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 One – Chapter Two – Chapter Three – Chapter Four – Chapter Five – Chapter Six – Chapter Seven – Chapter Eight – Chapter Nine – Chapter Ten – Chapter Eleven – Chapter Twelve – Chapter Thirteen – Chapter Fourteen – Chapter Fifteen – Chapter Sixteen – Chapter Seventeen – Chapter Eighteen – Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty is titled, “The Wife’s Loneliness: Overcoming a Lack of Oneness.” Just when you think Martha Peace’s advice can’t get any worse, it does – this chapter piling on spiritually abusive “Godly principles.”
Wives are blamed for desiring intimacy with their husbands
Peace starts the chapter talking about heart-warming Christmas commercials where people long to be home for the holidays. This leads to the pain that some wives experience because they feel alone in their marriage.
There are wives who have husbands with them and yet they are alone. Perhaps their husband is withdrawn, aloof, or hardly ever home. He may be very self-absorbed and inwardly focused. The wife may be bitter and feeling very sorry for herself. Her self-pity may be fueled by an idolatrous desire for intimacy with her husband.
Is Peace suggesting the wife is at fault for her loveless marriage because she has a desire for intimacy with her husband? Oh, I think she is. I also think that Peace’s notion of idolatry is focused on the wrong area. This whole book is nothing but an idolatrous view of marriage and gender roles.
Wives are shamed for feeling lonely in a loveless marriage
Peace then provides examples of people in the Bible who experienced loneliness; Elijah, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul and how their stories relate to wives:
A woman does not have to be single to be lonely. She can be married and living with her husband. In fact, her loneliness may be exaggerated because of feeling trapped in a marriage with a man who is withdrawn and aloof. Elijah and Jeremiah were overwhelmed with their loneliness. Jesus and Paul were not. The difference is Elijah and Jeremiah felt sorry for themselves while Jesus and Paul sought refuge in God. If you are lonely, who are you most like – Elijah and Jeremiah or Jesus and Paul?
Most people who decide to marry want to have a close and intimate relationship with their partner. Concern is appropriate if a wife is feeling lonely in her marriage. Perhaps the husband is dealing with depression and is isolating his wife. Perhaps the husband is emotionally and psychologically abusive which brings on a different level of isolation. These are real issues and Peace wants to make wives feel like they are the problem.
Wives who feel sorry for their situation are being selfish
Wives are told that feeling sorry for themselves is selfish and your feelings most likely don’t match the actual circumstances.
God wants you to go against your feelings. Instead of wallowing in self pity, thank Him and remind yourself of God’s goodness towards you. Even if your husband is sinning and you must suffer, respond as Peter exhorted, “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (1 Peter 3:17). Cultivate an attitude of gratefulness wholly trusting in the goodness and sovereignty of God.
Yes, yes….I can hear the prayer now. “Dear God, thank you for my husband’s lack of love toward me. Thank you for my loneliness and my suffering. May I become more like you.” I have very strong words about this. Perhaps I need to go back and read the chapter about anger.
Valid problems and emotions are dismissed
The chapter closes with the following:
View your time alone as a grace gift from God.
Realize that you can still be the excellent wife God intends whether your husband is closed off from you or not. Your husband may be a complete failure before God, but you do not have to be.
Peace totally misses the point of addressing real problems that exist within relationships. Instead, she wants wives to simply turn off their feelings, read the Bible, and pray. This is not acceptable. A wife in an isolated marriage may feel lonely, depressed, desperate, frustrated, and angry. Instead of stuffing down these feelings, wives should learn to trust them to better understand how to navigate the reality of their circumstance.
The more I’ve read this book, I continue to understand how influential it’s been in keeping women trapped in abusive marriages. Every chapter a wife is told that her feelings are invalid and potentially sinful, she shouldn’t act in a way that compromises her husband, and no matter what her husband does to her, there’s no way out. Turn it off. Pray it away.
There is some good news, though. The next chapter is the final book review post. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to be done.
24 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Twenty – When Desiring Intimacy is Idolatrous”
I think Martha Peace hates women. The end.
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The Bible has a concept for this… jealousy.
“Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the Lord.” (SoS 8:6)
“Thus I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy. … So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you, and I will be pacified and angry no more.” (Ezek 16:38,42)
In both those passages, our relationship with God is compared to human marriage. Jealousy of intimacy is portrayed as a holy and natural emotion. Jealousy is an emotion that signals that we are being deprived of something we deserve. As with all emotions, the root can be godly – something we actually deserve, or ungodly, something we feel entitled to without reason.
But, looking deeper, in the second passage, God is jealous of Israel because he saved her and joined with her in a covenant (portrayed as a marriage), then Israel turned her back on God and prostituted herself to other nations and other gods. Israel refused intimacy with God and God was justly jealous.
