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Am I Loving or Enabling?

  • Dr. David B. Hawkins The Relationship Doctor
  • Updated Feb 14, 2012
Am I Loving or Enabling?

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Dear Dr. David,

In the 15 years I've been married, I have prayed for my husband to come back to God. He thinks he doesn't need God. He has been into porn, drinking and death metal music. When I found the porn I told him either come clean or we're done. He first said he would, then in less than a minute he said in a hateful voice, "I will not! I will look at and do whatever I want, and if you don't like it you can leave!”

Needless to say I was shocked, and my pride wanted to say, "I'm out of here,” but in my spirit I knew that was not what my husband really wanted, but what the powers of darkness wanted. I decided the darkness was not going to run out the light. I prayed, battled, and cried, because he had no repentance, and was not committing to work on his problem that he said he did not have. God humbled me and I stayed, and loved him, but let him know I would not tolerate porn. Any time I found anything we were apart for weeks (though in the same house) then I'd give in and love him, but he still did not commit to working on the problem.

After a time of us doing better, I told him that if he started going out to bars again, or got back into porn, we would be done. He said, "I'm still with you aren't I" God had me love him when he didn't deserve it, and I didn't feel like it. My husband has gotten better over this year by leaps, and only by the grace of God that he has not yet acknowledged. We get along great except when I don't agree with him, or something unexpected comes up. He gets very prideful, very ugly, cusses me, and does not apologize, and we don't have any communication for a week or two. Then I'm the one humbling myself to get us close again. He says he loves me...but it's almost like he can't or doesn't know how to say or do the right thing to fix things. I say the root problem is not having his heart submitted to God. He says the problem is me trying to control him, by having B-safe filter on the computer, and blocking some TV channels that are full of lust.

So my question: I am trying to learn the difference between standing my ground, having healthy boundaries, and when is it just pride?  I am being an enabler and saying it's okay for him to be so disrespectful etc. Where do I draw the line?  Thank you so much for your time and may God bless you greatly. ~ Tired of Enabling

Dear Enabling,

Your question is a difficult one. It is so easy to get caught up in a destructive relationship, and it’s often unclear where the craziness is coming from. It’s harder yet to know where, when and how to set healthy boundaries.

I talk about this problem in depth in my book, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life. One of the most important concepts I discuss is turning on our “chaos detectors.” It is easy to get caught up in the day to day “craziness” of our lives, never stepping back and looking at our situation from a more objective perspective.

Your husband sounds like a CrazyMaker, in that he rationalizes his destructive behavior, blames you for making a big deal out of nothing, attempting to normalize the chaos. However, your “chaos detector” tells you otherwise—that being involved with pornography, cursing at you and demanding his way, are crazymaking behaviors. They cannot, and do not, exist in a healthy relationship—and you know that.

It sounds like you begin to set boundaries, and then relent, giving in to his demanding ways. He is skilled at manipulating you, causing you to doubt yourself. I recommend several steps to assist you in seeing the picture more clearly.

One, get some help. Find a professional Christian counselor/ pastor/ friend who will help you discern what is going on. These people will help you discern right from wrong; normal from abnormal; chaos from healthy.

Two, having turned on your “chaos detector,” and receiving support, you can then set healthy boundaries with your husband. You will need support to do this, and need to be certain of what you know in your inner spirit. You cannot count on your husband to help you discern truth.

Third, truth is obtained from God. You can discover the truth by maintaining your close relationship to God, and listening for His guidance. Your counselor, pastor and friends will help you know truth as well, and this truth will guide you into the appropriate steps to be taken.

Having discerned the truth of your husband’s crazymaking—his use of pornography, his controlling attitude, as well as his abusive criticism of you—you can prepare yourself for setting firm boundaries about allowing these behaviors in your marriage.

You are a prized child of God, and God doesn’t enjoy seeing marriages besmirched with pornography, foul language and hurtful behaviors. I hope you can garner support for yourself and insist on respect in your marriage.

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recovery Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and When Pleasing Others is Hurting You. 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. You can also find Dr. Hawkins on Facebook and Twitter.