Morning friend, I appreciate all of you and your contributions to help women who come here confused and scared, looking for other godly women to help them see Biblical truths in new ways. There is so much growth and maturity in the responses since I started this blog 10 years ago. It’s encouraging to see women helping other women in powerful ways.
This week’s question: My husband and I have been separated for 6 weeks due to emotional abuse and immoral activity on the computer. I called our pastor for counseling and left a message and I did not hear back from him so I called him again.
I spoke to him and he said that he would call and visit me the following week. That never happened and it's been 6 weeks. I'm very discouraged and disappointed that I do not have my church helping my husband and I. Should I make a third attempt to call this pastor and ask for help again? It almost feels like the church is as negligent as my husband and I don't like the idea of begging them for help.
I am still searching for a good Christian counselor that accepts my insurance in my area. I hope to find one soon but in the meantime should I reach out to another church for help? My husband is not being held accountable by any Spiritual Authority. And he has still not contacted the counselor that I found for him. What should my response be? Currently I'm just working on myself.
Answer: I am sorry for your pastor’s negligence. To give him the benefit of doubt, there may be a crisis in his own life or other issues brewing in the church that has kept him from following up with you. But he could have at least e-mailed, texted, or called you to tell you he was unable to help you at this time and given you some other resources. This reminds me how imperfectly human we all are, including those who shepherd us as pastors.
To answer your question whether you should you reach out again, I’d say no. He’s already shown himself unreliable and unfaithful to you so why would you trust him to help you through this crisis? However, you may want to write him a short note expressing your hurt and disappointment. Hopefully he will learn by it and do better next time with someone else.
The bigger problem you face is not with your pastor’s lack of follow through but your husband’s. You separated from him six weeks ago due to some serious sin on his part. You provided the name of a counselor whom he could contact. Six weeks have gone by and he has not reached out to the counselor. What does that tell you?
You are in a common place many wives get to and it’s called “over functioning.” [Tweet “Over functioning means you take responsibility to fix things that are not yours to fix.”] Your husband has violated his marriage vows to love, honor, cherish and protect you by his emotional abuse and immoral activity on the computer. He has broken your trust and your heart. What is he doing to fix this? What is he doing to work on his problem of porn use and emotional abuse? Nothing as far as you report. He’s not working to get himself into an accountability group, but you are. He’s not seeking a counselor for his problem, but you are. He’s not asking the pastor for help, you are. I get it. You’re scared. You’re hurt. You want your marriage to change. . . and you are trying to get him to get help, but you can’t fix his problem, only he can.
Where does that leave you? Beyond frustrated for sure. But the sooner you accept that you cannot fix or change him, the sooner you can face the facts of your situation. Your husband doesn’t want to get help right now. Why? Maybe he’s scared. Ashamed. Maybe he doesn’t think he has a problem, even though you do. Maybe he doesn’t want to do the work required to get healthy. All of the above. None of the above. You don’t know, but perhaps that might be a place to start.
What if, instead of trying to change him or fix his problem you simply said, “We’ve been separated for six weeks. So far it seems as if you’re not taking any initiative to work on the things that have damaged our marriage. Where do we go from here? What do you want?”
And then let him ponder those questions and see what he says.
My friend Chris Moles, who is pastor and batterer intervention specialist says, [Tweet ““You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. But you can get him thirsty.””] What might that look like in your situation? First, you separated. Is he thirsty for reconciliation with you? You haven’t said if he’s tried to pursue you or asked to come home, but that is some leverage if he wants you back in his life.
More importantly is he thirsty to be a man of God? A man of integrity, purity, and honor? Those might motivate him to do his work to get healthier. Is he thirsty to have a loving marriage instead of one where emotional abuse dominates? If he has no thirst for these things, then there is nothing internally to motivate him to do the hard work to change. External motivators – like the consequences of separation, or even a pastor initiating church discipline or trying to hold him accountable are only short-term crisis management if there is nothing inside him that truly wants to change.
You ask, what should your response be? I’d aim for Compassion. Love. Acceptance with excellent boundaries. For example, it will take work, but if you can come to the place where you can honestly say to him and feel, “I am sad that you don’t want more for yourself. I am sad you don’t want to work on our relationship. I love you, but will not do life with you if you do not want to change these things. If you do not want to work on changing these things for whatever reason, our marriage cannot be healed or reconciled. I don’t want to constantly worry about your porn use. I don’t want to live with someone who calls me names when he’s mad or unhappy or frustrated (or whatever he does when you say he emotionally abuses you). I accept you don’t want to change, or don’t think you need to change, but I also know that I cannot be close to you or trust you if you don’t change.”
Jesus gives us a good picture of this with his conversation with the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus wanted to have a relationship with this young man. And the man said he wanted a relationship with God. Jesus loved him, but the young man didn’t want to do what it took to truly have a relationship with God. He wanted to do certain things, but not the most important. Jesus loved him and let him go. (See Mark 10:17-27, especially verse 21 for the story).
[Tweet “Stop trying to shape your husband into the person you want him to be and let him decide the man he wants to be.”] Then you can truly know whether or not you can ever trust him or live with him again.
Friend, how have you learned to stop over functioning; trying to fix people who aren’t doing their own work to fix themselves?
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