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How Can I Get My Husband To Change?

By Leslie Vernick

Women in destructive marriages are pretty clear on one thing: “If my husband could just see his sin and repent, everything would be better.”

And so they’ll spend all their time and energy to that end… talking, pleading, buying books, finding counselors. And, when nothing changes, they try harder. Sometimes they get angry. Blow up. And start becoming destructive themselves.

So, how do you get your spouse down the road of repentance and change?

Friend, please hear me: You. Can’t. You can’t!

It is not yours or even your counselor’s job to get your husband to take the steps of true repentance. It is only the job of the Holy Spirit to convict someone. Then it is up to them whether they will respond to that conviction and repent.

Not even Jesus coerced people into repentance. For example, in John 13, at the Last Supper, Jesus showed all of his disciples the full extent of his love. He knew Judas was about to betray him. He even told Judas he knew it. But Judas didn’t repent. Jesus didn’t go chasing after him, begging, waving a book in his face or dragging a counselor along to talk sense into him. No. Judas had the freedom to choose.

Now, Zacchaeus, in Luke 19, is an example of someone who did choose to repent. He was the chief tax collector and money was his god. He was very rich from extorting money from his fellow Jews.

But something changed in Zacchaeus’ heart when Jesus came to his house. We know because he told Jesus, “I will give half my wealth to the poor and if I’ve cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much.” He now loved Jesus more than money and he was willing to make restitution for his sin.

True repentance cannot be coerced or taught. You can implement consequences or boundaries that God can use to wake him up. But the real “heart work” of genuine repentance only comes from the Holy Spirit.

So how do you know if your husband is genuinely repentant and not just full of empty words?

Paul talks about this in Ephesians 4. He says, “throw off your old sinful nature and former way of life. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.” Then he gives specific situations. For example,

If you’re a thief, quit stealing. That is the first evidence of a change. The sin hurting you and the relationship STOPS.

Second, Paul says, “Use your hands for good, hard work.” This demonstrates the thief is now taking responsibility for meeting his own needs.

And, then, Paul adds something else. He says, “Then, give generously to others in need.” This deals with inward character. The heart. The thief is transformed inwardly from a taker to a giver.

Apply this to your husband:You first want to see sinful behavior stopped. Then, he needs to take responsibility for himself – his feelings and actions, and, finally, you want to see a heart transformation as he begins to develop new behaviors.

Now, this won’t happen overnight. It’s a process. But you do see evidence that it’s happening:

First, your husband grows in self-awareness. He starts owning his sin instead of blaming others for it.

Second, he’s willing to receive feedback from others, especially when he’s slipping back into old behaviors… and that will happen from time to time.

Third, he’s willing to be accountable to a small group of trusted men… men who will do the work of holding him accountable.

Major life change never happens without accountability and support.

There is no exact list but you do want to see this kind of progression both internally and externally so that you are seeing the FRUIT of genuine repentance.

Book Giveaway

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The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope

by Leslie Vernick

You can’t put it into words, but something is happening to you. Your stomach churns, your heart aches, and the tension in your marriage is making you feel weary and a little crazy. The constant criticism, disrespect, cruelty, deceit, and gross indifference are eroding your confidence and breaking your spirit. For any woman caught in an emotionally destructive marriage, Leslie Vernick offers a personalized path forward. Based on decades of counseling experience, her intensely practical, biblical advice will show you how to establish boundaries and break free from emotional abuse. Learn to:

  • identify damaging behaviors
  • gain the skills to respond wisely
  • promote healthy change
  • stay safe
  • understand when, why, and even how to leave
  • recognize that God sees and hates what is happening to you

Trying harder to be a perfect fantasy wife won’t help fix what’s wrong your marriage. Discover instead how you can initiate effective changes to stop the cycle of destruction and restore hope for the future.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter! (Giveaway only available to U.S. residents)

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope” by Leslie Vernick are BJ S. and Patty K.

Enter For Your Chance to Win

He’s Intimacy Anorexic. Is There Anything I Can Do?

By Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband and I have been married for 19 years. We are both Christ followers and have 3 children (2 adopted now teens and a bio 5-year-old). There have been infidelities on his part along the way, mostly with pornography which he struggled with deeply before marriage (I was unaware).

Many omissions and staggered disclosures anger about me asking questions about his recovery along the way, etc. He was very charming pre-marriage and affectionate, but I came to find out he is/and has been since early marriage actually intimacy avoidant with me. Our son was conceived miraculously as my husband rarely would concede to having sex. After postpartum recovery, my husband whined about me asking about sex the few times I did and now it has been 4.5 years of no sex. I have never refused sex with him and told him I desire him, AND that now I am wanting to have him initiate and pursue me so I am not feeling rejected all the time. His reasons for abstaining have been that he just wants “to go a day without fighting”, but even when we have plenty of days and even weeks of good days, there is no pursuit and intimacy is sabotaged in one way or another.

We have had a good marriage therapist for over 5 years now with whom we've had intensives, and weekly sessions, and are currently working with after a “smaller” discovery 6 months ago. My husband now has Covenant Eyes and friends following up with him and is showing growth, but I believe there is a major block in him with intimacy. We are going on a vacation together without the kids soon, he has said in the past he “would love to have sex and thinks about it all the time” and that he thinks I'm attractive, but it is all talk.

He has wounds from his childhood which I can understand have contributed to his difficulty with intimacy, AND I feel like at this point it is up to him to show some desire and pursuit. I am desiring deeper intimacy and have forgiven him. I know I have not deserved to be neglected in my marriage in this way, and I'm not sure if there's anything else I should do. Thanks for your ministry and wisdom!

Answer: I’m so sorry for what you are experiencing. I’m going to make a gigantic assumption and that is that you have already brought up this issue with your marital therapist. And I assume he or she has made some recommendations around this for him? For you both? Has there been a recommendation that you go to a sex therapist who can help you both reestablish safety in this part of your relationship together?

What People Are Saying About Leslie's Moving Beyond People Pleasing Course:

“Like a car- ya can’t fix it till you know what the problem is. This class will open your eyes to see things differently, and find the real problem that is keeping you stuck. This class gets to the core of who one is- what is really behind our behavior and helps us to become the woman God created us to be. We can now not react- or have our feelings control us- but step back- learn from our feelings- then decide out of one’s Big Circle ⭕ . I think God is smiling at that too!”

– Jackie

LESLIE WELCOMES YOUR QUESTIONS

Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.

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Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States