A Cry For Justice

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

How to Heal ANY Marriage – Really Henry Cloud?? Really??

UPDATE  Sept 2021:  Barbara Roberts has come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches.  He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


One of our readers sent us a “devotional” that she received* from Bible Gateway, lauding the miraculous healing powers of Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries school of counseling. We know that some of Cloud and Townsend’s points have been helpful. We all do need to learn about boundary setting. Abusers are notorious boundary violators. But what follows here, posted by Bible Gateway and written by Henry Cloud (taken from one of his books) is just…just… – well, you all fill in the adjectives. Man! We all must have been pretty dense for going through all the misery dealt us by abusers. All we had to do was buy these guys’ books and do what they say and it all would have been fixed.

Let me just begin with this blurb by Bible Gateway about the Boundaries counseling materials:

This week’s reading is drawn from “Boundaries In Marriage”.  They’re at the forefront of today’s Christian counseling movement, and now Drs. Cloud and Townsend help guide couples. Recommending boundaries even in marriage, they show how respecting a spouse’s personal “territory” actually strengthens a relationship as well as how to safeguard marriage from intruders such as idols, affairs, and well-meaning parents. A Focus on the Family Recommendation.

And there you are.  The forefront!  These guys are “out there” alright!  Anyway, here you go with Henry Cloud’s take on how to heal any, yep, any marriage. (Sarcasm aside for a moment, I suspect Cloud would, if confronted on this, make some caveat for abuser marriages??  I hope? Maybe? Or maybe not? But the fact is that Bible Gateway put this out with no caveat at all, causing all kinds of turmoil and confusion for abuse victims).  Here ya go!

How To Heal Any Marriage

Colossians 3:12-14 –“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

I (Dr. Cloud) was leading a seminar, and I asked the audience of married couples to stop for a moment and think of their spouse. I told them to think of all of the wonderful things that they love about their spouse and to concentrate on how awesome that person is and how much they love him or her. “Think of the wonderful qualities that you admire and that attracted you to that person. Let those feelings fill you,” I told them.

Then, after they were feeling all giddy and in love again, I asked each person to turn to their spouse who was idealizing them at that moment and to repeat after me, “Honey, I am a sinner. I will fail you, and I will hurt you.”

You could feel the sense of discombobulation in the room. In one moment, they were shaken from the ideal to the real. Some began to laugh as they got it. Some felt even closer to each other. Some looked up confused as if they did not know what to do with my invitation.

But that is reality. The person you love the most and have committed your life to is an imperfect being. This person is guaranteed to hurt you and fail you in many ways, some serious and some not. You can expect the failures to come. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” We can expect failure from even the best people in our lives.

So the question becomes, “What then?” What do you do when your spouse fails you in some way or is less than you wish for him to be? What happens when she has a weakness or a failure? How about an inability to do something? What about an unresolved childhood hurt that he brings to the relationship?

Other than denial, there are only a couple of options. You can beat him up for his imperfections, or you can love him out of them. The Bible says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Nothing in a relationship has to permanently destroy that relationship if forgiveness is in the picture. No failure is larger than grace. No hurt exists that love cannot heal. But, for all of these miracles to take place, there must be compassion and tenderheartedness.

What does that mean? I like how the Bible describes God’s compassion: “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary). For God to have compassion on our brokenness or sin is certainly to stoop to an inferior. But we need the same attitude toward an equal spouse for two reasons:

First, you forgive what is inferior to the ideal standard. You humble yourself to identify with your loved one, who is experiencing life in a way that is less than you or even he would want. You give up all demands for your spouse to be something he isn’t at that moment.

Second, if your spouse is hurting or failing, you are not morally superior, but you are in the stronger position at that moment to be able to help. God never uses the stronger position to hurt, but always to help. As Paul puts it in Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

What a picture that is! “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” What if you “wore” these qualities every time your spouse failed or was hurting? I think we would see a lot more healed marriages.

But that is not the human way. The human way is to harden our hearts when we are hurt or offended.

I was talking to a friend the other day who had offended his wife in a relatively minor way. But to her it was not minor at all. As a result, she did not speak to him for several days. Finally he asked her when she might forgive him. “Will it be before next month? Before Christmas? Just let me know so I can get ready.” She finally broke and started laughing, and things were fine again. She saw how unnecessary her “hardness of heart” was to the offense.

Hardness of heart, much more than failure, is the true relationship killer. Jesus said in Matthew 19:8 that failure is not the cause of divorce, but hardness of heart is. This is why the Bible places such a high value on tenderheartedness.

End of quote. Return to reality. Maybe we should have a contest to see who can identify the most victim-guilting, shaming, sin-minimizing words and phrases in these paragraphs!  Or at least a weekly trophy awarded by ACFJ to the most ridiculous, victim-victimizing article found that week.  I bet you all could suggest some names for such a trophy!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coda from Barb

Actually Jeff, I have a suggestion for the name of that trophy:
The Mumpsimus Trophy (or the Mumpsimus Award) 


definition in the Oxford:
1.  A traditional custom or idea adhered to although shown to be unreasonable.
2.  A person who obstinately adheres to old customs or ideas in spite of evidence that they are wrong or unreasonable.

definition of mumpsimum (word 12) in Mirriam-Webster’s list of 22 Charming Words for Nasty People
a bigoted adherent to exposed but customary error

Origin, Mid 16th century: erroneously for Latin sumpsimus in quod in ore sumpsimus ‘which we have taken into the mouth’ (from the Eucharist), in allusion to the story of an illiterate priest who, when corrected for reading quod in ore mumpsimus, replied ‘I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus’.

The article about mumpsimus in Wikipedia shows that the word has a venerable history in Christian usage. It seems to have been coined during the Protestant Reformation and has been used by eminent persons like William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer and Henry VIII.


*The devotional was sent to our reader by email, as part of a devotional she had signed up for on BibleGateway.com.

Further Reading

Mumpsimus — a traditional notion that is obstinately held although it is unreasonable

Related post

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins — But Not All


  1. Starlight

    This is good advice if you are in a mutually edifying marriage. If your spouse has the same marriage goals you do, truly loves and cherishes the partner and the two of you generally live & strive to build each other up. Unfortunately I tried implementing this with my abusive husband and he was laughing all the way at my ‘stupidity’ and really taking advantage of me to further abuse!! He was so happy, he had his cake & got to eat it too while I was trying to be a godly woman loving him into the kingdom at the great peril ofmy children & myself. You cannot do this with someone who makes sport of your goodwill, kindness and sincerity to take advantage of you any way they can.

    • StrongerNow

      Exactly what I experienced, trying to apply this sort of advice. Unfortunately, the people dishing this sort of stuff out just flat out deny the existence of evil people.

    • Hi Starlight
      Welcome to the blog! 🙂

      If you haven’t already done so I suggest you read our New Users Info page for tips about how to guard your safety while commenting on this blog.

  2. Savedbygrace

    Other than denial, there are only a couple of options. You can beat him up for his imperfections, or you can love him out of them.

    oh I don’t know.. we could always put a boundary in place, Dr Cloud, and say “enough!”

    • Remedy

      That one made me laugh!!

    • Barnabasintraining

      oh I don’t know.. we could always put a boundary in place, Dr Cloud,

      +1 🙂

  3. Wendell G

    It seems that BibleGateway and this writer are engaging in Christian Pop Psychology when it comes to marriage. It certainly reminds me of all the catchy headlines you see on the magazines in grocery stores. “10 Ways to Cure Cancer Once and For All.”

    “100 Ways to Make any Woman Fall in Love With You”

    “How to Get Ripped Abs with No Exercise”

    This is just a spiritualized version of that!

  4. Jeff S

    It’s a shame to read this- it’s so typical 😦

    Henry Could should know better. “Boundaries” is the book I wish I’d read much, MUCH earlier in my marriage. It’s such a good book and would have helped me be a lot healthier. I recommend it to so many people. I just had always wished they would have drawn the logical conclusion that divorce is a GOOD boundaries in some situations.

    But it sounds like the “Boundaries in Marriage” is a book to avoid. So sad, because it could do so much good . . .

    • Barnabasintraining

      I remember a time when (I think) they did advocate divorce. Or at least did not condemn it. I remember a show they did once where one of them said something about remarriage after divorce. I forget the exact context, but they were definitely saying that was perfectly acceptable. They encouraged it, in fact. I remember it because I heard it before I knew better and was shocked to hear them advocate such a thing. I don’t know what’s happened since then. You would think these guys would get it. :/

      • Jeff S

        I’ve even looking on Cloud’s FB page and saw an entry about how to deal with an unsafe person without divorcing. He didn’t SAY you can’t divorce- he basically laid it out as a premise: if you want an option that isn’t divorce, here’s what you can do. Not a fan of that, especially since the advice wasn’t good in an abusive situation.

