A Cry For Justice

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

Gary Chapman’s book “Hope for the Separated” crosses the line. Review by Avid Reader.


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Dr. Gary Chapman has extensive training in counseling and it shows throughout this book. Unlike many other Christian marriage books written by people with minimal training or experience, in this book Dr. Chapman draws upon his years of counseling experience to guide people experiencing the deep pain of marital separation. He makes many great points such as “we must acknowledge our feelings but we do not serve them.” (p63)

He makes another good point on pages 36-41: “After separation, an inferior feeling person will typically blame himself for the failure of the marriage, then he or she pleads with the spouse for a chance to start over. When that is spurned, he or she sinks into deep depression and entertains thoughts of suicide. . . One of the steps in turning your thinking around is to realize that God has not given up on you. . . In spite of all that has happened God still intends to bring you to wholeness. . . Accept God’s forgiveness, forgive yourself and concentrate on the future. . .”

The best chapter in this book is Chapter 4 — Developing Your Relationship with God. Here Dr. Chapman teaches on deepening our walk with God. We appreciate how he emphasizes the importance of strengthening our faith during the darkest times of life. This chapter is a pleasant surprise, which you do not often see in marriage books.

The rest of this book emphasizes seeking ways to restore broken marriages. Over and over Dr. Chapman emphasizes that the purpose of separation is reconciliation.  “Your goal is reconciliation with your spouse. You want to keep all roads open in that direction.” (p93) But sometimes his advice sounds very cold. He writes, “You are separated but not divorced. Lonely and alone. Free to hurt but not to remarry. . .” (p95)

Then finally in the last chapter, Dr. Chapman recognizes that sometimes reconciliation is impossible. He writes, “God will not hold you responsible for the decision of your spouse. You are only responsible for your own attitudes and behavior. If reconciliation is not possible, do not think God’s purposes for you are over. . . If your spouse will not return, God will still lead you from the valley of despair to the mountain of joy. God is not through with you. . . in those hours when no one else can help. He will assure you of His presence. . .” (p127)

That is one of the best points in this book. But reading through the rest of the book leaves you wondering why Dr. Chapman keeps pressuring everyone to reconcile with their spouse when he knows that reconciliation will be clearly impossible in many situations. For example on page 113 he again recognizes that “reconciliation is not always possible. Your best efforts may meet with coldness, hostility and eventual failure. Even God was not always able to be reconciled to His people.”

Then Dr. Chapman quotes Jeremiah 3:8 where even God Almighty experienced divorce. That’s a really powerful Scripture warning us that when even God Himself reached a point where the only option left was divorce — that can happen to us as well. Dr. Chapman continues, “God would not force Israel to return. . . Many separated Christians have prayed and pleaded with God to ‘bring my spouse back.’ The spouse has not returned so the Christian becomes discouraged. . . God will not force your spouse to return.”

That is a really important point that has been lacking from several other popular Christian marriage books that we read. But the problem with this book is that even though Dr. Chapman recognizes the reality that you cannot force your spouse to return, he keeps pressuring people to wait endlessly, hoping and praying for reconciliation.

On page 67, he gives this advice to people who are separated: “Don’t set time limits for yourself or your spouse. When you set limits, you are trying to dominate the other person.”

How long is someone supposed to wait for their spouse to make a decision to return? Dr. Chapman just acknowledged that the other spouse may never return. Are you supposed to wait forever? This advice is missing the point that there are Biblical grounds for divorce which don’t require a trial separation or waiting period. That’s what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 and the Apostle Paul confirmed in 1 Corinthians 7:15 by saying “let them depart.”

But when Dr. Chapman addresses the issue of infidelity, he gives this advice.

What if your spouse is having an affair and is now separated from you?. . . First realize that the third person is never the full reason for separation. . . your failures and those of your spouse brought about the demise of your marriage. Unresolved conflict, unmet needs, and stubborn selfishness eat away at the relationship. . . therefore each partner must work toward reconciliation.

Refuse to let the affair be the issue. . . Your spouse may not break off the affair immediately but the more you can do to resolve conflicts and communicate hope, the more attractive reconciliation becomes. When you are lashing out in anger or failing apart in self pity you do not make reconciliation very desirable. (pp27-28)

That is not what Jesus said! According to Jesus, if your spouse has an affair, you can choose to end the marriage and move on with your life. Not sit around, being held hostage until the other person makes the choice for you. Why is Dr. Chapman more concerned about the feelings of the cheating spouse than the victim?

In this book, Dr. Chapman doesn’t seem to recognize the deep pain caused by an affair when he writes that people need to just ignore the affair and “concentrate on restoring your own relationship. . . Obviously you cannot be reconciled until your spouse breaks off the affair but DO NOT SET TIME LIMITS or demand any particular action!”

