More Madness From Dr. Laney

In a sense there is no “innocent” or “guilty” party in a marital break-up. It takes two to make a marriage and it usually takes two to make a divorce. While one partner may be the major contributor to the difficulties, it is hard for me to designate the other partner “innocent.” Did that spouse seek counsel early when the problems first began to appear? Did that spouse love unconditionally and sacrificially in such a way as to make the home and family life as pleasant as possible? If infidelity has taken place, did the “innocent” party forgive and forget? …. there is no “innocent” party in a divorce… (118)*


What strikes me about Dr. Laney’s exposition about “innocent” and “guilty” spouses+ is the absence of talk regarding adultery and repentance on the part of the adulterous spouse. The closest he comes is to blame the faithful spouse for a divorce presumably because he or she did not “forgive and forget.” And this is–also–the closest he gets to using theological categories in this section.

Besides the obvious problem in his teaching regarding forgiveness (i.e. forgiveness does not erase the damage created by the sin any more than forgiving a rapist erases the traumatic memory of the sexual assault), he greatly drops the ball in teaching on adultery. Dr. Laney does not even spill part of his ink in addressing the sin that God HIMSELF labelled evil and for which proscribed the death penalty in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Deut 22:22). Instead, Dr. Laney exemplifies much of what I encountered and have observed from other faithful spouses’ stories as very prevalent in evangelical circles today.

Dr. Laney quickly drops into psycho-babble and false equivalencies. He generally departs from Scripture eschewing theological categories and language for psychological language about the state of the relationship. The closest hint one has of Scripture is in his nod towards the abuse of Ephesians 5 when he suggests almost a scorecard about the spouse who is supposed to “love unconditionally and sacrificially in such a way as to make the home and family life as pleasant as possible.” It is as if not being loving enough–subjective criteria, by the way!–causes divorce as opposed to the decision to choose sin (either via an unbiblical divorce or adultery/abandonment). Besides, I wonder if he was truly honest if he could stand such a legalistic rubric for his own marriage.

Furthermore, does not seeking counseling early enough mean a spouse has a free pass to commit adultery or simply abandoned the other spouse through a divorce? Would Dr. Laney accept that as an excuse for a spouse to choose to just leave the marriage via divorce? I doubt it. Yet he is more than willing to damn the spouse left behind here.

By asking these questions he is making it as if doing or failing to do these things are the same as committing adultery or choosing to unbiblically abandon the faithful spouse. Those are what I mean by false equivalencies. It’s an apples to oranges comparison best not done.

Add on top to it his cruel, cruel denial over a person’s unilateral power to obtain a divorce. It is absolutely true that two people must be involved for a marriage to take place. But it is also true one person can decide to unilaterally leave the marriage and commit adultery. Those choices flow from the heart of that sinner and not the faithful spouse. It does not take two to make a divorce. To suggest or actually state that is pure wicked cruelty to the abandoned spouse. And to indict the faithful spouse for divorcing after adultery is to suggest divorce is more problematic than adultery. That is not a godly position.

It is almost as if Dr. Laney rewrote the Ten Commandments replacing “Thou shalt not commit adultery” with “Thou shalt not divorce.” Unfortunately for Dr. Laney’s position, his implied version is not what Scripture says.

God hates adultery more than He hates divorce.



*Laney, J. Carl. The Divorce Myth: A Biblical Examination of Divorce and Remarriage. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1981.

+ I do not like the terms “innocent” and “guilty” spouses. It takes the focus off the pertinent sin. I prefer “faithful” or “adulterous/faithless” for the parties. That focuses the issue with Bibilical language over the conditions for justifiable divorce or the party who is in sin through divorcing. Plus, this language helps us put the focus back on adultery. And I am all about “Taking Adultery Seriously.”

4 thoughts on “More Madness From Dr. Laney”

  1. This IS madness. Plenty of faithful spouse exist who will say that they thought they were in good marriages prior to discovering the adultery. And then there are those of us who were married to narcissists. Nothing we could have done or not done can change who a narc is. Only God can do that. The line about forgive and forget the adultery. Yikes! I just can’t fathom that response…many of us will never completely know what we’re forgiving and forgetting because the adulterous spouse just can’t be forthright. I think often of how a pastor might respond if a stranger broke into his home and physically or sexually assaulted his wife. Would he go to counseling with that attacker? Would he invite the attacker to come and live with them? Would he share his most intimate thoughts with a person who has caused so much trauma and harm? The answer is no. Yet, I feel like that is what I am being asked to do. I would imagine a number of faithful spouses feel the same way. The trauma and pain is quite enough without being blamed for the adulterous actions of my husband.

    1. Exactly, Ruthie. It is like too many pastors loose all common sense when it comes to issue of divorce and adultery. Safety issues aren’t even considered as your metaphor illustrates. Very sad. It is part of the reason I write this blog; my hope is to start changing such approaches so that they become more of the exception than the rule as it is now.

    2. I feel the same way Ruthie! Thank You DM for another post that I am grateful for. I loved being married and part of a family though I have had endured and sacrificed so much. I have raised my kids away for any family due to my husbands job and have to work so hard without much help.

      He has never been a great husband. He never helped with the housework even though I work too. He stopped doing the things he liked when we first married like hunting and fishing. Instead he choose to gamble. He gained weight and didn’t want to do much. And then I found out that he was serial cheater.

      The sacrifices which I made to be with this man and for my family only to have it all throw back into my face. I cared about the kids too much, I never wanted to have sex, he was lonely and didnt feel any love from me anymore. I WAS a good mother and wife! Did he ever ask if he could help me or if I might be overwhelmed raising 3 kids basically alone?

      He slept with my best friend when my last baby was 6 months old. Talk about ultimate betrayal. I only found out 4 months ago and he wants me to get over it. He has done nothing but give me excuses on why I am partially to blame. He continues his EA relationship with his secretary. This man is not my husband. I don’t even know who he is. He has ruined our family and crushed our children.

      I am moving out in June. I have feel a overwhelming sense of God being with me and he is guiding me on a path. The path is divorce. He absolutely hates adultery more then divorce. I know this is not what I have choose but what has been handed to me. It is now my duty to take care of myself and my kids.

  2. I’m late to this but thought I’d comment anyway – Hmm, let’s see, did I go to counseling when problems started to appear? Nope, X wouldn’t go to counseling. Would rage at me the few times I suggested it. I went to our minister several times for counseling about the situation, he would never go. Finally convinced him (during the EA possibly PA by then) and he went for approx. 30 minutes, raged at me for agreeing to do some of the things the counselor suggested to “better our marriage” and then raged at the counselor when it was pointed out how inappropriate the relationship with OW was, said he was divorcing me and stormed out.

    Did I love unconditionally and sacrificially? Yes, to the best of my human ability. Looking back, I walked on eggshells all the time, trying to make X happy and not do anything to upset him. Was I perfect? Obviously not. But I really tried to be a good wife and like a good little Chump, made my needs smaller and smaller.

    Did I forgive and forget the infidelity? No. So I guess you have me there, Dr. Laney.

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