        I did put a link to this on his FB page and asked him to respond . . .

        I want him to do better. The world needs to understand boundaries, especially the Christian world. But as a teacher, he can’t be influencing people to stay in dangerous marriages 😦

    • Melody

      Honestly Henry Cloud’s “Necessary Endings” is a much better book for anyone dealing with an unrepentantly abusive or unfaithful spouse. It talks about wise, foolish, and evil people. Could be helpful. This advice of Cloud’s does need a huge disclaimer.

      • Melody

        Boundaries is also good btw-absolutely agreed.

    • NoMoreTears

      Can there not or should there not be boundaries in marriage as we have to give our own children??? We all have to learn … some more than others.

  5. Anonymous100

    Second, if your spouse is hurting or failing, you are not morally superior, but you are in the stronger position at that moment to be able to help.

    This does not take into account that not all sins are equal. In the case of someone committing abuse or entrenched in pornography no spouse can love that out of the other.

    Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. What if you “wore” these qualities every time your spouse failed or was hurting? I think we would see a lot more healed marriages.

    Or you might find the abuser taking advantage of their spouse’s graciousness, come to expect it, and think they have a licences to “keep on sinning that grace may abound.”

    No wonder I was frustrated reading this book a few years back; I eventually threw it out.

  6. Dawn Rising

    When I was doing a lot of self reflection to figure out how I got in this mess in the first place, these books were eye openers for me. At the time I was fully in the “no divorce for any reason” camp especially because I have children, so the message made sense. They do have chapters later on giving “permission” for separation.
    I started setting boundaries on him and our nonmarriage has quickly spiraled downward. It became clear to me that I wasn’t imagining things. That I was the only one willing to work on the marriage. As soon as I stopped trying there was no marriage.
    I’ve given him a year and a half to open his eyes and see what he’s doing, but it is still all my fault in his eyes.
    Because of the Truth found in this blog, Barbara’s book, Give Her Wings, I Will Stand, Jeff’s Sermons, and support from close friends and family, I will be filing for divorce at te end of this month.
    Please pray for my situation and my precious children.

    • Melody


    • I’m praying too, Dawn Rising.
      You have certainly done your homework and turned the thing this way that way and t’other way. . . and found that whatever way you looked at it, there was and is no marriage.

      brave you for getting this far and making the decisions you have made 🙂

  7. Brenda R

    I read both Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage. I didn’t take away any of this from those books. I get daily devotionals from BibleGateway and never read any of this. I would be unsubscribing immediately if I had. I just unsubscribed from another devotional writer because of her quotes from John Piper and gave a lengthy reasoning for doing so. I believe the use of the word “ANY” is a huge issue.

    • I believe the use of the word “ANY” is a huge issue.

      Spot on, Brenda R!

  8. LH

    Oh, there is so much that could be commented on. I’ll limit myself to this paragraph: “I was talking to a friend the other day who had offended his wife in a relatively minor way. But to her it was not minor at all. As a result, she did not speak to him for several days. Finally he asked her when she might forgive him. “Will it be before next month? Before Christmas? Just let me know so I can get ready.” She finally broke and started laughing, and things were fine again. She saw how unnecessary her “hardness of heart” was to the offense.”

    Ummm, so it was a “minor offense” because the man said it was??? And did he actually ASK her to forgive him, or just treat her as the one in the wrong? This sort of exchange is typical of my past marriage to an abuser: if he hurt me I was “too sensitive” and “blowing things out of proportion”, etc, and I MIGHT get a ‘sorry’ (usually not) (and if I did, probably followed by why it was my fault anyway), but he never a genuinely asked forgiveness.

    • StrongerNow

      It seems to me that his friend needed to humble himself before his wife and find out why the offense was so important TO HER, and seek with all of his heart to make it right. Maybe in that conversation she might realize the offense was actually minor, or maybe he would have discovered a pattern in his own behavior that needed correcting.

      Instead, he belittled her and demanded forgiveness without any repentance on his part. That is NOT Biblical at all.

      And Cloud is holding this up as an example of a good way to handle conflict in marriage?


    • Barnabasintraining

      I know. That line bugged me too. It’s like when Cloud says it it is objectively a minor offense, but when she says it it is subjectively a major offense. “It was [in fact] a minor offense, but it was major to her.”

      • StrongerNow

        In other words, her perspective doesn’t count, or it’s wrong.

    • Tsungilosdi

      I agree. That line bothered me as well! If my spouse said that, I would have gotten angrier, not laugh.

    • NoMoreTears

      I had the same experience. It is like a vicious circle.

  9. joepote01

    Arrrggghhh! This feel-good theology of marriage frustrates me. Yes, there are some circumstances in which the advice given here would be fairly good advice. But when they try to apply it to ALL circumstances in all marriages it is horribly dangerous. Yes, it sounds so pious…so religious…so gracious. But it is a snare! It is a half-truth and a half-truth is an all-out lie!

    Even in a healthy marriage where both parties are sincerely willing to do all they can to act in love toward their partner, this sort of advice is horribly imbalanced. And these guys are supposedly experts in boundaries within marriage? Where are the boundaries in their advice, here? Where is the mutual accountability?

    And in the case of an abusive marriage? Potentially fatal advice!


    • Joe, I’m with you on the Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!

    • NoMoreTears

      This reminds me of an encounter I had with my former pastor. I had told the elder that our pastor did not have the knowledge to solve ALL marital problems. He was the kind of man who put himself on the throne as an all-knowing pastor. In a letter of an elder, I was questioned, as to “how dare I questioned the omnipotence of our pastor …?” I beg your pardon … Isn’t he just as much of a sinner as the rest of us. Oh, I forgot. He has the guidance of God and the rest of us do not. In addition, he was half of my age. I suppose, a woman does not get credit for wisdom earned during her lifetime. As matter of fact,
      there is no power on earth or no municipality, who can change my mind if the holy spirit has convicted me.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Did he really say “omnipotence”???

      • joepote01

        how dare I questioned the omnipotence of our pastor …?

        Wow! Talk about false gods…

  10. Persis

    Focus on the Family Recommendation.

    Maybe I’m cynical, but that’s a sufficient warning.

  11. Annie

    The issue in an abusive marriage is not partners failing each other. It’s the abuser deciding that you will always be a failure. You can meet every expectation of the abuser and yet he will then find a new one to use against you.

    The abuser does not want your love, forgiveness, compassion and tenderheartedness. He wants your complete obedience to his will. He will use your love, forgiveness, compassion and tenderheartedness to get it.You’ve prayed for God’s grace and love to heal your marriage and tried every way you could to get him to see your love, forgiveness, compassion and tenderheartedness. He’s rejected God’s grace and love. How do you know this? Because he’s still abusing.

    For once, I’d like to see a so-called marriage counseling article skip the feel-good, be nice to your partner and forgive his failings garbage and actually tell him his behavior is causing the problem.

    • Anne

      It’s the abuser deciding that you will always be a failure. You can meet every expectation of the abuser and yet he will then find a new one to use against you.

      The abuser does not want your love, forgiveness, compassion and tenderheartedness. He wants your complete obedience to his will.


      Thank you Annie for putting it so well. The husband and I had a “row” several weeks ago where things were said that made me feel ground to dust and reading your comment summed up what I’ve been trying to articulate to myself since then. The way he puts it, if only I could do these simple little things, he’d be a happy man and could treat me well. But there will always be things that I just can’t do for him as he wishes so he will never really be happy with me. I’ll keep trying and trying, as he gets more and more of what he wants, but it will never be good enough that I will be rewarded with the happy marriage I always wanted and dreamed of. I’ve already spent many decades trying to get there and never have. Now I realize I never will.

      • Anewanon

        I struggle when I see posts like this because my Passive aggressive husband always accused ME of never being happy with him and that HE walked around on eggshells and that I just wanted HIM to bend to MY will. But from my perspective when he would lie and sneak around behalf and my back and then accuse me of being to harsh when he would break the promises HE would make to keep me from leaving.

        I never wanted perfection. Just someone with the attitude of being FOR each other and FOR God. If he is breaking promises and sneaking around and calling ME too sensitive because I am ON to his dalliances, then HE is the one wanting me to bend in a PA way to HIS desire to have his Cake and eat it too and for me to be OKAY with that scenario. These PAs are so abusive is such a subversive way its in some ways more abusive than the aggressive abuser because they ate so good at convincing everyone else. Everybody LOVES Raymond, right? Wrong

      • Hi Anewanon,
        I you are right about how these abusers can be very subversive, and show the nice-guy face to everyone except the person they are targetting with abuse.

        BTW, you may be interested to read these two posts:

        Covert aggression is not the same as passive aggression

        Thursday Thought — Overt and Covert Aggression

      • also, Anewanon, just a reminder to take care about your screen name when you are submitting comments. I changed your screen name for your safety before I published this comment of yours, but we can’t always promise that we catch such things before we publish comments.