That is a real problem when even God Himself sets limits with us. God said, “My spirit will not always strive with man.” (Genesis 6:3) We appreciate how Dr. Chapman mentions this on pages 82-83 when he writes, “Some Christians define love as totally placating the mate’s desires without regard to his or her behavior. This is something that God Himself does not do. . . He has established boundaries. . . when we violate or rebel, God loves us too much to be silent.”

Since God sets boundaries with us, why can’t we also set boundaries in our personal lives? This book doesn’t seem to understand the concept of boundaries when it keeps pressuring people to wait year after year until their spouse makes the choice for them. However, we appreciated that Dr. Chapman does recommend the book, Boundaries, for further reading — that book has a much better Scriptural study on how God expects us to set boundaries.

Speaking of which, we appreciate how Dr. Chapman includes an entire chapter in this book on tough love. That advice is really needed. But when he begins addressing separations caused by physical and sexual abuse, once again Dr. Chapman continues pressing for reconciliation instead of recognizing that sending an abused wife back to an abuser is unthinkable!

On page 80 Dr. Chapman describes an emotionally distraught lady approaching him for advice on her marriage. She says, “My husband physically and emotionally abused me for eight years. He refused to work. I supported the family for seven years. Then I got sick. Even then he refused to get a job.”

Dr. Chapman advises her to separate from her husband and tell him that refusing to work is a sin (2 Thess 3:10). That’s more than you’ll find in many popular Christian marriage books that tell wives to stay in bad situations. But the problem is that Dr. Chapman feels that her husband just needs some counseling from a pastor. Once he finds a job and attends some counseling sessions, then she should let him move back into the home if there is “some evidence that things can be different.” Then Dr. Chapman tells her, “Your attitude is not to be one of abandonment but of love!”

How could Dr. Chapman send her right back to an abuser? Can a few counseling sessions really change the eight year pattern of abuse? Even Dr. Chapman acknowledges in his book, Desperate Marriages, that “my observation is that a highly controlling person who has dominated a spouse for many years does NOT change quickly.” (p98)

This book gets even worse when Dr. Chapman deals with the issue of sexual abuse of children. When spouses separate for that reason, he recommends “working closely with a pastor or Christian counselor” and not allowing the abuser to “visit the house” until “there has been considerable counseling and the counselor agrees that such a visit would be safe. A promise to change is not enough in these cases.” (pp83-84)

But then once again he emphasizes “remember, our goal is reconciliation.” Reconciliation with a child molester? NO WAY! Jesus clearly said that it would be better for someone to have a millstone tied around them and thrown into the deepest sea than for them to hurt one of the littlest ones. (Matthew 18:6) Jesus also said that “when you did it to the least of them you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

How could Dr. Chapman even consider the thought of pressuring someone to reconcile with a child molester? If reconciliation is so important, why did Jesus say that “I didn’t come to bring peace but division.” (Matthew 10:34) Besides, we all know the verse where the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church to kick out the guy sleeping with his father’s wife. Would the Apostle Paul have pressured a wife to reconcile with a child abuser?

Just when we want to give Dr. Chapman the benefit of the doubt, he repeats this horrific advice in his book, Difficult Marriages. On pages 163-165 he gives a real life example of counseling a wife after she had discovered that her husband was molesting their daughters ages sixteen and eighteen. She wants to divorce the husband and protect her daughters by never seeing him again.

Dr. Chapman advises her to separate but not divorce. He tells her to move out of the house and ask her husband to seek counseling. Then after “six to nine months” of counseling for the husband “when the counselor assures you that he has thoroughly worked through this problem then the two of you can begin to go for marriage counseling” which Dr. Chapman expects will last another “six to nine months.”

Reading that leaves us shaking our heads in horror, unable to believe that a Christian leader like Dr. Chapman would actually keep a wife trapped in that kind of relationship.

Maybe one reason Dr. Chapman said that is because he believes that God hates divorce. That’s not in the Bible! What Malachi 2:16 (NIV) actually says is “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect.” Additionally the Bible says that God HATES “a proud look, lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood. . .” (Proverbs 6:17) That’s the key elements in domestic violence.

Even Dr. Chapman begins to realize that as he concludes his discussion on child abuse by suggesting that “getting back together without dealing with real problems is almost certain disaster.” (p84) But that advice is too little too late when he has spent the majority of the book pressuring wives to get back together.

The Bible clearly commands us “not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive or is a drunkard or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.” (1 Cor 5:11 NLT) Why does the church require wives not just to eat with these types of husbands, but also to live and sleep with them too?

