MARRIAGE MISDIAGNOSIS: 4 Things Christian Authors Need to Stop Saying

by | Sep 12, 2022 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 42 comments

4 Things Marriage Teachers need to Stop Teaching

We’re talking Marriage Misdiagnosis in the month of September–how all too often the evangelical church especially gets the problem WRONG when it comes to marriage, and then the solutions proposed end up making things worse.

Last week we started looking at why Christian marriage advice can be shallow, and then we saw how more commitment won’t solve most marriage problems. 

Much of this is a journey that I’ve been through as I’ve been writing and delivering marriage conferences and seeing what else is being said. And as we’ve read more research and listened to thousands of women, we’ve changed how we’re talking about this.

Another blogger who has recently changed quite a bit is Ngina Otiende from Intentional Today. I had Ngina on the podcast a while back, and today I invited her to write her story of the realizations she had when writing about marriage.

So here’s Ngina, with her own story of Marriage Misdiagnosis!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder, Bare Marriage

“Perhaps you should stop selling the book?” My husband proposed.

Our late-night conversation was taking an unexpected turn.

We were both born and raised in Kenya. As newlyweds, we jumped into the marriage space, working with dating couples and organizing seminars and retreats for married couples from our local church.

When we moved to the United States three years into our marriage, I started blogging.

And for a long time, I did not realize that some of the things I was saying (what we ourselves were taught) was unhelpful to people in unhealthy marriages.

While well-intentioned, some of my words could blur the lines of individual responsibility in marriage.

About a month after that conversation with my husband – about taking down a book I was completely revamping -, I unpublished all my books and courses (pending complete updates), hundreds of blog posts, and my coaching services.

Today, I want to share why I changed my approach as a marriage author and the four questions marriage teachers should ask themselves.

1. Christian Marriage Teachers Need to Ask: Are Caveats Enough?

For a long time, I thought issuing caveats was enough.

“And I don’t market my work to people in abusive marriages. I’m good.”

When Christian writers and speakers teach about marriage, we like to throw in phrases such as “But this doesn’t apply if you’re being abused” or “This material is not meant for people in abusive marriages.”

Granted, it is better to say something than say nothing at all.

However, many speakers and writers will issue a caveat and then proceed to include harmful or dysfunctional dynamics in the teaching.

An example: We’ll use an illustration with a toxic pattern and then jam it in the “normal marriage happenings” box. A scenario that indicates an individual problem, “Joe often says mean things to his wife when he’s upset,” will be treated like a two-people problem. “So they went for marriage counseling and learned better communication .”

Here’s what I learned and what marriage teachers need to understand: Even if we issued a caveat, the woman married to a mean and unkind man will identify with our illustration.

Consequently, and rather than see the problem in the marriage as individual more than marital (and thus get the abuse and trauma-informed help they need), they’ll go back home and try to work out the “marriage issue” with better communication and more counseling.

Instead of helping them, our teaching keeps them in the dangerous vortex.

So, it’s not enough for writers and speakers to say, “this message is not for people in abusive marriages.”

We must stop winding up illustrations for dramatic effect. We must turn everything right-side up and teach in a way that will not confuse individuals in unhealthy or abusive marriages.

When we use examples with clearly manipulative and exploitative patterns, even if those examples are from our own lives, we must discuss boundaries, individual responsibility, the need for safety, and how a healthy, Jesus-centered marriage actually looks like.

2. Christian Marriage Teachers Need to Encourage Emotional Expression

In 2017, I developed a health condition that has defied clinical diagnosis. I live with chronic pain.

I’ve been told to “pray” and “believe” for healing. Some have insinuated that a lack of faith is why I’m still in pain and all the life limitations that come with it.

In his book, Attached to God, Krispin Mayfield observes that people who have difficulty accessing their emotions find it more challenging to change their ways of thinking when presented with a new perspective.

