Response to Marriage Builder Article, “How to Fall in Love Again”

Well, Mr. Jimmy Evans has done it again, sending out another pathetically predictable missive on how to save your marriage.

This one seemingly provides steps to falling in love again for those whose marriages are on the rocks. While there are a lot of things he writes here that I would be inclined to question, the primary point I sought to make in my response is that he noted from the get-go that it takes the commitment of both marriage partners to reignite love’s flame when a marriage bond has disintegrated.  He fails to address the possibility that one partner or the other may not be willing to devote that kind of time or energy to the relationship, and that is the issue I sought to highlight.

I continue to be frustrated that this man, who  professes to be an expert on Christian marriage, (and there are many others like him) teaches  from a vantage point where abuse does not even seem to exist.  Furthermore, I am offended that those of us who have written to urge him to acknowledge abuse in the Christian realm  do not even merit the courtesy of an acknowledgement or a reply.

You can read the article for yourself here.

My response is below.

Dear Mr. Evans:

This piece is certainly consistent with the altogether predictable suggestions offered by countless other Christian writers who think they have all the answers for troubled marriages. In this article, you specifically mention how both partners must commit to pursuing one another. So, what do you say to the partner whose spouse is unwilling or uninterested in making any such effort? You conveniently skipped over that potential scenario.

I have written before to share that the advice you offer does not
effectively address issues related to marriage partners who profess to be believers but whose behaviors constitute what the Scriptures describe as treachery or betrayal. Not surprisingly, I have not received a response to any of my inquiries. Apparently, issues related to abuse or neglect in Christian marriage are unworthy of your attention or concern.

As an abuse survivor, the author of “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” and the owner of a web-based ministry to women in abusive relationships, I and many other believing men and women just like me, have been routinely coerced by the legalists within the contemporary church to remain with our abusers, placing the responsibility for healing the marriage on the victim rather than the offender and demanding that victims remain in toxic marriages unless adultery can be identified or the abuser chooses to leave. How, exactly, does that fall into God’s design for marriage as described in Ephesians 5?

So, I ask you now: What would you say to the man or woman who has spent years praying and striving to earn love, respect and acceptance from their wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing spouses? As you shared, falling in love again requires the faithful devotion of both parties in the marriage. What is your response to the one whose marriage partner treats her with contempt and rages at her on a consistent basis, who places himself as the center of the relationship and emotionally beats her into ungodly submission – but who does not physically harm her? What then?

Do you believe that such a scenario is impossible, or is it simply that you have no answer?

I have yet to read anything from you that even comes close to addressing this important issue. Based on what I have NOT read from you, I am cynical that you have any constructive counsel to offer that would not place the onus on the victim to heal the marriage.

Your silence is deafening.

What say you?

Awaiting your reply,

Cindy Burrell
Owner and Author
Hurtbylove.com

 

7 thoughts on “Response to Marriage Builder Article, “How to Fall in Love Again””

  1. Cindy,

    I doubt he will respond. I finally got myself off of his email list as the only responses I ever received to my own queries were the next issues of his missives along with advertisements for the next couples’ events and solicitations for funds.

    I seriously doubt Mr. Evans or others like him pay any attention to people who challenge their dogma, particularly if the challenges come from from women. But that’s just my sense.

    However, the good news for you and for me is this: those who are hurting due to being “unequally yoked” because of the bad choices their spouses make have a plethora of materials (such as yours) to which we can turn, nowadays, for Scriptural help, comfort, awareness, knowledge, and in many cases, for the courage to leave to save ourselves and our children.

    Keep up the good work despite the silence from the Evans’ camp, because many more abuse targets, I’m thinking, will turn here and to other genuinely helpful sites and books and ministers for truth and support.

    As lawlessness and cruelty increase in this world, the magical thinking/teaching that everything will be okay if victims of abuse just do this or do that or do the other thing (and don’t forget to come to our couples’ retreat, on sale now for just…) will sound more and more hollow.

    Meanwhile, our voices will surface louder and louder from the rubble.

    And yet one more will be set free by the power of God’s love and the full context of His Word.

    Blessings to you and yours today.

  2. I agree with p…you will likely never get a response. He writes just to write, not really as a ministry per se. Not like you. You write to help others and truly want women (and men) to be free from abuse. He writes, well, I’m not sure why! Ha!

    This jumped out to me from the article: “The best kind of love isn’t ruled by emotion, but by choice. It’s agape love—God’s type of love. I don’t know what my emotions will be tomorrow, but I’m always in control of my will.”
    He went on to say how he chose to love his wife no matter how he was feeling.
    My ex only loved conditionally. When he was nice, he was very nice and when he was in a good mood, life was good and I felt like maybe, just maybe everything would be okay finally. But when his mood changed — and it did quite often without fair warning — he no longer chose to love or keep control of his emotions.

