Really?! Dr. Gary Chapman On Cheaters.


Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!

I Corinthians 6:15, NIV

When I was going through my separation prior to divorce, I read many books in my desperation to “save” my marriage. One of those books happened to be written by Dr. Gary Chapman of The Five Love Languages fame. I thought is book would be helpful as I had found and continue to find his five love language framework useful advice.

The particular book is entitled Hope for the Separated:Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed. Two days ago, Song of Joy reminded me of the book’s existence in her comment on my post (here). Looking at the quote she provided from the book and returning to my copy of it, I was horrified by what I read.

Absolutely horrified! 

***Please do not buy and follow Dr. Gary Chapman’s advice in this book. ***

A Cry for Justice blog has a pretty thorough book review here. It was actually that book review that prompted the comment from Song of Joy. Personally, I cannot believe I accepted the junk Dr. Chapman was peddling in the book regarding infidelity at one time.

For example, Dr. Chapman gives this sort of advice to cheaters in how to break it off with their affair partners:

First, indicate to the other person [the affair partner!] 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. (location 232)

Is this supposed to be “Christian” counsel? It sure does not look like it to me. A cheater got into this mess by sharing his or her feelings (and other things) with an inappropriate party. Emotional cheating is what illicit feeling sharing is called. Cheating on your spouse is sin.

As a pastor, I would definitely say that it is NOT “fine to share again your feelings” for and to this affair partner. Saying so is encouraging cheaters to sin!

A godly way to end the relationship with the Other Man/Other Woman is to communicate the illicit relationship is over in no uncertain terms forever. A godly way of ending an affair does not imply things might be different if the marital reconciliation process fails as this sort of advice hints to me. And it certainly does not take a stroll down memory lane basking in stolen emotional intimacies!

Sadly, this is not even the worse piece of advice given by Dr. Chapman to faithful spouses in his book. He enshrines on the printed page the worst piece of advice I ever got and followed in light of my (now) ex-wife’s adultery.

….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. Remember, the marital difficulty has been caused by the marriage partners, not by someone outside the marriage. (Location 247)

True, the affair partner is ultimately not the source of the marriage problems. The problem lies within the heart of the adulterous spouse as Scripture clearly teaches (e.g. Mark 7:21-23, James 1:13-15). But you do not solve that problem by taking the spotlight off the adultery.

It is a fool that tries to fix his ship while his partner continues shooting canon balls through the floor. A marriage ravaged by infidelity is that ship, and no hope for its survival in life’s seas exist with a trigger happy cheater refusing to cease his/her adulterous destructive ways.

But this advice fits with Dr. Chapman’s clear and unbiblical subscription to “The Shared Responsibility Lie” in most cases of infidelity. He writes in talking about cases where marital infidelity is present,

Almost always some failure in the marriage has developed over a period of time before an affair develops. Your failures and those of your spouse brought about the demise of your marriage. Unresolved conflict, unmet needs, and stubborn selfishness eat away at a relationship over the weeks and months. (Location 237)

This is awful advice. God instructed the Israelites to end marriages via the death penalty over adultery (e.g. Deuteronomy 22:22). I am sure even back then the quality of some marriages ravaged by adultery were poor as Dr. Chapman suggests here. However, those marriages were not ended based on the mutual relationship failures between the spouses. They ended because one committed adultery, and God taught His followers to be intolerant of such sin.

One final quote from the book nearly made me blow a gasket at how callous, cruel, and ungodly Dr. Chapman’s treatment of adultery victims is.

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 falling apart in self-pity, you do not make reconciliation very desirable. (Location 247)

Adultery is soul rape. When your spouse is willfully uniting your own soul with a third party (or two) against your will that is very traumatic. And that is precisely what happens when adultery is occurring. Cheaters are raping the souls of faithful spouses.

This advice is cold.

Would Dr. Chapman say the same thing to a sexual assault victim facing her attacker? I hope not.

Would he suggest that she focus on other things than getting the rapist to stop raping her? I hope not.

Would he condemn her for being angry or “falling apart in self-pity” in her grief over such a violation? I hope not. 