Research indicates that those who reflexively shut down their emotions are much less likely to change their way of thinking when presented with a new perspective. That’s because information doesn’t change your beliefs, experience does. To see something in a new way, you have to engage emotionally with your own experience and your own memories, harvesting and reorganizing them for a new way of seeing. But if you are always dodging your emotions, you will avoid your own experience, as well as avoiding the experience of others

Krispin Mayfield

Attached to God: A Practical Guide to Deeper Spiritual Experience

See Krispin’s episode of the Bare Marriage podcast. 

When we detach from our emotions, we have a harder time changing our perspective.

While Krispin is addressing the “Shutdown” attachment style (and he goes on to explain how people with a “Shutdown” attachment style can begin to connect with their emotions), we can learn a lot from the concept.

I believe the Christian world, particularly the Evangelical, Conservative part, is suffering from an emotions drought.

We’ve been taught to distrust our emotions. We’ve been trained to supress our God-given intuition. We see our bodies and emotions as an adversary to be subdued, conquered, and controlled.

No wonder we struggle to change our minds when presented with new perspectives! We simply don’t connect experientially.

We’re suffocating, and we don’t even know it.

Our Christian world needs more people who can “engage emotionally with (our) own experience and (our) own memories, harvesting and reorganizing them for a new way of seeing.”

We need more people-helpers who can access that human part of themselves, listen and empathize with women and what they say hurts them. More compassion and less “But the Bible says.” More caring and less theological high horses and platforms.

We don’t need a massive crisis or personal pain to begin to feel the pain of others like I did.

God uses everything, not just the hard.

We can simply learn to lean into the whispers of those around us, those who hurt. We can open our hearts (not just minds) to new evidence, like Sheila + co book, The Great Sex Rescue, and see ourselves and loved ones in those pages.

3. Christian Marriage Authors Need to Ask: Are We Overselling Love?

In my previous life, I made a lot of assumptions. I supposed that everyone who found my blog could read between the lines and know what to apply and what not to.

And there’s a place for individual responsibility.

However, overlooking your needs comes naturally when you’re hammered with weaponized religious text and cultural conditioning.

In general, Christians talk about love too much. We talk about forgiveness, compassion, going the extra mile, patience and gentleness, and all the things that make for decent character.

What we don’t talk about is what to do when you’re on the receiving end of a lack of love.

When impatience, bitterness, dishonor, disloyalty, neglect, wrath, rage, meanness, and roughness are part of your regular relationship experiences.

Many Christians don’t know that God has not ordained we remain tethered to abusive or toxic people.

We need a shift.

When we talk about love, we can’t not talk about what a lack of love looks like. We can’t not share how people can protect themselves when a firehose of unlove is directed at them.

Modern Christianity has made being a Christian all about loving people. And yes, it is good to love others.

However, the type of love many Christians have in mind is boundary-less. And it’s that wide-open-no-boundary “love” that immature and harmful people will take advantage of.

And so we can no longer linger on the responsibility of the victim/target of the negative behavior, to love, be patient with, and pray for the person who hurts them

We can no longer have ideas for self-protection that are cloaked in heavy arguments about how to “keep that window open,” reconciliation, giving the benefit of the doubt or reminding people how “God still loves the difficult individual.”

We must address the fact that people have a right to limit access: That they can walk away from the bad relationship. They can completely cut people off who harm them.

And God won’t be mad at them because He has established our dignity and worth as image bearers. (Matthew 18:15-17, I Cor 5:9-13, Ephesians 5:3‭-‬13)

4. We Should Not Just Hear Excuses from Christian Marriage Teachers

I used to think that good intentions were enough.

Now I know it’s not about what we mean but how the intended audience receives our message.

And assuming we had the right intentions, to begin with, but expressed them in such a way that people got hurt, shouldn’t it be the easiest of things to correct what we said so we get our true message across?

When we don’t self-correct and instead say, “people got it wrong, it’s not my fault,” it reveals our lack of awareness.

The burden is on us, as the originators of thought and message, to speak in such a way that our true message gets across (you know, that healthy message we say we have) and people don’t get hurt.

It’s on us to communicate in such a way that the whole room, not just one part, is edified. It’s a sacred duty not to shred one side of the room to pieces “in efforts to build up the other.”

