I hope you had a great weekend. It was my birthday weekend – A BIG BIRTHDAY. This was the first time in 10 years that I had my children and grandchildren with me to celebrate. Instead of cake, I decided to get fruit and have a chocolate fondue. It was great. We didn’t have a fountain cascading chocolate, just a bowl to dip our strawberries and melons in but it was a nice change.
I’m working on a new website that will be just for pastors, Christian counselors and people helpers in the church. It will be directed to help inform, educate and train people in the church on destructive relationships, particularly emotional abuse. Stay tuned as I’m going to invite you to share this new site with the leaders in your church so that they can become more aware of how they can best help.
Question: I've been researching how, as a Christian woman, to deal with my destructive marriage for a number of years and have never had the guts to post until I came across this site. My husband and I have been married for 7 years. I thought we had a good marriage until I found out he was addicted to pain killers when I was five months pregnant with my only child. He spent all of our savings over the course of a year. When his addiction was found out, he detoxed.
I had my baby boy and I thought things were looking up. However, things spiraled quickly, he spent the first 9 months of my son's life in and out of behavioral health hospitals for suicidal thoughts and attempted to overdose.
Through it all, I stuck by him and tried to ‘fix' everything through prayer and earthly measures including Christian counseling and the advice of my pastor. He uses a large amount of medication for his mental health issues but has always struggled to function as a responsible adult and is dishonest. I'm the breadwinner in the family and he has always taken every opportunity to work as little as possible. I am responsible for 75% of the household expenses, leaving him with most of his pay to do with what he will. He spends all of his money and has nothing to show for it. I'm constantly in fear that he is using pills/substances again but have no way to prove it.
He spends over $1,000 a month and can't account for it. I've begged him to provide receipts – he says he will, but never has. He is a chronic liar so I have zero trust in most everything he says. I've come to believe he is manipulative and only says/does things that benefit him. I know I have made mistakes in the marriage too, lashing out at him when he lies, belittling him when he is irresponsible with money etc. However, I can say that I have been the one holding everything together for a long time and I am mentally exhausted.
He lost his job earlier this month and continued to blow through money – harassing me to give him cash. Again, trigging my fear of him abusing pills. He said he needed the cash to purchase his prescription medication, so I gave in and gave him money. I later called the pharmacy and he never picked up his medicine – another lie. I told him to leave, that I couldn't take it anymore. I guess my question is, how do you know when you've done enough in Gods eyes? I love the Lord and my biggest desire is to honor him and my biggest fear is to give up on the marriage and throw my life even more off course if it's not in alignment with God's will. Looking for biblically based counsel, thank you!
Answer: My heart goes out to you. These situations can be very confusing. I hear that you have a strong heart to please God but let me ask you a question. Do you think the way you are functioning in your marriage right now pleases God? You are full of fear, you are over-functioning, providing for your family and taking care of your child. Your husband under-functions does what he pleases, and spends whatever money he earns on himself with no accountability to contribute to his family. Then, I hear you say that when you’ve finally had enough of his lying or irresponsible spending you lash out and belittle him.
The Bible says that each one of us is to bear our own load (Galatians 6:5). What do you think that means in your marriage? Do you think your husband is bearing his own load as an adult contributor to your marriage? Or do you think you are carrying your load and his load – and carrying it a bit resentfully?
Reality isn’t pretty right now for you. It appears that your husband wants someone to take care of him (his load) so that he can live as he pleases with no responsibility and no accountability. That sounds more like the mindset of an immature adolescent than a grown man.
I understand you are concerned that he has a lot of mental health issues but irresponsibility, laziness, and chronic deceit are not mental health issues, they are character issues. From what you wrote, your spouse has no interest in facing or dealing with these issues. Medication doesn’t help character issues, only chemical issues.