        If you need further help with this, email TWBTC twbtc.acfj@gmail.com 🙂

    • NoMoreTears

      Memories stirred me again. A comment by a Dr. Wayne Dyer on PBS). “Let your ego stand aside if you feel that you are right in an argument … but for the sake of happiness, give in.” What would happen if everyone tries to be happy (by living with their lies) but no one stands up for values and truth … ? I think that we need to stand up for the truth, shoulder to shoulder, and be counted!

    • Isaiah40:31

      Annie summarized what I was thinking very well. If I had ever told my abuser that I was a sinner and would fail him, he would have jumped all over that and used it against me time and again. In fact he did, even though I never specifically used those words.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Isaiah40- You are right on here! No doubt it would have been used against you for sure.

  12. Stina

    Here’s what he and his co-author say about separation / divorce in their book, Boundaries in Marriage.

    Why separation and divorce doesn’t solve conflicts [Internet Archive link]

    [Note from ACFJ Admins: this link takes you to “Notes for a Sunday School Series by Christoph Kreitz. At the start of the document it says the series is based on the books “Boundaries” and “Boundaries in Marriage” by Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend.]

    • Brenda R

      Don’t remember any of that being in Boundaries in Marriage. Another book for my burn pile

      • Stina

        I left that book behind when I left my ex but remember it stated pretty much as you read it.

    • joepote01

      Stina – the link you provided is to a set of Sunday School notes authored by Christopher Kreitz. Kreitz says his study is based on “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I wonder if Cloud and Townsend say the same thing in their book, or if this anti-divorce text represents only Christopher Kreitz’ view?

      • Stina

        My reply was meant to be for Joseph, oops.

    • KayE

      Wow that’s such a lot of naive,patronizing,victim blaming nonsense.Especially this “Use others to intervene (Matthew 18:16), such as pastors, counselors, friends or other people that your spouse may listen to.” Lost for words now.

    • Not Too Late

      I had the book and followed all the advice religiously. It exposed me to a lot of trauma. For example, it says to enlist the support of others. Well, that didn’t help and made things worse (for reasons most readers will understand). It also advised readers to keep the lines of conversation open. That only gave more opportunities for abuse. Then it encouraged monitoring for change and loosening boundaries when there were signs of change. In an abusive marriage with a cycle of violence, that just put me on a merry-go-round. Lastly, it sealed in my mind the unacceptability of leaving. After all, they say that divorce is not boundary-enforcing. It is boundary-killing. Boundaries, according to the book, are for strengthening the relationship, not ending it.

      • StrongerNow

        This kind of viewpoint exemplifies what is so often the case in the “no divorce” camp – it makes an idol of the marriage and neglects the person.

      • Savedbygrace

        It exposed me to a lot of trauma.
        That only gave more opportunities for abuse.
        Exactly what happened to me when I ‘enforced’ boundaries on the advice of our couples counsellor 😦 my h totally flipped out.. I also thought even IF this approach worked, who has the energy to enforce the boundary when being riled against??,,, and how mush stress and abuse is one person expected to take? (let alone issues of risk to safety!) and how wrong to insist that one person is responsible for this in a marriage- surely in a healthy marriage each person has to step up and take responsibility
        (working together) for defining and keeping the boundary on any given issue. It is a blatant crossing of godly boundaries to expect a woman to carry this load in a marriage.

  13. Suzanne

    This is good advice if you are in a mutually edifying marriage. If your spouse has the same marriage goals you do, truly loves and cherishes the partner and the two of you generally live & strive to build each other up.

    Leonie got it right. Too many times Christians, especially, choose to see all marriages in the same light. But in a marriage in which one spouse is abusing the other this is a recipe for disaster. It’s no better than the wifely submission movement.

  14. Don Johnson

    One should be aware that there are some marriage counselors who will never discuss divorce as an option. I do not know if this is true for Cloud and Townsend, but for their public statements, it seems to be true. So what they say is a half truth and without giving the balancing truth about divorce, it is simply very unbalanced counsel. This is very disappointing to me as they have many good things to say, but declining to speak in this instance is not telling the truth. I know they know about David Instone-Brewer’s books, as I have told them about him.

  15. Babylove

    pure hogwash…..forgiveness does not mean forgetting!!! abusers never ever truly repent because they don’t feel they have done anything wrong

    • NoMoreTears

      How often does the church preach about forgiveness yet does not understand about forgetting. Don’t they know that forgetting takes place by repentance and continuous love?
      A man can continue with their abuse but expect their spouse to keep forgetting it and happily join him in bed again … It is like no deposits made into a piggy bank. It remains empty and so does the woman’s heart.

  16. cindy burrell

    I have always held this man in high regard. He has lost it here. This piece is sadly consistent with the arrogant, legalistic ignorance of the Christian elite. Dr. Cloud needs to read the WHOLE Bible.

    For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…

    These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 4, 12-13)

    Do such people not exist in Dr. Cloud’s universe? The people Jesus’ half-brother describes are not only in the body, but in marriages to godly people who would love to have faith-based relationships, yet whose abusive partners wield terror without shame and demand submission in the name of our God. The presumption that both marriage partners always want to love well is pure denial.

    I am terribly disappointed – and horrified for those who will buy into this half-baked nonsense.

  17. KayE

    It’s extremely harmful when people with good reputations and PhDs get this all so wrong.False beliefs about abusive marriages are widely held among the christian community, and people love to use someone well known to support their own prejudices. It’s a major reason that christian victims are silenced and remain in oppression and suffering for years and decades.

  18. Anne

    Cloud and Townsend’s book on boundaries was the first one I bought and read after a counselor confirmed to me that yes, I was being emotionally abused.

    I got about half way in and had to put it down and I’ve never gone back to it. It beat me up as badly as the abuser husband did.

    The way I read it at that time was that I had never set proper boundaries so therefore my being abused was a consequence of that failure on my part.

    I never went on to buy the one about marriage in particular. I was afraid to. With good reason, after reading all these comments on some of the ideas Cloud seems to espouse.

    What I am finding so hard to understand is how so many Christians are so blind to the idea that abuse changes EVERYTHING. When everything in a marriage has been turned upside down and twisted by abuse, normal rules, helps, advice, etc. just does not apply and only makes things worse.

    When I forget that myself and apply to my spouse for change in the way I think people in a healthy marriage would, it always backfires and I end up feeling more confused and hurt than before. But I DO understand that abuse changes it all. I just let my wishful thinking that he was the man I believed him to be get in the way sometimes.

    But a lot of author “experts” you would expect to know better don’t seem to.

    • Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

      Yes, I also read it that I hadn’t put up proper boundaries and I needed to work on that. That felt unsettling. Later I figured out why. I do put up boundaries, and had, and they worked with many people. The issue is that the ONLY boundary that works with my ex is no contact. ( well, extremely limited contact as I still have one child under 18) But I have had to get protection orders, apps to block phone calls and text and only respond to cc’d emails. These kind of boundaries would not work in a marriage.

  19. rrprewett

    Other than denial, there are only a couple of options. You can beat him up for his imperfections, or you can love him out of them. The Bible says, ‘Love covers over a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8). Nothing in a relationship has to permanently destroy that relationship if forgiveness is in the picture.

    This applies, in my opinion, to garden variety “imperfections” and sins only. He overspends at times. She gets grouchy. He leaves the toilet seat up. She yells when she’s angry. He sulks and withdraws. She doesn’t keep house up to his standards. He spends too much time playing computer games. She spends too much time doing crafts. He gossips. She gossips. That sort of stuff. Nagging and “beating people up” for these things won’t help. Love and open communication can do wonders — I’m sure we could all think of examples.

    But what about an unrepentant adulterous spouse? Are we so arrogant to think that we are powerful enough to love someone out of such sin — when our love couldn’t prevent it in the first place? Talk about blaming the wrong spouse! The only one who can love themselves out of this situation is the cheating spouse, if he/she repents and begins truly loving the innocent spouse.

    I was talking to a friend the other day who had offended his wife in a relatively minor way. But to her it was not minor at all. As a result, she did not speak to him for several days. Finally he asked her when she might forgive him. ‘Will it be before next month? Before Christmas? Just let me know so I can get ready.’ She finally broke and started laughing, and things were fine again. She saw how unnecessary her ‘hardness of heart’ was to the offense.

    This is a cute little story if the wife realized she was overreacting, which is what it sounds like from her response of laughter. But this story is not helpful for offending spouses who minimize their very real sins and accuse their spouses of overreacting. It’s not at all funny is an adulterous spouse is insisting, “It was no big deal! It only happened a couple times!” and then demanded, “When will you forgive me already? Will it be before next month? Before Christmas? Just let me know so I can get ready.”