Christian Marriage Teachers: We Can Change

As someone who had to rethink their approach after 10+ years of blogging, I know change is possible. It’s hard, but it’s possible.

That’s all people want from us. To stop saying things that have been proven to harm women (and men) and start sharing the true liberating gospel of Jesus.

I was speaking with a friend the other day, and she said, “One of these days, some speakers will find themselves speaking to empty rooms.”

I agree. The tide is rising. If we don’t listen to people and adjust accordingly, they’ll tune us out and we’ll be left holding our precious thoughts and ideas.

Make no mistake: this is not about us. It never was. The hurricane-force winds we’re feeling right now are wounded people calling us to a higher standard. We are not under attack. We are not the victims. We’re the teachers being held to the Jesus-standard.

What Christian Marriage Teachers need to Stop Saying

What do you think? I really liked #3 especially, how we redefine love to ignore boundaries. What struck you with what Ngina was saying? Let’s talk in the comments!

(And be sure to follow Ngina on Facebook too! She has awesome graphics!)

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Ngina Otiende


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Ngina Otiende

Author at Bare Marriage

Ngina Otiende is a certified marriage coach, author, and founder of, where she helps spouses find clarity and hope. She examines unhealthy relationship dynamics and how elevating the marriage institution above individual welfare has harmed us. Check out her blog and connect with her on Facebook.

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  1. Lynne'

    This is so important! I went through a year long course with “give her wings” to be an abuse survivor advocate. My reasons to do that were partially because I wanted to be able to examine my own and my husbands behavior in our 18 year marriage. He is an abuse survivor, but kids of abuse do not grow up to be absusers. That is a common myth, BUT we did have some unhealthy dynamics and I couldn’t figure out why or what they were exactly. All I knew is that the christian teachings we were getting were harmful.
    Here is one.. so men are told that they should love their wives like Jesus loves the church and give his life for her. How might that translate if you do not also teach self care and boundaries? My husband only was modeled a co-dependant love (the love his mom showed to his evil father.. I don’t say evil lightly, his father strangled him as a baby and as a young child as only one of the cruelties) but if your idea of how to sacrificially love is to ignore your own needs and betray yourself and your own desires ALL THE TIME for another. — Well.. You might be able to imagine that as a person who wanted to love him BACK this sort of being loved didn’t feel good. If someone can’t or won’t show up and say what they want or like.. how can you love them back? Who are you loving if they aren’t showing up? Then when he would be doing “loving things” like doing the dishes when he got home from work, well, it seemed like a nice thing right? Except that he wasn’t doing the dishes because I had asked for help or because we were doing what need to be done together. No we would stop me from doing something and tell me to sit down and he would do it. But I wanted to spend time with *him*.. I didn’t want all the forced service that he felt he had to do. It is confusing to try to explain because it ends up sounding like I am complaining about a great guy and what every wife would want, but… the dynamic wasn’t right. He treated me like an abusee that needed appeasement (because that is the “love” he knew) and because I was taught to submit to my husband, I didn’t know how to change the dynamic that we had going.. basically I was taught how to love codependently as well too! So we had this cycle of “love” where we both ignored what we needed ourselves in order to serve the other and neither of us were happy. We ended up making some decisions that neither of us really wanted either because we were trying so hard to serve/follow the other. In one way, I am thankful for what I was taught because I can see how it kept me from squashing him, but I also wish that marriage advice had been better back then. No one talked about how marriage is a gift and comfort.. the books we read seemed to always point out how marriage was hard and a sacrifice and for suffering. Well, we did suffer. My husband more so because he didn’t have a sense of “this isn’t right” like I did. I at least had a memory of a healthy attachment love and an amount of independent gumption that came into me before it got squelched with extra conservative teachings of obedience and submission.
    Hearing outright what is wrong or off like your “fixed it dor you” stuff is so helpful! Also, when teachers point out boundaries and what is harmful and what is good without muddying the waters is also helpful! Even in none abusive marriages, we don’t get it right, and we might not KNOW what marriage should look like intuitively. Picking out the good from the bad isn’t possible for those of us who believed harmful messages about hierarchy (like me) or those people who only experienced unhealthy relationships with no boundaries (like my husband)– we are both two people with good intentions who wanted to love each other well.. and honestly, we would have been better off getting no advice or interference from anyone for the first 10 years that the “help” we did get. But GOOD advice and solid interdependent teachings would have been helpful.. Like how to love the other AS YOURSELF.. so what does loving yourself well look like then? Becuase if you ignore your own needs you aren’t able to love others well at all. We have to start with the individual persons before we work on the couple together. Every problem in a marriage is not a couples problem! And enabling the other person is not loving.