Maybe that is why Jesus warned us about how religious leaders will “reject God’s commands in order to keep their own tradition.” (Mark 7:9) What has gone wrong with Christian counseling that they would even consider pressuring a wife to reconcile with a child abuser? Even the most hardcore heathen counselor wouldn’t do that! This kind of thinking has no place in the body of Christ. That is why I cannot recommend this book. Even though this book has some really good points, we cannot take the risk that it would lead to hurting one of the little ones. Remember what Jesus said about the millstone before you consider following this type of advice.



  1. Lea

    Refuse to let the affair be the issue. . . Your spouse may not break off the affair immediately but the more you can do to resolve conflicts and communicate hope, the more attractive reconciliation becomes. When you are lashing out in anger or failing apart in self pity you do not make reconciliation very desirable. (pp27-28)

    This is amazing to me. You’re supposed to not let the affair be the issue, even if it is still going on???

    • bright sunshinin' day

      In the book, Boundaries in Dating, by Townsend and Cloud, in chapter 2 the authors state, “Where there is deception, there is no relationship.” They continue, “Truthfulness is everything…honesty is the bedrock of dating and marriage as well.”

      It is pure ignorance and inexcusable for Chapman to state: “Refuse to let the affair be the issue…when you are lashing out in anger or falling apart in self pity you do not make reconciliation very desirable.” Seriously?

      • Lea

        Where there is deception, there is no relationship.

        This is so true. But what you do with a relationship that never existed?

      • For Too Long

        Yep – in other words, it’s the victim’s responsibility to make the marriage relationship attractive to her cheating spouse.

    • For Too Long

      Yep, Dr. Chapman would suggest ignoring the elephant in the room.

  2. Debbie

    I have read Gary Chapman’s books and devotionals and have found them to be contradictory and lacking in making any kind of stand one way or another. When will people in the church realize that abuse is not to be handled the same way as “normal” marital differences? Abuse is evil at its core and evil cannot be remedied by showing or giving it “more love!” As I waited 32 long, excruciatingly painful years and searched-scoured tons of resources like Gary Chapman’s and others, books and materials, I felt nothing but guilt and inferiority and deep sadness as I read, over and over, passages that scolded me into waiting indefinitely while my life ebbed away…
    Then I found resources like this blog, and Barbara’s book “Not Under Bondage” and began the path to freedom. And God has given me a new purpose. I now talk about my experience and strive to shed God’s light on the destruction that is being perpetrated against His precious daughters and their children, and covered up by the church.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      God’s truth has set you free, Debbie. It is very sad how you were misled by wrong teaching for so many years. You are now doing what Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 by sharing these new-found truths with others and overcoming evil with good (like exposing the cover-up in which so many churches are involved)…I’d say this is a great purpose in life!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Debbie! I read his love languages book years ago when trying to figure out how to reach one of my children. This child had no guilt or remorse, was manipulative and deceptive. The more love I gave, the more this child attacked–wanting still MORE. The child was finally diagnosed as a psychopath–right before they became a legal adult. Along with garbage like the Love Language book, numerous doctors and experts refused to correctly diagnose him until years after we sought help. And it was only after I completely stepped away from therapy with him–when I no longer allowed them to include me in the blame of what he was–did they finally look at HIM. He had been manipulating all of us and because I TRULY CARED, much of the blame got dumped on me.

      That book and many others kept me from seeing the truth and kept me in the game playing with a psychopath who would have loved to destroy me. It’s why i rarely read any of this crap from these “experts” unless they are educated about and familiar with these extreme personality disorders. We only end up wasting time and keeping them from looking at the real problem–that some people are without love for others and the numerous traits that go with that are harmful to those who CAN love others.

    • Brooklyn

      This book really messed me up previously. I am just now seeing that God does not require reconciliation when abuse is present. My question is this, though. My husband, of his own accord, is seeking counseling for his abusive behaviors. He sees the damage he has caused me and our family. The problem is, its been 20 years. I have lived with this for 20 years, and now he decides to try to change. I am not sure I can love him again and get past the hurt he has caused, even if he truly does change. What does God have to say about this? Am I required to give another chance because he seems to genuinely be making an effort? I do see a difference in him. I’m just not sure I can love him the way I want to love someone anymore.

  3. Anewanon

    And the milestone quote is shared in 3 out of 4 Gospels… That’s some heavy-duty press time. And not to be taken lightly.

  4. K

    I see a lot of commentaries where the husband left the wife and she is ‘supposed’ to reconcile and if he doesn’t return then yes it’s not your fault. However, I left my husband because of his unwillingness to change (or even acknowledge the wrong), by stopping the head games, verbal and emotional hurt, and leting go of his controlling ways with me and the children.