    The sinner / offender is never a good judge of how hurtful his/her actions were. One of the best ways we can deal with an “overly sensitive” spouse is with more sensitivity, compassion, and love — not less.

    Maybe the wife giving her husband the silent treatment should have been encouraged to let her husband know exactly how his actions made her feel, and he should have been encouraged to respond with love, and humbly apologize…making it far easier for her to accept his apology.

  20. rrprewett

    One more thing:

    Nothing in a relationship has to permanently destroy that relationship if forgiveness is in the picture.

    Unrepentant adultery destroys a marriage no matter how forgiving the innocent spouse might be. Same with ongoing abuse, serious addictions, etc.

    This “devotional” seems hopelessly naive, as if those who put it together have no idea of the serious, destructive nature of sin.

  21. Barnabasintraining

    There are some good comments on the ACFJ Facebook post. Someone said she emailed Cloud about this because she has heard him affirm divorce for abuse on the radio. I know I heard him once affirm remarriage after divorce too. I forget what the context was or what he said about divorce per se, but that part I do remember.

    I hope she hears back because I would love to know what he has to say about this.

    • joepote01

      BIT –

      Oh, good! I’m glad someone is contacting Cloud, directly. Since neither the web post nor the Sunday School notes authorship are attributed directly to Cloud or Townsend, and since several people have mentioned that these contradict what Cloud and Townsend have previously said, I can’t help wondering if they are even aware of what others have stated while referencing their books?

      • Melody

        That concerns me too. I am not of the impression that they would support staying with an abuser from other things I’ve read by them. This is one thing Cloud has said out of many things and I see some development in their thinking along the way. Haven’t read Beyond Boundaries but it might reflect that. Hmmm.

    • For those who want it, here is the permalink to our post about this on Facebook:

  22. Debbie

    This devotional is taken out of the context of the whole of Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s teaching. Cloud and Townsend teach equality in marriage and do not advocate sticking with someone who is abusive. The central theme of Cloud and Townsend’s work is saying no to abuse (boundary violations). How a boundary violator responds is not within the realm of responsibility of the violated. If they choose not to repent, that’s their problem. You have no obligation at that point to make it work. You are not the one choosing divorce. They are.

    Learning boundaries from Cloud and Townsend was the very thing that set me free from abuse. I have used their book to assist other people in abusive marriages. I had a Christian counselor tell me that Cloud and Townsend’s book Boundaries is unbiblical because people end up divorced. Well yes they do, but an abused person is not the one responsible for that divorce. It is the unrepentant boundary violator who has made that decision.

    • Not Too Late

      If I remember correctly, the advice regarding divorce went this way: If you set boundaries and they resist, they will choose to divorce. You are not responsible, they are.

      But what if they resist and do NOT divorce, but choose to keep on blasting your boundaries with their cannon fire because they like it? That was the problem I had with their position on divorce, that divorce may be inevitable, but the abuser has to initiate it, and if they don’t, your options are limited.

  23. Debbie

    According to the whole of Cloud and Townsend’s work, the above scenario would be dependent on an equal marriage where both partners are willing to work at it.

  24. Freed by God

    I agree that this is ridiculous advice but I did watch a video in which cloud is addressing business leaders about three types of people (as revealed in a proverbs) and I felt like it was very applicable to abusers. He talked about the wise man, the fool and the evil man and how evil men are destroyers; they may serve on the Boards of Christian organizations but if they can’t have their way (power) they will destroy the organization. This particular teaching seemed ear applicable to abused spouses.

    • Yes, I’ve watched Cloud’s teaching on the wise man, the fool and the evil man, and like you, I thought it was pretty good.

      One wonders how on earth he wrote the garbage in this ‘devotional’. Maybe some ghost writer wrote it …. sigh.

  25. a prodigal daughter returns

    This is the website where one can sign up for any number of devotionals. A number of them are about relationships. BibleGateway – Devotionals

    Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend features excerpts taken directly from their books at least according to the fine print below the Devotional above sent out in masse May 29, 2015. Whether they are doing it themselves or Zondervan is doing it, the material is credited to them. Whether they picked the title or Bible Gateway did, the devotional is still attributed to them.

    My concern with it and what got my attention was the title “God can heal ANY marriage”. No one is suggesting that Cloud and Townsend don’t support and encourage divorce or call evil for what it is in their ministry. However to send this out to 100s of thousands of people without that caveat borders on malpractice. At the bottom of that devotional this would have been appropriate “Caution, living with a batter is hazardous to your health and has resulted in death, dismemberment, health problems in primary and second hand exposure. Do not attempt these methods at home with a batterer.”

    My issue with them is the “any”. That one word is a world of hurt and bondage for eager-to-please battered spouses that think if they are just more subservient they are going to be among the “any”.

    I see a two-fold problem with the word “any” —

    1) Those that have troubling non-abusive marriages might find help here and think to themselves If I can fix my marriage “any” one else can you just have to try hard enough. I’ve gotten plenty of condemnation and the left foot of fellowship from those that saved their own marriages by being a better Christian. (it’s legalism, basically)

    2) Those that live in abusive marriages as many contributors mentioned here are in a non-relationship with someone whose vested interest is maintaining control and abuse; this kind of message gives them a set of handcuffs with which to chain the good intentioned spouse for another decade of trying.

    • Barnabasintraining

      However to send this out to 100s of thousands of people without that caveat borders on malpractice.

      Oh, I think it goes beyond borders on. It has every appearance of a gross misrepresentation of a man, making it look like he holds something he does not hold. In short, bearing false witness. Also, an attempt to use appeal to authority, which is already a logical fallacy, to promote a view said authority does not even agree with.

      The questions are: what, in fact, does Henry Cloud believe regarding divorce for abuse; and if he holds it to be biblical, does the person who used Cloud’s material in this way know it does not rightly represent him?

      I do think, this thing being done, that Cloud now has a responsibility to address it, both for his own reputation and for those who trust his counsel; or else allow that this really is his view.

    • debby

      The “any” seems to indicate that since God is God and CAN do ANYTHING, then if you don’t stay with your abuser, you are not “believing” God can “save your marriage.” That is ridiculous. God CAN do anything but every day, millions of people make their own decisions to behave the way THEY choose and God allows them the freedom to do that, and to suffer the consequences, one of those being the permanent loss of fellowship with your spouse (aka, divorce). Again, the “any” puts the responsibility on the victim since the victim is the only one interested in there being any change!

  26. I just sent a message to Contact Us [Internet Archive link] alerting them to this post and our parallel FB post. I asked them to reply to both Jeff and me.

    I asked if Dr Cloud had approved the “Any” in the title of their post.

    And I told them we were very concerned that Dr Cloud has written something that seems to much cast aside the situation of victims of domestic abuse.

  27. I also went to Henry Cloud’s FB page and wrote this [What Barb wrote (below) has been slightly updated to reflect the ACFJ change from .com to .blog, as well as to Internet Archive the link to Henry Cloud’s post to ensure the link is less likely to get broken. Editors.]:

    Henry, could you please read our concerns about your article ‘How To Heal Any Marriage?’ We are very concerned about the word ANY in the title of your post, and we also have a number of other concerns as well.

    Here is our post at A Cry For Justice: https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2015/06/08/how-to-heal-any-marriage-really-henry-cloud-really/

    Note: your post is at How to Heal Any Marriage [Internet Archive link]

    • Suzanne

      I hope that Dr. Cloud replies soon. His books have been a great help to me in the past, especially “The Secret Things of God”. That book helped me to find my way out of the fog of abuse I’d been living in for most of my life.

  28. Tricia

    BibleGateway took this from a blog post from the website boundariesbooks.com It was posted by the boundariesbooks team not by Henry Cloud. This post was taken from Chapter 10 in the boundaries book which is NOT title “How to heal any marriage.” Here is the link to the chapter as it appears on Googlebooks

    The chapter addresses at the end someone who is in a marriage with someone who is abusing alcohol. It is a bummer that bible gateway took this post and posted it. It is also a bummer that the boundariesbooks.com website posted just that small section and then gave it that title. I am not even sure that Henry Cloud and John Townsend approve those posts? I messaged that website to ask who posted that original blogpost. I think that they post on Newlife.com

    • Thanks for this, Tricia.

      I looked at it on Googlebooks. Henry Cloud’s example of the husband and wife (David and Kate) and his account of how he (Cloud) counselled David, may be accurate, I don’t know. But it sounded to me like it didn’t have the typical the elements of an abusive marriage, OR, more likely, Henry Cloud was misrepresenting some of the dynamics.

