I’ve had a whirlwind week of being a Nana. Love it, but it’s exhausting, especially when you are entertaining three darling little girls in 115-degree heat. But we did swimming and some shopping and playing games and today we cleaned “Nana’s office” so we could keep busy.
This week’s question dovetails nicely with our peacekeeper’s question from last week. This reader is also exhausted and desperate for help.
This Week’s Question: What do you do when your spouse has a mental disorder? At least you know there is something terribly wrong after 40 years of confusion and seeing the children self-destruct and estranged from their parents and it’s been one crisis after another!
My spouse has no emotion. He doesn’t learn. He’s not teachable. It has had very damaging effects on all of us. No counselor, therapist, or psychologist seems to understand what I say. They’re saying my spouse has his head in the sand. I am not able to explain what is happening or has happened to my family. Help!
Answer: You sound desperate to find someone who will speak into your spouse’s life in a way that he will hear that he needs help and take steps to get it. But from your question, it sounds as if the people you have asked for help have already given you feedback that your spouse is unable or unwilling to listen. You used their words – “He has his head in the sand.” What they mean by that is “he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say.” Sound familiar?
You have observed the same thing. You indicate that he is not teachable and he doesn’t want to learn. He sees the damage to his kids and family but he doesn’t connect the dots from how he behaves and the chaos and destructive effect it brings to others.
I don’t know if your husband qualifies for a mental health diagnosis but the Bible defines people who refuse to listen, refuse to learn from their mistakes, and refuse to reflect on the consequences of their own life as fools.
For example, “Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise”(Proverbs 15:12). “A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool” (Proverbs 17:10). “People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray” (Proverbs 10:17). “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment. A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:1,2). And “If a wise man (or woman) contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace”(Proverbs 29:9).
Sadly, when you are married to a fool, the consequences that fall on him fall on the rest of the family as well. I would highly encourage you to get the book, Fool-Proofing Your Life, by Jan Silvious. It will help you take some new steps.
It’s time to change your focus. You have spent inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to get him to see, to listen, to go for help, and to change. You have spent hours speaking to mental health professionals about him and what he’s done and how he behaves or thinks or doesn’t feel any emotions hoping they will figure it out. Perhaps they do understand, but they are just as powerless as you are at getting him to change. People usually go to counselors and psychologists because “they see they have a problem,” not because someone tells them they have a problem. He doesn’t see it – he has his head in the sand.
But what about you? I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. The only person you can change is you. So let me ask you a different question. What do you need to do differently so that you grow, you get healthier, and you begin to take better care of you? – Click To Tweet
Since you have stayed in this chaos and destruction for 40 plus years, I think it would be helpful for you to stop trying to change him and start to take a look at your own part of this destructive dance. How have you enabled? How have you sacrificed your own well-being by living with his continued destructive behaviors? What do you need to change so that you get safe and sane and don’t passively participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness any longer? (Ephesians 5:7).
Many Christian women believe and have been taught that the “loving” thing is to bear with someone’s weakness and be the bigger person. And that’s great advice for certain problems. But when someone is repeatedly destructive and is causing harm to others, including small children, there is another Biblical way of being loving. That way involves confronting sinful behavior as well as implementing strong consequences for the destructive behavior. This is done not only to protect yourself from the fool’s behaviors but also in the hopes that tough consequences will wake the “fool” up to his or her destructive ways.
I wish I could wave a magic wand or say a prayer for you that would take all this away. But God has a way for you to walk this through in a manner that will glorify Him and also do the most for your spouse. But does it glorify God for you to stay passive and silent and live with a man who is continually destructive? Speaking up to a fool won’t yield any positive results as the Bible tells us fools refuse to listen. Therefore your only other option is tough consequences, which may include separation. But before you take that step, I highly encourage you to get the help you need to figure out where you are at, what changes you need to make and then to get strong enough to actually implement them.
Friend, have you spent more energy trying to change his destructive behavior than on getting stronger and healthier yourself? If so, what helped you switch your focus?