    He would never go to counseling before but when I left we went to 10 sessions. All that he would talk about is how I need to leave my church and go with him where he pastors now, and that I need to move back home. He would never talk about the real issues at hand. After the 10 sessions I committed to I stopped going.

    Since I left he’s doing some things different like taking the kids out, wanting me to come for dinner, asking to do my laundry, bring me lunch, giving me extra money for my older boys etc. Now he’s also saying that we need a third party. He’s accusing me of refusing to reconcile by not accommodating to his wishes I guess. It’s not even that I always say no, I try sometimes. He tells me that after all the evil I’ve done he’s still willing to take me back. God has given him the capability to love the unlovable. God is going to do something drastic to get my attention. I’m not trusting God enough. REALLY?!? Here’s the kicker. This third party is suppose to put me in place and tell me how wrong and ungodly I am for leaving. I don’t believe his invitations are sincere. I believe he just wants me under his thumb. Not everything adds up all the time. It’s still very confusing. I still believe he’s as controlling as ever.

    My dilemma is always going to be how much do I do? How willing should I be? How long should I try for? I’m not comfortable around him, I’m anxious. He says I’m mean. I probably am because he is constantly doing what feels like harassment. I don’t want to feel these ways but I do. Am I wrong? One of his spiritual overseers told me that this was a spiritual problem with in me.

    This whole thing is affecting all of my other relationships. I’m paranoid, self conscious, I don’t like to be around people of any sort. I feel I’m always questioning God. My pastor is supportive but when he preaches on a hard topic like loving others or marriage I feel angry or confused. I don’t know how to do this anymore. This is not me and I don’t know how to be me or who that even is anymore.

    • Avid Reader


      I can’t even imagine the pressure that you’re feeling right now being slammed by your husband, the church, and this “third party.” Yet even under all of this pressure, the fact that you’re still reaching towards God shows that you’ve got the kind of heart that pleases God. No one has the right to accuse you of doing “evil” when you’re trying to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this situation.

      From what you wrote it sounds like your husband is now PASTORING??? I’m shuddering at that thought since the requirements for pastor include “not arrogant, not hot-tempered and NOT A BULLY.” Titus 1:5-9 (HCSB). It sounds like you’ve been one of the few people willing to hold him accountable to what the Bible requires.

      When you wrote, “I still believe he’s as controlling as ever….constantly feels like harassment….he just wants me under his thumb” that sounds like you’re probably already hearing the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit warning you. Does it ever feel like a struggle between that inner guidance and all the accusations flying at you left and right?

      We want to encourage you that if you start to doubt yourself, thinking “I feel I’m always questioning God,” try to remember that you’re actually obeying the Bible’s directions to question the sermons that don’t make sense. To “test all things.” (1 Thess 5:21)

      Those are some very important questions that you asked about “How much do I do? How willing should I be? How long should I try for?”

      That’s a decision that only you can make. While many other people will try to make that decision for you, keep in mind that Jesus gave you the power to refuse to allow anyone to “take your life from you.” To decide when it’s time to pick up the pieces of your life and move on. (John 10:18) And Jesus warned us not to allow anyone to overrule our ability to say “no!” (Matthew 5:37)

      Here at ACFJ, we stand with you, praying that God strengthens you for the days ahead.

    • Hi Kelly,
      First of all — (((hugs)))
      You are not wrong. You are not the one with the problem. You are not spiritually defective. You are spot on in your discernment.

      I still believe he’s as controlling as ever.

      My dilemma is always going to be how much do I do? How willing should I be? How long should I try for? I’m not comfortable around him, I’m anxious.

      He IS as controlling as ever. All the ‘nice’ things he is doing – taking the kids out for excursions, offering to do your laundry, etc. — they are NOT nice. They are the actions of a controlling man who is trying to suck his victim back into his web where he can then crush and shred her once again. You are right to be wary. You are right to be cautious. The charming mode that abusers switch into when their victims leave is just one more aspect of their abusive tactics. He is being charming for a purpose, for a goal. And that goal is malicious and evil.

      If he were really changed, you would not be feeling uncomfortable around him. You might find it helpful to read my article Checklist for [the abuser’s] Repentance.

      He says I’m mean. I probably am because he is constantly doing what feels like harassment. I don’t want to feel these ways but I do. Am I wrong? One of his spiritual overseers told me that this was a spiritual problem with in me.

      This makes it CRYSTAL clear that he is still a full-blown abuser. He is falsely accusing you: saying that you are ‘mean’. What rot. You are not being mean. You are being wisely cautious because he has such a long track record of abusing you and has made promises of ‘change’ and ‘reformation’ in the past. Those promises were phoney. And so why should you trust him now??? You shouldn’t.