      Cloud includes this in his account of his work with David when Kate had kicked David out because of his behavior:

      Kate and David had hit a tough time in their marriage. She had finally decided that she had had enough of his treatment of her. He would vacillate between emotional withdrawal and angry outbursts. Also, he was drinking more and more. Finally, after David had had a few too many beers and caused a big blow up, she kicked him out of the house. She told him that he could come back when he faced his problems.
      [… David plays round with counseling and pretends to work at it, but only because he wants to get Kate to let him back. Cloud sees thru this and challenges Dave to get serious. Dave gets depressed. Dave then starts to really work on his issues…]

      Gradually, I began to see David change. He was no longer driven to change because of Kate’s demands. … Holiness began to have a diffferent value for him besides ‘getting back into the house’. David was getting free from Kate’s control because he was changing for himself and not for her. He was getting holy for holiness’ sake, not as a result of being pushed into it from the outside or of trying to get her back.

      WHAAAT? Cloud has deftly insinuated that Kate was ‘controlling, demanding and pushy’ towards David!

      What a put down of a woman who had reasonably set boundaries against her misbehaving husband. Kate set boundaries against David because she was quite reasonably not willing to put up with his bad behaviour towards her. . . in this she did something which Cloud presumably thinks is a good thing, but Cloud dumps on her by insinutating that she was ‘controlling demanding and pushy’ towards David when she set and maintainted those boundaries.

      You can’t win in that system. It’s a Catch 22.

      After having read this, nothing will convince me that Henry Cloud understands domestic abuse adequately. I would like to him defend himself here. I believe his description of Kate betrays him has having a not very well hidden attitude of misogyny.

      • Now I’m all riled up and I have to get to sleep! It’s nearly 1 am here.
        Never mind. I’ll manage to sleep eventually. 🙂

      • Barnabasintraining

        David was getting free from Kate’s control because he was changing for himself and not for her.

        Kate’s control???


        I thought setting boundaries like this is what Cloud wants people to do? How did that become control????

      • Not Too Late

        Strangely, I don’t read it that way. It comes across to me like Henry Cloud was not referring to Kate being controlling, but that Dave was eventually “getting free from Kate’s control” because he was no longer being dictated by something outside his control, that is, her. He was initially changing his behaviors only because she insisted on it (that is, demanded it). He felt pushed from the outside because his push didn’t come from within. I don’t see that as insinuating that she was being pushy, only that her requirements of him caused the “push”, which was not enough to sustain true change.

        Then again, perhaps he could have worded it more sensitively.

      • I think it’s interesting and healthy for us to discuss our different viewpoints on Cloud’s wording here. I don’t have time to make a more considered answer yet, but I just want to affirm NTL and Dawn Rising for expressing your viewpoints. We can always agree to differ on small points like this, if that’s how it ends up. But maybe by discussing it and chewing it over, we may all learn more. 🙂

        Blessings to all

      • Dawn Rising

        That’s how I read it, Not Too Late. Changing for someone else is other control, changing because you see where you are in the wrong and because God’s way is right is self control.

      • Innoscent

        I hope you managed to get some sleep Barbara… 😉
        The end of that quote:

        Holiness began to have a different value for him besides ‘getting back into the house..” .. “He was getting holy for holiness’ sake, not as a result of being pushed into it from the outside or of trying to get her back.

        Wow, look at who is the hero here..! The ungodly man, yep! And the wife.. oh she may have actually delayed all of this total transformation in her husband. O dear… Sickening. When Cloud should be praising the wife for having the courage and true love to set up healthy and redeeming boundaries, rather she is being blamed. The true victim has become the villain and the wicked husband comes out a hero making it through in spite of his wife’s hindrance.

        And you would think that the husband would pull through because he also loves his wife..! No, it’s still about the husband, and the husband again, doing it all for himself, hey!

      • To me, the biggest problem is Cloud’s choice of words here:

        David was getting free from Kate’s control because he was changing for himself and not for her.

        Why say “Kate’s control?” Why not say “Kate’s boundaries” or “the consequences Kate had wisely given Dave because he refused to heed her call for him to mature and to desist from his pattern of sinning against her.”

        The word ‘control’ is a key word in the definition of domestic abuse:— a pattern of power and control.

        I believe that by calling it “Kate’s control”, Henry Cloud has bought into and endorsed the violence-supporting narrative of men who abuse women. David in his own mind, while he was still resisting taking responsibilty, would have been mentally thinking of Kate’s boundaries as ‘Kate controlling him”. That is a violence-supporting narrative.

        Abusive men use violence-supporting narratives to blame-shift and to fight to maintain their privileges without having to merit those privileges.

        When David started to geniunely change (?? really Henry Cloud? are you sure you didn’t make this up just for the book? are you sure you weren’t just conned by David’s doing a temporary reformation?) —- when David started to change, Cloud buys into the violence-supporting narrative that David, in his only marginally changed mindset, would have used about his transition. Let me spell this out.

        Here is what I surmise happened (if indeed this story is genuine):

        David resisted Kate’s calls for him to mature and take responsiblity.
        Kate set boundaries.
        David flagrantally disregarded Kate’s boundaries.
        Kate justly delivered a logical consequence to David, by kicking him out.
        Dave saw Kate as ‘controlling him’ for having set up boundaries and kicked him out.
        David goes to counselling and pretends to be working on his issues but it’s just manipulation and fakery.
        Counselor sees thru the Dave’s initial fakery and calls Dave out on it.
        Dave gets depressed. His pseudo-repentance antics are not working.
        Dave then decideds to really start taking working on his issues with the counselor.
        But because Dave’s abuser mindset is still not changed at the foundation, he hasn’t stopped thinking of Kate as “controlling him”.
        Counselor does not challenge Dave on this violence-supporting narrative.
        Instead, counselor unquestioningly accepts Dave’s violence-supporting narrative, and endorses it by repeating it in his book by writing: “Dave was gettting free from Kate’s control and changing for himself not for her.”

        What I believe an ideal counselor should have said was: “Dave was recognising that Kate’s boundaries and consequences were fully justified because he’d been a treating her appallingly. Dave decided to change because what Kate and the counselor had been telling him was right: he HAD given himself over to ungodliness, laziness and corruption of character and conduct; he’d sinned against God and Kate and he needed to stop his sinful ways and do a complete turn around. Dave became motivated to change because he had realised how detestable and shameful his sins were.”

      • Dawn Rising

        I can see that, Barbara. Your wording leaves absolutely no chance for a victim to feel condemnation and places the blame squarely on the abuser, where it belongs.

  29. IamMyBeloved's

    These words from Cloud and Townsend make me feel like we have made no progress at all and reminds me of when I first started coming out of the abuse and how terrifying words like these were to me and my children.

    Here we go again, with this mentality, that marriage is about hurting each other and never learning how not to. Just put up with all the sinful behavior, because Christ never really makes any difference in anyone’s life. We just use Him as fire insurance.

    So disheartening.

  30. Rebecca

    Thanks for sharing this. I wanted to ask, does ACFJ ever refer people to counselors in their area? Thanks for any help.

    • Rebecca, sorry, no we don’t generally do that. The only things we could recommend are:
      a) ask your local domestic violence women’s service for their recommendations, as they tend to have a sense of who is good in the local area, because they hear feedback from their clients. They may even know which counselors are most appreciated by Christian clients
      b) if you are in North Carolina you could contact Catherine DeLoach Lewis who we have interviewed on this blog (see here)
      c) check out our post Finding a Good Counselor and Avoiding the Bad Ones

      • Rebecca

        Thank you for your reply.

  31. Disguising My Identity

    So, I realize that in-law issues aren’t the specific focus of this blog, but the following quote struck me as odd, even symptomatic of an overall assumption that NO-ONE you are intimately known to has ill intent. The bad guys? Like those wolves in sheep’s clothing you keep reading about? They are all somewhere else. You don’t know any, and they certainly aren’t family members!

    …how to safeguard marriage from… well-meaning parents.

    All intrusive parents are well-meaning? Boundaries only work against the well-meaning ones, not the ones who actually intend harm? What about the ones who claim they are well-meaning but their actions are nothing sort of sabotage? I have witnessed parents who would like nothing more than for a healthy marriage to fail. And vice versa, ones who refuse to believe that divorce is an option at all (“you made your bed now lay in it, and let me gloat” philosophy).

    My mother would claim that she is well-meaning. However, she tries to pit her children and their spouses against each other by going between the two and misrepresenting or flat out lying about what one of them wants in order to manipulate circumstances to her taste. Then she would claim “miscommunication” when caught. She does this to all her married children and even tries to do it between the siblings. There was a time when she had us all angry with each other. Now that we all recognize the pattern, she doesn’t successfully pull it off anymore, but it takes serious work and communication to combat her strategies. So instead, she pouts and complains about how none of us treat her very well. The only person she is well-meaning towards is herself.

    • …symptomatic of an overall assumption that NO-ONE you are intimately known to has ill intent.

