Dear Dr. David,

Thank you very much for your column. I read them all the time. Anyway, I have a dilemma of my own and need your advice. My husband and I are both respected leaders in our church and so I feel like I have no one to talk to about how I feel about my husband and my marriage. My mother cannot handle any hint of marital discord, so she's off limits as well. I think I have grown out of love for my husband. The years of bitterness and unexpressed anger at failed expectations has reached the point where I don't want to try working this out anymore. The only thing that's holding me in this marriage is my faith and desire to please the Lord... but I know in my heart He can't be pleased with the way we live. My husband and I have been very good at presenting a facade to others but at home by ourselves our home is cold and loveless.

Whenever I try to talk to my husband about how I feel, he is very good at turning the tables around so we never get to talk about anything. I have given up trying to talk to him so all my feelings are bottled up inside.

He wants to be the authority in our home but he refuses a leader's responsibility. His idea of a submissive wife is a woman who says yes to whatever he wants. 

Dr. Hawkins, I know only God can change my husband. I just need help resolving my own feelings. What do I tell myself when he does this - when he doesn't know how to express the kind of love and caring that I need?

~ Broken Heart

Dear Broken,

While I cannot address every issue in your letter, let’s tackle some of the major ones.

First, stop living with the façade. I’ve discussed before the importance of having places where we can be transparent. King David said that when he was silent with his sins, his body wasted away. (Psalms 32:3) The body of Christ--the Church--should be a place where we are supportive with one another, not where we pretend everything is fine. While you may not feel safe in your church, I challenge you to find people who can be trusted with your concerns. We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ. (Galatians 6: 22)

Nothing good comes from secrecy and playing roles. Soon we come to believe in the roles we’re playing. Insist that you and your husband obtain godly counsel, a place you can be "real" and be held accountable for change. Simply the act of coming out of hiding will be a relief for both of you.

Second, I’m glad your mother is off limits, because it is unlikely that she could be objective—your counselor must be someone you both respect and who is capable of offering helpful advice. A trained clinician will enable both of you to discover and eradicate destructive patterns of communication. You will have the opportunity to learn new skills.

Third, you say that your husband becomes immediately defensive when you try to talk to him. Again, a trained counselor can help both of you to "listen for the kernel of truth" to what your mate is saying without needing to counter-attack. While "owning" our problems is hard work, with the right counsel you can learn to do just that, and the resulting positive change can be dramatic.

So, in summary, come out of hiding, share your burdens with a qualified counselor, seek help from the Holy Spirit-Counselor, and set your heart and mind toward positive change.

Dear Dr. David,

I have been married for five years and it has been a rough go the entire time.  The meat of it results from issues my husband has with severe distrust (almost paranoia at times) and my feeling that I can't discuss anything without it ending up a huge lecture to me.  We are very cyclical:  two weeks nice, fight, two weeks cold shoulder politeness, make up, two weeks nice, etc.  I do not want to end up in divorce.  I need tools to tell me how to work with boundaries.  I understand what they are, how they are appropriate, I have even laid them out there only to have him repent....be nice....and then I don't know what to do and he reverts to the same dominating behaviors.  I have read about boundaries in marriage, but still don't feel like I have a recipe to follow.....I NEED a recipe!  Can you help?