      He casts your boundary-setting and your reluctance to trust him as ‘meanness’. But that is a lie. It is a lie that stems from his overblown ENTITLEMENT mindset. He believes he is entitled to mistreat you and that you as his wife should serve him and his needs and bow to his whims, no matter how selfish and sinful they are. This entitlement mindset is the core of the abuser’s problem. When a person confronts or challenges the abuser’s entitlement mindset, the abuser ups the ante by telling that person that they are being mean, unfair, unkind, ungodly, unforgiving, using the wrong tone of voice, having the wrong look in their eye, yada yada yada.

      Abusers fight against having to take responsibility for their bad behavior. They fight against having to relinquish their entitlement mindset. And one of the major ways they fight is by falsely accusing others, particularly their victims. Their aim is to get everyone to focus on anything except the real problem: anything except the abuser’s own sinful mindset and stony heart. Any red herring will do; but the red herring of ‘my spouse is the one with the problem’ gets the most mileage usually.

      Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [*Affiliate link] If not, I think your will find it fantastically helpful≥ You can find it under out Resources tab.

      You may also find it helpful at some point to read our posts about divorce. Here is the one to start with: The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse.

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

      Dear Kelly

      When you wrote ‘… after all the evil I’ve done…’ I just about had to pick my jaw up off the floor. He’s being so magnanimous as to forgive you for setting appropriate boundaries in place! That’s rich! Especially after all the evil he has done you. And your kids.

      I am incensed on your behalf. Please stay safe.

    • Misti

      He swore to love and cherish you. He has abandoned his oath. That happened first, as a sin against you. Has he repented, taking responsibility for his specific sins and their consequences + acting to correct those wrongs?


      Then reconciliation doesn’t apply. The ball’s in his court, right now (ref. Matthew 5:23-24).

      Beyond that, are his actions displaying the fruits of the Spirit? Jesus told us to know others by their fruits (ref. Matthew 7:16)—and we’re even told to not so much as eat with someone who calls themselves Christian yet are an abuser (1 Corinthians 5:11).

      (hug) It’s not easy, but those who insist on reconciliation are making an idol of it—and insisting it’s your responsibility when it actually isn’t.

    • Debbie

      Dear Kelly, You are not wrong! The answer lies inside you. When you say you feel anxious and uncomfortable, that is what I’ve learned to call “body truth.” Remember, anytime we start to implement boundaries and stop putting up with the abusers’ tactics, fiery darts begin to come at us from every direction. However, none of it is true! You have God, truth, and many others on your side who understand exactly what you’re going through. You will be in my prayers ❤

  5. LGMW

    Great review, excellent points, very instructive. Thanks.

    • Hi LGMW, I changed your screen name just as a precaution to protect your identity. Welcome to the blog. 🙂

      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.

      If you want us to change your screen name to something else, just email twbtc.acfj@gmail.com .

  6. MarkQ

    Jeff was right. The church doesn’t admit the possibly of truly evil people, even though we are warned and warned about savage wolves among the flock, we naively hold to the belief that everyone who is wearing a sheepskin coat is a sheep.

    I love the heart of people like Dr. Chapman who want to believe that we should maintain the path to reconciliation. With the knowledge that there are savage wolves in sheepskin, however, I think it’s poor advice to strongly encourage reconciliation if there is any evidence of abuse. I believe that too often, counselors become the abusers. Meaning that a counselor’s role should be to point someone towards God. When the counselor pushes people to adopt “their” approach, then the counselor is putting himself between that person and God, which is a dangerous place to be for someone who is abused. Part of abuse is gas lighting – convinced the target that her views of right and wrong are mistaken and that they should put their trust in the abuser’s ideas of right and wrong.

    So, it seems ill-advised for a counselor to swoop in and replace the husband’s ideas of right and wrong with the counselor’s ideas of right and wrong, which Chapman seems to be saying. If the victim is in the Word, praying for guidance and getting help from supporters, and yet she is feeling a pull away from the abuser, I don’t think it is wise for the counselor to push the abused back towards the abuser.

  7. Stronger Now

    For a Christian counselor to advise a woman to reconcile and stay with a man who has molested her children is positively criminal. I’m sorry, there’s no other way to put it. After he has traumatized the innocent lives that he should have laid down his very life to protect, the advice to let him back into the home EVER, under ANY circumstances, is unbelievably disrespectful towards the victims. The mother’s responsibility is to protect those children from further trauma. Even if that vile creature never lays a hand on those girls again, they will feel violated every time he looks at them. They will be traumatized any time they are forced to be alone in the house with him. I am appalled that Dr. Chapman recommends putting the wife and the victims through further trauma in this way. This advice alone destroys any respect I ever had for him. Not to mention the fact that Child Protective Services would probably remove the children from the home because the wife refuses to protect them from their abuser.

