling, marriage seminars, conferences and self-help books can be exactly what’s needed to put them back on track, often on an improved relational track.
For the spouse of someone with an abusive mentality (call them disturbed character, personality disorder, or whatever), there is no track to get back on or to improve. There never was a mutual track, just the illusion of a track that was fabricated by the narcissistically driven man to gain commitment and ties (aka marriage). In this case, yes, you can further burden the neurotic partner until all the cows come home, and that person will throw their heart and life energy into trying to be better, while their partner skates along unchanging, and pushing the big guilt buttons to keep the relationship working for them.
This is the tragedy of how most relationships torn by abuse are perceived and responded to by others. And it works very well for the one without any deep remorse or repentance.