So your problem is how do you live with a man who doesn’t want to function like a decent husband or even a healthy adult? He doesn’t want to provide for his family, he doesn’t want to be accountable for how he spends money. He doesn’t want to be honest with you as his wife. Let me just say it straight. Your marriage relationship is sick. It is not functioning as God intended it to. It’s not even functioning in a way that two non-Christians who are relatively mature would function. Your marriage does not glorify God as it is right now. So your next question is, how can you best glorify God in the ugly and painful situation that you are in?
Option #1 is to continue doing what you are doing. But does this glorify God? By your own words, you are tired of it. You react emotionally and destructively to your husband’s irresponsibility and deceit. You are not staying well right now. This marriage is taking its toll on you and probably your son as well.
If your husband was sick and dying of cancer or some other major illness he could not control, it might be noble of you to sacrifice for him right now. However, that’s not the case for you. Continuing to do marriage in this way is not good for you, nor do I believe it’s ultimately good for him. It enables him to stay immature, irresponsible, and childish.
So what are your other options?
Option # 2 is that you get help for you. You must learn how to set better boundaries both with your money and your emotions. Remember, you can only set boundaries on yourself, not on him.
You are not responsible for the choices he makes but you are responsible for the choices you make. For example, why would you give him cash to pick up his prescription when you already know he’s deceitful and manipulative? A new boundary might be “I will no longer give you any cash to spend. If you have to pick up a prescription, I will call the pharmacy and give them my credit card number and then you can go pick it up.” If he protests, refuse to give him cash. Another boundary might be, “When you start screaming at me, I will no longer continue this conversation.” You can’t stop his screaming or manipulative behaviors, but you can stop engaging when he does them.
Biblical love does not mean that you allow an irresponsible and destructive person to walk all over you. Would you allow your son to do that? No. Why not? Because you love him and you know that if you allowed your son to hit you or swear at you in a fit of anger, that would not only hurt his character development, it would hurt your long term relationship with him. Therefore you would set boundaries, “I will not allow you to hit me” and you would implement consequences, “If you hit me, you will be in a time out for 30 minutes.”
Now your husband is not your child, nor should you parent him. However, Biblical love always acts in the best interests of the other person (as best as you can discern). Click To Tweet
What is in his best interest right now? Is it to continue to indulge his irresponsibility? Give into his temper tantrums and manipulations? To over-function so that he can continue to be irresponsible and act like a child instead of a grown man? I don't think that’s good for him, let alone good for you. Therefore, change must begin with you. You have to find your voice; your strong, firm, yet loving voice and say no.
Your confusion is that you enable him until you get sick and tired of it. Then your ugly angry voice comes out and belittles him. After that, you feel guilty about how you handled yourself. Not a good path to continue.
The other area you must begin to set some boundaries on besides your money is your emotional life. We all experience negative emotions when we feel someone is manipulating us or not carrying his fair share of the load. Instead of learning how to appropriately respond, you react. You explode in anger and vomit out all your feelings and then later regret it and feel guilty. Then you go back to your same enabling behaviors trying harder to be “nice” because you feel bad.
Instead of dancing that same old dance, you must learn a new dance. Get some help and support to learn that new dance and start by setting and keeping good boundaries.
Option # 3 is that there is a very real possibility that you won’t be able to do your work while still living with him in the same house because he is so toxic and has already worn you down. It may be that you need to initiate a separation from him in order to find your voice and be able to gain the strength to have your boundaries. By doing option # 3, your husband may see you are serious and unwilling to continue to bear his load. Then he has some hard choices to make. He can begin to realize that he has a lot of maturing to do in order to function as a grown up. Or he will throw a temper tantrum and guilt trip you to try to get you to back down. And if that doesn’t work, he will eventually find another compassionate woman who has poor boundaries who will “take care of him.”
I know that none of these options feel good. They are all hard. But here is where you need the wisdom to do what’s best, not what feels good. So please, get some collective wisdom from other women on this site, get yourself a good counselor or coach, and do your work.
Friend, how did you get out of the stuck place of over-functioning and finally allow your husband the opportunity to face his own immaturity, entitlement and sin?