    Also, a wife who has endured the violation of the covenant of marriage by an unfaithful spouse is certainly free to legally end the marriage (which her husband has already ended by his affair), although she’s not commanded or bound to do so. The church should not pressure her to wait around for an unrepentant spouse to suddenly see the error of his ways and come crawling back to her. A few months of counseling is hardly enough time to prove that his heart has truly changed. While she may be torn as she faces the decision of whether to divorce or not, it is not the church’s place, or a Christian counselor’s place, to play the part of the Holy Spirit in her life and push her in one direction or the other.

    It’s unethical, in my opinion, for a counselor to advocate so shamelessly for his own “permanence” interpretation of Bible passages dealing with marriage, without a strong disclaimer very early on in every book he writes. He is exhibiting a serious lack of judgement by failing to do so. It angers me that he would give such horrendous advice due to his own naivete and bias against Biblical divorce. Has his fame gone to his head? Does he have so little respect for women? Does he really not understand that some people are evil deceivers?

    I shudder to think of the people who will be harmed by this book.

  8. cindy burrell

    “We must acknowledge our feelings but cannot serve them…” What does that mean? We should rule our feelings instead of accepting the messages they are sending to our hearts and minds? That’s nuts. Our feelings tell us when something is seriously wrong, when we are in pain or in an unsafe situation.

    From my perspective, the premise of the book is incorrect, specifically where abuse is involved. The goal is not reconciliation, it is godly marriage. My abusive husband never wanted a divorce and always sought “reconciliation,” which meant nothing changed, he just wanted us to live together and get things back to his toxic version of normal.

    Tough love means that we must find ways to trump the abuser’s cruelties. That does nothing to change an abuser’s heart. Furthermore, no one has a right to tell an abuse victim the conditions under which she is required to take her abuser back or whether or when she may divorce her abuser. That is between her and God alone.

    I could go on, but the primary issue I have with his book is that Mr. Chapman has taken the Spirit out of all of it. Strengthen your faith, but don’t listen to the heart and the Spirit of God? That’s appalling. What he espouses is still legalism, a formula, a checklist… the law.

    But if you live by the Spirit, you are not under the law… Galatians 5:18

    Ultimately, our charge is to pray for wisdom and strength, and allow the Spirit of the Lord to lead.

  9. Not Too Late

    What I now detest about counseling messages such as Chapman’s, which I followed to the letter, is that having reconciliation as a goal exposes the victim to more abuse. While you are waiting, hoping, keeping in touch, trying, and keeping lines of communication open, you are making yourself a sitting duck for more abuse. What happens then if the perpetrator really does finally repent, and you are left half dead from the abuse? He wouldn’t even have a spouse to reconcile with. Do the lives and wholeness of the victim not matter?

    • Lea

      What happens then if the perpetrator really does finally repent, and you are left half dead from the abuse?

      IMO, the people who think reconciliation is possible should be advising divorce, with an option to remarry at some point WAY in the future, should proof actually exist that a person has changed. Not to stay married.

  10. IamMyBeloved's

    Again, in all honesty, how can Dr. Chapman have any idea what he would actually do in any of the situations he addresses. Has he ever had to deal with child molestation or adultery or abuse in his entire marriage? Not that I have ever heard about!

    The problem here is that what they are really teaching us to have is a lack of empathy. They are teaching us to ignore the feelings God gave to us, even though they say they are not. It is those feelings and fears that lead us to establish boundaries and put protective measures in place.

    Dr. Chapman errs gravely when he instructs a woman to potentially re-victimize her children and / or herself. We are speaking about someone who according to Scripture should have been put out of the Church and someone who we are commanded not to even eat with.

    I am not certain why it is so easy for these people to think they know what they would do in these situations, or to ignore what Scripture clearly tells us to do when dealing with such wickedness! It baffles me!

    I am glad for the few good things that have been said in this book, but when this amount of truth is mixed with such unbiblical thinking as is portrayed by this review, it still seems like deception. Just enough truth to get someone hooked into listening or reading all the other information that is not truth, but merely one uninformed and uneducated person’s opinion.

    Dr. Chapman, you have had some good things to say, but please either educate yourself about abuse and the victims of it, or stop writing about it. It would benefit everyone if you would clarify that you were only giving this kind of advice about marriages to couples who cannot agree on the color to paint the walls, instead of victims of domestic abuse. The counsel you give concerning child molestation is so bizarre! Your counsel is only a matter of which child will be led to the slaughter next and you are advising the mother to help pave the way. Wow.

