Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Complementarianism, Doctrine as Idol, Domestic Violence, Gender Roles, Marriage, Marriages Damaged-Destroyed by Sp. Ab., Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Nine – Putting on Love

-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter Eight

I’m an extremely patient person, but honestly, this is the first time that I’ve wanted to say, “I’m done with this book!” By the time you finish reading this you may find yourself done with the book, too.

Chapter Nine is long and focuses on a wife choosing to love her husband. Due to the length of the chapter, I am not going to cover everything. I think it is important to continue the review of the chapter through the lens of domestic abuse because we have heard from women here and on the Facebook page that this book was instrumental in keeping them in an abusive relationship.

Peace offers five biblical principles of a wife’s love for her husband. For the sake of space, I would like to focus on points in her principle of “putting on” love. I am going to present them with little commentary (in italics) and leave it open to discussion.

“Love is patient”

It is common for a wife to get aggravated when things do not go her way, when something interferes with her plans, or when she does not feel well.

Feeling impatient or frustrated are the emotions a wife experiences when she thinks sinfully angry or selfish thoughts. She should confess this sin to God while it is at the mental attitude stage before it is outward sin.

It is not a sin to feel.

“Love is not jealous”

Another example of showing love instead of jealousy is being glad for him when he has the opportunity to visit with his family, looking forward to his coming home, and then expressing gladness to him. A wife who is not jealous shows love to her husband in that he need not dread coming home after working late.

If she has legitimate concerns of being displaced, she responds in a biblical manner instead of in hysterical fear and jealousy.

Should the wife expect to have equal opportunity to do things outside of the house without her husband getting jealous? And, exactly how does one respond biblically when concerned of being “displaced?”

“Love is not arrogant”

You will find it difficult to tell an arrogant wife anything. She is opinionated and defensive when disagreed with, reproved, or corrected.

Instead of arrogance, a wife should be a humble servant to her husband and others, listen carefully to his opinion, and consider the possibility that she may be wrong or misinformed.

You only need to admit you are wrong when you are wrong. Why must a wife doubt herself because her husband thinks differently?

“Love does not seek its own (way)”

Selfishness is a common problem that pastors and marriage counselors encounter. A wife can show love to her husband by giving in to his wishes as long as he is not asking her to sin.

A stubborn, selfish wife provokes her husband to frustration and discouragement.

A common emotionally abusive tactic by an abuser is to let the victim know that she caused him to behave a certain way. So, nope on this one.

“Love is not provoked”

Showing love means that a wife controls herself even under very difficult circumstances.

Instead of becoming provoked, she responds with patience and kindness.

Sometimes an abused wife might not exhibit behavior that appears controlled, but it is very controlled. It’s called survival.

“Love does not take into account a wrong suffered”

A wife shows love by not holding onto her bitterness, by forgiving, by not bringing up the past to her husband, and by not replaying bitter thought to herself in her mind.

Rehearsing the offense suffered is unloving as it is ‘taking into account a wrong suffered.’

Why must a wife take on suffering? Shouldn’t the conversation be directed toward the husband to not cause suffering?

“Love bears all things”

‘Bearing all things’ includes times when her husband is being selfish or when he is having a tough time at work. She is committed to him, and he knows it. Loving involves sacrifice of self, and it is important to remember that if she must suffer, it should be for ‘doing what is right.’ (1 Peter 3:17)

An abused wife should not be expected to sacrifice herself to save the marriage.

“Love believes all things”

Biblical love paints the other person in the best possible light. In other words, the wife shows love to her husband by believing the best instead of assuming the worst about what he says or does and his motives. When, at times, the ‘worst’ is a fact, then a wife is to order her life and her goals by faith and not by sight. In other words, no matter what her husband has done, a godly, loving wife trusts in God’s sovereign care over her marriage. She knows that God has a purpose in the circumstances for her.

This is the most disturbing part of this list.

“Love hopes all things”

An outgrowth of her hope in God that her husband will become more and more godly if he is a Christian and perhaps be saved if he is not.

She should tell herself things like, ‘My husband has disappointed me, but God never will. God can use what has happened to put pressure on my husband to repent.’

A husband’s spiritual state is not the wife’s responsibility.

“Love endures all things”

This wife sees trials and pressures coming into her life for a special opportunity to become more like the Lord Jesus. She does not usually enjoy those difficult times, but she does endure them with God’s help.