      I have seen that assumption being made in psychiatric services as well. Some psychiatric services have the default view that it’s alway right to try to involve the mentally ill client’s family members in the care of the client. This is only a good assumption if the family members have good will towards their mentally ill relative. And from my small observation of the mental health system, many practitioners there are blind to domestic abuse and family violence, so they don’t necessarily realise that when they are involving the extended family in the delivery of care, they are involving people who are severely character disordered (e.g. sociopathic or covert aggressive).

      • a prodigal daughter returns

        Thank you for sharing this Barbara. Aside from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can which is a false assumption and enabling of evil, mental health is not without flaws. The mental health profession like any other has people in it that batter their spouses. If they are truly devious they also know how to use the system to cover up their violence and prey on vulnerable people. They can hide their own absolutely wrecked lives behind a shingle and bring great harm. Imagine getting counsel from a therapist about domestic violence that is engaged in it himself. It happens, be very careful, this is a profession that can misdiagnose, and do terrible life long harm in doing so. They can also side with the batterer and have your children taken away because your trauma was diagnosed as a mental illness. I’ve heard of many such cases.

      • KayE

        Not only psychiatric services. It’s usually the default view of doctors that family members have goodwill towards a patient.They’ll be open to changing that view if they get other information, but it is the default assumption. If that patient is you, and medical staff are relying on verbal or non-verbal information from your abusive next of kin, you could be in real danger.
        I once had an acute and potentially life threatening medical illness where the medical staff relied on my ex’s lack of concern to decide that the situation wasn’t serious at all. Thanks to the paramedics who got called later I’m still alive. It was a completely terrifying and life altering experience though, to know your life itself is in the power of someone who doesn’t care.
        I really don’t know what the answer to this is.

    • Suzanne

      There was a time when she had us all angry with each other. Now that we all recognize the pattern, she doesn’t successfully pull it off anymore, but it takes serious work and communication to combat her strategies.

      I hope you know how fortunate you are. I have tried to speak to my siblings about this very pattern of abuse but no one else “gets it” and so the situation remains. Of course it’s very damaging to family relationships but still she is excused her bad behavior (she’s old, she can’t change, many women her age do this, etc.). No on else is willing to admit to the pain she causes or do anything about it.

  32. a prodigal daughter returns

    Perhaps it is just me, but the June 5 post by Townsend [Correction from admins: the post is by Henry Cloud, not John Townsend] on his Facebook page made me weary.

    [here is the post on Henry Cloud’s FB page —
    https://www.facebook.com/DrHenryCloud/posts/10153400984044571?fref=nf ]

    I’m not sure what he meant “perhaps you have one of those kind of marriages” and then speaks of all sorts of gymnastics to fix it. He ends the long depressing list of how to fix the marriage with this advice in italics below. Oh and if you get re-injured it is your own bad boundaries, the guilt is yours…..

    …fourth, if the traits are so strong that they are not able to see them or own them, go to counseling together with someone who knows how to deal with someone like this. In these situations a skilled third party is essential, as they are not part of the back and forth dynamic in the person’s head, who sees you as the problem. The third party can metabolize it, help them to see it, and help you establish the non-reactive boundaries that you need in order to not be further injured and also to give the relationship the best chance. You have to have the boundaries necessary to not continue to get re-injured yourself.

    • The third party [the counselor who he suggests you and your abuser see TOGETHER, dangerous advice!] can metabolize it [huh? what’s that mean? is he coining a term because he’s such a superior therapist who has to show he’s better than the rest of us?], help them to see it [not likely with many therapists: they just get snowed by the abuser], and help you establish the non-reactive boundaries that you need in order to not be further injured and also to give the relationship the best chance. You have to have the boundaries necessary to not continue to get re-injured yourself.

      Henry Cloud needs to know that this is victim-blaming and patronizing language. Apart from all the other things I pointed it, Cloud has
      a) issued an order to the victim: “you have to have…”
      b) used a reflexive passive construction: “… the boundaries necessary to not continue to get re-injured yourself”. This suggests that the victim herself is responsible for getting re-injured, and the passive voice makes the abuser invisible. He is evacuated from the scene; his agency and choice to actively injure the victim is completely hidden.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yeah. “Together.” I can’t even believe he would give such advice. I guess what I’m having the hardest time believing is for being as passionate as he always says he is and was about psychology and helping people, how is it he could get this so incredibly wrong? Has he never heard of Lundy Bancroft? Or is he somehow unaware of the issues of abuse, and by issues I mean relational and psychological: the issues that should be his main purview? Or has he formed a Boundaries Bubble around himself so he simply cannot see things in any other way? “The solution is Boundaries!! Boundaries fix everything!” They do not fix evil. Especially when for all the talk of boundaries you are not even allowed (yes, I said allowed) to erect them against evil abusers because, as per ever, what we are really trying to do here is fix the relationship. This is not even Biblical and a good read through the Bible makes that abundantly clear in short order. You don’t even have to get out of Genesis 3 where as soon as the fall happens all sorts of boundaries because of and against evil are set in place.

        I am aghast that he does not see how he violates the tenets of the very concept that has made him famous in that simple word “together.” Does he really not know what happens in such a counseling situation? Is he really that naive about the manipulations abusers use? Or the danger the victim is put in? Or how she (or he) is ipso facto silenced simply by the abuser’s presence? She “has to” go to counseling together, but she also “has to” have boundaries in place? Oh good grief!

      • HeLives

        He also says, “…help you establish the non-reactive boundaries you need…”. This is implying that all abuse victims have some sort of reactive boundaries (yelling back? loosing control? What?) and haven’t learned to calmly, strongly establish boundaries.

        Well, I have news for him. Some of us learned a great deal of self-control with our abusers. We calmly kept the family on an even keel because we couldn’t rely on our insane spouse…we were NOT “co dependent” or “placaters” but we walked with God in the midst of very hard circumstances. We don’t need help setting up “non reactive boundaries”!!!

      • Yes!

    • Furthermore, this:

      You have to have the boundaries necessary to not continue to get re-injured yourself.

      ignores the fact that the systems of society often make if extremely hard if not impossible for victims to impose and maintain the boundaries she would need to keep herself and her children entirely safe from an abuser.

      Case in point: the Family Courts often award visitation or custody to the abusers, thus actively PREVENTING the protective parent from keeping herself and the children entirely safe from the abuser’s malignant tactics.
      Another case in point: the church often tells victims to reconcile with abusers who are only showing the most wafer-thin reformation, and then they discipline the victims who resist their instructions.

      Dr Cloud needs to stop blaming victims and start laying the blame where it belongs: on the abusers and on the systems of society which tacitly condone and enable their abuse.

      • Anon

        This type of advice is addressing issues at a micro-level without taking into account the fact that individuals don’t live in a vacuum. Family, social and other macro-level contexts have to be taken into account if we are to understand the dynamics of abuse and be of any help.

        While the church’s understanding of abuse at the individual level is gradually increasing, it still has a long way to go to understand the impact of being victimized by your spouse while having active membership in the church. The secular services are now focussing on the contribution of societal attitudes toward the development of abuse-endorsing beliefs and behaviors, but they, too, have little idea of the contribution of the church. And both groups do not fully appreciate the role of the Family Court in keeping abused mothers exposed to abuse.

      • Agreed. And why do so few people appreciate the role of the Family Court in keeping abused mothers exposed to abuse? Because journalists are not allowed to report on Family Court cases. They can report on changes in policy and legislation that affects the Family Courts, but (as least in Australia, and I guess elsewhere too) they cannot write articles which report on individual cases in the Family Court. So they can’t put the human face on it. Hence, most people have no idea how much the Family Courts are compounding (or alleviating) the problems of domestic abuse and child abuse.

        However, I don’t want to give our readers the impression that the Family Courts always get it wrong. Sometimes they get it right and (at least to some extent) help the abused be protected from the abuser’s reach.

      • NoMoreTears

        I did not have boundaries in my life until I finally got a divorce … it took me years of tears!

    • KayE

      That Facebook post makes me very angry. It all sounds so “good advice”. But those are exactly the kind of arguments my abuser successfully used to persuade people he was the real victim and that I was not telling the truth. Therefore my desperate cries for help were not heard, especially not by Christians. It’s not good advice, it’s dangerous.

    • Tsungilosdi

      Hah! The third paragraph would just open you up to blaming. If I shared all of these things, he would say that I am too sensitive and then because I dared to say that he actually was capable of hurting me, would then give me the silent treatment for saying that and would maybe make a PA comment or two just to stick it to me. He did something like this recently after “apologizing” for hurting my feelings.

  33. I just posted three comments at Henry Cloud’s facebook page (link [ACFJ links in Barb’s comments (below) still reflect the old .com URL and are unable to be updated to reflect the .blog URL. Editors.])