  11. bright sunshinin' day

    Yes – Barb said to The Wary Witness:

    …start a campaign to get this book pulled from publication…I would suggest you start by reporting the book to the FBI or whatever national law enforcement body is appropriate. Tell them it says things that would enable child molesters to continue having access to children.

  12. The Wary Witness

    Oh, puke! For real, I feel like vomiting right now. This is so triggering.

    Chapman should go to jail for telling mothers to reconcile with child-abuser husbands. What these perverts need is not “Christian counseling” but to have their miserable selves thrown in jail to rot for the rest of their lives (for future reference, is it OK to use profanity when referring to child abusers?). Jail is not good enough for them.

    I can’t believe the publisher was so irresponsible as to publish such a load of _____.

    Stronger Now said,

    The mother’s responsibility is to protect those children from further trauma. Even if that vile creature never lays a hand on those girls again, they will feel violated every time he looks at them.

    Absolutely right. Personally, I was forced to live with my abuser for eight more years after my mother caught him in the act. She later said something about God has forgiven our sins so we need to forgive others, blah blah blah, as the reason why she didn’t report him to the police or to CPS. And by the way, he didn’t stop, he just changed to more subtle tactics. I didn’t even recognize that he was abusing me at the time, I just knew that I hated it and felt violated every time he touched me, and no matter how much I tried to push him away and told him to leave me alone he didn’t care. Talk about an attitude of entitlement! Finally one day when I was in my teens, I was strong enough to physically push him away and shout him down. He never touched me again, and he left my mother shortly thereafter.

    I often remind myself that my mother was abused by him too (verbally, emotionally, and financially), and that at the time she discovered his abuse towards me, she had already been living under his oppression for decades and he had convinced her that she would never be able to survive without him. But still, she was an adult and my parent and it was her God-given responsibility to protect me. I feel like she put her own need to have a man in her life ahead of my need to have a safe childhood. I’ve thought about telling her how I feel, but I’m afraid it would just hurt her and drive a deeper wedge into our relationship.

    • Wary Witness you are spot on!

      I encourage you to start a campaign to get this book pulled from publication. Since you are in a good and happy marriage and are not under the pump of current abuse like most of our readers here, maybe you have the time to do it. I would suggest you start by reporting the book to the FBI or whatever national law enforcement body is appropriate. Tell them it says things that would enable child molesters to continue having access to children.

      • The Wary Witness

        Great idea. The publisher is Moody Press. Perhaps contacting the publisher would also be a good place to start. I’m not sure which law enforcement agency would be appropriate to contact, but I could contact RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) and see if anyone there knows where to start.

        [Link to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) added. Editors.]

      • You could also promote the campaign on Twitter, if you are a Twitter user. My twitter handle is @notunderbondage

        And ACFJ’s handle is @_CryforJustice

      • Hooray!

    • braveandstandingstrong

      Wary Witness,

      I am so sorry your mother didn’t protect you.
      My heart goes out to you, my sister.

      I am short on time, but could not allow any time to go by without telling you…it was not your fault. Your mother should have protected you. Much love and hugs.

      This is a safe place. Welcome.

  13. jmclever

    I am so glad that God led me to this site so I could stop reading those stupid divorce “support” books.

  14. Theresa

    Thank you! Thank you!

    I praise the Lord for your web page and information.

    My prayer is that I can, one day, when I am fully recovered financially and emotionally and all else, that my Lord will give me a chance to be an advertiser for your services in South Africa.

    Kindest regards,


    • Hi Theresa,
      If it is safe for you to do so could you please email me? I would like to hear more about your situation in Sth Africa, and it’s probably not a good idea for you to go into detail on the blog as it might reveal your identity.

  15. Free

    The abuser has this book also.

    It’s NO WONDER.

  16. Concerned Mom

    Again, as I read this review, it leaves me shaking my head and asking the Lord for His mercy to be with all the women and children whose lives are further damaged by what this man writes and believes.

    Reading these reviews and knowing there are so many hurting women suffering at the hands of abusive husbands and Pastors who support their behavior…I ask, where can these women ever get the real help they need?

    We know that most men like these men, will not go for serious psychological counseling (because there is nothing wrong with them). And if they did agree…WHO are the counselors that deal with Narcisstic men, where are they? I know in my neck of the woods, they are a rare commodity, therefore, wives stay in the abuse. There are not enough trained counselors who know how to help these women.

    For my daughter, there is no one she can go to, she has been accused and hurt terribly by church trained counselors and now does not trust any clergy and her spiritual life is so shaky it breaks my heart.