A wife can choose to show love to God and to her husband as she righteously endures trials and pressures in her marriage.

Does Peace think abuse is merely a “trial?” No where has Jesus ever said he expects wives to endure abuse.


While reading this chapter I tried placing myself back many years ago to when I was first introduced this book. It was a women’s group that met together to pray for our husbands. I thought it was a good way for me to focus on prayer because my husband was struggling with his job. Not only did we do that, but we read this book as a way to encourage us to support our husbands. I guess I wasn’t buying into it at the time because none of this stuck out as ways that I needed to improve myself.

Re-reading this list leaves my heart heavy for women who used this book with the intent in making their marriages better and only found things get worse. I feel for those who were beaten down, felt less than, thought that their opinion and feelings did not matter, and had to give more of themselves without offered anything in return.

I believe that all humans have a need and desire to feel valued, loved, respected, and appreciated. These needs and feelings are not selfish or sinful, it is part of being human. Teaching otherwise is opposite of God’s care and concern for the abused and oppressed. A Christian wife should not be led to believe that she is undeserving of living in a healthy, harm-free relationship.

29 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Nine – Putting on Love”

  1. Kathi, I appreciate you looking at this book through the lens of domestic violence (which includes emotional abuse). I know that many women who are in a destructive marriage don’t even realize they are in a destructive marriage. They are led to believe they are the problem in the marriage and will work like crazy to change themselves, deny their feelings, their pain, because they think they are doing the right thing spiritually.

    God does not condone abuse in a marriage and He would not want a woman to submit to abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It wasn’t until I participated in an intensive group therapy weekend, that my eyes were opened. After sharing some of my story with the group, they all were silent and then asked why I was still married to him. I was shocked by the response, and realized that i had always taken the blame for his behavior. Thank you for again confirming that I do have a voice, my own opinions matters, and my feelings could be validated.

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  3. Kathi, I have long thought the really bad stuff in these books/ comp thinking/ etc doesn’t really stand out until you are in a bad situation. By itself, you might just think you should be a little more patient or whatever which is fine and probably helpful for many people. It’s not a good approach when your husband is abusive or cheating or treating you badly and boundaries need to be drawn!

    Didn’t someone say there was a book for husbands that didn’t get as much interest? I’m curious what it says about loving a wife.

    another example of showing love instead of jealousy is being glad for him when he has the opportunity to visit with his family..If she has legitimate concerns of being displaced, she responds in a biblical manner instead of in hysterical fear and jealousy.

    This all seems oddly specific. Is she supposing someone’s family overstepping or the husband lying about where he’s been or what?? ‘Working late’ can be used as an excuse for cheaters I”m sure. Hmm.

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  4. I mean, I don’t understand why the wife hasn’t been invited to visit family too to be ‘jealous’? It’s just a weird example.

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  5. It’s hard to know where to start, but for the sake of abused women everywhere I’ll add some of my thoughts to those of Kathi.

    1 Corinthians 13 is a “description” of the love of God. It is not a list of commands. Love is a fruit of the Spirit… as we grow in our understanding of God’s love for us, we’ll be able to share that love with others. The author puts a heavy burden on wives that they “should” try harder and harder to “be perfect”. Is that the “Good News” of the Gospel?

    It is a common human problem to be unloving, impatient, selfish, and so on. We are told that “all” have sinned. EVERYONE, not just wives, gets impatient at times or acts selfishly. That includes the husband, pastor, and the counselor.

    The wife must not get provoked herself, and she must not provoke him either. According to the author she gets to be responsible for 2 people to keep them both acting right.

    She makes the wife into the actor that is being “displaced” instead of making the husband who is doing the “displacing” the actor. Again, the wife is to blame for both her sin and her husband’s sin. That’s a heavy load to carry.

    Don’t bring up the past… if he habitually berates her, punches her, abuses her sexually, keeps her short of money, and so on, she’s supposed to immediately “forgive and forget” as if those things hadn’t happened? Talk about cognitive dissonance! The apostle Paul didn’t just “forgive and forget”… instead he held people responsible for their actions and recorded the sins of others in his letters for all to see.

    When he is selfish it’s because he had a hard time at work. When SHE is selfish, it’s just sin.

    I don’t think “believing the best” is referring to believing that sinful people are actually good and mean well. That’s not how God loves us. He knows exactly what our hearts are like and doesn’t pretend otherwise. I think “believes all things” refers to faith in God, not man.