In the same way, marriage is a covenant of intimacy. Wedding vows generally contain some form of “to have and to hold” (physical intimacy), and “to honor and to cherish” (emotional intimacy), so a wife is rightly jealous when her husband refuses physical and/or emotional intimacy. He is forsaking his vows and breaking the marriage covenant.
So, what is Peace saying? It appears that she is just following her logical conclusion of making women and wives worthless. Only a worthless wife would not have an expectation of intimacy. So, Peace is just piling on worthlessness. It’s horrible.
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Sigh. Why have a husband if you don’t want intimacy with another human, Martha??? I just will never understand these people.
If you’re alone, just go be single. Or act single, and do your own thing, ignore your husband the way he’s ignoring you, go hit the club on tuesday night or the book club or the gym. Start dating. Really enjoy that alone time for the gift it is!
Is that what Martha wants?
I think she has an overly developed sense of martyrdom on behalf of all women. Just go suffer! It’s your lot in life. [hello internalize misogyny]
I’ll pass on that.
Actually Peace seems smarter than some of the others, and she occasionally sees the flaws in her logic, but soldiers on giving bad advice anyways. So maddening.
I seem to remember that God was very understanding and gracious to Elijah and Jeremiah. He sent an angel to comfort and feed Elijah. He praised Jeremiah for his faith. Why does Peace feel she needs to criticize them and use them as a negative example? God himself is understanding of our human emotions, especially in times of difficulty. I believe God is very understanding and merciful to the emotions of abused women… and it would be a good idea for Peace to emulate him (and not emulate the “accuser of the brothers/sisters”. Rev.12:10)
Doesn’t this prove that you cannot solve problems in a marriage by only dealing with one half? When a husband is self-absorbed, he has left behind what the NT writers tell us about husbands and marriage.
The wife may be bitter and feeling very sorry for herself.
Peace is right here to criticize this sinful reaction to the sin of a husband (or anyone else for that matter). It is terribly easy to wallow in self-pity (it’s that word ‘self’ again), and a cursory surf of the internet can reveal bitterness of the most appalling and life-dominating kind. I can think of one name in particular that brings this forth.
Her self-pity may be fueled by an idolatrous desire for intimacy with her husband.
I’ve tried very hard to see where Peace is coming from on this, hardly easy to say the least of it. I can have some sympathy for her view if she means a wife has a ‘right’ to have a wonderful intimate marriage, and failure to get it leads to if not justifies self-pity; but that is about as far as it goes. I suppose it goes back to an upbringing where rights always entailed a corresponding responsibility or duty.
Surely the very nature of Christian marriage works against this preoccupation with self? Isn’t this why it is so out of favour with modern secular Western society?
The verse </>For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong incidentally is in a context of suffering from general persecution of the church, and I think care ought to be made in applying it to marriage. In marriage, both partners are under the authority of God, whereas in persecution one party is and the other party is not.
No? Not at all. It depends on what the problem is. If the problem is that partner1 is an alcoholic, dealing with partner2 as if they are equally responsible is unhelpful. Helping partner2 to set appropriate boundaries and leave the relationship if they are not followed otoh may be work. But you still haven’t fixed the problem, because only partner1 can fix it. Same with abuse. Or cheating.
If it is a communication problem or something that involves both people, they obviously both need to be involved in the solution. Peace’s advice won’t solve ANY problems because she’s basically pretending they don’t exist.
That’s a good point. I’ve wondered how much of this comes from the devil who hates women. Is the devil jealous of us? He’s the rebellious one who got kicked out of Heaven and has had a vendetta against women ever since he found out how powerful God made women. All this stuff is designed to block the gifts, talents and power that God gave us.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power, and self control.”
This stuff is designed to attack those three things:
1) power (esp power to change our situations)
3) self control (not being controlled by others)
I was texting Julie Anne one day wallowing in self-pity for how much I wanted to be done with this book. She suggested I cover two chapters in one book. I told her I couldn’t do it for two reasons: 1) the post would be too long, and 2) each chapter seems to expose a new gem that miraculously wasn’t there before.
P.S. I think my self-pity is justified because I put myself up to the task of reading and reviewing this book. Therefore, I alone get to feel sorry for myself for re-reading this crap.
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KAS said: “Doesn’t this prove that you cannot solve problems in a marriage by only dealing with one half?”
No, this doesn’t prove that at all. Sometimes couples counseling is not the right choice. If one spouse is abusive, depressed, dealing with anxiety or addiction, that is not for the other spouse to carry. The one with the issue needs to deal with it head on. That’s where I have a problem with Peace’s advice. She doesn’t allow space to fully address the issue for why a wife is lonely. When she gives scenarios where the husband is abusive and the wife responds by feeling unloved, lonely, and bitter there is a problem. These feelings are valid and an appropriate response.
