Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

On my recent trip I began Leslie’s new book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing it, Stopping it, Surviving it (2007, Harvest House. Leslie is a LCSW here in PA. I first met her when I was a seminary student and she was a staff counselor/supervisor at CCEF, a local counseling center. Leslie has now authored several books, each of which shows her biblical understanding of people coupled with wonderful interpersonal skill and insights as a clinician. I often tell others that she’s a counselor I’d send any of my family members to see (including myself).

So, I’m looking forward to reviewing this new book. Let me highlight some tidbits from the first chapter:

1. In chapter 1 she defines the emotionally destructive relationship. While abuse is always destructive, destruction in relationship can be much more subtle and not always malicious as we often imagine abuse to be. Further, single episodes may be abusive but not destructive. Hence this definition: Pervasive and repetitive patterns of actions and attitudes that result in tearing someone down or inhibiting a person’s growth (p. 26).
2. Difficult relationships are not the same as destructive.
3. 5 patterns that are always destructive: abuse of any kind, overbearing/overprotectiveness, overdependency and demanding to be the center of attention, deception of the other, and chronic indifference, neglect, or disdain.
4. Lots of couples are in emotionally destructive patterns and it is easy to blame the other for one’s own behavior. She gives a great illustration of a couple (p. 29f). Neither feels loved. She attacks and demeans; he withdraws then explodes. Each wants the other to change first and justifies his/her own behavior as a “normal” response to being sinned against. Both need to take responsibility to name their own sinful reactions to the world.
5. She ends with a 30 question test to help those discern if they are in an emotionally destructive relationship.


Filed under Abuse, book reviews

10 responses to “Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

  1. judi lemay-lusk

    all this in just the first chapter…! did you get an advanced copy of the book? for some reason, i thought it was soon to be published, as opposed to already published.

    the second point, that difficult is different than destructive is really intriguing to me. i don’t usually think along those lines, but i think she’s on to something.
    oh sigh, yet another book to get…is it at WTS?

  2. I may have gotten an advance copy but she was selling and signing copies at the AACC conference last week. I would think WTS would either carry it or get it for you.

    I do too like the distinction between difficult and destructive. I’m not sure she elaborates enough for my taste. But it does give food for thought.


  3. judi lemay-lusk

    forgot to ask… is leslie’s book geared towards any kind of relationship? or is it mostly one between men and women?

  4. In her first chapter she gave several vignettes and at least 2 were of marriages, one was a adult and her parents and one was a associate pastor and his senior pastor. I think she will use those vignettes throughout the book.

  5. judi lemay-lusk

    ok, so it sounds like it’s a variety of relationships? thanks.
    oh by the way… your ‘rachel’ was grand last night! very creative and realistic!

  6. Wendy

    Awesome book! It is changing my life!

  7. DEE

    Just received a copy of the book from a girlfriend. It was an amazing quick and easy read and very informative. Being in an abusive relationship meant it spoke volumes to me. Have found it to be a great source of encouragement and will likely be recommending it to others for sure. Sounds like Leslie speaks from a wealth and variety of experience and she has made it very easy to identify with, since she uses so many examples. A book many in counselling will no doubt benefit from easily. A must have library resource for every church and bookshelf if you are into helping and dealing with individuals. Highly recommended!

  8. I have not read this book, but it is nice to know that the same information that I received from a book written in Hollywood is available in the Christian venue. At the time I needed this info, I was not serving Christ, therefore did not read Christian books. But if I had known about this one, I thinki would have read it. I have since accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I would recommend this book instead of the one I read, simply because it is Christ centered.

  9. Happy

    Unbelievable! You won’t believe how much someone (Leslie) understands something that you had no idea it had a name and existed as such a horribly sad issue. It really did steal my personhood from me, and I look forward to finding out who I am! (I hope I love me!)

  10. Jennifer Brooks

    I picked the book up in a Publix super market in Jacksonville Fl. I had been in a destructive and emotionally abusive relationship for years. I started to read the book one Tuesday morning and could not believe that I was being written about. It changed my life and that very day I started to make changes. I am out of the relationship and getting stronger everyday.

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