Top critical review
Bad Advice from an Author Who Isn’t A Psychologist or Licensed Therapist
Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2021
To the reader, Chapman may appear to be a professional Christian counselor who claims to meet with people "in the privacy of his counseling office" p. 6, but the truth is he is not a psychologist, licensed marriage and family therapist, or even a sociologist or social worker. According to his own biography, he doesn’t have degrees in any of those areas. His Ph.D. is in adult education.
This book claims to be for victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, addictions, porn addiction, and infidelity, per p. 5-6, and encourages the reader to stay in these highly destructive marriages. In many places of the book, the author simply advises that the reader (the victim) keep praying and to have a positive attitude (for example, p. 18).
On p. 19 he shifts the moral burden to the wife suggesting if she was more positive, her husband would improve.
The problem is that many religious wives have been reading these books for years, following the advice, and turning themselves inside out to be agreeable, more sexually enthusiastic, and more silent in the face of horrific behavior. No wonder so many devout wives are in despair, depression, and contemplate suicide.
Readers feel trapped because Chapman mentions “God” or one’s “responsibility to God” or similar phrases more than 30 times. The suggestion is that no spiritually mature person who wants to serve God, or has faith in God, or is “seeking the peace of God” would ever “call their marriage quits.” This feeds into false narratives that all divorcees are quitters who didn’t take the sanctity of marriage seriously; and that God will fix every toxic marriage if you just pray hard enough.
To me, this is unsafe. Chapman is telling the victim to stay—regardless of the effects on her life, health, and sanity—and giving license for her abuser to keep abusing. Although he does give examples of separation causing an abuser to realize their situation, most of his anecdotes about a couple separating are presented as negative. I didn't find any example of him recommending a separation to protect the victim.
He writes: "I am saying, however, that divorce should be the last possible alternative. It should be preceded by every effort at reconciling differences, dealing with issues, and solving problems." But he never tells you where that line is and never suggests when it's time to divorce, not even for adultery. So the abuser and cheater and addict can continue their marriage-destroying sin without fear of reprecussions.
If you read the entire book, there’s far more pressure put on the wife to be positive, understanding, and forgiving than on the husband (or the person behaving badly) to stop his sinful behavior and hold himself responsible to fix his cheating, abusive attitudes/actions, or addictions. This advice to be positive and understanding might be helpful for young immature people where one person never took marriage seriously; but in a highly destructive marriage where there is abuse, this advice is unethical and irresponsible for any counselor to suggest.
In some places Chapman plays mind-games and gives mixed messages. For example, on one page he praises the wife for confronting her husband about his controlling behavior, p. 75, and on p. 54, he warns the wife that if she confronts her husband for his bad behavior, he will feel incompetent and try to avoid her. In this book the wife cannot win. Chapman will find some way to pin her husband’s ongoing abuse or porn addiction or cheating on her.
He says you shouldn’t “rush a victim to premature and surface forgiveness” on p. 124, but on p. 23, gives a sample phrase for abusers and cheaters to vaguely admit their “failures” and to ask for forgiveness. The author doesn’t require the abuser/cheater to admit specifics about what they did wrong, how it hurt their spouse, children, and others, and acknowledge publicly that they take full responsibility.
This book doesn’t follow the guidelines that domestic violence experts know are required for real repentance and change. For example, when a cheater asks that their faithful spouse forgive them—yet doesn’t do the steps known to accompany real change—it is a sign that he/she is just trying to placate their spouse. They aren’t really taking the full responsibility for their words and actions, the injuries they’ve caused, nor their entitled attitudes and blame-shifting.
On p. 188 (Kindle), in a quote from another book, it suggests that divorce results in bad outcomes for adults and kids. But the truth is that when the marriage has these serious kinds of problems and conflict, researchers have known for 30 years that divorce is better for the wellbeing of children (and adults) than staying. There's a mention of psychologist Dr. Judith Wallerstein (p. 188 in Kindle) but it ignores that fact that Wallerstein was in favor of divorce in these highly toxic situations where there was physical or emotional abuse, addictions, severe indifference, or high conflict. For example…
Wallerstein stated: ““I am not against divorce. How could I be? I’ve seen more examples of wretched, demeaning, and abusive marriage than most of my colleagues. I’m keenly aware of the suffering… I’m also aware that for many parents the decision to divorce is the most difficult decision in their lives; they cry many a night before taking such a drastic step. —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. xxxix
Wallerstein also said:
“Many judges who deal with such families do not understand that merely witnessing violence is harmful to children; the images are forever etched into their brains. Even a single episode of violence is long remembered in detail. In fact there is accumulating scientific evidence that witnessing violence or being abused physically or verbally literally alters brain development resulting in a hyperactive emotional system.” —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. 90
And she was concerned about religious people misusing her findings:
“And I am, of course, aware of the many voices on the radio, on television, and in certain… religious circles that say divorce is sinful… But I don’t know of any research, mine included, that says divorce is universally detrimental to children.” —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. xxxix
So basically this book won’t help someone trapped in a marriage with serious problems. It will likely encourage many wives to blame themselves and drive themselves into despair and depression.