A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

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.

Jaell adds:

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.

 

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

 

15 Comments

  1. Exactly. Very well said. And I will happily put up my hand and say Yeah, I probably do have an overly sensitive, hyperactive conscience, and it’s one of the reasons I was a sitting duck for being abused.
    BUT, right now, in a certain part of my mind. I’m imagining this little dialogue:

    A mature, conservatively dressed, married woman comes up to me after church. She knows, from my previous disclosure of tips of the iceberg, that I have been a victim of domestic abuse. She says to me “Barb, I’ve been thinking and praying for you a lot recently. I hope you don’t think I’m being presumptuous, but I want to offer you something that that I think might help you. I think your problem is that you have a well-developed and excessively active conscience. You have a huge sense of right and wrong. You strive very hard (perhaps too hard at times) to meet what you believe to be your social obligations. You sometimes set standards for yourself that are difficult, if not impossible, to meet. I think you take on inordinate burdens, you carry the “weight of the world” on your shoulders. When something goes wrong, you quickly ask yourself what more you can do to help make the situation better. And you judge yourself harshly when you don’t feel that you have done enough. I’ve just read a book about this, and it says people like that are neurotic.”

    Needless to say, I am in a puddle on the floor by now, or else I’m going purple in the face trying to stop the flames shooting out my nostrils and ears. (I’ve never yet managed to stop them shooting out my eyes, but I can usually plug up the nose and ears all right.)

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: Dr George Simon is correct, but some people will misuse his words and run with the half of his teaching that pleases them…. the half they can use to blame the victim, to lay guilt on her for her defective personality. Such people never want to blame the perpetrator fully: they hedge, they mince, they primp and prance round the hot bricks, but they never turn their bazookas on the perpetrator. They just tackle the victim. SIGH. But thanks for putting up this post, Jeff and Jaell. It’s good.
    I’m going for a walk in the sun now, to untangle my head!

    • Barbara – Good point on how the term “neurotic” could come across. I guess we should always specify to people to read Simon’s book, or better yet, to not use the term neurotic, and only describe what we mean by it. In Simon’s book, for the most part, neurotic is good. It means we have a conscience, and that wicked people camp on that point and use it against us. For Simon, neurotics are the normal people.

      • “neurotics are normal people” – I like that.
        Moven told me about some female comedian who says, “Normal? Normal is a setting on the clothes dryer!”

    • Anonymous

      RIght on!

      I can’t tell you how much I have experienced what you are talking about. It’s almost like people know they are not going to influence the perpetrator, either because they are scared of him/her, or because they know he/she is “too far gone”, so they try to work on the victim, thinking there is surely SOMETHING someone can do to solve this or prevent this happening again.

      People just can’t accept that you can have a guilty and an innocent party. The innocent MUST have contributed, and voila, here it is, the proof by expert Dr Simon – they’re downright neurotic!

      By the way, Dr Simon considers himself a neurotic.

  2. Kay

    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.

    COMMENT: After attending just about every type of marriage seminar available and going to many Xian counselors, I realized, these are designed for healthy people who are married. No amount of seminars and counseling about marriage was going to help the abusive relationship I was in. I also find it hard to understand, why I never once heard a speaker say anything about abuse in marriage.

    I resonate with this so much:

    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.

  3. Kay, I have heard other women say pretty much what you said: they attended every marriage seminar and read just about every book, and never got anything helpful. And abuse was never mentioned, or if abuse *was* mentioned, it was never properly defined and described, so they didn’t realize “I am being abused.”
    Personally, I think the Christian book publishers know they are onto a good thing: they keep publishing marriage books that don’t mention abuse, and the victims of abuse buy each new book (because the last one sure didn’t help!). The publishers have a captive market – in more ways that one.
    You can say I’m a tad cynical. But it’s not always so, praise God – Jeff and Anna’s book will soon be published.

  4. LRC

    I have a question – what if an abusive spouse embodies both of some of the character traits mentioned above – neurotic in some areas (that important to him/her), and because they exhibit neurosis in one part of their life they think they are changing or moving forward in their effort in the marriage, but in reality, they have no moral compass or drive to actually be ‘doing’ anything to repair, help, grow their marriage? What then? Are they (the abusive spouse) just incredibly deceived?