    • Eliza

      Yes! This is very much like what our dynamic was like and similarly my husband was an abuse victim (not as severe physical but lots of emotional/spiritual) always trying to appease me (or rather what he thought I was needing to be appeased on if I expressed the slightest disagreement on anything) and I was trying to be the good submissive wife (along with my sense of being able to even have desires terminated by courtship)–the end result being we were both killing ourselves trying to do what we thought the other one wanted and neither of us had any idea of what we actually wanted for ourselves, how to have a conversation about that, or how to feel loved in return. Thirteen years of that nearly ended our marriage and it was secular counseling that let us finally figure out what was going on.

  2. Melissa W

    This right here: “The hurricane-force winds we’re feeling right now are wounded people calling us to a higher standard. We are not under attack. We are not the victims. We’re the teachers being held to the Jesus-standard.” Amen! If only other authors/teachers had this much self awareness!

  3. Amy

    I’m regard to #1, many, maybe most, abuse victims don’t realize that they are in an abusive relationship until they are in the relationship for a long time or after they have left the relationship. The victim may read the caveat but assume it doesn’t apply to them. That’s why caveats aren’t good enough. The teaching has to be healthy for everyone.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Amy, this point is so very important. I didn’t realize I was being verbally abused until someone told me. I had been consuming “Christian Marriage” content for decades, and would have continued on. I had no idea what abuse really looked like.

  4. Scary Ary

    Re: #2 and emotional relation: it’s very odd to me that as a church, and in lots of ways North American culture, have chosen to frame compassion as something devoid of logic and reason. As if when we act out of compassion, we’ve switched out of Brain Mode™ and into Heart Mode™. As if the two can’t work together at the same time. As if the brain can’t process data (like say, I don’t know, a survey of 20,000 women) and see the harmful results and then respond with empathy and compassion. Why is that seen as such a challenge? I would love an explanation.

    • Mara R

      One reason might be because there are entire denominations that think the church’s biggest problem is that it is being ‘feminized’.

      These groups and individuals have been on full-scale attack against the feminization of the church. They see this feminization as the enemy and preach and teach against it. Emotionalism is considered by them to be part of the problem since emotions are associated with the feminine.

      Any of us saying that we need to be in touch with our emotions is heard to be saying to them that they need to be in touch with their feminine side (as if men are 100% logical and reasonable). And this, of course, would be considered a grave sin to these teachers and promoters of the Masculine mindset as being the way the church should be.

    • Jane Eyre

      The caveat thing is so important. I wish marriage authors would explain WHY the caveats are so crucial: “this advice works for a good marriage and usually has results A, B, and C. If your marriage is abusive, doing this will have completely opposite results X, Y, and Z.” Alternately, something like “couples counseling is not recommended for abusive marriages because the abuser will manipulate the counselor, furthering the abuse and making the victim more isolated. If you feel beaten down after joint counseling, consider seeing someone on your own.” Explain how a dysfunctional marriage does not benefit from the same interventions as a functional marriage.

  5. Phil

    I actually like the opening line. Stop selling the book. I might coin my own term here. Start selling Jesus and the rest will come. 🙂

  6. Joy

    “It’s a sacred duty not to shred one side of the room to pieces “in efforts to build up the other.'”

    So many good ideas in here–I love how this sums it up. Thanks for writing Ngina! I love what you have shared!