As long as there isn’t a power and control dynamic in the relationship, then couples counseling is appropriate.
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YES! It’s not self pity to be…sad? Reflective? Notice what’s wrong in your relationship/with your husband?
Also, it’s funny that pity can be considered a good thing, you feel compassion over someone else, but if you feel compassion for yourself it’s somehow bad? Even the dictionary defines it as ‘excessive’ unhappiness over one’s own troubles but…is it excessive? It seems like Peace (and others) would label ANY unhappiness excessive.
The answer is to unhappiness over one’s circumstances may be to simply change it. But Peace can’t go there, if the only way to change a thing is divorce. Which it very well may be. So what is left???
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When it comes to serious and even heartless marital dysfunction, Martha Peace’s entire book teaches that husbands are authorized to rule and reign over their wives regardless. Christian wives, in turn, must agree to suffer in silence and pursue restoration apart from any real consequences for those causing the harm.
She projects that such suffering somehow glorifies God and ennobles women. But, “love, honor and cherish” does not translate into “neglect, demean and abuse.” She has no real understanding of God’s heart for marriage or His love for women and all who are subject to neglect and abuse in His name. Mrs. Peace is either genuinely lost or merely a pawn in the enemy’s game.
I was really trying to protect Kathi’s mental health by suggesting she do two chapters. Or maybe it’s my mental health, too. This one really irked me!
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Whoa. It is almost as if 1 Cor. 7’s “due benevolence” passage has slipped Peace’s mind. Even the most ardent patriarchalist ought to concede that passage grants the wife a certain authority over her husband in this matter.
But that noted, a lack of affection/due benevolence is really a “warning sign” that something else is wrong in the relationship. Could be anything from illness to tiredness to depression or even grievous sin, so it’s definitely worth looking into. Sometimes it can be really painful to learn, but at other times….it can be pretty darned delightful to do some problem solving.
Pretty bad that Peace misses this, but all too often, “my tribe” of evangelicals and fundamentalists seems to value surface harmony more than truth, and unfortunately, ensuring surface harmony tends to end up blaming those who have been hurt because “their hurt is disrupting harmony.”
Lea & Kathi – sorry, my first paragraph should have had He [husband] may be very self-absorbed and inwardly focused in front of it, then followed by Doesn’t this prove that you cannot solve problems in a marriage by only dealing with one half? When a husband is self-absorbed, he has left behind what the NT writers tell us about husbands and marriage.
The point is then when both parties are doing something wrong, both need to be sorted out rather than just one of them. If something has gone wrong, I would be very surprised if only one side is wholly responsible for it. Cases I have witnessed have sometimes clearly been mainly the fault of one side, but a little reflection shows areas where the other has helped in making things go wrong.
The preoccupation with Self seems to me to be something where the modern post-Christian West and Christianity are at loggerheads. Rare indeed is any church where you will hear If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me rather than ‘love and esteem yourself’. The Hybels/Willow Creek phenomenon is a classic example of the latter, with the results that have been discussed here.
Just like Social Harmony(TM) in the People’s Republic of China.
This is still wrong.
It is so sad that so many women do not understand that Martha Peace, Lori Alexander, and Debi Pearl are nothing more than male worshipping misogynistic perverts like Allison Mack.
These sexually sadistic women are doing nothing but promoting their fetishes. Their fetishes of the most odious vile evil men having trapped *ss kissing female slaves.
Things I learned growing up in the cult Martha Peace peddles. If comps do not like something they just pretend it isn’t true. If comps like something (some male ego benefiting thing) they pretend that is true. They want everyone else to pretend with them.
Comps promote their fetishes and preferences and condemn what does not flatter male egos or benefit male agendas. Truth does not matter to comps. It is all pretending, lies, fakery, make-believe. Men deserve to live like gods and women and little girls deserve slavery.
Comp men, like Keith Raniere, have pervert sadistic women like Martha, Debi, and Lori to help them brainwash women into believing they should be slaves for gross wicked men.
In comp little girls can be born in pain, live in pain, and die in pain, Spend their whole lives in pain. But, Christian daddies can’t go 30 seconds in pain. In comp it is the women and girls that have to be tough while the men live like spoiled newborns. Comp turns men into spoiled rotten little babies. Women and girls have to baby, pamper, coddle, dote on, indulge, walk on eggshells to help comp men feel special, powerful, important, superior, and of course the most laughable manly. I knew as an isolated trapped homeschooled teen girl that comp men were embarrassing jokes. Glorious in their own minds. The brainwashing didn’t take with me. I had been around men whose egos were not feeble and did not need me to help them left up their limping manhoods. Comp men stand on their wives ‘ and daughter’s backs keeping them down while their wives and daughters backs hold them up. Nothing strong or manly about that.