But he does precisely that here to adultery victims–i.e. soul rape victims. It is shameful. And it is ungodly.

Dr. Chapman may have other good teachings elsewhere. However, these teachings alone are toxic and so Biblically flawed that I would never want a faithful spouse to read or follow his advice in these matters.

Further, I am angry that such a book preys on faithful spouses’ desires to reconcile while giving advice that obscures the Biblical mandate of repentance first. And it especially bothers me that this is coming from such a highly regarded evangelical as sound Christian marital advice. Very disturbing.

He seems to forget that insisting on repentance and thereby the end of the affair is not a matter just between the spouses. In fact, ultimately, the faithful spouse is not demanding the cheater repent. God is.

A Christian leader must not loose sight of this. The demand and call to repentance is coming from our Holy God. 

And failure to heed the call to repentance leads to a fiery damnation per the Bible (e.g. I Corinthians 6:9, Hebrews 10:26-27).

Remember that divorce is not the worst outcome in this matter. It is no good to “save” a marriage while damning a soul to hell over unrepented sin–and such is sin where a cheater is still blaming his partner for being unfaithful in the first place.


11 thoughts on “Really?! Dr. Gary Chapman On Cheaters.”

  1. Thank you for this. It is annoying when “experts” like Chapman blame the faithful spouse as contributing to the affair and the attention is focused on helping ease the cheater away from the affair. An affair is an active betrayal – a choice made that destroys or at the least, profoundly damages a marriage. Ultimately it is a character problem of the cheater and not really about the marriage itself. A faithful spouse can’t fix this.It is not the job of a faithful spouse to make his/her spouse “happy”. Life is full of unhappy events – one shouldn’t have to worry that the marriage will fail when encountering these events (e.g. death of a loved one, loss of a job, health problems, etc). Life is about striving, and in the process, being loyal, loving, and caring.

  2. “When you are lashing out in anger or falling apart in self-pity, you do not make reconciliation very desirable.

    This is atrocious. It’s a slap to the Biblical concept of repentance in so many ways. One way is that it puts the responsibility of the perpetrator to do right squarely on the victim. Like the victim has some responsibility to, and is able to ’cause’ the sinner to make amends. It also prays on the very idea that the victim has some control over this. Because if it’s the victims fault then they can fix it. It’s a very seductive idea when you’re in that state of mind directly after d-day.

    To be clear, lashing out and falling into self-pity probably doesn’t help any situation. But it is not up to the victim to solve the sinners sin.

  3. These are all pretty horrific statements. Considering it is typically the sharing of your emotions with someone other than your spouse that leads to divorce, it’s pretty dreadful to recommend that as part of your resolution.

  4. The first time my husband cheated I read about 5-6 books like this. I implemented the strategies suggested. I could not figure out why I felt more frustrated and confused about my situation. At the end it was all dead effort on my part as it wasn’t never my issue to fix to begin with. But, I was vulnerable and feeling desperate to save my marriage. My husband has cheated on me a total of four times. I have finally realized that this is not for me to “fix” and actually I do not want to any more. I wish my eyes were open to this revelation 20 years ago.

  5. So according to Dr. Chapman the faithful spouse shares responsibility for the adulterous affair but the cheating spouse should show concern for the feelings of his/her affair partner and be careful of their feelings so as not to make them ( the affair partner) feel any guilt or responsibility. WOW, JUST WOW

  6. My husband cheated and left me four years ago. I cannot begin to explain the absolute trauma I, our children, extended family, church family and friends have experienced as he needed his “space.” “Maybe he was “in love,” as he put it. As I work so hard to heal, forgive and move forward, he basks in shame, embarrassment, self pity, yearning for the fantasy and self indulgence as I and the rest of the family tries to right themselves from this tsunami. Bad childhood, preconditioning aside, the collateral damage is u real and ever scarring. But one thing I am adamant about. It Is NOT my fault and not mine to fix. Not our children, our friends, extended family or church family in his regrets. Fix what YOU broke to the best of Your ability!

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