  34. Gary W

    How is it that a man who has taught us about boundaries does not appear to see that where there is no longer a marriage to save the only appropriate and effective boundary is one that totally separates the predator from his victim? Were a wolf to make its way into the sheep fold, would the shepherd require the lamb to lie quietly while the wolf devours, thinking maybe that this would make the wolf a gentle and kind companion of the lamb? Of course not. The shepherd would drive the wolf away.

    In Jesus’ day the shepherd would give his life for the sheep in the face of danger, but the hired hand would run away. Today, however, those who think of themselves as shepherds abandon the sheep while the hired hand will give his or her all. Trouble is, not everybody can afford a good lawyer.

    • B.I.N.G.O.

      once again Gary W, you’ve hit a home run! 🙂 bless you brother

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Gary, you said, “Were a wolf to make its way into the sheep fold, would the shepherd require the lamb to lie quietly while the wolf devours, thinking maybe that this would make the wolf a gentle and kind companion of the lamb? Of course not. The shepherd would drive the wolf away.”

      But that is exactly what happens to a lot of victims of abuse when they go to their “shepherds” (ie pastors / elders) and ask for help with the abuse. Exactly. They are told to just wait it out, be patient, keep loving and forgiving, remember they are sinners too, examine how they are causing the abuser to abuse them, etc., etc.

      So in fact, this is the true way to know with absolute certainty, when we are dealing with no shepherd at all, and that the pastor / elder in fact, is a wolf himself. Any shepherd of the flock of Christ, who would tell a woman to just be kind and gentle to her wolf abuser while he devours and destroys her and / or her children, has to be a wolf himself.

      I have believed this for a long, long time. The true shepherd of God’s flock, will ALWAYS defend and protect the sheep.

    • NoMoreTears

      Again, Gary, you bring such insight to this blog … I am astonished. I cannot help but wonder where do men like you exist … ? What a delight it would be to discuss a topic with you!

      • Gary W


        You ask where do men like me exist. First let me protest that it is much easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. That said, there really are men (and women) out there who get it. Many of them are found in the legal profession, including the judiciary. Just yesterday I was privileged to attend a two hour teaching by a nationally recognized Judge on the topic of domestic violence. This Judge gets it every bit as much as our blog sponsors. I would say that probably every lawyer and judge who was in attendance at this particular presentation gets it.

        Of course, not every lawyer, or even judge, is similarly enlightened, and even the abusers are entitled to legal representation. Still, we can be encouraged that there is at least an attempt being made within the legal system to address the age-old problem of spousal abuse. Would that evangelical culture were as far along as the secular political and legal culture.

      • echoing your observations Gary —

        I was at a DV forum in Melbourne the other day. It was John Faine’s radio program, being delivered live from Queens Hall, Parliament House, Melbourne, the seat of the State Govt of Victoria. It was in that venue at the invitation of the Victorian Govt’s Minister for Family Violence, Fiona Richardson, who is survivor of domestic abuse in that her father abused her mother and during her childhood Fiona and her mum and siblings had to go to a refuge (women’s shelter) twice. Fiona has stated that publicly so I am not breaking any confidences.

        There was a Californian judge in the audience, who spoke during the question/answer time at the end of the forum. I was really impressed at how much he “Got It” about domestic violence, and he made some excellent comments about how the secular courts can better deal with domestic abuse.

        One of the things he said is that it really helps to have dedicated Domestic Violence Courts, but it’s vital for the judges and court personel in those courts to a) have proper training in DV, and b) be each of them WILLING to work in the DV dedicated court setting. He said that if the judge or court staff don’t want to work in those courts, they shouldn’t be there.

      • The California judge was in Australia just visiting. 🙂

  35. marriedtomyself

    I read this book. I tried to love my spouse out of the abuse like it said, it didn’t work, he only got worse. We are now separated and I plan on filing for divorce.

    • NoMoreTears

      I told my ex-husband once that he should have married himself. I had to be a mirror image of himself to suit him. To mirror his own image would probably have disgusted him.

      • Starlight

        I used to say the same thing to my ex husband. If I have to be a clone of you, then one of us is not necessary in this house!!

      • silentnomore

        Wow! That’s exactly what I told my husband the other night, along with a lot of other stuff.

        He got drunk the next day while he was watching our youngest child. I guess he was punishing me for calling him out on some stuff.

  36. Barnabasintraining

    Has anyone heard anything from Dr. Cloud?

    • I have not heard from Henry Cloud at all, nor from anyone at Boundaries [Internet Archive link] which produced the devotion.

      I just went to Henry Cloud’s FB post again — this one where I wrote three comments. https://www.facebook.com/DrHenryCloud/posts/10153400984044571?fref=nf
      My three comments are still there, and there are a couple of comments below mine from ACFJ supporters, but nothing at all from Henry Cloud.

      And I’ve received no email or private message on FB from either Cloud or Boundaries [Internet Archive link] organisation.

      In fairness, I want to add that when I submitted an email at Contact Us [Internet Archive link], it did say, after I submitted my message, that they do not have time to read and reply to all messages they receive.

      • a prodigal daughter returns

        You represent thousands that need an answer. Throwing out that statement any marriage can be saved has such terrible ramifications for exploited women. Apparently no accountability is required if you are big enough. Pastors at megachurches that have bodyguards lest one of the little people break through the receiving line are trampling on sheep. I appreciate your courage in inquiring. I will write off Boundaries now as just more hucksterism.

  37. Sunflower

    Well for me, the Boundaries book was a huge breakthrough. It didn’t fix the marriage of course, but it sure opened my eyes that I could actually speak up for myself. I had to read it over and over before it sunk in that I didn’t need to accept being treated that way. And as far as the ‘devotional’ above, I’m thinking that someone else wrote the title. It is true that hardness of heart is the reason for divorce. Often it is we that take these things wrong. Like with the movie, ‘Fireproof’, these messages are meant for the abusive one, but we targets are so easily guilted that we think maybe it’s we that are in the wrong and so we use the advice that is not even meant for us.

    • Sunflower, I know that some victims of abuse have found the Boundaries book immensely helpful, so you are not alone there.

      When one has been dying of thirst in a desert, even a few drops of water are felt to be an amazing blessing!

      Not that the Boundaries book is only ‘a few drops’ necessarily; it very much depends on how much or how little the reader understands and uses boundary-setting already, does it not? And how much or how little the reader has previously been brainwashed to believe that she (or he) has no right to set boundaries at all.

      I agree with you that it seems likely that someone other than Henry Cloud wrote the title to the devotion. However, I still think that Cloud, as the cited author of the devotion, bears some responsiblity for letting that title go out with his name attached to it.

      Hardness of heart as the reason for divorce — have you read my book? I have a detailed analysis of that passage in Deut 24 and what what Jesus meant when he cited that passage in his debate with the Pharisees. It’s too complex to go into here.

      With movies like Fireproof, I have heard of many cases where a victim of abuse was told by well-meaning Christians to apply the principles in Fireproof to her marriage, so I don’t think it’s just victims in their own heads, because they default to self-blame and guilt — applying Fireproof-like advice to themselves. It’s also Christians who lay it on victims.

      The problem is that so many Christians assume that if a marriage is in difficulties, both parties are at fault and either or both parties can do something to fix it, so they give advice to the spouse who is most easy to talk to and most easy to influence. . . which (if the marriage is abusive) is usually the victim.

      • Lost

        Yes everyone has a list of things and responsibilities for me to do. Not him. I bear all of the weight. I bear the slander and accusations and dirty looks. I bear the effects of gossip and lies. And yet I’m the responsible one so I pay the punishment and do all the work. He’s free of the weight. Free from responsibility. They speak FOR him even. Get her to do the work and take responsibility for this and that- she’ll do it- she’s logical. There are things I won’t do and I’ll be criticized terribly for this. I’ll be judged for this. I’ll be reprimanded for this. And when I stop talking to these people – they’ll accuse me of cutting them off as if been cruel to them. Yet all they give me are “shoulds” and wisdomless words and no truth. All this with an “I love you” at the end of it.

        It’s no wonder I’ve been so hurt lately. I want to be redeemed. My name to be cleared. The truth to be told. It never will with these people. They will always think they know better yet they refuse to even see or hear the evil that’s occurring. It’s as if this all isn’t even possible to them.

  38. Charis

    I have read 4 of Cloud / Townsend’s books: “Boundaries”, “Boundaries for Kids”, “Boundaries for Marriage”, and “Face to Face: How to have the Difficult Conversation.”

    Two of these books (and 2 only) were recommended by my counselor: “Boundaries” and “Face to Face.” I chose to read “Boundaries for Kids” because as it is meant to apply to kids, the examples of how to define boundaries were much clearer and simpler, more concrete. This helped me in the early stages of identifying WHAT was a boundary and HOW to establish one – both with my h and moving forward in parenting my preschooler.

