What’s a wife to do when her husband is immature? How can she hold on to herself and her confidence, instead of rushing to fix or “protect” her man?
New love comes with hard falls. Falling hard in love, I mean.
For some new wives, a grand love can turn into something else when the marriage faces a storm.
Instead of allowing trials to mature her love, into a type that knows she cannot save her loved one from the consequences of their choices, she can slide into protective mothering behavior.
I am familiar with the reaction because I wrestled with the feeling as a newlywed wife.
Mothering in my marriage
As a newlywed wife, I felt like it was my job to make my marriage shine. It was an unconscious thought for the most part.
A few things influenced my thinking, namely, pride (which was actually shame and anxiety), ignorance and social influence. Shame and anxiety, because I wanted everyone to think I had a perfect marriage. That I had married a perfect man, which made me a chooser extraordinaire.
Ignorance because I was blind, with deep-rooted notions about how a healthy marriage looked like.
Social influence because I grew up in a highly patriarchal society – women had less say in relationships; yet were expected to be more mature, carrying the weight of the home if the husband slacked off.
Even though I was a Christian, at the back of my mind, I felt it was my job to clean up my marriage, clean up my husband and cover for him because “that’s what good wives do.”
My husband was not being harmful. He was just in over his head, like many newlywed men who are learning what it means to be a healthy husband and exploring their own growth areas (which, hopefully leads to long-term fruit-bearing.)
Let’s have a chat if your husband is immature
Let’s chat, dear wife, because I’ve been reading your emails.This is a conversation I wish I’d had with someone back then. But you know, hindsight is also a good teacher.
When a little person hurts himself, the healthy adult thing is to run over, check on their comfort and safety and put away whatever hurt them. Errors and pains are inherent to growing up and we all understand that.
A child behaving like a child is normal. A grown man being treated like a child is abnormal. And the mollycoddling almost always results in more significant storms. Your husband is not a child. You need to stop treating him like one.
Examples of when your husband is immature /harmful and you treat him like a child
-His money habits are out of control, and you take extra shifts at work or borrow money from friends and family to cover for him and take care of things.
– He routinely hangs out at the bar, drinking with friends and you stay up late, waiting for his phone call, so he doesn’t have to drive drunk and get arrested or get into an accident.
– He refuses to talk, and you bend over backward trying to coax him out of his shell. He throws it back to your face and you feel like you don’t have another option because “strong women don’t tattle on their men.”
– He watches porn, ogles other women, or has friendships with other women that make you uncomfortable and refuses to get change or get help. He forbids you to tell anyone and you think “I better obey my husband.”
– He doesn’t go to church anymore, and your faith and church attendance is important to you. You are so embarrassed and decide to stay at home too, lest people ask you where he is when you show up at church alone.
– Your marriage is struggling, but you don’t want to tell anyone, not even your safe mentors because you want to protect the image of good Christian marriage and your husband likes to keep things private.
– Or like in my case, your husband is discovering what it means to be a healthy man and husband and encountering the bumps and bruising inherent in a new season.
And instead of engaging healthily and strongly, even as you trust God to lead him, you succumb to the strong urge to mother, protect and save (even though he needs no human saving at all.)
The above scenarios reveal a wife who is standing in the way of her husband’s opportunities for growth (if he so wishes to take them.)
Now, I am not shaming. You have a lot on your plate. Protective feelings, fear and anxiety, even freezing and doing nothing – all these are normal feelings when we encounter the unknown. My words here are not meant to add to your trouble or blame you. Rather, I hope to walk alongside you and explore where you are and where you might want to go.
A husband who is immature, who routinely resorts to irresponsible behavior, who expects his wife to pick up after him has switched off his hearing.
Engaging his cycle of actions, in essence, trying to raise your voice above his in the hope of having an adult conversation will likely result in zero progress and resolution.
Because here’s the thing – before he switched off on you, he had to first switch off internally on that is healthy. Before he walked sideways, he flipped the switch on his relationship with His Creator.
