Don’t forget about tonight’s (Wednesday, January 20) free webinar with Pastor Chris Moles and me. We are talking about what it takes to wisely counsel an emotionally destructive person. If you know of a church leader, pastor, or counselor who could benefit from this class, please send them the link. They won’t be able to participate without signing up. Click here to register. If you can’t make it tonight, sign up and you will get the replay the following day.
I’d also appreciate your prayers, especially this week. We are heading out to California on Friday for two months like we did last year to visit our daughter and 3 granddaughters. A snow storm is scheduled to hit the East coast on Friday afternoon and we have a lot to do before then. Pray for safety and that our 11-year-old beloved dog, Grace, is good with all of the travel. She loves the car and did fine last year, but this is a long trip and she is a year older.
One more piece of exciting news – on October 14,15, 2016, I am going to host a women’s conference: CONQUER – Becoming the Best Possible You Inside and Out. We will have three main speakers and several break out sessions.
So save the date! You will NOT want to miss it and I would LOVE to meet all of you in person. It will be held at my home church, Faith Church in Trexlertown, PA.
Details to follow in the upcoming months and we will have an early bird registration beginning in April. If you want to keep up with all the details click here.
But I thought you might want to know ahead of time so you can start saving your pennies if you need to travel to get here and save the date. Frontier Airlines has some great airfares to Philadelphia and Trenton airports, which are a little more than an hour from here.
QUESTION: I am struggling with God’s guidance in my marriage. My husband of 29 years is emotionally abusive and I have always felt obligated to serve him sexually because of what scripture says in 1 Corinthians 7, to not deprive your spouse sexually. I have considered divorce but Malachi 2 says God hates divorce.
My husband has been nicer to me lately, thinking that maybe I will warm up to him sexually. I know his heart has not changed because he is still sometimes mean and he thinks I am abusing him. I would like to not have sex with him because I don’t like feeling like an object in such a vulnerable way.
I have heard that many marriages are sexless and I would like that for myself but it seems like that is not God’s will. We used to have sex every other day because of my husband’s biological needs, but since I am speaking up more, it’s only once a week now…still too much for me. What can I do?
ANSWER: This is a tricky question that I get asked again and again. The sexual component of marriage is an important part of God’s design for marriage. Marriage is not designed to be sexless, nor is it a good thing. Recent studies show how healthy it is for our body and our brain to have loving physical connection in a committed relationship. God made sex to be a mutual intimate relationship based on trust, safety and love. That’s why he reserves the sexual relationship exclusively for marriage.
The tricky component comes into play when ones marriage lacks safety, trust and love. Then what? (Tweet that)
Sex can be used as a powerful weapon just as money can, to control, manipulate and punish when you feel unhappy or your needs are not being met within the marriage. No spouse wants to feel like “just a body” that is used to gratify physical needs/wants and no spouse wants to feel like “just a paycheck” to satisfy a spouses financial needs/wants.
That’s why it is so important that you learn how to walk in CORE strength right now. You did make certain promises when you married and just because your husband has failed to keep his end well doesn’t give you a pass on keeping yours. Yet, you’re having yucky feelings inside because you don’t enjoy having sexual relations with a man who also regularly emotionally abuses you. No one would. Safety is lost, trust is broken and what’s happening at home feels anything but loving.
That said, you’re on the right track. Apparently you’ve been honest with your husband to some degree (which is the first step of CORE strength: C- I will be committed to honesty, no more pretending). You said he’s trying to be nicer to you, thinking that will warm you up to him sexually. So perhaps he’s beginning to connect the dots that you don’t enjoy sex or want to be physically close to someone who emotionally batters you.
But his niceness often feels like a means to an end (get you in bed) rather than a change of heart (I have hurt my wife by the way I’ve treated her). You fear if you give in, your husband will revert back to his abusive ways because he hasn’t really changed his heart, and if you don’t give in he will revert to his abusive ways because he’ll be angry you didn’t give in. No good choice here.
