“His Needs Her Needs” – any feedback?
I have heard that in seminary training, the book His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley, Jr. is being recommended to trainee ministers as a book that will make their marriages “affair proof.”
Do any of our readers have experience with this book? We would like to hear your views on it. I haven’t read it myself.
- Posted in: Unjust church responses
- Tagged: false guilt, gender differences, marriage ministries, pastors
I remember this is as a really noxious book.My pastor at the time gave it to every couple as a wedding present. It is shallow condescending nonsense.For people who have an abusive and entitled spouse, following the book’s advice could be very harmful.I might try and find the book to look at it again, but I have a feeling I filed it in the rubbish bin.
What I remember from this book is basically , ” all men are this way and need this and all women are this way and need this “. My husband and I do not fit into the neat little categories most Christian marriage books have and we thought it was ridiculous.. Human beings are more complex than neat little categories they try to put us into .
Is this book anything like “Love and Respect”? It sounds very similar. And I cannot (CANNOT) stand L and R because of the weapon that it was. My ex would do something nice for me and then demand his version of respect because this books says that I am “supposed” to respond in this or that way. And, when I left, I had half a dozen people suggest I read it. Oh, it makes me ill to think of it….
[Eds. note: Mark Baker has a 12-page PDF [Internet Archive link] that exposes the biblical error of the Love & Respect book by Eggerichs.]
The message in the book “Love and Respect” being used as a weapon…it’s so true! What a horrible thing to have had to experience for you, for me, and for anyone else who has had a spouse abuse them with this book. The message of “you must respect me unconditionally, no matter how I behave, in order to receive my love” is a sick, twisted concept. You said it well, “Oh, it makes me ill to think of it . . .”
Thank you, Song! I wondered if anyone else had experience with that book!
I’ve read a number of Dr. Harley’s books and he also has a web site that explains his ideas in great detail. The main point he makes is that couples need to nurture their marriage and not take it for granted, and that mutual agreement on decisions is the only way to a happy marriage. I think the reason this is hard on those in abusive marriages is that it becomes a one way street of trying, trying, trying on your own, if both partners are not following those principles. Dr. Harley has some ideas about “men are like this” and “women need that” but his bottom line is that each couple needs to find out for themselves what they both need from each other.
Yes, I agree with you, Becky. I think Dr. Harley’s books and website are helpful to a relationship if both people are interested in working on themselves and the relationship. There are definitely some things that he says to which I don’t agree. But overall, much of what is said can be helpful in an healthy situation. But, it is a terribly destructive tool in the hands of an abuser, and in the hands of a victim if the victim applies the principles with their abuser. Since the victim will most likely be trying to help the situation get better by applying the information, I believe it keeps the victim on the hamster wheel of trying to please the abuser, when the victims lack of effort is not problem in the marriage.The abuser’s desire for power and control is the problem.
Dr. Harley’s book and website, and specifically the “Love Busters” section, was helpful to me in piecing together what and why I was experiencing what I was feeling in my marriage. I realize his stuff may not be for everyone, but it was helpful to me as a piece of the puzzle of information I needed for my own growth. I also realize there were sentences I came across that I thought were unhealthy ways of doing things, such as “Do whatever you can to make your spouse happy, and avoid anything that makes the your spouse unhappy, even if it makes you unhappy.” I thought that was a very problematic sentence.
I have to say that I don’t like the book “His Needs, Her Needs”. If I remember correctly, I felt like the behaviors that were taught felt manipulative to me, such as a woman has to a,b,c to get her man to do x,y,z. I don’t like very many books that promote the gender distinction. I’ve experienced too many marriage books and seminars that did this and they were completely unhelpful as I didn’t fit the gender descriptions of the typical woman.
Speaking of the Love Dare, that reminds me of a post Jeff did some while back with a list of books and movies he wanted reviews on: Books and articles for our readers to review and critique. I said I’d do one on Fireproof but never did. (Shame on me and I should probably do that since I said I would.)
What about firing that idea up again?
Great idea! Thanks for the reminder!
Looking forward to reading your review of “Fireproof,” BIT!
You might like a post a did a while back on the movie “Courageous”: Courageous Divorce [Internet Archive link]
I remember reading your review of Courageous. I lurk at your blog. 🙂 I didn’t see Courageous and have no intention of doing so, but I was quite impressed with your graciousness given what they did to the divorced guy, making him look like a failure, etc.
I have to say I have a fundamental problem with the whole Resolution concept. I feel making vows like that puts people in bondage. Ecclesiastes 5 and all that.
Joe, you’re absolutely correct. I am actually completing a review if this book and wanted to stay moderate in my initial comments. This book may be the biggest contortion of the concept of “love” I have ever seen. A simple word search of the book reveals the problem; while the word “love” appears 399 times the book is literally devoid of Divine guidance with “God”, “Jesus”, and “Bible” appearing only once each in the entire book. The words Scripture, pray, prayer, or Holy Spirit never once appear. (Thank you Kindle). The book is centered in works of the flesh as a means to an end. If we want love, anchor it in God and let it grow from there. God is our love anchor – without Him there is no true love.
Great, insightful post that you wrote on “Courageuos”, Joe. Thank you for the link to read it.
I agreed on all points.
