How Christians Can Stop Giving Bad Marriage Advice

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Christian marriage advice: how can we stop getting it wrong?

When I talk about destructive marriages, periodically, someone in the comments will bring up the importance of the marriage commitment.

They’ll talk about how couples should practice “grace” in marriage. How they should trust God and follow Biblical counsel (vs “worldly” advice.) Why abusive men also need grace from their wives.

These and many other rebuttals reveal how much Christians misunderstand destructive relationships, their silent drivers, and how they present (or don’t present) in real life.

Christian marriage advice

For the most part, the regular churchgoer doesn’t seem to understand that destructive marriages don’t have two individuals refusing to “work hard,” “trust God,” or “follow God’s guidelines.”

Destructive marriages often have ONE person refusing to do the work of growth and change: One person not following God’s guidelines, respecting their spouse, or honoring the marriage covenant. And this one person’s hardness of heart is destroying the marriage.

The abuse/lies/neglect target, i.e., the suffering spouse, is often absorbing the responsibility, hanging in there, doing everything they can to save the marriage.

Followers of Christ need to realize that their observations and comments matter. The words they speak into these difficult and complex situations matter.

Their comments and observations will bring clarity and comfort to the suffering spouse and accountability to the abusive person. Or crush the suffering spouse and embolden the abuser/chronic deserter/liar.

Christian Teaching on Marriage: The Responsibility

Christians need to understand that words that equalize responsibility (where they make it seem like both individuals in the marriage are responsible for the “death blow” to the marriage) are the exact words the abuser likely uses toward the target of their abuse.

Christians need to approach abusive, destructive dynamics in relationships differently – understand and accept that they are NOT the same as “regular marriage problems.”

And if we’re going to engage in good conversations, we need to truly understand the context and type of situations we’re speaking into before offering commentary. Our words have potential to cause harm.

And let’s remember this:

One of the things that can make destructive behaviors so hard to call out within Christian circles is our super-spiritual lenses.

When many Christians think “abuser, ” they likely have the devil in mind. Pitchfork, horns, burning embers, the works. (Characterization for imagery purposes)

Many people who haven’t experienced spousal abuse themselves have an image of an abusive person in their head.

When he doesn’t look like the kind, charming greeter at the church door or the devoted mom and professional powerhouse who speaks well of her husband, when the image in our head doesn’t agree with the person being described, we tank.

And because reconciling these two images of “good” and “evil” in one person is difficult, we choose the good. Because being a Christian means believing the best of everyone. It means forgiveness. It means a second chance. It means honoring the marriage institution. It means everything but SEEING the suffering.

Christian Marriage Advice: The Radical Shift

And so there needs to be a radical shift, not just from the pulpit, but also from the actual body of Christ. We need to educate ourselves, so we don’t, in our ignorance, side with abusers, manipulators, and harmful people.

To be a safe person for the abused and neglected, you have to start at Step zero: Accept you don’t know that your perspective is most likely off. That just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll innately know an abuser just by looking at them from the outside.

We have a long way to go and many other steps to take, but accepting we don’t know, followed by an openness to learn, is a step in the right direction.

Start your learning by checking out the following informative websites and pages. Read their blogs, follow them on social media (and read the comments on their posts), buy their books, listen to their podcasts.

  1. Hope For Hurting Wives with MaryEllen Brean
  2. Flying Free with Natalie Hoffman
  3. Confusion to Clarity with Helena Knowlton
  4. Life Saving Divorce with Gretchen Baskerville
  5. Sarah McDugal
  6. Patrick Weaver Ministries
  7. Heather Elizabeth
  8. Betrayal Trauma Recovery
  9. Bare Marriage with Sheila Gregoire
  10. Andrew J Bauman
  11. If you’re in danger, call an emergency hotline in your country. Canada: 800.799.SAFE (7233). United States: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). United Kingdom: 08 08 16 89 111. Australia: 1800 015 188. New Zealand: 0800 456 450. Kenya: 0-800-720-072. Nigeria: 0800 033 3333. South Africa: 0800 428 428.

Unholy Fruit | Your WILD Guide to Discerning Toxic Character | Workshop with Sarah McDugal

In this Workshop and Checklist (affiliate link), Coach Sarah McDugal empowers your ability to discern the Fruit of an UNholy spirit.

If you have felt confused by the dissonance between someone’s pious  words and their exploitative actions, this workshop offers clarity and  some possible next steps in your healing journey. Click here to check it out.

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