Sometimes, a wife notices a trend in her husband’s behavior or reactions that are concerning. He might not be engaged in something hugely sinful, but you are concerned about the harsh way he’s interacting with the kids or the resentment that he holds toward his boss, etc. In other words, you fear that if he continues down that path, significant damage will be the result. Hmmm. What’s a wife to do in those moments where she senses her husband is headed the wrong way?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but let me share two things that have been effective in my own relationship. 1) Pray earnestly that God will convict your husband through the Holy Spirit so that your husband will see that he needs to make some changes. Jesus makes it clear that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict people when they are off track. Jesus says of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8 “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
2) If you feel like God is nudging you to talk to your husband about your observations, quietly come to your husband, take a humble posture by perhaps kneeling beside him while he’s sitting, and gently tell him of your concerns. However, don’t ONLY tell him of your concerns. Take this opportunity to speak words of life to him. Tell him about the good qualities you see in him. Remind him that God is transforming him into a man who has Christ’s character, which is “gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). Tell him you’re proud of him for seeking to become more like Christ and for allowing God to mold and shape him.
I had a bit of a revelation awhile several year ago and it has stuck with me. A medical doctor appearing on my talk show (Rita Hancock) said much pain and many addictions stem from lies we have believed since childhood. These lies can serve to cause such depression, stress, or heavy burdens that we end up carrying the weight of the lies in our body (physical pain) or we end up trying to escape the burden of the lies by numbing out through various addictions, such as overeating, alcohol, etc.
So I tried the simple exercise she suggested for those who have chronic pain, illness or addiction problems. She said to sum up your current emotions in just one word. For me, the word that popped into my mind was “worry”. Then she said to reflect back on when you recall feeling that same emotion for the very first time in childhood. Bam! I was taken right back to about 5 years of age when I recall feeling worried about the fighting and verbal abuse in my family. And, I suddenly realized that, at the tender age of 5, I felt like I needed to solve the problem. For some reason, I believed the lie that I was personally responsible for making peace between people and making everyone happy. What a lie! I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that Satan would enter a painful moment of our childhood and give us a wrong interpretation. After all, Jesus describes Satan in John 8:44 this way…”When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.“
Fast forward to current day, and I can see how I’m still subconsciously carrying this same wrong burden. And it’s too heavy! And it isn’t my responsibility! I am not responsible for the relationships between my children or between my relatives. I am not personally responsible for my kids’ “happiness”. The question for you is: Have you believed a lie that has caused you to carry some kind of burden that God never intended you to carry?
If your husband has an addiction or often engages in some kind of destructive or sinful behavior, you have 2 choices. Choice # 1: You can wring your hands in despair and do nothing…which means that his disturbing behavior will likely continue, and your heart will slowly grow resentful and cold toward your husband. That choice will slowly kill your marriage! Choice #2: You can courageously talk to your husband and request him to change his behavior (or get help in changing his behavior). From personal experience, I highly recommend choice #2!
Here are 3 keys that are especially important if you choose to address this issue with your husband.
Be very specific about what you’re asking your husband to do in order to change his behavior. For instance, if he has a drinking or pornography problem, he will almost certainly need help in disentangling himself from this addiction. So search out helpful 12-step programs or reputable counselors in your area ahead of time and tell him that in order for you guys to keep moving forward in your marriage, you need him to attend a specific number of sessions over a specific period of time. I would certainly recommend that he attend some kind of program/counselor at least once a week for at least 6 months. Addictions and other sinful patterns are hard to break. He will need sustained help.
Expect your husband to be unhappy about this request! Many husbands will try to blame you or other circumstances for their personal problems. Many husbands will also attend a program or see a counselor for one or two sessions and then say “it isn’t helping me”. That’s usually just an excuse. Don’t accept that answer, unless they are willing to try a different program or counselor right away.
Balance your request with words of hope and encouragement. Proverbs 18:21 says Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Remember, you’re asking your husband to do some very hard work, so speak life-giving words to him. Tell him that you see good qualities in him, and that you will do anything you can to help him on his journey to break free from addiction
You have two choices if your husband is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, porn, gambling, drugs, video games, etc. The first choice is to wring your hands in despair, whine to your friends, tell him how disgusted you are in him, allow yourself to grow resentful, and eventually divorce him. Hmm. That doesn’t sound like the best choice for your family!
The second choice is much more likely to result in his eventual release from the stranglehold of the addiction. You can choose to pray for him daily, lovingly ask him to seek help through counseling or a 12-step program, set firm boundaries on any behavior that adversely impacts you or your family, and continue to speak “words of life” to him. What do I mean by “speaking words of life”? I mean reminding your husband of his many good qualities; reminding him that God has great plans for him; and reminding him that you still love him and that you are willing to stand next to him in this battle. Your words are so very important. Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”.
Your husband will be much more likely to put in the hard work to break free from his addiction if he feels supported, encouraged and loved by his wife. Yes, you must have firm boundaries, but he still needs to know you are for him. He needs to hear words of hope for the future if he commits to doing the hard work to break free from the addiction.
I was asked recently how a woman can help her husband (or boyfriend) if he’s struggling with the temptation to view pornography. This is such a difficult question because, ultimately, he has to be the one who does what is necessary to overcome this temptation.
However, there are 2 things that you can do:
1) Sit down with him and let him know that you want to support him and help him in any way as he wrestles against this temptation. Then gently and lovingly ask him to share with you the things that seem to trigger the desire to view porn. As you show compassion and understanding, he will be more likely to feel safe sharing the things that trigger him. Then once he shares those “triggers”, you can ask what you can do to help him deal with the reasons he’s turning to porn. You may be able to come up with ideas on how he can avoid situations that trigger him.
2) Insist that he actively pursues assistance from a 12-step group, sexual addiction treatment program, or a godly mentor with experience in this area. He needs other people to help hold him accountable and to pray for him. He NEEDS to have other men speak into his life and help him deal with the common temptation to lust and view pornography. Accountability is Biblical. James 5:16 instructs, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Does your husband wrestle with a destructive addiction? Is your husband carrying way too much stress from his job? Does your husband seem depressed? Is your man uninterested in pursuing God? It’s easy for you to sink into despair, but instead, I challenge you to pray for him continually, and with total faith in our powerful God!
I’m not saying that prayer is the only thing you should do, but it is one of the most powerful things you can do for your man. Yet, often we tend to do more whining to our girlfriends than praying for our men. We often spend too much time drowning in a pool of self-pity instead of saturating our days with earnest prayer.
Seek godly counsel from a pastor or wise female mentor to gain insights into whether you need to take specific action with your husband. Those actions may include establishing boundaries and refusing to enable a continuing pattern of sin. Perhaps you will be directed to see a counselor yourself. Maybe your pastor will schedule a talk with your husband to see if he can help. However, your main job as your husband’s helper (Genesis 2:18) is to pray for him. Pray for him throughout the day. God says in James 5:16 that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective“. So get on your knees and get busy praying. I have seen God do some pretty amazing things in response to earnest, continual prayer. I have even seen the Lord change a husband’s heart! Yes, God can change a person’s heart. Read Ezekiel 36:26.