As for the vow to take full responsibility for yourself, your wife, and your children, that is basically Patriarchy. (I consider Patriarchy as distinct from Complementarianism) If you want to know what kind of Patriarchy I am talking about, look at Vision Forum’s site, or google Doug Philips. He’s a weird one for sure. In his church the women can only receive communion if it is given to them by their husbands or a male member of their family. They cannot take it themselves, of their own initiative. It has to be brought to them by their husbands.
No, I’m not kidding. Sorry. 😦
Oh, BTW, the Kendrick brothers seem to have a cozy relationship with Philips though I can’t remember exactly what it is. But there is some of the same Patriarchy in Fireproof too. I think there was more in Courageous, like the purity ring thing, which is also classic Bill Gothard. There is little difference between Gothard and Philips as far as I can tell.
Probably more than you wanted to know….
“The book is centered in works of the flesh as a means to an end.”
Definitely my impression based on teaching I’ve heard referencing this book! Thanks for the confirmation, Martin!
Song – I’m so glad! Thank you for the encouragement!
You’re welcome. 🙂
I know exactly what you are writing about with Doug Phillips, BIT. And I know the patriarchy you describe. How EASY it would be to become an abuser under their philosophies! I would also like to add this to the discussion regarding whether or not we are held responsible for each other’s salvation, sin issues, etc…. I don’t know exactly how this fits in….but my ex had a horrible pornography problem and I read every Christian book out there about it and about how I could help, what I could do, etc. Walking a fine line here….it didn’t seem to matter what I did. Ironically, while patriarchy gives the distinct impression that the husbands are responsible for their wives, somehow, it also makes wives responsible when a man is having an affair, into pornography, unfaithful in any way. I felt heavy responsibility for his porn issue. And he held me responsible, too. But, nothing that I did could help him. Because….God doesn’t hold anyone responsible for anyone else’s sin. I am not saying that a wife or husband cannot help. But, I could not be HELD RESPONSIBLE for it. What a yoke I wore….
Absolutely Phillips brand Patriarchy is a haven for abusers. No question about that. If you look around the internet you can find quite a few former Quiverfull folks who found their husbands EXTREMELY abusive as a result of their involvement with that system. Some of these survivors are now atheists, which is tragic.
But as for who is responsible for whom, I completely believe it was like that for you. The system gives all the authority to the man and all the responsibility to the woman. She is responsible if he strays because she is not um, servicing him enough. Or something. She is responsible if he is abusive because when a woman does not submit a man has only two choices. He can either become a milk sop or he can become abusive. So if he’s abusive, it’s her fault because she was not submissive enough. It’s just terrible.
Interestingly, for the men who take their supposed responsibilities seriously and do want to do right by their families, it can abuse them too because it puts such a heavy burden on them.
BIT — exactly. And thank you for shedding new light on how a man could be abused in the system because he is taking on too much than he was made to bear. I had not thought of that before. Oh, the Pharisees….
Yes. As I’ve mentioned here before, I got the following instruction “you need to learn to love her with agape love because agape love never fails”. So whatever I’d been doing, clearly it wasn’t really love.
Joe — that clears it up perfectly for me. That is what I could not put into words. I was responsible TO him for all the things he needed from a wife but was not responsible FOR him. And being responsible for someone else’s sin is, adamantly, a very dark place to be. Something our psyches were not created to bear (as I suspect we can all attest to). I loved that. Thank you.
Yes, I also remember reading and thought it was insightful, though I haven’t seen the movie. I am so suspicious of anything Christian these days . . . that’s kind of sad.
BIT – Glad to hear you frequent my blog! Now if I could just figure out how to encourage you to comment… 😉
Funny you should mention that about the Resolution. Although I didn’t really pick that out while watching the movie the first time, when my church Men’s Group decided to do a study on the book “The Resolution for Men” (based on “Courageous”), I made up my mind in advance that there was no way I was going to sign a resolution.
It’s one thing to watch it in a movie…there was no way I was going to sign such a document, myself.
As it turned out, it was a non-issue, because nobody else in the group wanted to sing a resolution, either.
While I can’t speak for everyone, for me, personally, I would have three major objections to signing the document used in the movie:
First, some of the things being sworn to are simply beyond my control. For example, in my influence on my children, yes I can strive to teach them godliness, respect for authority, etc. However, it is ulitmately up to them what they learn and how they choose to behave, as adults.
Second, some of the items are meaningless to me. For example, “I do solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.” What does that mean? I’m not at all sure, but it sounds like swearing to take responsibility for something likely beyond my control…especially when I’m not even sure what it means…
Third, of the things I do agree with, none of them are anything I haven’t already resolved to do as a husband, father, and follower of Christ. So, what’s the point of signing a resolution? It won’t make me any more resolved than I am already. In some ways, I see it as almost detracting…as though the “resolution” is being treated as more sacred than my marriage vows or my baptism…
Jeff S – That does sound rather sad when you put it that way, but I completely understand! I have plenty of “Christian” activities and literature that I avoid, as well (“His Need Her Needs” being one of them).
Megan and BIT – I struggled for years with feeling responsible for everything that was wrong in my first marriage – “What did I do wrong to cause my wife to abuse our vows, and how can I fix it?”
One of the small break-throughs that grew over time, as I reminded myself of it, was when a counselor told me, “We can be responsible TO someone else. We cannot be responsible FOR someone else.”
In other words, I am responsible for loving, for helping, for teaching, for providing for, and many other things related to being a husband and/or father. I am responsible TO my family for being a loving, caring husband and father.
