Ask Dr. David: Married to a Faltering Church Leader
- Dr. David B. Hawkins The Relationship Doctor
- 2006 14 Oct
Dear Dr. David:
I have been married for several years to a leader in the church. My dilemma is my husband refuses to open himself to me. He doesn't communicate, help around the house or assist financially. He is like a piece of furniture in the house (when he is there) as he sits on the computer all day and talks on the phone fulfilling his ministry obligations.
I have two children by a previous marriage and we recently had a child. He helps very little with the care of the children. Within the first year of marriage he was communicating telephonically and via email with various women. I confronted him about this and he just denied it until I totally withdrew from him. He promised to stop this behavior but I caught him doing it again a short time later.
I desperately need advice. I want to be obedient to God, but there is nothing within me that desires to be with this man. I believe God ordained for us to be together to carry out a specific assignment in the earth but I have nothing left to give and I don't want to take my children through this. I suggested counseling before we got to this point but he always makes an excuse. I know that he is to be my first priority after God, but I give up. I don't want to embarrass him or taint his ministry, however I do need someone to advise me. Please reply with some wisdom and guidance. ~ Kathy
There are many issues needing to be addressed in your marriage. Let’s consider them one by one—and that, incidentally, is the best way for you two to address them as well.
First, it’s time to create a crisis. If you do not succeed in creating a mini-crisis now, you’re headed for a much bigger crisis down the road. Attempt again to get your husband’s attention. Let him know that you want to address problems in your marriage, one by one. Let him know that if he won’t attend to the issues now, they’ll only grow larger, interrupting your lives even more.
Second, address the inequality of roles in your home. You comment about your husband’s busyness, while you sound exhausted caring for your children. He doesn’t communicate, help around the house or assist financially. That suggests that in addition to caring for the children, you work outside the home. There are many families that must renegotiate the assignment of roles within the home. While traditionally it has been the woman’s place to care for the home and children, this must be discussed and agreed upon by you and your husband. Perhaps your children are also old enough to take on more responsibility within the home.
Third, there appears to be a possible sexual addiction not addressed in the home. Your husband’s involvement on the computer, and communicating with other women, is dangerous, to say the least. It suggests he is carrying on an emotional, and perhaps physical, affair with other women. This is a violation of the sanctity of your marriage and must end. You state that you don’t want to taint his ministry—but he is already doing that. He is failing to maintain clear boundaries, and the end result could be disastrous.
You mention your desire and vision has been to be in ministry with your husband. You appear to have demonstrated a willingness to partner with him. However, the Apostle Peter makes it clear that he has some responsibilities to you in this area. "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (I Peter 3: 7)
Finally, it is critical that you seek Christian counsel, and that any unhealthy and ungodly secrets be revealed. It is important that both of you be accountable to someone who can consider your situation. It is quite possible that he will need supervision any time he use the Internet; he should not be communicating in secret to women; you need marriage counseling to strengthen and rebuild your marriage. God gave you both a vision and ministry, and He can restore that vision again.
Dear Dr. David,
My wife and I are in a very tough battle with the devil. The only problem is she doesn't see it and she won’t even go with me to our pastors about it so we can get help from them so we can stay together. All she talks about is how she is tired and doesn't want to be with me anymore. She complains about every little thing, whether it be my pride or something petty. I am praying that God shows her the truth. I have tried to take her out on dates so we could work on our marriage, but she prefers to hang out with her friends instead. She gets mad at me when she tries to talk to me about how she feels and all I do is go to the Bible so I can read to her what God says. She truly feels that the only way she can grow closer to God is by leaving me. Tell me, Dr. Hawkins, how can I get my wife to go with me to our pastors so that they may help us get our marriage back on track? ~ Man with Broken Heart
I sense there is a lot you are not telling me about what events led up to your current situation. Marriages are like fine fabrics; they can become soiled, stained and weakened from misuse. It takes time to weave them into something beautiful—it also takes time and much help from God to restore them to the brilliance intended by God.
You say that your wife complains about "every little thing," and then go on to say you want God to show her the truth. When she talks to you, you go to the Bible. While on the surface this appears wise, perhaps she needs you to simply listen and attend to the issues she is raising. You say you read to her from Scripture, which is important, but may only be irritating her if you are doing that instead of listening and learning about her feelings and concerns. Are you clearly addressing her issues—though they may sound petty to you? Do you spend time truly listening and understanding her? These are undoubtedly critical issues for her. She says you have issues with pride—have you addressed her concerns in this area?
I am also concerned about her friendships. Rather then deal with our issues where they belong, and with the people whom it concerns (see instructions in Matthew 18) it is tempting to go to others who will take up an offense, triangulate (Let’s me and you talk about them.") and thereby avoid repairing the problem at its source.
Healthy couples keep issues small. They address them in a prompt manner, keep them from escalating into larger issues, find solutions that feel good to both people, and then hold one another accountable for following through with those solutions.
That brings me to my third recommendation. I agree with your thoughts about going for counseling. Seek a neutral, professional third party who will listen and bring wisdom to bear on your situation. Your counselor will provide the accountability needed to follow through with specific solutions.
Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at [email protected]
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.