    • This is just my opinion and it probably would take someone more knowledgeable than me to sort out such a situation. But I maintain that when you have a good guy and a bad guy in one person, the bad guy is the real person and the other one is just a facade. The way George Simon uses the term “neurotic” is largely just to describe people with a conscience. If a person has a conscience, then it is always present. If he is conscienceless in regard to his treatment of his spouse, then any other manifestation that looks like a conscience would be highly suspect as being a fraud and thus just another self-serving device.

    • LRC, I love your question because it’s one that has faced me hard and square in the last year. I wish I had ‘the answer’ to it, but I don’t. All I know is that someone I know appeared to have a strong conscience about certain moral issues, and could act protectively towards vulnerable people. But he did not act protectively to the woman closest to him; on the contrary he disrespected her, took her for granted, did not follow thru with promises, and scared her very badly so the marriage came to an end. How can such a person be:- how can they have a moral conscience in some peripheral things, but when it comes to the crunch in the nitty-gritty of their personal life, they appear devoid of conscience?

      Does the apparently moral side of this person come because he has empathy for suffering weak individuals (like children) with whom he can identify because he had a bad childhood himself? Is the moral conscience of this person only a phantasm – what he would like to be like, what he aspires towards, what he knows he should be. And how come he can’t translate this into treating those closest to him with respect? (To me, this probably comes down to the fact that he is not regenerate.)

      It’s almost like such people live in an imaginary world: their self-image is “I’m a nice guy who cares for kids who’ve had a rough deal” – but inside they are so tormented with stuffed rage from their own childhood pain that they can’t AND WON’T do the work to translate theory into practice.

      But please, dear readers, don’t hear me saying that victims should stay with abusers to “help him learn to love himself and overcome his demons.” I’m not saying that. As we know, that’s a recipe for being dragged into the black hole of the abuser.

  5. Finding Answers

    No matter how many insights I have reached, no matter how many dots I have connected, I still think I am part of the reason the “marriage” ended in divorce. Although my anti-x was the one who moved out and filed for divorce, the failure weighs on my heart.

    Growing up in what I now know was an abusive household, I lived in a constant state of depression. (I didn’t know I was depressed.)

    “Married” – unknowingly – to a covert abuser kept me in a depressive state. (I didn’t know I was depressed.)

    Throughout the “marriage”, I had tried every avenue in an attempt to see the world as anything but grey. Nothing registered in colour. (I could not get people to understand the concept of the senses working, but not emotionally registering the input.)

    In hindsight, I can understand all the reasons I was depressed.

    I don’t know how to see the world in colour, and I fear the “greyness” will cost me the possibility of friends.

    • Well Finding Answers, I think of you as a friend. 🙂

      • Finding Answers

        😊😊😊

      • Jamie

        Me too, Finding Answers. I think you have many friends here.

        I am under a temporary, very tight time constraint, so I haven’t been able to participate in commenting lately.

        But I am still at ACFJ often during my personal time with the Lord and I keep in mind your updated comments as I am continuing to pray for you.

        Hoping to be back to participating fully very soon. ❤

    • Moving Forward

      Finding Answers – I think I get, in my own way, what you are saying about not being able to see the world in color, only grey. I have had my own areas where something I once understood doesn’t make sense any more, and it is very hard. One of my children just the other day said that for the first time in years s/he had felt happy. I realized I’m not sure if I can recall the last time I felt happy in a carefree way. Yes, I laugh and smile and know a peace that passes all understanding, but happy is different. Another hole in my life I just have to give to God because I certainly don’t know what to do about it. Even moments of color have a grey shadow over them. I like how you are learning to express things as you progress through all the posts.

  6. Finding Answers

    Jamie – Thank you, Jamie. I understand your dilemma and am keeping you in my prayers.

    Moving Forward Thank you…

    You wrote “Even moments of color have a grey shadow over them.”

    ^That! What an accurate and succinct summation.

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