*Notes: I know this book polarizes people. If you found this site because you love this book and you hate my critique of it, please don’t comment about how I must be an abusive man myself or that I am a woman who hates women. There is enough of that on Amazon.com. If you go there you will find many reviews of the book and in the comment section of the one star reviews is where you will find those kind of responses. So all readers, if you are interested, go there because you aren’t going to find that kind of nonsense here.
Second note, I do know there is abuse out there. I do recommend leaving during physical abuse and even sometimes with verbal abuse (with the hope of reconciliation). But bad communication skills are not abuse.
Fourth note, I tried not to get too personal. I didn’t go into great detail because I don’t want to on the world wide web!
Fifth note, I have not read all of the book because…. (Update: by the time I had written this post, I had read most of the book – minus a page here and there. As I have stated in the comments section, nothing in my review changed.)
That is the way my family members felt when we tried to read, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. This is a book my GCM sister read and loved. This book was recommended to my sister by people on GCM. It too has a cult-like following. If you disagree with it and you are a man, it is because you are an abuser. If you are a woman and hate the book it is because you have a low view of women (see my notes above about Amazon).
My sister wanted my parents to read it. They tried. My mom made the suggestion that all men should put duct tape over their mouths so they wouldn’t be accused of abuse. My parents, my other sibling and myself, which makes a total of four of us, tried to read it. None of us could make it the whole way through the book!
First of all, where are the footnotes? As I was reading I kept wondering where Mr. Bancroft got his information. Where are the footnotes for the studies he mentioned (page 26 for one example)? How did he know what was myth and what was reality? In a book like this you would think there would be footnotes! Most often he based everything on his experience instead of any scientific study. So wives who read this please keep in mind this is one man’s opinions and might not reflect reality.
My family got the impression that Mr. Bancroft believes only men are abusers (although he does state that women can be abusers, the reader is still left with that impression nonetheless). He doesn’t know my sister! While reading this book, my other family members could see my GCM sister in the abuser role. We could easily sub he for she and she for he and so much of it fit their situation. She was manipulative and very controlling (especially through the separation and divorce). Neither were very nice to the other during their entire marriage. I would rather call them both sinners than abusers. But if she wants to call him an abuser, I would have to call her one too. She fits Mr. Bancroft’s descriptions of an abuser just as much as my brother-in-law.
The saddest part of this book is that it ruins families (the GCM website is not the only destructive thing in my sister’s life; however, it is where it started). A Christian knows that salvation is not possible with man, but possible with God. God works miracles in the hearts of those who repent and put their trust in Christ. But according to Bancroft, once an abuser always an abuser (of course his definition of abuse is anything that makes the woman upset! Why do I say this? Page after page describes the different kinds of abusers. By the time you get done any man will fit the abuser profile! Actually, any woman too. I know my sister fit at least 2 abuser profiles really well). He will state that a man can change but quickly pulls that hope back from the reader.
Overall the woman is going to be left with little hope after reading this book. “My experience with abusive men is that small or even medium-level improvements generally slip away over time…” “Sometimes when a woman reports to me that her abusive partner has been doing better, it turns out that he hasn’t been doing anything at all. He isn’t swearing at her or scaring her, but he also isn’t spending time with her, talking to her, or showing her any affection. (page 349).” So not talking to your wife is abuse, gentlemen! You better always show her affection, but not too much because then she will think all you want is one thing and that is abusive too! Mr. Bancroft even says that the “abuser” may wait two years before he starts testing you. So even though he is perfect for two years and starts to act in a way you don’t like after TWO years, it is him clearly being abusive? It couldn’t possibly be that he is a sinner doing what a sinner does? Where is the grace? I can say with 100% confidence that the wife is not perfect either. How can I say such a thing? Because ALL humans sin! We must do what Christ did: FORGIVE! After two years your spouse does something you don’t like, it is not abuse! No person can live up to the expectations in this book. Nobody but Jesus is perfect!
This book should not be treated in high regards by any Christian. It is dangerous in the wrong hands. It leads to destruction instead of reconciliation. It is very possible for a woman who is unhappy in her marriage to come away from this book thinking she is abused when in reality she just isn’t happy with her marriage. Another reason a Christian should not read this book for marital advice; on page 87 Lundy says, “You may be sorely tempted to have a secret affair, since your partner shows you so little kindness or tenderness. A positive sexual connection may be especially affirming to you, because of how sexually degrading the Drill Sergeant tends to be. But cheating on him can be deadly if he catches you. Consider holding off on seeing other men until you have gotten yourself safe.” Does that sound like what a Christian should be doing? If a Christian women is reading this book and already is getting the impression she is abused and she is in a low mental state, she may actually think it is important that she have a positive sexual connection – which of course would be adultery. Where is the focus for the woman? On having a satisfying sexual encounter. Where should a Christian woman’s focus be? On Christ. On how to handle trials in a way that will be pleasing to Him amd not necessarily to self.
What does this book scream to people who know both the husband and wife well? Women are to be in control of EVERYTHING. It makes a controlling woman even more controlling and if you don’t like it then you will be labeled as an abuser. There is very little grace or forgiveness for a husband.
This book makes a woman paranoid. My sister started to see abuse in everything my brother-in-law did and wrote (of course the GCM people encouraged that because that is what they do. If you can’t see abuse they will help you find it! Nice of them isn’t it?). She would share e-mails with me from him and the only thing I saw is confusion on his part. She didn’t want to hear that though. She tried to twist things around. She wanted to see abuse. Her GCM friends already told her she was abused so obviously everything he did was abusive.
Again, as I have stated in a previous post, I want to emphasize to all readers: DO NOT GO TO GCM FORUMS WITH YOUR MARITAL PROBLEMS!!!!! They will tell you, based on Mr. Bancroft’s book, that if you don’t support her 100% (and this means that if you say anything nice about the husband or if you say she has faults too) then she will be unable to talk to you because “you don’t understand” – the book says so (page 369). You too will be cut out of her life for as long as she is in this cult-like place.
If you are unhappy in your marriage, http://www.rickthomas.net/ would be a great resource to start with. I have been impressed with the articles I have read on this site. Mr. Thomas is Christ centered in everything and that is hard to find in counseling! They do have a recommended book list for marriage here. I have not read any of them though. If you think you are abused, they would be a great resource to start with. They should be able to point you in the right direction.