    I say all this, because there is such a lack of counselors who know how to deal with abusive and Narcisstic “Christian” husbands, therefore women read books, like Chapman, because it’s all they have, unless they find this website.

    • For Too Long

      For my daughter, there is no one she can go to, she has been accused and hurt terribly by church trained counselors and now does not trust any clergy and her spiritual life is so shaky it breaks my heart.

      I think you bring up a valid outcome to so many of these situations abusive women and their children find themselves in. Not only are they themselves victims, but sometimes their faith becomes victim to the way they were treated by so-called Christians.

      Now, while I was the abused wife, it is also my teen-aged daughter whom I’m very concerned for because she is now questioning everything about her faith and the Bible – all because of the way we were treated by the leaders of our church. When she tried to email the pastor, sharing her heart about how things really were with the abuse we all suffered, he wouldn’t even acknowledge her concerns or pain. Instead he told her, “If your mom would have just done what we said, she wouldn’t be getting ex-communicated. Maybe you should encourage her to cooperate.” …In other words, it’s your mom’s fault; help us to get her to obey.

  17. Innoscent

    I am aghast at finding out about yet another dangerous book by Gary Chapman. When will these so called Christian counselors come to understand that the goal is not to seek reconciliation at all costs, but to first protect the victim and then to hold the abuser accountable for his sin? The victim has not only suffered endless cruelty from him but also stood up to him – often on her own – and the unbiblical counselors undo it all instead of backing her up!

  18. Ruth

    How depressing. For all Dr Chapman’s study, he gives a mixed bag of advice – a few good points along with detrimental guidance. And that makes it even more dangerous than if it had been ALL bad. If the book was a crock from page 1, then the reader quickly dismiss it. But when you read some truthful points, you naturally start to trust the author. You feel like it’s safe to listen to them. Then as the writing begins to fall further and further into the ditch, the reader is left confused.
    This book is just terrible advice. Someone needs to mail him Lundy Bancroft’s book.

    Speaking of the Bancroft book, how good is most secular advice on abusive marriages? Do they offer common sense advice? Is their advice actually HELPFUL? Lundy’s book is the only one I’ve read on abusive relationships. If an abused wife goes to an individual counsellor to talk about her marriage, in general, what kind of advice would she get? Maybe most counsellors aren’t as spot-on abuse as Lundy is, but I doubt they are screwing this up as badly as most church leaders.

    Ladies / leaders who’ve dealt with both church and secular counselors, please chime in! What was your experience?

    • Lost

      Hi Ruth,

      Hope this helps you.

      I can’t think straight lately so it’s all I have.

      Lundy’s books Why does He Do That? and When Dad Hurts Mom have been the only resources (besides this blog and Not Under Bondage and Unholy Charade) that give clear information on abuse so far.

      I’ve been to secular and “Christian” counselors and no one has a clue.

      How can I say that? B/C when I read Lundy’s book WDHDT? I read everything I was going through along with why the abuser does what he does. It was CLEAR! Finally! I didn’t see any other agenda mixed in. Nothing. Just the truth about abuse.

      All of the counselors I’ve seen have had an agenda. Some stupid theory or exercise to fix … NOTHING.

      Others care more and still they also have no education about abuse and they stop there.

      Christian counselors “listen” and don’t help. They never answered questions I asked about scripture. They just said I was a baby Christian and one day I’d get it!

      Pray more. Do this, do that. Take joy. Blah blah blah. Give me my money back please. (I’ve seen many counselors since marrying the abuser.)

    • How good is most secular advice on abusive marriages? Do they offer common sense advice? Is their advice actually HELPFUL? … If an abused wife goes to an individual counsellor to talk about her marriage, in general, what kind of advice would she get? Maybe most counsellors aren’t as spot-on abuse as Lundy Bancroft is, but I doubt they are screwing this up as badly as most church leaders.

      My experience

      Christian counselors: I have personally known some Christians who are professional counselors and who do get it about domestic abuse. I have heard of many many who don’t get it. (The situation in Oz re Christian counselors may be a bit better than it is in the USA.)
      Christian book authors: My sense is that the vast majority give very bad advice about domestic abuse. The ones who get it I could probably list on less than the fingers of one hand. There are a few more who partly get it but they also say victim-blaming and victim-pathologising things. The rest are pretty much duds.

      Secular counselors: I have personally had some secular counselors who did NOT get it and who blamed me and were always ‘digging’ to find some fault in me that led to the abusive situation. I have known some secular counselors who did get it, but most of those were from the specialist DV support services or sexual abuse support services.
      Secular book authors: I have found that they are quite a lot if not a WHOLE HEAP better than Christian book authors in regards to understanding domestic abuse.

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