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Full, Honest Review of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage

This book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope, by Leslie Vernick, is by far the most recommended book on my website.  It was a life-changing book for me at the depths of my narcissistic marriage.  And it is the book that pulled me up out of those depths and gave me back my sanity to start the healing process.

Let’s take a look at why this was such an amazing book for me.

The Test You’ll Love to Take

The book opens with a fairly short but complete test.  The purpose of the test is to guide you through the damaging or destructive behaviors that could be causing your marriage to be less than ideal.  Upon finishing the test, you use Ms. Vernick’s grading rubric to figure out how benign or malignant the bad behavior in your marriage is.

Once you have an idea of how normal or over-the-top your marriage is, Ms. Vernick then gives you the tools to decide whether you should stay and work with your husband to restore the marriage, or upon doing all you can to save the marriage, decide to leave and begin the journey to a healthier life.

She guides her readers through the process of growing to emotionally healthy independence, something many abused women have not seen in many years or even decades.  And she does this by walking you through her acronym, C.O.R.E. strength.

Here is what each of the letters of CORE mean:

C – I will be committed to truth, both internally in my own heart and mind and externally. I refuse to pretend.

O – I will be open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, teaching me, maturing me, and guiding me into his way of living my life.

R – I will be responsible for my own responses to destructive behavior and commit to being respectful without dishonoring myself.

E – I will be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me.

In a response to a follower, she goes on to say, “When you know and believe that you are a loved, valuable, worthwhile human being and live from that core place, toxic people lose their power to manipulate you. They can’t control and intimidate you as they once did when you felt worthless, dependent and needy.”

Once I learned these 4 really important steps and started practicing them, my whole world changed.

Finally, Ms. Vernick spends the rest of the book helping you learn  how to stand up for yourself and protect your marriage simultaneously with very practical Biblical advice.  She explains the damage done by church leaders who tell abused wives to go home and do more, be more, be better for their husbands.  And when these wives do this, they eventually realize that all they did was enable their husbands to treat them even worse, while they give all they have to make the relationship better.  They are buried in defeat, realizing they cannot break the cycle of abuse while church leaders are placing the blame on them instead of their abuser.

But for those whose husbands actually listen to their concerns and fears and determine to heal alongside their wives, she gives great advice to become whole in their marriage.

Ms. Vernick knows that abusive husbands like to hide in the church, convincing people that they are lovingly leading their wives and children, while the opposite is actually the reality.  Their wives and children live in a prison of despair, not able to articulate what is happening to them and also too isolated to be able to see what things should really look like.

One of the sections in the Appendix actually speaks about well-meaning people who heap on more damaging advice instead of helping the victim get out from under the abuse.  I found this section to be so incredibly valuable for the few people who seemed to want to blame me for the failure of my marriage instead of the abuse that became so public at the end.

Ms. Vernick has over 30 years of counseling experience and works with churches to identify and protect women from this insidious and more than rare type of abuse.  (Nearly 25% of women in the church experience some level of abuse in the home–not bad behavior, but actual abuse!)  Because of her extensive work with churches, many pastors and church leaders have been able to identify and protect victims of abuse rather than exacerbate that abuse to even worse levels.

If you think you may be in a disappointing or destructive marriage, you need this book!  It will help you to see whether your marriage is disappointing or destructive and then show you how to make your own healthy decision once you have decided what kind of marriage you are in and what freedom God gives you for the sake of your safety and health.

Click the book below to get more information at Amazon and purchase your own copy:


I’m praying for you as you read this article, that God would give you wisdom and strength, and that no matter what future steps you decide to take, you will rest peacefully in your situation, knowing you did the best you could.

Do you think you may be in a relationship with a narcissist?  If you think so, take this test  with instant results to get a better idea of whether you are indeed involved with a narcissist and what healing you will need to pursue.

If you think you are in any danger in your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Or you can visit online at

Are you just now in the beginning stages of recognizing narcissistic abuse in your life and not sure where to go or what to do next?  Marie helps people start to put the pieces together to get quickly on the pathway of healing.  She has many resources you can check out here, but if you would like quicker, more direct guidance specific to your situation, a direct consultation with Marie may be more helpful to you.  You can check out the various consultation options here.

Blessings and hugs,

If you have already read this book and feel that God is calling you to divorce, check out my guide below to make sure you don’t end up on the downside of your narcissist’s abusive revenge tactics in the divorce process.

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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