However, I am not repsonsible FOR anyone else’s behavior or choices. God has given us all a free will.
For what it’s worth, the reponsibility “to” not “for” is pretty much a direct quote from Townsend and Cloud’s “Boundaries” and when I hear that definition it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.
Megan C – Yes feeling reponsible for someone else’s sin is an incredibly dark place to be.
To lighten the mood with a little levity, my younger sister used to joke, “It’s like a bad case of diahrea. You feel so completely responsible for something over which you have absolutely no control!”
In the end, only Christ has the power to carry the burden of someone else’s sin.
I can’t even think about watching that movie! I would love to hear what people think about it but I can’t. That was the first thing the pastor recommended we watch and I KNEW it wasn’t for me. ( I have had to switch my tag/ call sign as the idiot found me on one of these sites)
OK. I’ll work on the review this weekend. The movie was not all bad. I will have some positive things to say. But I will tell you this, Still Scared. Your instincts not to watch it were good, especially if the pastor recommended you watch it together. That would have been a disaster.
You were wise not to watch it. My opinion of the movie was it lets the abuser off easy.
I have never read the book, so I probably shouldn’t comment…
The reason I never read it is because I was SO turned off by the message of teachers who had read it and were promoting it.
I can’t speak to the message of the book. However, the fundamental message I heard from teachers who had read it is that a woman has basic needs for love, comfort and protection. If a husband meets these needs for his wife, then she CANNOT HELP but respond, because that is simply how women are wired.
To me, this message is wrong on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Where is free will? Where is sin nature? Why am I being made responsible for my spouse’s decisions? Why do I get credit for my spouse’s godliness? Why do I get blamed for her sin? Why is loving behavior being turned into a tool to manipulate and control the other person’s behavior?
It struck me as an incredible ego trip for men blessed with godly wives who buy into the message being promoted.
Like I said, I’ve never read the book. Perhaps I should. Perhaps the 11 years that have passed since the ending of that first (abusive) marriage have allowed enough healing that I could actually read it without feeling ill.
That’s just the message I heard taught by men who had read the book, and may not reflect the message of the book, itself.
Joe, your comment is fascinating; it gives me more insight into how this stuff plays out for abused men. The pulp-fiction world of Christian publishing and how it impacts into the pews. And I say ‘fiction’ deliberately, because from what others have written here, it sounds like this book is more fictional than scriptural.
From reading the Christian Book Store, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble reviews, this appears to be a book often given out by pastors. I completely agree with Joe. It would appear that this book treats mankind as inevitably fallen – doomed to live under the control of the sinful nature running to terrible things like adultery if they do not get what they “need.” Shouldn’t a redeemed child of God be better than that?
Since this book is so widely distributed, any feedback from bloggers here is extremely helpful to people like me trying to stay on the right road while ministering to others.
I actually think it’s a little scarier than just “inevitably fallen,” Martin.
The core theme I got from teachers promoting this book (again disclaimer that I have not read the book myself, and the book’s message may be different) is that the individual’s salvation from sin is thru their spouse, and that every married person is responsible for saving their partner from sin.
They don’t word it that way, of course, but that’s what it really boils down to, when you promote concepts like, “If you’re the husband to your wife that God calls you to be, then she CANNOT HELP but respond in like manner, by being kind, loving, affectionate, etc.”
So, following this to it’s natural conclusion, if your wife commits adultery, it’s your fault for being a bad husband, and if your wife is faithful, loving, affectionate, and kind it’s all to your credit for being such a good husband that she couldn’t help herself responding in such a manner.
Amen, Joe. I think you and I are on the same page. See my comment below. Thanks.
I’m not sure if I commented on this book before on this blog, but I remember putting in a comment about it somewhere!
Apart from what the others have said, one of bugbears about this book, or rather the author, is that he insists that discovering that a spouse has had an affair affects a person more than anything else, even rape. He bases this on his experience from many years of counselling. Whether the statement is true or not, it has been twisted by perpetrators of abuse to harass and denigrate victims who have unfortunately had affairs as a reaction to an abusive marriage. I saw this happen on a marriage website, where victims of abuse would be desperately searching for answers to escape their abusive situation, and if they confessed an affair, and their guilt, especially if they were constantly punished for it by their abusive spouse, abusive readers would add to the abuse by quoting Dr Harley and his authoritative statement that their affair was worse than the abuse they suffered.
This, to me, seemed rather offensive. I wrote to Dr Harley’s office seeking clarification, and got a reply from someone saying that Dr Harley stands by that statement and that it was based on their findings.
I had been attracted to the book when I first saw it in a pastor’s office. (This pastor was counseling my ex-husband, and even though he was considered the expert on family dynamics, being the one with the most qualifications in family counseling, he didn’t nail the abuse, although I think he came closer than many others. In fact, sadly, he unwittingly gave many weapons to my ex during his sessions.)
I am glad I only saw the book when our marriage was already breaking up. Otherwise it might have been bought, devoured, and religiously applied like the hundreds of other books I had collected, mostly to no avail.
Goodness, Anon! Thank you for sharing all of that. Isn’t it amazing how books like this one can be such a weapon in the wrong hands? I am so glad that you see things so clearly.
Thanks for sharing that experience. Imagine, a man deciding he can prioritize sin when the Bible so clearly speaks to the contrary. How awful.