    “Endure all things” doesn’t mean staying in an abusive situation. There are many examples in the Bible where fleeing from evil people was the right thing to do.

    The salvation of abused women does not depend on them sacrificing themselves for their evil husbands. It depends solely on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

    God says: “You were bought with a price. Do not become the slaves of men”. I Cor.7:23 “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. Jn. 8:36

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  6. Oh dear, I had numbered my thoughts above and the numbers didn’t show up when I copied and pasted. That makes it hard to read now. Sorry about that.

    Lea, yes, there is an accompanying book called “The Exemplary Husband” . It focused mainly on how the husband needs to exercise his authority over his wife and keep her in line.

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  7. This sort of abusive thinking is what led me to leave my last church. The church says that God created humans with essential rights and essential dignity, the “image”. It is a noble and worthy task when Christians stand up for these essential rights – whether it be anti-slavery, pro-life, racial equality and the like, as long as we are standing up for those rights in others.

    As soon as we protest that our OWN rights are being trampled on, then the list above is leveled against us. We are angry, bitter, selfish, jealous, unloving, etc., just for believing that we have a right to be treated like a human.

    Just a note on jealousy, God calls himself a jealous God. Jealousy is not evil as a response to what we have a right to expect. In the case of the husband coming home late from work, there may be an expectation that sometimes work requires long hours and sometimes he comes home early. If the husband is using work to avoid spending time with his wife, or is constantly socializing with co-workers instead of coming home, the wife has a right to be jealous.

    For some reason, it’s easier to deflect the issues. A wife becomes angry because her husband is abusing or neglecting her. She goes to church and the anger itself becomes the point of discussion. Not even whether the anger is righteous or not, but just presuming that the anger is wrong, the discussion becomes how she can work on her anger, and thus let her husband trample her rights (as seen in this book).

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  8. Mark, that’s a good point about jealousy. The problem is, people confuse jealousy with envy or covetousness. The bible does say that God is a “jealous” god, and therefore it can’t be an evil or a sin.

    Jealousy can be a positive emotion, causing us to protect what is good and rightfully ours, such as a marriage, or a child’s well-being. Envy or covetousness (one of the “thou shalt nots) is a negative, destructive emotion, meant to take or to destroy what is NOT rightfully ours.

    Huge difference, and usually it’s a problem with our definition of the word “jealous.” It could be that Martha Peace is misunderstanding the word and applying that misunderstanding to her legalistic interpretation. Flawed from the start.

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  9. “It could be that Martha Peace is misunderstanding the word and applying that misunderstanding to her legalistic interpretation.”

    I highly doubt it. It’s a consistent theme that “negative” emotions are not fit for Christians. Of course, God can be jealous, and Jesus can be angry, but mere mortals are not allowed to be jealous or angry… But wait, what they really mean are that the “least of these” can’t be jealous or angry. Christian leaders can be angry, husbands can be angry, fathers can be angry, but not members, wives or children.

    Just like members, wives and children are taught about Total Depravity, but somehow your pastor is spiritually sheltered from any error when he speaks from the pulpit.

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  10. Lea – I thought the family example was a little odd too. Why wouldn’t the wife spend time with his family? Perhaps she’s addressing if a wife feels jealous that her husband spends more time with his family (parents, siblings, etc) instead of his wife and children. Sometimes I wonder if these examples mirror anything the author may have experienced.

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  11. Allow me to add some other points content that I did not cover in the post. In her section on bitterness she talks about how bitterness is sinful, can cause a wife to become angry, slander her husband, or hurt the children. And offers the following example:

    “For example, one wife I counseled had a husband who had a violent anger problem. He would go into rages, say mean, cruel things, and hit her. Afterwards, he always apologized. Because this was a recurring pattern of sin in his life, she told him, ‘I forgive you, but I do not trust you. Therefore, one of us will need to inform the leaders of the church about your problem with this sin of anger. Would you like to do it or shall I?’ As he placed himself under the authority of the church, her trust in him gradually increased. It was his responsibility to re-earn her trust. It was her responsibility, though, to repent of her bitterness and to forgive.”

    I call BS on this story. I’m not going to say that it’s not possible. Anything is possible, but the outcome as described in this story is very rare. It seems like the same type of story is used time and time again in these wifely submission books. It angers me because I think it offers false hope to a wife who will stay in an abusive relationship with hopes that her husband will change.