It is still shocking to me after all these years how much bible God wants women and girls to hurt to make Christian men feel good.
When I was a teen I read a story in a magazine about a pimp who chased a 14 old girl down to drag her back to her rape room. He pulled her by her hair and kicked her all the way back. She had to live in that room and wait for the pimp to send men in there for the pimp to make money. Her purpose for existing was to make men feel good and to give men what they wanted. She had to do whatever the rapist wanted, kiss their *sses, they could beat and rape her, she had to be submissive to them. As a girl born and raised in comp it made me think God is nothing but a pimp and Christian fathers are nothing but pimps. Now I know it was the comp cult insecure selfish Christian men have created for themselves.
My mother and I were both born and raised in the male worshipping cult Martha Peace peddles. I asked my mother in my late teens why she thought god was any better than Hitler. She said she didn’t, but that he could set us on fire for eternity and we had to worship him anyway. We also both wished we had been aborted instead of born into our nightmare comp families. That is the tip of the iceberg that comp heaps on women and little girls. My father had a huge 357 handgun when I was growing up. At age 11 I started thinking about sticking that gun in my mouth and pulling the trigger.
Complementarian is a cult created for the same reason the Nxivm cult was created. To give total creeps trapped female slaves. Comps are actually MORE wicked, selfish, and sick than the sadistic perverts in the Nxivm cult because comps heap their garbage on trapped little girls. Comp men have decided that comp men have every right to beat and rape their wives without having to fear their wives divorcing them for it.
I saw this quote today by Robin Williams:
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”
I wholeheartedly agree!
KAS, “The wife may be bitter and feeling very sorry for herself. Peace is right here to criticize this sinful reaction to the sin of a husband (or anyone else for that matter).”
You are bordering on the blasphemous here. God’s reaction to pre-flood mankind: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Gen 6:5-6)
Now of course you’re going to backpedal and say that some “aspect” of God’s reaction was not sinful and contrast this to what Peace says, but the problem is that Peace is likewise assigning motives to women. “Feeling sorry” is not a sin. Gen 6:5-6. When Peace says that feeling sorry is a sin, she is contradicting the Bible, and you are piling on to her sinful condemnation.
Bitterness is also something considered wicked and evil in Peace/complementarian eyes. The story of Ruth has Naomi saying, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Yet, there is never a judgment made of that statement. Instead, God works redemption in Naomi’s like through Ruth and Boaz, where at the end of the book, Naomi’s friends say, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Naomi’s statement is never called sinful or misguided.
“If something has gone wrong, I would be very surprised if only one side is wholly responsible for it.”
Perhaps you don’t understand that we have a societal epidemic of victim blaming and it is exactly this line of thinking that wreaks the most havoc.
Think about this. Jesus died on the cross convicted as a common criminal. Obviously, he must have done something wrong because I would be very surprised if only the Pharisees were wholly responsible for it.
And that’s why complementarian marriage counseling fails. Because they can never acknowledge the possibility of an innocent victim. I’ve been victim blamed multiple times and let me tell you, it really sucks to have someone else fabricate lies about you to fit the only narrative they will accept.
From what I gather, it appears that Ms. Pierce is misguidedly suggesting that unhappy wives shouldn’t just indulge in their misery and feel sorry for themselves but instead just make the best of it by doing their part as godly wives. I have to agree with Lea, that this is about martyrdom that she expects women to endure. As for 1 Peter 3:17, that refers to Christians who were being persecuted because of their faith and about a unhappy marriage union. I agree that neither spouse should use suck it up and bear any mistreatment or abuse. But instead it’s good to explain their feelings to their spouse in hopes of resolving the issues. It may require even going the local pastor from church or a Christian counselor to help and if it is really bad possible separation until they marriage can be fixed. Of course always turning to God for strength and guidance in whatever choices we make. God Bless.
I bought into everything this book said. I did pray that prayer. I stayed for almost 30 years in an abusive marriage with a sex addict narc. I thought it was me, thanks to books like this.
I would say thank you for this review, I wish it has been out sooner, but I would have chaulked it up to nonsense written by someone who was not sold out for Jesus🙄. Now I know better.
Your words of, “no way out” were very true in my situation. I felt incredibly trapped and had anxiety attacks. Thank you for your well written review. I truly pray that it, and other reviews of hurtful books, change the outcome for others.
Debbie, I pray you find a safe place and a place of healing from your wounds. Narcissistic abuse is so evil — thinking that if you can just figure out how to do things right everything will be okay, but it never is. You did nothing to deserve this and the (c)hurch failed you by promoting unsafe and toxic teaching that trapped you.