I didn’t read the book, but from what I heard it leads people to enabling and codependency, which is basically being dependent on others for happiness. So much contradictory teaching out there its ridiculous. (As an aside, I’m asking for prayers. My dog had surgery yesterday to remove a growth on his foot and we found out its cancer :()
I am suddenly feeling justified for my long time cynicism of these kinds of books and Christian ministries. No wonder we get an idea that we do a, b, and c and out pops an amazing marriage.
A week before my ex’s relapse we went to a marriage conference. It was stuff I’d heard before, and stuff I knew well. As every talk was given I checked off a little mental tick in my mind. By the end I was severely disturbed because I’d done every step of “the program”, and where did it lead me? Certainly not the ideal marriage they presented. I guess I was doing it wrong . . .
The insidious idea that we have the power to change our spouse through good behavior needs to be over and done with. I’m not saying that we can’t foster a healing atmosphere or one of understanding by approaching our spouse with humility, but we don’t control and we can’t fix. Making my wife behave better was not my right, responsibility, or even possible.
Can we get a “like” button so I can like every single one of Jeff S’s comments? I wholeheartedly agree with this. I haven’t read this particular book, but I’ve read so many others like it. I bought into the mentality (before I learned there was such a thing as emotional abuse). I used to anguish over how I could make myself easier for him to love so he would stop hurting me, because the book says that husbands can’t help but respond with love if their wives do x, y and z. I was already doing most of it, so I would find ways to do it better. When he didn’t respond in kind, I would be devastated. I tried and tried but I could never find a way to change myself enough to make him love me.
I realized something was terribly wrong when I tried to read “The 5 Love Languages.” I took the little quiz where they give multiple choice questions. “Do you feel most loved when your spouse a-brings home flowers, b-complements your outfit, c-cleans up the dishes, or d-holds your hand.” I couldn’t choose any of those answers because all I wanted was for him to stop hurting me. Any of those things would just be manipulative actions he would use in the honeymoon phase of the abuse cycle. I didn’t want any of it from him. I just wanted him to stop abusing me. I stumbled through the quiz and after not being able to choose a definitive answer to most of the questions, I took the quiz for single people where the questions are centered around your family or friends and was able to complete it easily.
Maybe these books work well in marriages that need a little pick me up. But they certainly didn’t work for my marriage. You know what book finally helped me? Why Does He Do That? [*Affiliate link] by Lundy Bancroft.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
How about “The Love Dare.” Fortunately, I learned enough about abuse before hearing about this book so I stayed away from it. But from what I’ve heard about it, it certainly seems like quite a tool for manipulative abusers. “I hurt you, so now I’m going to do all these nice things for you to make you forgive me.”
OH my goodness, Just Me….I feel the agony of everything you wrote. I could have written that above! I also read the “5 Love Languages” and felt the exact same way. And “The Love Dare”! These books just do not “work” for people in abusive relationships! They are simply tools. An abuser uses EVERYTHING for his or her own manipulative ends…. It is like they take anything they are given and then brilliantly come up with a way to twist what could have been / would have been helpful and healthy and use it against their victim. EVERYTHING becomes ammunition. Someone gave me “The Love Dare” toward the end and I remember hiding the book and eventually giving it to GoodWill because I was terrified my ex husband would find it and condemn me with it. You give up with these books….you cannot face them anymore.
In other news, I’m so comment-y these days! You all are hitting on so many topics I have wanted to discuss for so long! 🙂
JM- You can “like” my posts in your heart- I am very humbled and appreciative 🙂
I really appreciate the comments here, it helps in many ways to hear that you are not the only one who has battled the try harder message. I was so thrilled to hear Leslie Vernick on focus on the family (Canada) last week say out loud on the radio that trying harder is not good advice in abusive relationships. If I had not already used up everything I had in trying harder I would have been relieved to hear it. At this point I can only hope others who are still trying to be, fix, manage, carry a broken down marriage can get some relief by hearing her.
AJ- Leslie Vernick is one of the bold few who are willing to speak out on behalf of Christians in abusive marriages. I credit her book, “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” as being the catalyst that changed my mindset. I am so thankful for her and her work.
Vernick’s book is very, very good! I have a copy on my shelf, have quickly been through the book, used some parts in detail, and am looking forward to devouring carefully in whole. I just love a book designed to help you that contains both sound psychological counsel and lots of Scriptural support!
It seems we could all get some positive stuff from discussing this book.
Thanks for bringing it up!
Martin, She’s in the process of writing a new book that’s specifically geared toward destructive marriages. “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” does discuss marriages quite a bit but it’s geared toward all relationships whereas the new book will be specifically for those in difficult marriages. She also has some great books on depression. I’m a fan……
Thanks so much for sharing this perspective. We are not in control of others – what a great reminder!
God blesses us with incredible insight as we persevere, and as always your insights echo loudly in my own life as well.
“Making my wife behave better was not my right, responsibility, or even possible.”
It was a major milestone for me, in my first marriage, when this truth dawned on me. I was not responsible for ensuring her happiness, nor was I responsible for her abusive behavior.
I too, tried that book to no avail. And the 5 Love Languages. They sounded like good formulas though! I am again so thankful to read of others trying the same things I did and having the same results. Also, I think it was Harley’s son who started that Christian dating website E-harmony.
” I think it was Harley’s son who started that Christian dating website E-harmony.”