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  12. Peace also uses the following anecdotes:

    “As a counselor to women I frequently hear wives say, ‘I don’t love my husband any more.'”

    “As a counselor, I have worked with many women who were selfish.”

    “Often the ladies I counseled admitted that they daydreamed frequently about other men being romantic towards them.”

    “Many of the wives I have counseled have told me they were not bitter, they were, however, ‘hurt.'”

    “Often the wives that I counsel are bitter. Each one’s bitterness may very well be a more wicked sin than what her husband has done, especially if he is repentant and she will not forgive.”

    “Fear is a common struggle for many wives.”

    SO MANY women are selfish, bitter, fearful, and don’t love their husbands anymore. Really? I think she is projecting these feelings on these women that she “counseled.”

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  13. Mark, I guess what I’m saying is that jealousy is a positive, not a negative emotion, and Martha doesn’t see that. She’s applying the definition of “envy” or “covetousness” to the word “jealousy,” which is more of a protective nature rather than destructive. As an example, in Spanish the word “zeloso” is the same for jealous and “zealous,” which in a positive sense includes enthusiasm and dedication to a cause–such as protecting one’s family.

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  14. Lea – I thought the family example was a little odd too. Why wouldn’t the wife spend time with his family? Perhaps she’s addressing if a wife feels jealous that her husband spends more time with his family (parents, siblings, etc) instead of his wife and children. Sometimes I wonder if these examples mirror anything the author may have experienced.

    Yeah, Kathi, I was starting to wonder if I read it wrong but I dont think so? It just seems way too specific if she’s talking about, say, him being too entrenched with his family. That is a real thing that could happen, but she doesn’t exactly give any advice beyond ‘be grateful for whatever crumbs your husband decided to throw you’.

    “Many of the wives I have counseled have told me they were not bitter, they were, however, ‘hurt.’”

    Why does she think ‘hurt’ needs scare quotes???? How absurd.

    “Fear is a common struggle for many wives.”

    I mean…if their husbands are hitting them that seems imminently reasonable of them.

    As for the example you gave, I agree that I distrust these ‘and they reported it to the church and it got all better!’ rosy stories. I bet most of them end up falling apart or hiding the problems better. I was a little surprised to see ‘i forgive you but I dont trust you’ because that sounds so reasonable.

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  15. “I forgive you, but I do not trust you.” … “It was her responsibility, though, to repent of her bitterness and to forgive.”

    This is the sort of Evangelical hypocrisy that is seen over and over. They say that forgiveness doesn’t necessary mean reconciliation, and reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean restoration, but here, she is saying exactly that. The wife is being bitter because she doesn’t “trust” him? So, the husband after years of cruelty and abuse, one day decides to stop beating her and ask for forgiveness, and now she’s the bitter one because she doesn’t trust him?

    And, yes, in rare cases, God chooses to remove sin by ‘flipping a switch’, but much more often, these sorts of sin patterns are a lifelong struggle with victories and setbacks.

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  16. They seem to define bitterness as ‘noticing that someone did a terrible thing’. Like, we aren’t fish?

    And I give too much credit for her accepting that she didn’t trust the husband, because I’m betting she doesn’t think not trusting the husband is any excuse for actually separating from him, or putting any boundaries or consequences in place beyond telling dudes at church, although Kathi actually read the book so maybe she saw something.

    I don’t know about other people, but I don’t think I could be in a relationship with people I don’t trust. I’ve cut friends off for years for lying to me and although we might be friends again, I still remember.

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  17. Ted, re: Jealousy…

    I believe that all emotions have positive expressions and negative expressions. We have to ask ourselves “why do I feel this way?” That is different from what Peace and Tripp seem to say, which is “I must feel this way because of some sin in my heart”. That is, they believe anger, jealousy, fear, sadness, … are emotions that arise as a result of an idolatrous self-image, and they use stupid examples to prove their case. So, it’s not okay for a wife to be angry that her husband abuses her. It’s sin for a wife to be jealous when her husband flirts with other women. It’s sin for a wife to be afraid when her husband comes home angry and drunk. It’s sin for a woman to show up to church crying after her husband emotionally abused her.

    I think anger is an emotional response to “injustice”. In the case of complementarianism, that “injustice” could be a wife that didn’t have a hot meal waiting when the husband walked in the door, or not washing the dishes.

