A continuation from Part I (click here)…
Book Review: Part II –
One More Try: What to do when your marriage is falling apart
By Gary Chapman
Gary Chapman continues down a dangerous road of cheater toleration following missing the mark in his theology of divorce (see Part I).
With divorce off the table as “always clearly wrong” (17), Chapman is ill equipped to proscribe the surgery required to deal with an unrepentant, abusive cheater (click here). The cheater is free to believe in his or her (false) entitlement to reconciliation with this author.
In this part, I am going to comment on how Chapman advises ending a relationship with an adultery/affair partner and how Chapman advises a faithful spouse to respond to discovering infidelity.
Ending an affair:
On the positive side, Chapman does insist that the affair must end for marriage reconciliation to have a chance of happening (27). Good, I agree.
Then he gives this example statement:
James [cheating husband] might say to Juanita [faithful wife], “Yes, I am seeing someone. I’m lonely. This person makes me feel better. But I will break it off–if you are willing to help me restore our marriage” (27).
Do we tell God that we will stop sinning “if”? No! We stop sinning and repent. Cheating on a spouse is sin.
A godly way to end it is to encourage the cheater to stop thinking about himself and start thinking about who he is hurting and wronging. The cheater’s feelings have already taken precedence over godly behavior and the care of those to whom he is committed.
This sort of ungodly response just reinforces the cheater’s selfishness and entitlement.
It is not a statement of repentance but rather another manipulation move by the cheater (e.g. “if”).
Next, Chapman gives general guidelines in how to end it directly with the affair partner:
“How does one break off an affair? First, indicate to the other person your concern for him or her. You need to confess your wrong in violating your marriage commitment. Firmly state your decision to work on reconciliation with your spouse. It is fine to share again your feelings for him or her, but affirm your choice to do what is right rather than what feels good.” (31).
This is absolutely awful advice.
By sharing that the cheater still has feelings for and cares about this third party, she is continuing an illicit emotional intimacy. That sort of a connection is best severed, not served by communicating its presence to the illicit third party.
To be clear:
It is NOT “…fine to share again your feelings for him or her…”!
This third party is not simply a spectator to the sin of infidelity. They are an active participant. Acknowledging and addressing that spiritual truth is missing in this piece of advice.
A better model would state:
1) why the relationship was wrong in the first place (e.g. cheating is a sin and a breaking of solemn marriage vows),
2) an apology for involving this person in sinning together against the faithful spouse, and
3) a clear commitment to do what is right via completely ending this relationship signaling absolutely no future for it.
This is what righteousness and integrity requires. Ending the affair is what God demands of the cheating spouse.
There is no “if” for a Christian who is committed to following God. The ending of affair needs to be done completely independent of how the faithful spouse responds.
As if this advice for dealing with third parties were not bad enough, Chapman has some even worse advice for faithful spouses responding to infidelity in their marriages:
“How shall you respond to your mate’s affair? With displeasure, of course….You are disappointed, frustrated, and deeply hurt, but what will lead to reconciliation? Yes, you need to express your feelings, but do not play servant to them. Tell your mate how deeply you are hurt, acknowledge your past failures, and ask for reconciliation” (33).
Awful, awful, awful advice.
Please do NOT spill how hurt you are, share your failures , or beg for reconciliation!
1) The cheater already knows that cheating would hurt you and was wrong (hence all the deception). In fact, some cheaters cheat because they want to hurt the faithful spouse and sharing that hurt just makes them feel better.
2) Sharing your failures just reinforces the lie that you are partially responsible for his sinful cheating (click here for more of my thoughts on that lie). This is not the time or place for sharing your personal shortcomings–real or imagined.
Second, refuse to let the affair be the issue, and resist the temptation to talk about it every time you get together. Concentrate on restoring your own relationship (33).
Such qualifies as the worst advice I got on dealing with my wife’s infidelity.
The affair needs to be front and center until it is ended and fully repented of by the cheater!
Jesus instructs us to rebuke a brother sinning against us (see Luke 17:3). A partner who cheating or refusing to expose the fullness of the affair to his or her spouse is actively sinning against the faithful spouse. They need a stern rebuking and not a “polite” change of subject away from said sin.
Why might Chapman give this advice?
When you are lashing out in anger or falling apart in self-pity, you do not make reconciliation very desirable….
Obviously you cannot be reconciled until your spouse breaks off the affair, but do not set time limits or demand any particular action….
You cannot force reconciliation–you can only make the prospects look bright (33).
This is the sort of advice one gets from a leader who treats divorce as always unacceptable. He places the burden of healing the marriage upon the victim of the treacherous sins of infidelity and not the perpetrator of said sins. It is unjust and ungodly, IMO.
And Chapman misses the point:
God is absolutely making demands of the cheating spouse! STOP SINNING IMMEDIATELY!!!
A faithful spouse demanding an immediate end to the affair(s) is merely echoing what God already states throughout the Bible as His demand on spouses–namely, that they do not commit adultery (e.g. Exodus 20:14, Hebrews 13:4, etc).
Finally, God is not so much concerned as to making repentance “prospects look bright.”
He did not instruct Jonah to present a message to the inhabitants of Nineveh that would make them feel attracted to doing the right thing. It was a message of just judgment over their wickedness to which they responded–rightly–with repentance adverting said judgment out of God’s great mercy.
Cheaters do not need to be attracted to reconciliation. They need to be rebuked and warned regarding the danger to their souls if they continue sinning (see Hebrews 10:26-27).
It is exceedingly frustrating as an evangelical pastor to read this sort of advice from a leader many pastors and Christians look to for “Christian” relationship advice.
While not all of the book is bad–somethings are actually on point like the advice not to date while separated–I find his directives for faithful spouses and cheaters so wrong and awful that I would not recommend this book to someone whose marriage was in crisis due to infidelity.