I don’t know much about eharmony, never having used the website … lol, but I will say it’s been a good thing for my dear daughter who met the man she is shortly to marry on it. He’s a wonderful person, faithful Christian and I’ve learned more about how “normal” couples operate from watching them interact in a healthy way than from just about anywhere else. It was my dd who opened my eyes to the abuse in my own marriage btw. So while there may be good reason for your “groan”, Barbara, lol, I’m glad it was there for my dd. 🙂
🙂 I get that, Anne.
I know a Christian man who found his (now) wife on EHarmony.
I just added a new category to this blog: bad books. And I’ve ascribed that category to this post. I’ll go back and ascribe it to another post or two, if I get time.
That would be good. I’d read a couple that I couldn’t finish. They were awful. I do have a question though. I read through your book/article list and would like to know why you listed Celebrate Recovery Cirriculum. I am a member and it has helped me a great deal.
Lynette, I don’t necessarily think the Celebrate Recovery Curriculum is bad. When I suggested that list of resources to be critiqued by our readers, I was not meaning to imply that all things on that list are bad. Some may be good: in which case, it would be nice for our readers to know that.
If you would like to write a few paragraphs about your opinion and experience of the Celebrate Recovery Curriculum we could put it on the blog. One thing I’d like to know, personally, is how relevant it is to victims of abusive marriages. As far as I can remember (I think I did it a while ago myself) the group I participated in was for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. But my memory is shaky. And maybe there is a suite of courses.
I realise that giving a post the category ‘bad books’ may have misled you; sorry. That’s the thing with categories, we try to keep them short and pithy. And we often ascribe multiple categories to a post. I’m always open to your suggestions about how to improve the way we categorise things. Drop me an email if you have suggestions.
Amazon has some one-star reviews of His Needs Her Needs that I found quite interesting.
I think those reviews are accurate
You can also add bad CD’s to your list- #1 on my list is The Blessed Marriage from Vision Forum- I listened to that thing and was left completely dejected and hopeless-thinking, if that’s the kind of wife I am supposed to be-I will fail completely.
Oh my WORD, Jodi! I listened to that, as well! Threw it across the room, actually.
Oh, I know! At first it just made me feel like a total failure as a wife and a woman,.It was some time before I realized how ridiculous it was and unbiblical.
It seems like, if someone is going to write a book on marriage that would be helpful to all, there HAS GOT to be at LEAST a SECTION that differentiates between those who truly both want to work on their marriage AND those who are abusers — and then a healthy discussion on the fact that there is an out for those married to abusers.
Amen to that! It’s that essential section which is lacking in most Christian marriage books.
And the books that do make mention of abuse discuss it only in parentheses, or a footnote, or a paragraph or two, or (rarely) a whole chapter – but the chapter’s usually placed near the end of the book. How to tell abuse from ‘a marriage that both people are willing to work on for the mutual happiness of both’ needs to be the focus of the first chapter (AND mentioned in the back-cover blurb) so readers can decide whether or not the rest of the book is going to be helpful for them.
And I agree, the counsel that divorce is definitely an option in abuse needs to be given fair and square in that first chapter, without fancy footwork or caveats like “if the victim’s life is endangered by physical violence” (discounting out all the other kinds of abuse).
Can you imagine the how most authors and publishers and pastors would handle that idea? Scoffing and scurrying would be their reaction, I imagine.
Yes, Jeff. I know what you mean about the language I used. That is probably a poor choice. And I can definitely relate to all you are saying.
No problem, Jeff S. I wrote the comment quickly but I do think you are right about the language and I fully agree with what you are saying. And I was the same way. It seemed like I didn’t want to work on my marriage because I wouldn’t basically “be” what I was supposed to be as a submissive wife.
Yes, I agree. I remember filling out the application for a marriage retreat that my church was going to fund my wife and I to go to, and there’s a part about “committing to change, even if your spouse does not”. I almost started shaking as I read that and considered what kind of change I might be asked to make. Because I knew she wasn’t going to change. That tipped me off right there that this retreat was for a different kind of marriage.
You just cannot treat every marriage like it is an issue of adjusting sin on both sides and working it out. And if you don’t help people identify the difference, you are going to see a lot of people getting out of marriages that can be saved and a lot of people staying in marriages that are detrimental to their well being.
And one more note- you say “both want to work on their marriage”- I think many abusers absolutely want to “work on their marriage”- they want to “work on” making it more centered on them. It’s often the victim who doesn’t want to “work on” the marriage because he or she knows what that really means. And that never goes over well with the church.
Please know I wasn’t being critical- just pointing out another tool of the abuser. I remember filling out the questionnaire for the retreat and her answers were so much more positive than mine- I totally looked like the problem.
Jeff S – It’s real easy for someone to sound positive, if they have no intention of keeping their word, anyway, isn’t it?
Anything from Vision Forum is going to be awful. (As I quietly flip out at the mere mention of VF…)
Agreed, BIT. Flipping out with you. Quietly.
I know. More like sick to my stomach.
It’s worth noting that staying clear of Vision Forum in general is probably wise.
Are there ANY good materials on marriages from Christians? I wonder how Tim Keller’s book is?
Jeff S — see above. I put the comment in the wrong spot. 🙂
Jeff S, I have not read the entire book, and I normally like Tim Keller’s books, but I think he missed the mark a bit on his marriage book, not because what he elucidated what wasn’t true or what wasn’t worth pointing out, but because it doesn’t give the whole picture. Again, it leaves victims scratching their heads. People don’t read books to gain theological information – they do it to search for practical applications, and if they are victims of abuse, they do it because their survival, sanity and safety are at stake. if the books don’t address abuse, they miss the opportunity to administer justice.
