Last week we had quite a number of interesting responses to my blog post answering the question of whether or not to give her husband another chance. I even got a response in Chinese although I’m sorry that I can’t read it and don’t know anyone who can translate it for me. But it’s encouraging to hear people’s experiences and how it’s not a one size fits all approach.
Here’s this week’s dilemma/question, again concerning a marital problem.
Question: My husband and I are evangelical Christians. He has a daily quiet time and bible reading and prayer. We have been married 20 years and have 2 children, the youngest a sophomore in high school. We have had our struggles and have gone to counseling off and on much of our relationship. This past fall my husband informed me that he had no intention of staying married after the kids were out of the house. I have since asked him more about this (wondering if he just said it in the heat of the moment). He has it all planned out that the housing market will be better in 3 years and we can sell our house, split the money and go our separate ways. He has no interest in counseling. He says, “been there, done that.”
My question is this: Several times this winter, my husband has shown interest in or asked me about sex. We are still married but I have conflicting thoughts about what my response should be. When he acts this way, I have tried to talk to him about my thoughts and feelings but he walks away and says he thought we could just “have a little fun but it isn’t worth it.”
So, am I called to meet his physical needs while he totally neglects my emotional needs because we are still married? Or can I still be a godly wife if I insist the talk of divorce is off the table (or at least we are working with a pastor/counselor), before we resume a physical relationship?
Answer: Here is another situation where a simple answer will not fit every situation. Some of the decision you make will depend on what you have done in the past, how much you have tried one approach over another. My response to last week’s question was influenced by the fact that the wife had gone the extra mile in forgiving her husband and reconciling with him many times and her husband had not changed his ways. Because of that history it was time for a different tactic.
Without knowing your particular history, other than you describe a troubled marriage over the long haul, one approach is to say to yourself, “If I can show love to my husband in the only way he can receive it right now, perhaps that will speak to him about my commitment to him and to our marriage and he will change his mind.” That thinking requires a sacrificial kind of love that God gives us and asks us to give to one another. You will not have a mutually giving kind of marriage, but one where you are the primary giver. In the long run, if nothing changes, you may stay married, but it will not be a happy marriage, but perhaps a more peaceful one than you have right now. However, since your husband is daily reading God’s Word and apparently interested in his spiritual life, you can fervently pray that God would speak to him about his indifference toward you, his resentments, and his lack of commitment to his marriage vows.
Often times over the course of a marriage, one person in the marriage does give much more than the other does and it is that kind of unfailing “hessed” love that becomes the glue that binds the couple together. If you choose this approach, you will need to draw yourself close to the Lord because it is only in his strength can you continue to give love when you are being personally rejected. This approach doesn’t guarantee that your husband won’t follow through with his plans to leave in 3 years, but it is the reality of where you are at this point in your marriage. It’s possible that through your attitude of humility and graciousness, your husband may come to his senses and realize that he has a good wife and he’d be a fool to walk away.
However, I also believe that an equally biblical approach would be to speak the truth in love to him and say something like, “I don’t understand how you can so easily invite me into the bedroom but really want nothing to do with me? That really hurts.”
He may minimize your feelings again or say it takes too much work to talk through things. I think your attitude of humility and desire to genuinely listen to what has caused him to become so unwilling to continue to work on your marital difficulties will play a big role here. I’d recommend listening to my CD, on The Hidden Power of Humility which you can order on my website at www.leslievernick.com
Only you know the history you’ve shared and your own part that you’ve played in where the marriage is at this time. I’d be reluctant to advise you to draw a line in the sand and say “unless you go to counseling, or stop talking divorce I won’t have sex with you.” Instead, I’d try a gentler approach saying, “I know I’ve done some things to deeply hurt you (or whatever you think your part is) and I’m very sorry. I want our marriage to work. I want to enjoy a fun and healthy sex life with you and want to spend the rest of our years together. But I can’t make that happen all by myself and you have given up. Please tell me why?”
I hope that gives you some things to pray about. Readers – I welcome your comments.