    My husband on the other hand whom I’ve been married to for almost 4 years now and together with for 5 has always loved unconditionally no matter what! Even through my horrible, terrible days when even I wouldn’t want to be around me (darn peri-menopausal LOL) he continues to be kind and loving.

    Mr. Evans isn’t about truly helping others who are in really unhealthy, abusive marriages — his words are for those who have never really seen something so devastating. I heard for so many years how it takes two people to fix a marriage and wanted to scream, “then why is all the responsibility laid on my shoulders to put it all back together??”

    I’m so grateful for you and other bloggers who truly write as a ministry in helping others through abuse, who truly get the destruction which abuse causes and how simple fixes or simple words will not just magically put back together something which has often been destroyed beyond repair.

    1. Hello, Amy, and to the others who commented.

      What I see in Mr. Evans’ writings in some ways seems to be an effort to convince himself (or perhaps his wife?) that this marriage thing is supposed to be hard, that this is how things are in every marriage – even accepting that perpetually unhappy marriages are somehow the norm, to be expected, and you just got to try to find some magic formula that is supposed to work and then pretend that it does.

      Sure, there will be disagreements about priorities and such, but I don’t believe that marriage should be THAT hard. In my marriage to my abuser, there was no end to the stress and a constant effort to try to manufacture happiness in the midst of chaos, but it is not at all true in my marriage to Doug. Our relationship flows so naturally as both of us genuinely care about what is going on in each other’s world, and we want to make each other happy. (For those who might be interested, you might want to check out, “Maybe I Was Married to an Abuser” on my website.

      I don’t anticipate a response from Mr. Evans, but I do want him to know that some of us are paying attention and are unsatisfied with his narrow teachings on marriage and that those teachings are precisely the kind of tripe that keep women (and men) in abusive and ungodly marriages.

      On a similar note, I received an e-mail from a woman the other day who read, “God Is My Witness: Making a Case for Biblical Divorce,” my book on that subject. She said she had stopped attending church because she is so sick of the anti-all-divorce doctrine taught. She asked me why churches don’t teach what I shared in the book. I wish I knew.

      It’s sad that so many within the contemporary church fear the freeing power of the truth. Just last week, a pastor cancelled my meeting with him on this subject. He’s not willing to even discuss it. It’s preferable to not know than to have to shift gears after believing and teaching the traditional church script for so many years. I get that. It was a hard book to write because I know it upsets the apple cart, but I now it’s true, so I will keep trying to open the legalists’ eyes.

      And I do thank God for these public forums where we can encourage and support one another.

      May we all keep the faith and keep walking in the light of His love and grace and truth!

      Cindy

  3. Thank you to “p.” and “Amy” for the comments commending your post, Cindy. Thank you for bringing attention to such erroneous ministries. Greatly appreciate your insight.

  4. Hi Cindy,
    Thanks again for your tireless efforts to get these guys to understand what they are doing. Having read a lot of JE books before I realized I was dealing with abuse, I found this article to be inconsistent with his testimony.

    From his article:
    “Karen and I fell out of love early in our marriage. The loving emotions were gone between us. We didn’t like each other and thought we’d made a huge mistake. OUR MARRIAGE WAS ONLY HEALED WHEN WE BEGAN TO DO THE THINGS WE DID WHEN WE FIRST FELL IN LOVE. WE began to pursue each other.”

    Yet, this is his testimony in Marriage On The Rock, Introduction, p.12-16:
    After 7 years, I jumped to my feet, pointed with shaking finger toward our bedroom and shouted, “Go pack your bags, and get out of this house and out of my life!”

    Fortunately, 2 things happened that would be instrumental to the healing and the restoration of our marriage:
    I BROKE. For the first time ever, I realized that I was wrong and could see how bad of a husband I was. It was like scales fell from my eyes and I could see myself as I really was-a very selfish and domineering man.
    Also, for the first time, I HUMBLED MYSELF AND CONFESSED MY WEAKNESSES AND NEED FOR GOD’S HELP. For years, I had been unwilling to accept responsibility for any of the problems in our marriage. When Karen and I fought, I always found a way to make it look as if it were her fault. But that evening, I was overwhelmed with the reality that I didn’t know HOW to be a husband. This was a stark contrast to the overbearing arrogance and chauvinism that had characterized my life up to this moment.
    I was choked with emotion and whispered, “Holy Spirit, Jesus said He sent You to teach me all things. I am asking you to show me how to be a husband because I have never been taught and I don’t know how. Please help me to learn to love Karen as I should. I am so sorry for all the things I have done to damage our marriage and her. Please forgive me.”