My husband urged me on multiple occasions to read the book so I would know what to do to make him happy and feel good about himself. I haven’t read it yet.
Yeah, like my ex gave me Fireproof to watch and Love Dare to work through. No, he didn’t read it himself – he got the book from another abusive spouse. They love ’em!
Joe wrote above ” What’s the point of signing a resolution? It won’t make me any more resolved than I am already. In some ways, I see it as almost detracting…as though the “resolution” is being treated as more sacred than my marriage vows or my baptism…”
I agree; and I think this ‘distracting’ quality of resolution-making has a sinister underside to it. I remember years ago when Promise Keepers was all the rage for many Christian men. They had giant rallies/prayer meetings that caught the attention of the media, they sold Promise Keeper t-shirts and stuff like that. One guy I knew was into Promise Keepers and wore his Promise Keeper t-shirt.
This guy was committing adultery on a regular basis while he was in Promise Keepers. I know this because I heard him confess it with his own mouth, years afterwards, and he was not sorry when he ‘confessed’ it – he was saying how much he had enjoyed the adulterous relationship. So what did Promise Keepers mean to him? Probably just a way to distract his wife and other believers (and himself?) from the fact that he was actually a hardened secret sinner.
Barbara – Now I’m going to have to spend some time pondering the Promise Keepers movement…
I was quite involved in Promise Keepers for several years…particularly during the last seven years of my first marriage…between the first time of filing for divorce and the time (seven years later) of actually divorcing.
My first impression of Promise Keepers was how amazing it was to see a professional football stadium packed with men, not for the purpose of cheering their favorite sports team, but for the purpose of worshipping and glorifying God. That was truly amazing!
The thing I really liked, though, was their message of the need for humility and repentance. I was at a place in my personal life of having been stripped bare of any pretense of self-righteousness or being able to keep things together by my own efforts. In that context, it was very refreshing to be gathered with large groups of Christian men with focused calls for repentance and humility…not repentance by unbelievers, but repentance by men who had been Christians for many years, many of whom were leaders in their churches.
Yes, I also encountered some who seemed to just show up for the emotional high, with no true repentance. One of the men I worked with liked to talk about his involvement with Promise Keepers in much the same way that he dropped names of big-wig corporate gurus…all part of his business networking style.
However, it was always my impression that these were a minority, and were really no different from similar people filling pews at every church. Overall, the vast majority of the Promise Keeper men seemed to be very sincere, and truly desiring God’s power to change their own hearts.
I ceased involvement in Promise Keepers around 2001. Partly, this was because PK changed their format to have fewer events within driving distance of my home…which seemed to mark the beginning of their decline. More, though, it was because I was going through a divorce around that time, and as much as PK seemed to offer men sincerely seeking the power of Christ to help them become better husbands, they didn’t seem to have much to offer a single father. At that stage in my life, attending a PK event felt more like a renewal of sorrow and remembrance of loss than anything else.
I also ceased invovlement in my church Men’s Group around the same time, for the same reason. As a single parent, I just didn’t feel like I had much in common with the other guys, especially when so much of the focus was on being a godly husband.
I do sort of wonder, now, how much the PK involvement had to do with my staying in that marriage another seven years…and whether it might have been better to divorce sooner.
However, as it worked out, I left that marriage knowing I had done absolutely everything I could have done…that I had fully lived out my covenant vows in every way. I also left with complete confidence of full covenant release…knowing I owed nothing and had left no debts unpaid or vows uncompleted. For that, I will always be thankful.
Not sure if I’ve answered any questions…not sure I have any answers…
Just incredibly grateful for God’s grace working in my life, and very aware that His plans supercede all of my plans.
Thanks for that Joe. I hope people didn’t take my comment to mean that all of Promise Keepers was tainted. Like everything else that might have positive value, it can be inverted by abusers, turned inside out by sleight of hand and used for their unrighteousness agendas.
… some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron… (1 Tim. 4)
On a tangent, I totally agree about the single father thing (and I assume my experience holds true for single mothers as well)- the church (and actually, even the secular culture) isn’t designed for us. It’s not a hostility, but once you are off “the plan”, it’s hard to create and sustain healthy adult relationships. The other men I meet that are around my age are married and just can’t really hang out. They also are not the ones making play dates with their kids, so it’s not like I can get together with other adults even for that- I’m not asking a guy’s wife if she wants to meet me at the park with her kids! My church just had its fall festival and it was great, but I had virtually no adult interaction the whole time because 3 year olds are quite mobile and require a lot of attention.
I don’t really know how the church could do better, but it can be very lonely. And in fact, I truly see that my church has gone above and beyond in this area, but still much is lacking. It’s a tough nut to crack.
The great irony is the church talking about not making romantic relationships into idols, all the while treating people who don’t have them as if they are not whole.
It was wonderful when a married couple at my church who had girls the same age as my daughter, invited us to a BBQ at their place. They both wanted to be my friend. And this friendship has stood the test of time, thirteen years now. I pretty much always see them together, as a couple. I don’t meet up with the guy on his own, though occasionally I meet up with the wife on her own. Our kids became like cousins to each other, and their kids called me ‘Aunty Barb’. We even went on holidays all together.