    • Just wondering

      Just a question. Is this sight intended for marriage councilors, pastors, and the like? Or for couples that want to do better together? The URL & title and books referenced, etc. look like it’s for couples that want to do better, but the blog content sounds like it’s for Christian marriage councilors and authors.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        It’s for anyone who cares about Christian marriage!

        And for the lay Christian, we need to understand why the books we’re reading may never have worked or may have left us feeling worse.

        That’s why The Great Sex Rescue became such a bestseller–we showed people why the books that were written about sex actually spread messages we statistically showed did harm, and that there was a way forward without those toxic messages.

    • John Doe

      “It’s a sacred duty not to shred one side of the room to pieces “in efforts to build up the other.’”

      Sadly, a lot of marriage and couples advice comes across as a zero sum game. For one to win the other has to loose.

      To be honest, I have seen discussions here that have sounded like men need to lose so that women will win. I know that this may be because the authors are women, as are the majority of readers and commenters. Coming from one view point it is difficult to sympathize with another that is deemed to be the opposite.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think it comes back to something that’s quoted a lot in social spaces–when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

        No one is saying men need to lose. We’re just saying that we need to look to see what the research says about how both can win. And that may mean that men don’t get everything that they have gotten in the past–because much of that has come at women’s expense.

        If she’s been giving $10 into the pot, and you’ve been receiving $10 of benefit, and now we’re saying, “you each put $5 into the pot”, it’s going to feel very uncomfortable, like you’re giving up a lot and losing. But the pot still has $10 at the end.

        • Agree

          When you are more equal and all things, including sex, is more mutual, you may each out $5 into the pot, but the result is much more than $10 coming back!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes! I was thinking of how to say that, and I really should have said that God multiples or something!

      • Stefanie

        Thanks for engaging, John. Can we unpack that thought? Why does saying, “Men, make sure your wife is also enjoying the sex” feel like men are losing?

        • John Doe

          First, do not misrepresent my statement. I have seen this a lot where a question is asked or a statement is made and a sound bite is made to make the commenter look bad. Not a good look if you want to appear unbiased.

          Sheila, what privileges do men have that women do not? If anything, I would contend that women have privileges that men do not.

          For instance, in Canada there are only 36 domestic abuse shelters out of 627 that accept men. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men are victims of abuse but studies contend that the numbers are more than likely close to equal. This looks like that men are being forgotten, doesn’t it? But the assumption is that men have all the privileges. That may have been true in years past but it does not appear to be the case anymore.

          Look at educational opportunities. According to, in the US there are only 20 scholarships specifically for men and over 100 for women. When you consider that women are graduating from college with undergrads at rates of over 60% and even higher percentages for graduate degrees, it would appear the men are losing so that women can win.

          In regards to the advice that I see here and other marriage advice resources, the assumption is that men are responsible for their wife’s pleasure and happiness. That is putting responsibility of another’s feelings on their spouse. That is not fair to either party. I cannot be responsible for my wife’s happiness and she cannot be responsible for mine.

          Each person needs to take responsibility for themselves first and not shift the blame to another.

          Stefanie, “Men, make sure your wife is also enjoying the sex” (why does that feel) like men are losing? I did not say that but I will answer it. Women have all of the power in regards to sex. They decide when it happens and how often.

          The only time that is not the case is when there is physical force or coercion, both of which are disgusting and are not what the Bible teaches.

          However, it is clear the the lower drive spouse has control of that aspect of the relationship. More often than not it is women who have the lower drive, as Sheila and her team’s research has shown. To that, putting the blame for it on men seems to be giving all of the power and privilege to women and creating an unequal power dynamic.

          Speaking from personal experience, my wife will not allow me to spend much time on her because she is one of those women that has a refractory period after orgasm, which flies in the face of the idea that all women can have multiples in a row, but it is never talked about and it makes her feel broken. She does not want to disappointment me and I don’t want to disappoint her, so we are in a catch 22.

          Makes me feel like a failure, to be honest.

