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 Perhaps their husband is withdrawn, aloof, or hardly ever home.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 In fact, her loneliness may be exaggerated because of feeling trapped in a marriage with a man who is withdrawn and aloof.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.