The reason it worked is that both of them wanted to get to know me, and they have a stable and sound marriage, so the wife doesn’t feel threatened by me. We’ve shared lots of laughs, tears and gripes together. And even though we haven’t been in the same church for some years now, we are still friends.
Is there a married couple in your church who have a son about your son’s age? Maybe you could try asking them all for a meal at your place? You never know, it might be a situation where you all click.
But I agree, the ‘no one to hang out with’ is tough. What I had with those friends did not fill every lonely evening. No wonder I gave myself RSI being a writer!
There is, and I eat lunch with them after church almost evey week (and he is the worship leader so we already have a bond); however, since mom tends to be the primary child care giver it’s not quite so easy to foster adult relationships by involving the two children. I have brough my son over to visit, but usually I don’t stick around unless her husband is also involved.
See, that’s the big problem- for most everything my son is involved, but with couples involvement with the kids usually means mom or mom and dad, not dad alone. And even with mom and dad together it can be difficult to really bond closely the way you can with “guy time”.
Sounds like what you need is a friendship with a couple where the wife will mind both her kid(s) and you kid while you have some guy-time with her husband. It would probably work best for a couple who had only one child about your son’s age. If their son is lonely and in need of a playmate, then the wife might be all too happy to take your son while you go off with her husband or some other bloke. Of course, you could return the favour, and take their son to play with your son, while that wife had ‘girl’ time with her girlfriends.
As a single mum of a very sociable little daughter, I used to love having her playmates over to play. She was usually happier when she had a playmate, and it was therefore less demanding for me as a mother. I would do this on holidays too: she would invite a girlfriend on the holiday, so they could play together and I would read books if I didn’t have other adult company. If I ran out of books I would go to the thrift stores to get more!
Jeff S – It is a tough situation, and easy to feel like a misfit, at times.
I was blessed to have a variety of friendships during those years. I spent more time with my siblings, which was really nice. There was one other single dad at my church, and we hung out together, with our kids. There was a couple who invited me over a lot, and the woman would watch kids whiler her husband and I went bike riding.
I was already involved in the church children’s ministry, and that worked well, as it allowed me to be involved with my kids, while also hanging out with the other adults involved.
I was already involved in kids sports activities, so that remained another area of involvement with other parents.
Jeff S and Joe, Wow! Here I am, complaining about my lot as one of the few single mothers in church, and I hadn’t considered how tough it would be to be a single dad in church.
This is an experience I hadn’t thought much about before separation. I knew of many single mothers in my previous church and never thought they were ostracized or marginalized in any way since there was a single parent ministry, so I didn’t expect to go through this experience of feeling like a pariah in church (not the same one).
It really is quite a demeaning thing, and it only dawned on me after reading Barbara’s comment that I have no friends who are couples. We used to frequently entertain and eat with other couples and their kids. I have not had a meal or any social time with a couple for quite some time now. I wonder how you managed to make friends with couples, Barbara?
How I made friends with that couple was an amazing thing. A God thing, to use the cliche.
I think they saw my daughter getting on with their two daughters at church, and decided to ask us to their home for a BBQ. On that day at their house, I told them I was a victim of DV and the wife asked me straight away, “Why didn’t you leave?” OUCH!
I think I had just started reading Patricia Evans by then, and although I was floored, I managed to make some kind of reply about how hard it is to leave and how the church often judges you when you leave.
And they then said “Well, we don’t know much about domestic violence but we are willing to learn.” That was the key. That made every clanger statement or question from them forgivable. They were willing to learn! They were willing to admit they NEEDED to learn! How amazing is that? And how rare.
They were genuinely friendly. The wife’s question was not judgmental, it was simply curious and coming from a place of great ignorance. And they continued to be friendly. Our daughters got on like a house on fire, and I felt SOOO grateful that they had invited me to a meal. No other family in the church did that for many many years, and when later other families did, they didn’t show much interested in my history; I felt they were only showing hospitality for form’s sake.
So it kinda went from there. And then I started running bible studies in my house for survivors of DV, and I mentioned it to this couple and how some of the survivors needed to move house. The husband of this couple then offered his van to use to help these ladies move. So the rubber met the road.
And there’s another nice bit to this story. That wife’s question “Why didn’t you leave?” prompted me, years later, to write my article Why Didn’t You Leave?
I gave it to her to read once I’d put it online, and she read, and learned more. They’ve come such a long way, over the years, bless them.
[This link was corrected to reflect the new URL. Editors.]
Just Me, I understand the fear. It is such a hard thing opening yourself up to a new church. I almost wanted to just start calling pastors of churches and asking what their belief about divorce was, but the thing is that I didn’t want that to be my identity.
Regarding being strong enough to determine what is Biblical, man that’s a tough one. I’m struggling with that myself. I’m challenging a lot of things I’ve always believed, and maybe I’m getting some of it wrong. And I know that the teaching of any church is going to have its errors, but it’s the errors that turn into co-abusing victims that concern me most (along with errors that deny fundamental Christian doctrines such as the deity of Christ and the need for atonement).
It would be wonderful if we could compile a list of yellow and red flags for churches that may not be safe for abuse victims.
Also, about serving- one thing I loved about the church I’m going to now was that the first week I got there they didn’t hesitate to ask me to set up chairs. I think the pastor was a bit embarrassed that they had me setting up chairs as a visitor, but you know what? Setting up chairs is an easy place to serve and everyone is qualified to do it. It was nice to be in a place I could serve the body and not feel like my actions would come under any scrutiny. I can’t speak for anyone but me, but service like that really gave me a sense of being in the body that I needed: something that met needs but didn’t require spiritual discernment- just a willing heart.