          • Jane Eyre

            “Women have all of the power in regards to sex. They decide when it happens and how often.”

            Good grief you are clueless.

            I don’t have the option for orgasmic married sex because my husband flatly refuses to get his act together and learn my body. My choices are horrible sex, no sex, adultery, or divorce.

            But thank you for annoying to the entire world that you also suck in bed. Any man who is remotely competent in the bedroom knows that his wife’s pleasure is not automatic and that he has a job to do.

          • Joy

            I’m only going to respond to your last three paragraphs–it sound like you are in a marriage where you may be dealing with some sexual dysfunction, and it sounds like you have made an attempt to not hurt your wife even though things aren’t really going well. You are stuck and seem to be hurting.

            Sheila is working to address large patterns in the way that the church discusses sex and marriage because she has found that they hurt women. That does not mean that what she is talking about applies to your own specific marriage or that you may find these resources helpful. Your marriage is individual, and you probably need to seek some sort of physical or individual help to reach a better place.

            What you may gain from Sheila’s work is that you need to avoid counselors, pastors and other sources that perpetuate the sort of harmful messages that Sheila is discussing. It will probably make things worse because of the way the messages will be internalized by your wife. If Sheila is still reading here–how does one find a decent help in this area when needed?

      • Joy

        Doing things differently doesn’t always hurt or even have to hurt one party to help the other. The people who have benefitted from the resources that have been negative for others would most likely still benefit from resources that are not negative for those vulnerable people. It’s because they are seeking help from a healthy place. Couples who laud Love & Respect would probably do well with other resources because they threw out the garbage messages or glossed over them/didn’t take them seriously.

        That actually happened in our marriage. L & R was popular in church at the time, so we dutifully bought the book during our first year of marriage and decided we’d take turns reading it out loud to each other. My husband’s BS detector is very sensitive, and we got two chapters in before he switched to dramatically reading the book out loud in a ridiculous voice because he just could not take it seriously. We never finished it. I felt like a bad evangelical at the time, but now I’m super happy to have a husband who naturally resists the sort of messages Sheila is confronting right now. BUT–that was only able to happen for us because my husband knew of his own accord how to throw out bad messaging. If he had enjoyed those messages because he felt like he got something out of it or wanted to control me he easily could have. I was totally the sort of person who was primed to take that book seriously and use it as a guide for a good Christian marriage.

        Men who use the new resources will most likely see a benefit to themselves because their wives are so much happier and healthier. I have to question any man who sees learning how to love a wife in a way that she responds to as “losing.” Why do you view this as losing?

        • John Doe

          There very well may be benefits to husbands and wives via the resources here. However, it can be used against men since the main message is that sex and intimacy in marriage has gone wrong because men messed it up and it is their responsibility to change it.

          Look at the comment from Jane Eyre attacking me personally because of my wife’s choices. I am blamed for her actions even when I have done everything that is spoken of here. Women are given a free pass and men are scapegoated.

          As I stated originally, a lot of marriage advice appears to target one spouse. Many of the evangelical teachings that Sheila has spoken up against has blamed the wife. That is not ok and she can’t be at fault for what her husband does.

          On the flip side, there have been posts and comments here that appear to blame the husband. So that appears to be an over-correction. I believe that, as I stated above, this is due to majority of those on this platform are women. Many of whom have been victimized by men because of these bad teachings. Due to this, there is a defensiveness to anyone, especially men, who are not in lock step with the messaging.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think it’s an issue of what the research says, though, John.

            Let me give an example. Let’s say that the wife isn’t reaching orgasm, and it’s pretty much entirely due to her. Maybe it’s PTSD from past assaults; maybe it’s the messaging she received about sex; maybe for whatever reason she just feels awkward and ashamed. Let’s say that the husband truly wants to give her an orgasm and bring her pleasure, but she doesn’t want him to.

            So this is a situation that is pretty much entirely on her–not her fault really, because it’s not her fault she has PTSD and it’s not her fault she had bad messaging. But she is the cause.