That’s why it is so important for you to practice two other components of CORE strength. R – I will be responsible for myself and respectful towards my husband without dishonoring myself and E – I will be empathic and compassionate without enabling destructive behavior to continue.
Let’s take the first one: R. You are going to be responsible for yourself in not allowing yourself to be demeaned and disrespected in this sacred relationship. You are not an object to be used but a person to be loved. That means that when your husband is being abusive to you, it is God’s will for you to be a good steward of your heart, mind, and body and remove yourself from his presence if possible. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Guard our heart for it is the wellspring of life.” It is well documented that verbal abuse chips away at the personhood of the victim and tears them down. Proverbs 18:21 says “Life and death is in the power of the tongue”, and Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword.”
Yes we do hear God hates divorce but he also hates lots of other things, especially when someone abuses another person in any way. (Read Proverbs 6:16-19 for a list of the things God hates and the word divorce isn’t in it, although there are many things in it that lead to divorce). And, that verse in Malachi which is often misquoted, isn’t really saying God hates divorce, but actually translates better when you read that God hates a man who divorces his wife treacherously – recklessly or indifferently. God hated that the Israelites were tossing away their wives like used tissues.
In addition to taking responsibility for yourself, it’s important for you to be respectful to your husband when you communicate why you can’t be in his presence when talks that way. If you can’t do it respectfully because you are too upset, then leave and calm down until you can.
The more you are able to stay calm, in control (of yourself) and respectful, the more you will surprise him and invite him to pay attention to what’s going on. If you both engage in the same old destructive dance – him accusing, you defending, placating, pleading, or retaliating then you’ll get the same old outcome.
Lastly, the E step of CORE strength is learning how to genuinely show empathy and compassion towards your husband when he expresses disappointment or hurt that you are no longer able to have a loving sexual relationship with him.
This boundary usually comes as a shock to most husbands. When you are respectful AND truthful about the consequences of his actions toward you and the effect it has on your libido, and do so with compassion – your husband may be freed up to look at himself – even if for a moment. You’re not yelling, you’re not resentful, you are as matter of fact, even sad that it has come to this, but you can’t make him change, the only person you can change is you.
Here is an example of something you might say. “I know you’ve noticed our sexual life has deteriorated lately and I wanted to tell you why. I know a healthy sex life is important and I wish it were different but I can’t feel close to you or even want to be physically vulnerable with you because of the way you treat me most of the time.
I have noticed that you’ve been nicer to me lately and I appreciate it, but I’m scared that you’re only doing that to get me to give in; not because you realize how horrible you’ve been towards me over the past 30 years.
I’ve never heard an apology, I’ve never heard you say you’d stop or get help for the way you treat me. I feel bad that I am unable to meet your sexual needs and I wish things were different between us, but right now, our marriage is a mess and I can’t fix it all by myself. More sex won’t fix the marriage for me – perhaps it will for you, but it won’t for me. In fact, it makes me feel worse. Right now all I can do is I take care of me and be honest with you if we’re going to have any chance of making this better.”
Then let him speak – show compassion and empathy for his feelings WITHOUT enabling destructive behavior or even destructive thinking to come your way. If he starts, just say, “ I wish I could talk with you about this, I see you are very upset, but the way you are talking to me right now is demeaning (or whatever) and I can’t allow myself to be treated this way anymore.” Then go into the other room.
Your husband feels entitled to the wonderful blessings of a good marriage (a healthy sex life) when the marriage relationship itself is crumbling. It’s like expecting healthy corn crops when you planted dandelions. It’s not going to happen.
Up to now he’s told himself the marriage is not that bad if you both still enjoy the blessings of sex. Being honest is the most loving thing you can do for him right now in keeping your promise to love your husband. It’s not unbiblical to say no, if you say it with genuine love.
Friend, what words did you use when you had to have this kind of conversation with your destructive spouse?