Question: I am 38, my wife is 32. Recently she informed me that she no longer loves me or has any feelings for me. We have 5 kids and they all see the anger and resentment she has toward me. I used to drink but have not had anything in almost 2 years. I never drank around the kids and it was only 1-2 times a month. We’ve been together for 10 years. She has stopped going to church and feels that the people at church are always talking about us and our marriage. It’s a small church.
My wife and I have never had any sort of healthy relationship ever, all the way back to our childhoods. I want to work on making myself healthy but I would also like to see her do something. She says she just wants to be roommates. I think she is just buying time until she finishes school and gets a job and can afford to leave. I know that the Lord wants our marriage to work, but I feel that Satan has a choke hold on my wife. Can you give me some tips on how I might persuade her to give it another chance when she does not really want to work on things? Any advice for me on how to deal with the pain?
Answer: I’m sorry that things are so difficult for you right now. Let me start by answering your first question on how to persuade your wife to give your marriage another chance. From what you say and the tone of your e-mail, it seems like right now your persuasive powers over your wife are about zero. She won’t listen to your words, but your consistent behavior change over time might cause her to pause and rethink her decisions. You say she is full of anger and resentment and perhaps she has some legitimate reasons to be angry.
I don’t know if this is true in your situation, but I find that many men ignore the early warning signs that their marriage is in trouble. They figure if it’s not broken, why fix it. But when a wife’s repeated requests or complaints get no positive response or change, she begins to shut down and build resentments. Over time these resentments kill her positive loving feelings that were once there. When I’m speaking to male audiences on the subject of marriage maintenance, I compare it to the check oil light in an automobile, indicating that you need to add oil. If you ignore that minor maintenance, the car may still run for a while, but sooner or later the engine will freeze and now you have a much bigger and more costly problem. When you ignore marital distress, the marriage may still function for a while, but sooner or later, the marriage freezes and then no amount of oil will fix it.
That means that for right now you must stop trying to get your wife to change and focus on yourself. As you work to be a better father to your 5 children, handle your pain in a healthy, mature, godly way, and deal with the day to day interactions with your wife with consideration and respect, she might begin to see some things in you that she can like and admire. She will see that you mean business when you say you want things to be better and she will see that you are willing to work hard on yourself. That may soften her to begin to look at her own heart and life too. If so, then you have influenced your wife for good. If not, then the changes you have made will help you become healthy and mature, which you state is your goal. I would also highly encourage you to read my book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong.
Your second question was how to deal with the pain of marital rejection. This is challenging and how you do so will show you wife your commitment to your first goal of getting healthy. First, remember that your wife is not your enemy here although she may feel like one. Satan ultimately wants to destroy you and her, your marriage and your children’s lives. Don’t let him. When we handle our hurts by retaliating and striking back, Satan wins. God wants us to trust him with our pain and to process it in healthy ways by talking it out with him as well as some trusted and godly friends or spiritual mentors/counselors.
It’s important not to sin in your own anger (Read Ephesians 4:17-5:1) and to keep a tight rein on your tongue so that you don’t lash out in moments of hurt and frustration (Psalm 39). Grieve the loss of your wife’s affections by journaling, talking, praying and remind yourself that even when she doesn’t love you anymore, God still does. You are important to him and he has a purpose in this and a plan for your life. You need to keep the big picture in mind while walking through the pain of your situation. That will help you stay focused on more than just your pain.
Also pay attention to your thought life. Proverbs tells us to guard our heart. You will need to discipline yourself to not continue to mentally rehearse wrongs your wife has done and ways she has hurt you. It only rips the scabs off the wounds and keeps you feeling intense pain over and over again. When you think of them, give them to God, pray for your wife and ask God to help you forgive her. Also you are emotionally vulnerable to the attentions of another women and may feel justified in pursuing it. Don’t do it. Leave time for God to work a healing in your marriage.
Lastly, a good many of my readers are women. I’m going to invite them to share with you what kinds of things they might be looking for in a husband who is genially trying to get healthy and restore his marriage. I would ask God to help you learn from this situation right now how to be the man you want to be. God Bless.