This weekend I’m in Chicago visiting my family for Christmas. I’m eating pizza, pizza, pizza and if you know Chicago’s pizza – it’s the best.
This week’s question: I so enjoyed your book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, I want to read it over again and pray and meditate on some of the truths you wrote. However, in reading the book and praying I’ve been a little confused. I’ve also been doing a bible study on the Wife of Noble Character. I am learning how to handle myself when my husband is sarcastic or short tempered: but where I have found it difficult is if he says something to me that is really hurtful and mean, or when I catch him in a lie. For example, he was out of town when his cell phone accidently dialed home and when I asked him where he was, he told me he was in his hotel room when he was really with his coworkers at a bar. He apologized later but I fear it can’t be the first time he has lied. Also when I forgive him for instances like these, and even bigger things like when he’s been verbally abusive towards me, it’s hard to be intimate and I really don’t know how to respond.
My question is what would natural consequences be for lying and being verbally abusive towards me? How do I respond besides saying, “You will not talk with me that way” or “I deserve to be told the truth and it’s important for me to trust you.”
He’s a good father and good man in so many ways, but it’s times like these I just don’t know what to do.
Answer: You are on the right track by attending to your relationship with God and to your own responses rather than trying to change your husband. But one of the things that you identify that is greatly impacted by your husband’s behavior is your ability to trust him and your desire to be intimate. Honey, those ARE the natural consequences for what is happening in your relationship.
It still surprises me that people fail to understand a simple Biblical concept. The apostle Paul says “what we sow, we reap.” (Galatians 6:7). In other words, your husband cannot lie to you and verbally abuse you, and continue to expect that your marriage will thrive, feel close, warm and intimate. That’s like stomping on my flower garden and still expecting flowers to grow or showing up late for work and still expecting my boss will give me a promotion and raise.
It doesn’t happen that way. Your husband might be a great guy 75% of the time, but what about the other 25% or even 10%? What’s that negative time doing to the stability and health of your marriage and family life? If I stop on some of my plants only one time, they’re finished blooming. That’s it.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. No marriage has 100% great times. There is no perfect husband or wife and so there is sin and suffering in every marriage. But how those difficult times are dealt with and repaired makes all the difference in the health and well-being of the marital relationship. It sounds like you’re trying hard to do your part to not overreact, return evil for evil, or treat your husband disrespectfully just because he treats you that way. However, if he continues to lie and/or verbally abuse you, his actions are just as destructive to the health of your marriage as swinging an axe into your bedroom walls would be to your physical home. Acting that way causes damage and it takes time to repair it. The more often it happens the harder it is to keep fixing it.
So your next step is to have an honest talk with him about what’s going on. Perhaps he isn’t connecting the dots but for the welfare of your marriage and yourself, you must now connect them for him. I love the Hebrew word ezer in the scriptures that traditionally has been translated for women as “helpmeet”. Helpmeet is not the best translation of ezer because it doesn’t convey the true strength of the role given to women. Carolyn Custis James, in her insightful book, Lost Women of the Bible writes, “The ezer is a warrior, and this has far reaching implications for women, not only in marriage, but in every relationship, season, and walk of life.” She says, “Eve and all her daughters are ezers – strong warriors who stand alongside their brothers in the battle for God’s kingdom.”
I want you to gear up for battle through prayer. You are an ezer for your husband and your family. Paul tells us God gives us power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Next you are going to prepare your heart to have a hard (not harsh) talk with your husband about what’s going on and the consequences to your marriage when he chooses to lie and verbally abuse you. Jesus says we prepare for these kinds of hard talks by taking the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3). So deal with your anger, face your fear, see if there is any resentment or bitterness or whatever sin that is in you that Satan could use to confuse you and twist things around.
Next, as you’ve done this preparation, you’ll have a humble and gentle heart which is the one most likely to be heard. Humility doesn’t mean weak nor is it passive. Remember, you are an ezer and that means you are a strong warrior woman who is fighting for the integrity of her marriage and well-being of her husband. Plan your conversation so that your word choice reflects how his behaviors are hurting you, hurting the marriage, and hurting your ability to be intimate as well as trust him. For example you might say something like this:
“I love you. I want more than anything else to have a strong loving marriage and a great family life with you for as long as I live. However, I know you’ve noticed that I’m having trouble being intimate with you lately and I don’t trust you. None of us is perfect and I’m not expecting you to be perfect but I am asking you for the welfare of our relationship, to tell me the truth, even when you don’t think I’ll like it. I also need you to respect me, even when you’re angry. (be specific here with what he does that feels like abuse to you – whether that is name calling, cursing at you, etc).
“Lying to me and calling me names when you’re angry is not acceptable to me, even occasionally and I won’t continue to allow myself to be treated that way. I need you to know that if you choose to to act that way, it will negatively impact our marriage even more than it has already. I don’t want that to happen and that’s why I’m talking with you now. I want us to heal and thrive and be close, but it’s important that you understand something about me. I will never feel close to you if I can’t trust you or if I feel afraid (or disrespected by) of you. It’s just not possible for me.”
Then stop talking and wait for his response. If he agrees that he needs to change, then ask him what can you do to respectfully remind him of this new commitment when you’re fearing he’s lying again or he begins to talk disrespectfully to you (because no one changes overnight). This will be a good indicator of his desire to stop these destructive behaviors. When we’re truly repentant, we’re willing to be accountable for making the changes we say we will make.
Start there and see how it goes. If things deteriorate, I’d encourage you to get my other book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. In it you will find specific resources and next steps.
Friends, any suggestions you have for this woman?