~ Jim

Dear Jim:

You are part of a growing number of men who find themselves having made too little change, too late. Many women have spent years tolerating abusive situations, and then just when they are ready to give up, he changes. But, the change is often superficial, or is made too late to save the relationship.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am determinedly in favor of marriage—your marriage included. But, I sympathize with women who have pleaded with their husbands for in-depth change, and in return have been short-changed. In talking with them I know they feel their only recourse is to leave. And many do.

Your note indicates your wife is still with you—doubtful that you will sustain the effort, but still with you. There is a flicker of hope. I have several practical steps for you to take.

One, continue your counseling, medications and commitment to change. Don’t quit doing what seems to be working. So many men, and women, refuse to give themselves over to in-depth change process, including counseling, medications and of course, the work of God in their lives. Stick with it.

Second, be patient with your wife. She is not going to instantly trust you just because you have finally found help and healing. She has a right to be distrusting, angry and even unforgiving. Forgiveness will be a process for her and you must give her the time and space to heal.

Third, encourage her to seek her own counseling. She would do well to have her own special retreat where she can talk about the years of anger, broken trust, and depressive lifestyle. She needs to talk, talk, talk about her feelings, knowing she is not being rushed to forgive and move on with her life.

Fourth, seek the heart of God, together if possible, but separately as well. God can touch our hearts in a moment in ways that others will never be able to do. We agree with the Psalmist who said, "Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." (Psalms 119: 49-50)

Fifth, even if your wife leaves, don’t give up your path of healing. Your wife may decide she needs a "breather" from the oppression she has lived under for the past many years. If so, let her go. Bless her. See if she would be willing to date you periodically, but let her know that you will honor her request. Your actions and attitudes during these stressful times will speak volumes to her.

Finally, do what you can, and leave the rest to God. I cannot promise you, of course, that your wife will stay in your marriage. I can promise you, however, that God will never forsake you. He cares for you and has high plans for your future. Trust in him.

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 his weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com

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 book is titled When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit.  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.