            HOWEVER–and this is the big however–if he continues to have intercourse with her for years when she is not orgasming, then he is reinforcing the problem and causing harm. So while it wasn’t his fault that this problem existed, he is now cementing in her mind the idea that sex isn’t for her, and he is using her, even if she tells him to go ahead. The proper thing to do in that case is to figure out WHY and do something about it. See a therapist together. Talk. Read books. Figure it out!

            So he may not have been the cause, but often the things that husbands do create a much bigger problem that is now much harder to fix. That’s the issue. We need to find a way to talk about how to make sex good for both, and how to help both of you get over any trauma or shame that you have EARLY in the marriage. This needs to be the expectation–not that you just get to use the other person regardless because sex is your due. Hope that makes sense!

  7. Scary Ary

    Okay apparently I’m not done because THIS. THIS IS IMPORTANT.

    “We can no longer have ideas for self-protection that are cloaked in heavy arguments about how to “keep that window open,” reconciliation, giving the benefit of the doubt or reminding people how “God still loves the difficult individual.”

    GOD still loves the difficult individual. GOD does. I am not God. I am not capable of offering redeeming love. I am not the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am bound by so many limits by simply NOT BEING GOD.
    You cannot expect me to love a harmful, dangerous, or abusive individual in the way that God can. Asking me to do so is unfair. It diminishes my personhood and makes me into a martyr. Now my suffering is not about me, it’s about my ability to forgive despite everything I’ve been through.

    Are we called to forgive others? Absolutely. Can forgiveness happen with healing? That is my honest hope. But if the church can’t recognize the importance of drawing boundaries while still maintaining forgiveness, how can those of us who are hurting ever take control of the narrative, when we’re consistently told we haven’t ✨really✨ forgiven them?

    • Maria B.

      Too often forgiveness is conflated with reconciliation. Not the same. Reconciliation means the wronged party forgave AND the party who committed the wrong repented.

      Repentance includes letting the victim set legitimate boundaries until he or she feels it’s safe to let the repentant, former, wrong-doer back in. True repentance does not demand you pretend it didn’t happen.

  8. Stefanie

    “However, overlooking your needs comes naturally when you’re hammered with weaponized religious text and cultural conditioning.”

    The harmful messages are remarkably consistent across books and conservative churches. It’s difficult to see that anything is wrong if you were raised in FotF type spaces from birth. Maybe “good girls” have it worse because we were afraid of stepping out of line.

    • Laura

      I totally agree! Women’s Bible studies have insisted that I have to ignore my needs for the sake of other people, not just in marriage. Years ago at a women’s Bible study I attended, a retired woman felt overwhelmed because she had to do ALL this stuff to take care of her husband. He was not in the best of health, but he was capable of doing some things around the house. I told her to take time out for herself so that she could better care for her husband. Another lady cut in and told me that I was out of line. I wasn’t following God’s will and that I needed to get alone with God and pray that he’d set me straight. This lady who cut in also talked about how her husband, a nonchurch goer would not let her tithe. If her husband was really that controlling over her, it was no wonder that she was bossy in Bible study and around other women.

  9. Boone

    I have had people sit in my office and weep because they did what the preacher told them or what the book said and their marriage was ending anyway. They had been told to pray more or love their spouse like Jesus. They tried to no avail.
    One of the worst was that Fireproof movie about ten years ago. I saw men raped in divorce court because they wouldn’t fight back. They loved unconditionally and wound up left with nothing and stuck with alimony that they couldn’t pay because they truly believed that if they loved unconditionally and didn’t resist their wife would come back. I saw men get hammered and walk out of court still believing that. They thought that at some point in the future she was coming back. Most walked out of court with their faith destroyed and their pockets empty.
    I know that this rant is a little off topic but it’s been one of those Mondays.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Not off topic at all, Boone! I’m sorry you’re having one of those days. But, yes, when the books told us to give and give and give with no consequences, to empty ourselves because that is what wins the spouse back? It doesn’t. It just doesn’t.

      • Mara R

        Hhm. This triggered a memory.

