Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Dear Dr. David,
I have been dating a man for several years and we are moving towards marriage next spring. We're both Christians and in our early thirties. There are several problems that persist in our relationship, and I’m wondering if I should be concerned.
First, he has an explosive temper. Counselors have told us that he has “issues” based upon his childhood. He walked out of our last counseling session angrily because he felt the counseling was too difficult. He agreed to return to one counseling session for me, knowing that I felt it was important to face these issues. He said that would be the only time he’d go for counseling.
Second, he struggles with financial problems. I have had to bail him out of problems on more than one occasion. He assures me that after we are married, and living on two incomes, the financial worries will disappear. Though he still struggles with impulse purchases, he tells me this problem will also go away.
Finally, we are both over-weight, and struggle with eating problems. Here again I am concerned that these problems will follow us into marriage, though he assures me that once we are married these problems will disappear. Please tell me what you think. ~ Need Reassurance
Dear Need Reassurance,
I’m sorry, but I cannot give you the reassurance you desire. In fact, I think it is wishful thinking to believe that once married, all of your problems will magically disappear. If anything, problems seem to increase after marriage. While there is often a “honeymoon” phase to the relationship, which is where you may be now, there is another season when you truly get to know your mate where tensions can multiply.
I applaud you for listening to your heart and your God-given wisdom. You’ve accurately noted several areas: your boyfriend’s explosive temper, his refusal to participate in counseling, financial problems and weight issues. Let’s talk about each one.
First, his explosive temper. While it certainly may be true that his anger is fueled in part by his troubled past, his behavior is still concerning. His anger appears to be driven by immaturity as much as his past. The Scriptures offer many warnings about anger—here are a few:
· “Be angry and sin not.” (Ephesians 4: 26)
· “Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:20).
· “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16)
· “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
Again, your boyfriend’s anger is not likely to simply disappear. If anything, the predictable tensions arising in marriage may reveal even more anger. It is critical that he take full responsibility for his anger and the impact it has on others. He must get help for his anger and learn effective ways of sharing his emotions before considering marriage.
Second, his reluctance to enter in counseling. This is another “red flag.” You and your boyfriend are likely to need a significant amount of counseling, both before and after your marriage. There are predictable problems that arising in any relationship, and if he pridefully believes he can solve all of his problems, he’s in for a rude awakening—and so are you. If he finds counseling “too difficult,” he’s likely to find the stressors of marriage impossible. We all have blind spots, and must be in a position where others with wisdom can speak into our lives. Insist on couples counseling as part of your ongoing relationship.
Third, his financial problems. This “red flag” again suggests character problems. Has he never learned to be financially responsible? It has been said that the way we manage, or don’t manage, our finances is a clear window into our character. His lack of responsibility in this area is particularly concerning—not to mention your tendency to bail him out. This is not a pattern you want to develop with him. Insist that he straighten out his own financial problems.
Finally, his struggle with weight. Since I don’t know your boyfriend, I cannot say what is occurring in his life in this area. However, combined with the other issues you’ve mentioned, I’m not surprised to hear that he struggles in this arena as well. Has he taken responsibility for his weight problems? Has he seen a doctor to ensure there is no physiological problem? Is he exercising and eating healthy foods? The way he deals with his body, and food, are indicators for how he will deal with other issues in his life.
In summary, my counsel is probably not what you wanted to hear. However, it is critical that we be honest with ourselves about the problems in our lives, and the cost it will take to resolve them. As I’ve spelled out in my book, Nine Critical Mistakes Most Couples Make, problems that are predictable are preventable. You are in a great position to inform your boyfriend of the importance of facing these issues, and it is better that you face them now rather than face them, in more intensity, after you’re married. By the way, his response to this article will also reveal a great deal about his heart.
David Hawkins, Ph.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.
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