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  18. So, it’s not okay for a wife to be angry that her husband abuses her.

    Not only is it ‘not okay’ mark, it is considered WORSE. Which is bonkers. And abusive in and of itself.

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  19. Had a thought… This is the opposite of complementarian theology. So, the husband is the “priest” of the family. He’s the one who makes intercession before God. He’s the spiritual leader and responsible for the family’s righteousness.

    Now, let’s say the husband is abusive. What does the complementarian church tell the wife? Intercede before God for your husband (be his priest). Take steps to ensure he’s being righteous. Guide him spiritually.

    So, here you have the complementarians doing exactly what they say is wrong. When the husband is “sinning”, they tell the wife to take over as the head and priest of the family. But, yet, they have to wrap it in submissive language to distract us from what they are really saying… Submit by “praying for your husband”. Submit by “locking the door to your daughter’s bedroom”. Submit by “confronting him submissively with his sin.” These are NOT submissive!

    So, in doing this, they are acknowledging that their theology is incorrect. They are saying, when the husband isn’t acting like a proper head…. the wife should TAKE OVER AS THE HEAD!

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  20. Had a thought… This is the opposite of complementarian theology.

    Mark, once you realize it’s not about being ‘consistent’ in your theology, it is simply about protecting men and blaming women for everything it makes a lot more sense.

    It is women’s fault if she is abused, it is her responsibility to fix it. Same for Rape. Same for every way in which women are treated badly in the world. They must fix it, they are at fault. It’s just classic patriarchy wrapped up in some pseudo religion.

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  21. Mark: “Submit by ‘confronting him submissively with his sin.'”

    Reminds me of Piper in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
    If a woman is in her backyard and a man asks her for directions, she must do it in a submissive way, not taking any authority, so that the manhood of the man is not compromised.

    Weird stuff.

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  22. Kathi, your responses to each point are so succinct.

    Reading through this one, I am noticing how many of these points I have heard from a friend of mine and wonder if this was an influential book in her life. Even the family one fits (A family that still exercises control of their son- his time, attention, finances- and treats the wife like an outsider and like dirt- yes, a wife can be displaced when a family refuses to allow their son to “leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.”)

    All of these points leave me with the feeling- why doesn’t the wife just stuff earplugs in her ears and put her eyes out? She might as well. Would that make her a ‘better wife’? She’s not supposed to honestly relate to her husband or to anything that is really happening in her life. None of these ideas can lead to a healthy relationship. This is like a manual for how to be the supporter of a complete narcissist. A normal man would be perplexed as to how to forge a relationship with this woman who has buried who she is so deeply. I would suggest, if you need to get all of your human needs met only through God, why get married?

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  23. @Shy1:

    I would suggest, if you need to get all of your human needs met only through God, why get married?

    I have often wondered the same thing.

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  24. Re: HUG quoting this,

    I would suggest, if you need to get all of your human needs met only through God, why get married?
    — end quote —

    You’re not supposed to.

    In the book “Twelve Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy,” the Christian authors (psychiatrists) have an entire chapter explaining (with lots of Bible verses to back up their views) that God doesn’t intend for each person to get his/her needs met only through God…

    You are supposed to get some of your needs met through other people, not just from God, Bible reading, or via prayer.

    And… Jesus pointed out those other people thru whom you get your needs met are to be spiritual brothers and sisters (other Christians), NOT just flesh and blood family and NOT a spouse.

    One reason God founded the church was to provide a “family” (non blood related) to provide companionship for people, because not everyone gets married, has kids, or stays married.

    But today’s American Christian church (and secular culture) points to a spouse as one’s end-all, be-all.
    They act like a person is supposed to get all their needs met thru a spouse and a spouse only.

    (Marriage used to not be so inward focused – decades ago, married people looked to friends, family, and neighbors to meet some of their emotional and companionship needs, but I’ve read articles the last few yrs that explain it’s shifted where now, a lot of people who marry today expect a marital partner to be their “everything.” It places too great a burden on marriage.)

    So, what happens to adults who never marry, or ones who are divorced and widowed?

    Why, the church IGNORES them and tells them to just go hug a Bible and pray to Jesus – neither of which will meet a person’s need for companionship.

    Church people and Christian talking heads who do blogs and podcasts also like to shame singles for being single. Singleness = Second Class Status in their view.

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