        Back in the day, before the ex quit God, quit the church, and quit me, there was a part of him that knew something was wrong so he went searching. One of the first things he latched onto what the opinion that he was ADHD. As a result, he joined a support group. Then his support group suggested that I join one that was for partners of ADHD.

        The time I spent in the group was amazing. I learned so much.

        Boone’s rant and your response reminded me of a rant I had about being trained to give too much. That doing so would solve the problems that my husband was having.

        One of the books that I blamed was “The Giving Tree”. It’s a children’s book that has been around forever. The tree gave until there was nothing left of it but a stump. And this was held up as heroic or something. I ended my tirade saying something along the lines of, “They need to put a warning label on that book!”

        So, anyway, there is a lopsided current about giving in our culture in general. Then the church takes it and hurts women and men by calling on them to give until there is nothing left. This is presented as if it will fix the problem. And worse, it is presented as, “This is what God wants you to do.”

  10. Chrissie

    I really resonate with #3 and love not including boundaries. I feel like church focuses mostly on the love aspect of Jesus regarding marriage. There are many aspects of Jesus we should strive for, not just love. Seems like unconditional boundryless love is the goal or idol in Christian marriages. This ties into the idea of suffering for Christ in your marriage. I’m so glad this was addressed. Jesus had boundaries and so should we.

  11. Anon

    “But if you are always dodging your emotions, you will avoid your own experience, as well as avoiding the experience of others“

    This perfectly explains why my husband resists me so hard whenever I say something he doesn’t like or agree with. I just never knew exactly why before.

  12. Lisa Johns

    Ngina, I can hardly believe you took the drastic step of unpublishing EVERYTHING! If only more teachers would humble themselves and acknowledge a need to change when presented with new information. Thank you for doing what you are doing. May God bless you richly.

  13. John Doe


    I was made aware of the Facebook post that you made that appears to be in response to one of my previous comments. I am shocked that you would be so dishonest! You misquoted me and most of those that comment have smeared me and my character and my family.

    In the name of fairness and intellectual honesty, I request that you take down the post and apologize. Otherwise, you are no better than those that you decry for plagiarism.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Genuinely, there was not a Facebook post made about your comment. I have scoured both your comments and our Facebook page, but there is nothing that is directly about you. We do, however, speak about issues facing many marriages broadly and if you think one of them was inspired by your story, I am sorry for the pain it may have caused but rather than become angry that a post relating to unhealthy marriage dynamics sounds like you, I would suggest maybe questioning why that is the case and fixing the root issue.

      Again, there was no Facebook post that I am aware of or that I can see from the last month that is in response to any of your comments.

      • John Doe


        Thank you for your response. The post in question was made on September 12. Look at my first comment and then Sheila’s first reply.

        The Facebook post starts out;

        “Are we making men the losers in marriage?

        Today on the blog a man commented that I’m saying men need to lose so women can finally win.

        I think this comes from a fundamentally skewed.”

        My comment was taken out of context and lacks the nuance of my comment.

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          I recognize that you feel that way, however, having read the entire comment thread I come to a very different conclusion.

          You may feel that it paints you in a bad light, but honestly, your view that us asking men to step up and start pulling their weight in these areas means that men are “losing” so that women can finally get equality is, frankly, the problem. I know that you’re here a lot and have a heart to learn, so I hope that you take this well. But your comments about how women are “privileged” because there are more domestic violence shelters available for them is fundamentally flawed. I will not be allowing any more comments on this except if you’d like to leave one more with your public commenting name so that others can judge for themselves if you were taken out of context. I have no problem with letting other people go see it for themselves. 🙂

          • John Doe


            I did not comment on the Facebook thread so giving my actual name would not be helpful. In fact, I fear being doxed and cancelled by those that left nearly 200 comments about me. I am not willing to put myself or my family thru that.

            Thank you for considering my request. I do not agree but I realize that this is your platform and you have the power to decide what you do with what is posted here.

            God bless.

  14. Amber

    Excellent points. Thank you for your words of wisdom!


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