Book Review: When Victims Marry

When Victims Marry: Building A Stronger Marriage By Breaking Destructive Cycles, by Don & Jan Frank

This particular book was given to me by a friend who picked it up off of our church’s free book table last Sabbath. As a prolific reader of books dealing with the aftermath of child abuse [1], it is always helpful to point out what makes this book distinctive, especially in a case where the book was written more than twenty years ago and may no longer be in print. Given that the book was written well before it became prevalent for people to write their memoirs of overcoming abuse to encourage those with similar circumstances, and also given that this book tailors specifically to married couples (since I am single, there is only so much that can be applied at the moment, though it does provide plenty of food for thought and reflection), the book has a lot to commend itself, despite the fact that some aspects of its terminology (namely its use of terms like victim) should be updated.

The book has some major strengths by having a husband and wife team as its author. Having a balanced perspective between men and women, looking at the shared responsibility of husbands and wives for the health of a marriage, makes this book better. Also making the book better is a balanced perspective between two major types of dysfunctional family backgrounds that account for a large amount of marital difficulties, those who are the survivors of child abuse (especially incest and other sexual abuse) and those who grew up in alcoholic or “dry” alcoholic homes with a lot of emotional rigidity. As it happens I had both handicaps in my own family upbringing. The fact that the book seeks to balance such concerns in the interests of providing the most worthwhile information to its readers makes it applicable to a wide variety of couples, or even to single folks who simply know they come into a relationship with a lot of baggage and want to do what they can to improve their own lives and relationships before becoming too entangled.

Perhaps the most distinctive, and most praiseworthy aspect, of this book’s creative approach to dealing with couples therapy is the extensive comparison between different aspects of a marital relationship with different aspects of home construction. The authors show considerable knowledge of different aspects of homebuilding. For example, family background is compared to soils engineering and foundation, the biblical design for marriage is compared with blueprints, communication is compared with building inspections, sexual concerns are compared to plumbing, the critical path method is discussed with regards to repairing a faulty background, respect is compared to the framing on a house, various walls and boundaries, some good (privacy and likemindedness) and some bad (withdrawal and emotional distancing), insulation being contrasted to isolation (concerns of protection from threat being distinct from isolation from outside support and encouragement), the importance of a man in providing a roof and encouragement for his wife and children, a healthy prayer life being compared to homeowner’s insurance, and a focus on building unity that closes the book in an optimistic and practical way. These contents provide an extensive knowledge of home construction which helps make the point of family unity much stronger.

Another major strength of this book is its focus on biblical instruction as well as practical illustrations. Most books of this type can become easily mired in psychological language to the exclusion of sound biblical doctrine, to the point where they envelop the reader in a fog of impenetrable language. Combining the balance between different types of family background that can create serious marital difficulties, sound biblical instruction, and an extended metaphor with housing adds to the interest of this book, as does the personal touch of the authors, who are very candid about their own struggles. In short, if someone could benefit from this book (a conscientious sort of person with a challenging family background who desires present or eventual success in marriage) and can find a copy of the book, it makes for a very worthy read, even if not an easy one.

[1] See, for example, the following:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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