The fear of not being accepted in church, or of my children not being accepted in church, is one of the reasons why I haven’t moved toward a separation yet. I think our current church (or at least my friends within our current church) would be accepting even if they didn’t necessarily agree. But, my husband’s extended family has deep roots within our church and within our denomination, and I just couldn’t stay there. It wouldn’t be safe to stay there. I tear up just thinking about how scary it would be to walk into a new church with my children and hope that my children would be loved and accepted. And I wonder if I’m strong enough to hear a church’s teachings and discern what is biblical and what is not. My biggest desire for my children is that they grow up to know God’s heart. I struggle so much to know God’s heart. I want them to “get it.”
I know that any church that didn’t accept us wouldn’t be the church for us, but going through that process just seems so…..hard. And my children don’t deserve any of that.
And I have wondered who I could even be friends with. Where would I fit in? Where could I serve? It’s scary.
Just Me, I have no words of reply for what you wrote, but I’m sitting here ‘beside’ you feeling for and with you.
Just so you know I really am working on the review of Fireproof this weekend but I probably won’t have it done. I started it today but hurricane prep has taken a priority.
Praying for your safety, BIT
Hurricane prepping over here too. The next few days should be interesting, to say the least.
Not really the forum for this but thankful…I have to drive to see patients and will have to do that this week in the middle of the hurricane. The only thing I was worried about was my tires.( They were really, really bad) God prompted friends to give me cash specifically for tires and it was enough to get the three I needed!! And this all happened Friday and Saturday!! God is so good!
Rejoicing with you, Still Scared…and praying for your safety during the storms.
I really doubt it will be as bad as they are predicting but having to drive out in all weather…so very thankful!
That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing. God is good!
I HAVE A REQUEST 🙂
PLEASE FOLK, DON’T MAKE ANY MORE COMMENTS ON THIS THREAD ABOUT SINGLE PARENTING AND HOW TO DEVELOP FRIENDSHIPS WITH MARRIED COUPLES. I’m going to transpose that subset of comments from here into a new post.
Got that feeling . . . this blog is like a runaway train! So happy you are all talking to much, but I gotta keep up with it all.
I actually talked with Dr. Harley, during my first separation from my stbx husband. I had contacted them to ask a question about fixing my marriage -i was still interested then- and they had me call in to one of his talk show segments.
As I recall, I explained what had happened in my marriage -the criticism, the verbal abuse culminating in physical abuse, and separation- and the impression I got was they weren’t sure what to do. They couldn’t talk with him and get his side, so they had to take me at face value, and they seemed at a loss for words. Dr. Harley did acknowledge to me verbally that I didn’t deserve the treatment I got, that it was wrong, and that I was right to leave.
They sent me a copy of his Needs book for free, for being on the show. I found it.. interesting but not applicable to my husband and i. Like Love and Respect, our personalities just didn’t fit the “typical”. I quickly identified in both that we are part of the 20 % of couples he acknowledged in Love and Respect that are the opposite (ie the wife needs the respect actions and the husband needs the love actions).
Funny, my husband needs the love actions, but wouldn’t accept them because that wasn’t what he was “supposed” to need, so he rejected what he really wanted. And he wouldn’t accept the respect actions because that wasn’t what he really wanted either. I just couldn’t win.
Eds. note: Mark Baker has a 12-page PDF [Internet Archive link] that exposes the biblical error of the Love & Respect book by Eggerichs.
Thanks Xerarose. And we all sit here growing barnacles wondering why guys like Dr Harley don’t know what to do about domestic abuse and worse still, seem to think it’s ethically defensible to continue doing family counseling and ministry without knowing how to respond to domestic abuse.
When I take my car to the mechanic or my body to the doctor, I expect them to be able to diagnose the problem and know how to treat it; and if they don’t know how to treat it themselves I expect them to refer me to someone who does know. And if it’s a problem that they see frequently, I expect them to go and acquire some specialist training so that even though they may remain a generalist mechanic or GP, they can deliver a decent and professional service not just a head-scratching “I don’t know”.
If an abuser can use the Bible to further his abuse and to justify his abuse, then any book written without direct divine inspiration, no matter how ‘useful’ to others, is going to be a walk in the park for an abuser to misuse. Believe it or not, even Lundy Bancroft’s book has been used this way.
I know this is an old thread, and got off onto another topic, but back to the book,”His Needs, Her Needs”, first, our NEEDS are God, food, water, sleep. All the rest are desires. Second, I believe that everyone thrives on affection, not just women. And women like sex, too, especially when treated with respect…….oops! did I say respect? Women don’t need that, right? Wrong!! Oh, it all gets so twisted when these guys want to sell a book, doesn’t it?
I used to feel that those who criticize humanism don’t care about my needs. Now I feel like those who make a Biblical criticism do care about human needs. They care enough that one human’s needs aren’t used to manipulate another. They care enough to know that people who put all their needs on their spouse can worsen any marriage whether it started out good or bad. They care enough to realize that people who rely too much on one person won’t actually get their needs met, but relying first on God and secondarily on multiple various people is more likely to actually get needs met. I love the comment about the difference between being “responsible to” and “responsible for”. So liberating!!