    I will say this. There is very little new or raw material between their books and when I run into that with ANY author, their credibility begins to decrease in my estimation. Just my 2 cents. While reading these four books I noticed that roughly 60% or 70% of the material between all the books was cut / copy / paste. Word for word. While this makes for a good refresher (and churns out skyrocketing book sales: hey, a NEW title!) it gets very old very quickly and loses any possibility of momentum or novelty that what Cloud / Townsend have stumbled upon is truly well-researched or actually CAN be applied across such a diverse spectrum with as great ease as they claim.

    Case in point, you ask? “Five Love Languages.” While it may be an algorithm that works for some people / relationships / marriages. I grew to loathe it. My h used and misused and manipulated Chapman’s work for years. I wrung myself dry trying every language while none seemed to “fit” me. Huh. Then, Chapman’s litany of books began to be published. Next in line beside “Five Love Languages” came “Love Languages for Kids” then one for “Singles”, “Teenagers”, “Men”…and now: “Five Love Languages in the Workplace.” BAH! I dismiss them all. I may be wrong to do so. It is my choice. I simply do not believe ONE premise will hold for ALL. It’s too much weight to ask the full spectrum to bear. And I am suspicious.

    I would not at all be surprised to learn that the devotional work released is NOT of the doing of Cloud / Townsend and is, instead, the work of a marketing department. I have seen similar from other “authors” whose emails / devotionals looked like direct quotes from their materials stitched to fit a theme of the day. It whets the appetite for book sales and it falls flat, in my opinion. Often what happens is that quotes are taken out of context, over several pages and from multiple books. The patchwork looks better (or in this case worse) than the original and is rarely a true representation of the author. It is unfortunate all way round.

    One final thought, for those who wonder, perhaps why Bancroft’s work wasn’t referenced in Cloud / Townsend’s material. The original print of “Boundaries in Marriage” was released in 1999 with the most recent reprint in 2002. Lundy Bancroft published “Why Does He Do That?” in 2003 – after the release of most “Boundaries” books, regardless of flavor.

    For what it’s worth, I found both “Boundaries” and “Boundaries with Kids” to be very helpful to me personally. I especially liked their thoughts / breakdown on Forgiveness, Trust, and Reconciliation. I will need to re-read “Face to Face;” I recall it being insightful. I discarded “Boundaries in Marriage” long ago as it simply was not helpful in my situation and so much a repeat of their other material. I have heard good things about “Necessary Endings” and “Safe People.” For now, however, I have too many other books to read – these are quite low on my list.

  39. Lost

    “Honey, I am a sinner. I will fail you, and I will hurt you.”

    XH’s favorite line. Eventually it even meant “I will hit you”.

    “Suffer for Christ. We all abuse. You’re a sinner too- you do know that, right? Everyone battles with the flesh. Wait on The Lord. Love him into the Kingdom.”
    –His [XH’s] church’s favorite line.

    • Anewanon

      Just listened to a sermon that gave me a good reminder that while we all “fall into sin” every once in a while, the true converts would not “dive” into it. They exhibit fruit of the spirit. They LOVE their loved ones. They hate their sin. They pursue God and his word. They change, for good.

      Peter failed Christ, but he didn’t plan nor say, “I will fail / hurt you, Jesus.” No, he may have failed to plan ahead, but he wanted to be faithful. He didn’t make a future provision for his denials. He deeply regretted and repented for them and DID NOT REPEAT them. Ever. Much less a dozen more times.

      I am sorry, Lost, that you had to endure that.

      • Lost

        I agree.

        Thank you. I still endure it.

  40. anony

    I have read Boundaries by Cloud Townsend several times. It can be a very helpful book if you’re dealing with semi-reasonable people. But it will get you nowhere if you are dealing with a narcissist or hardened abuser. What frustrates me about Cloud Townsend is that they are very big on lovingly confronting the person who is violating your boundaries. Again, if you are dealing with a relatively reasonable person, this might work. But if you are dealing with a mocker? A scoffer? A scorner? Get ready, because you just opened yourself up to more abuse. Proverbs tells us not to correct a mocker. If we do, they will abuse us, rage, or laugh at us.

    While the Boundaries book does have a section at the very end where it gets into these types of impossible people, there is little in the main portion of the book that either addresses these types, or warns the reader about them. I have learned the hard way that there are some people you should NEVER, EVER, EVER confront…… and I mean NEVER……unless you want to wind up bloodied, or so verbally abused that you feel suicidal afterwards. In reading many of the scenarios in the Boundaries book, they make it sound like all you have to do is say “Hey, it hurt my feelings when you said…..” or “I would like for you to stop doing….xyz”, and then that person will say “Gee, thanks for letting me know”. WHAT?!?!?! If you are dealing with an evil person (and they are many) you will PAY DEARLY for such a confrontation.

    • the Boundaries book does have a section at the very end where it gets into these types of impossible people, there is little in the main portion of the book that either addresses these types, or warns the reader about them

      Ain’t that so common? Many book only mention malignant abusive types of people at the very end of the book, or in an appendix, or in parentheses or a footnote. They treat abuse as if it is a minor thing. And the effect is to belittle the issue (and to belittle the victims), to marginalise it, and to allow Christendom to keep its head in the sand about it.

    • Anonymous

      Anony, What you said about there are some people that you should never confront lest you be severely harmed is so true! There were other things in that book that were dangerous too. One of them was something like when certain things happen it’s because you are being punished for not witnessing enough. Quite frankly, I couldn’t finish reading it and was glad I’d only checked it out of the library rather than purchased it.

      Confronting one of the evil ones you described by a person who is just starting to wake up to the truth and who doesn’t have a strong support system, could be very damaging. Thank you for pointing this out!

      • standsfortruth

        I agree. More than often these types twist your words, to work against you when you try to confront them.
        It is better to not confront them, and hold your cards close to your chest, with your own stradegy to work your way free.
        They and their allies with only work against you if you disclose any information.
        Grey rock, and selective grey rock, was a protective stradegy of mine.

      • Anonymous

        Yes! What you’ve written comes from wisdom. I recently encountered an extremely evil person who deceived me and charged me money to do it. I feel blessed to have walked away without even more harm being done to me.

        God revealed how deeply evil this person was and there was such a feeling of dread and doom when God did this that I cut my losses and walked away without much confrontation. My daughter asked me why I didn’t pursue legal action or at least confront him about his evil and I explained that I had tested the waters in that regard and God intervened to show me to just go. It would have cost me more money to take legal action and I would have had to pay for the things he was supposed to supply on top of this. This man was not in touch with reality–he was very dangerous.

        God kept me tightly even while He was showing me how evil this man was but He also kept pushing me to write down the series of events that had transpired and to share it with one of the people who works with him that he could potentially harm and they could be culpable for his crimes. Once I sent this letter to them the weight and burden of what had happened lifted from me. God kept the pressure on me until I did this and it was ONLY after writing and sending the letter that I knew that was all God required of me here. I pray God used me to help this other person out because this person had been kind, honest and helpful when I was discovering the crime.

        Thanks again Standsfortruth for sharing your wisdom here. In a similar situation with a different kind of person I might have handled things differently but this was a good reminder that each evil person cannot be dealt with in the same fashion.

  41. AnonWife of AspieHusband

    What about an Aspie who says he is always right, is hostile to spiritual things / truths but is looking for love and respect from the church because of his teaching prowess. He has no idea how to love (but says the words it all the time) – we are flat mates and I hate it. I want out but can’t- it’s my second marriage. I am just so hurt and disappointed in my self that I could be so blind.

    How does one love someone out of the complex condition that is Aspergers- I have been his therapist for years- I need a husband not a man who has the emotional maturity of an 11 year old. I am so lonely- we can’t have a conversation: he stares into space for hours on end.

    • Dear AnonWife of AspieHusband, I changed your screen name for your safety. It’s not a good idea to use your real name on this blog if you are in any danger of being abused. And it sounds to me like you might be in danger.

      Welcome to the blog. 🙂 I suggest you read the posts under our tag Austism / Asperger’s. I think they will help you.

      And we always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. And if you want us to change your screen name to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂

    • Also, I am not sure why you think you can’t leave or divorce him, but here is a post which may help you think that through.
      The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse

      At the bottom of that post there a links to other posts which address various other questions about divorce that Christians often have.

  42. Susan

    Marriage counselor Leslie Vernick does a great service by drawing a distinction between a dissappointing marriage and a destructive marriage. There is much hope for the disappointing, but little hope if you are in the destructive.

    • Hi Susan,

      While we know that Leslie Vernick’s distinction between a disappointing marriage and a destructive marriage can be helpful for some people, we want to let you know that we — that is, the admins at this blog and quite a few of our readers — have mixed feelings about her work.

      Click here to read more about our mixed feelings.

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