    Karen describes herself as “insecure and manipulative.” “The love and affection I had once had for him were dead—killed by anger, resentment and overwhelming hurt I had endured for years. I hated the arguing, the accusations, the put-downs.” (Clearly a woman living with an abuser.)
    She goes on to say that when Jimmy came to apologize that night (after she ran to her room), it was the first time he had ever done that. “I was skeptical that any real change had taken place in his heart. As the days and weeks went by, I could see a change in him. He was softer and kinder to me and he wasn’t hurling angry or hurtful words toward me anymore. Little by little, the love began to stir in our hearts.”

    To me, this sounds like an abusive man who dominated his wife for 7 years and then went through an experience that humbled him and he had “true repentance.” I can see why he is excited about “marriages being healed” as he truly lived this, and from a very bad situation. I commend him. However, the wording he uses in this article (quoted at the top) seems to give the reader the impression that they BOTH “began to” pursue and “do the things we did when we first fell in love.” So the reality of his testimony, that HE humbled himself and HE broke and HE confessed, are lost in this sin-leveling, “we both needed to make major changes to get this thing to work” when this was a clear case of an abusive man who had to be absolutely crushed and changed from within, STOP the abuse, SHOW by his actions over a period of time true repentance, BEFORE his wife was able to begin her own healing process from the abuse and could begin to trust him and love him, NOT some simultaneous “all ya need is love and everything will be solved.” That is NOT the same thing at all. He could actually do a lot of good if he wrote more specifically to men who abuse (since he was one) and tell them how badly they need help before they even contemplate any kind of “marriage fixing.”

    Instead, he writes to COUPLES, forgetting (or not understanding) that it is actually RARE for abusers to actually stop their abuse and truly change, giving yet more fodder for the abuser, and less and less hope for the abused. What a waste of a testimony. At least for those who really need it the most.

  5. Were I Mrs. E., I still wouldn’t trust him.

    I have heard him say twice, now, on television shows, that it is his wife’s responsibility to tell him what her boundaries are, thus, to stop him when he goes too far for her in terms of his abuse. Read: she is responsible for his bad behavior to a degree.

    Nope.

    He shouldn’t need a babysitter.

    When I have had to deal with my own wrong doings in life it never had anything to do with the people I wronged. I felt the finger pointing at me, and me alone for my bad choices. Period. In short, I KNEW I was 100% responsible for my bad behavior, whatever it was. And then my prayer was for God to change MY heart, no matter what the other person did or didn’t do…Never once do I recall that there were instructions for the other person.

    I don’t trust anyone who still blames the other or the others.

    In my humble opinion, that is NOT true repentance. That’s still denying full culpability for one’s choices and actions.

    One day, I fear, just like many other abused wives, Mrs. E. will no longer have the mental, emotional, physical, and possibly not even the spiritual strength to tell him “No, no, honey. You have gone too far just now. You have to stop right here.”

    Because, if he still has to be babysat like that, he will eventually resent her for this. Worse, in my humble opinion, this means he is not truly changed by the Holy Spirit.

    Abusers don’t tend to change by someone just telling them to.

    And they tend to get worse with age.

    It has been my observation over many years that targets of abusers do, at length, tire, even give up. And then they get sick…

    I know that just before I left my ex, after over forty years, I began giving up, withdrawing into a fragile shell, shutting down.

    There is a point where abuse fatigue sets in and you give up. No matter how many good times in between there are.

    Fortunately, I was able to leave and have been regaining health, vitality, and creativity. It’s been a long, hard haul, however.

    I hope there is hope and time for Mrs. E.
    P.

    1. Hello, “P.”

      I am so glad you took the time to share more of your thoughts here. Everything you wrote makes perfect sense to me. I get the same vibe from Mr. Evans. I wish I could spend a day with his wife. When I read this man’s writings, yellow and red flags seem to pop up everywhere. Some are more subtle than others, but they are there nonetheless. There are times when I wonder if I’m just being over-sensitive (in true enabler style) or reading too much into his words. But, it feels more like a game being played here.

      Yesterday I actually received an e-mail from Mr. Evans’ son, Brenton Evans, in response to my inquiry. I guess they decided not to ignore me anymore… He was compassionate and respectful, and he encouraged me to read an article his father wrote on verbal abuse and added a link to a video. I reviewed them both, and neither one of them assuaged any of my concerns. I intend to take a closer look at these today will post Brenton’s Evans’ response, as well as my abuse survivor analysis soon.

      I’m sure it has been a long, hard haul for you, and it is an encouragement to others here to know that you found another life.

      Your feedback here validates my perceptions with regard to what I see in this man’s character and teachings.

      And by the way, I also agree with your comments about abuse fatigue. There comes a point when we have nothing left, nothing to stand on, nothing more to give. As dark as those days can be, I think that is often the point where we finally find the strength of will to get out and look up.

      I so appreciate all you have to share.

      Cindy

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