Your swooping in, kissing his boo-boo and treating him like a delicate infant is in fact putting yourself in place of God. Not helpful at all.
And as long as you are treating your husband like a child, he will not grow up. He will continue to take advantage of you and your limitless grace.
And you’ll become more angry, hurt, frustrated and brokenhearted and there’s a chance he won’t even see the stress he’s putting you through because life is still good in his world. There are no consequences to wrong behavior, so why change if he can have his cake and eat it?
The Bible tells us Galatians 6:7-8 NLT “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”
If your husband is immature and irresponsible you need to hand him over to God.
God has a plan for you. And that plan does not include your continued unrepentant devastation in the name of a marriage.
He also has a plan for your husband. The same plan He has for everyone and which involves choosing health. That plan includes him getting to choose Him – you can’t do that for each other. Everyone gets to choose their relationship with God. And their desire for the marriage.
Your man needs to see where he’s going wrong. He needs to understand his brokenness and lost-ness. He needs to come to terms with where He is and decide for himself that it’s not right. He needs to get into therapy and bear good fruit.
But he can’t do that if his woman swoops in and saves his day. And that is hard.
It’s not easy to set limits, to say “no” to picking him up from the bar at 1am. It won’t be easy to separate accounts. It won’t be easy to move out of the bedroom if you no longer feel safe there. It won’t be easy to draw boundaries around money and his access to it because you said “no” to borrowing.
It won’t be easy to sit down and have a tough conversations and follow through. It won’t be easy to live simple because you’ve stopped enabling his lavishness.
It won’t be easy talk to your safe pastor or mentor about the difficulties you are facing. It won’t be easy to start therapy and start growing. It’s not easy to say no when a yes would make things easier in the short term.
If you are struggling to find a healthy balance in your marriage, here are four things you can do
1. Truth – ask God to help you see your part
Ask God to irradiate your heart with His truth.
2. Accountability- even it’s your husband who is immature
This is not the first step. It’s probably way down the line, after the grief and boundaries and during therapy.
But at some point, as things get clearer, you will need to face the roots of your mothering – any fear, control, comfort, culture e.t.c.
Confess what God reveals. Remember, confession is simply repeating something that already exists. Simply talk it out with God and allow Him to lead you.
3. My husband is immature – gear up for a journey
Implementing ideas is hard. But the good thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. You can go into therapy or look into free online resources (ideas below.)
If you’ve been protecting your husband and allowing him to behave like a child, chances are he’ll feel your stepping back. The hope is that he takes it in stride and begins to adjust and change.
But some men might get upset and start to play the “I am the head of this home and you do as I say” game. Well, that’s a lie. The truth is that Christ is the head of your home and you’re both called to submit to each other and you both do as He says.
So how do you walk this out?
Alongside prayer, engage outside support like a licensed therapist. Educate yourself. If you feel unsafe bringing up issues with your husband, please check out this page for helpful resources.
4. I get it. Husbands get discouraged too
Husbands get discouraged. (See 5 Bible Verses to Remember When Your Husband is Discouraged) I am not saying to throw your husband over the wall when he’s in season of depression or doubt or struggle.
Indeed let’s pray, let’s pursue each other, let’s embrace humility, let’s walk through hard times together. But let’s also remember to differentiate seasons of hardship and struggle from a lifestyle of apathy and carelessness. See Persevering in Marriage Through Difficult Seasons.
I want to encourage the wife who’s carrying the weight of a husband’s irresponsibility/ignorance.
If he’s walking in the opposite direction of love and honor and respect, you can bring that up. When we can’t resolve issues between the two of us, or if you are scared to bring up hard conversations, you must invite a trusted and safe third party, like a licensed counselor, a pastor or mentor (or authorities if you’re feeling unsafe.)
Hebrews 3: 12 – 13 tells us to “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.
One final thing, many of the wives who write to me, are already doing their best in really bad situations.
I wish life were easier, that we had quicker answers for life’s problems. But let’s remember that we matter to God. God loves people more than He loves marriages. Let us not buckle under suffering or consider ourselves forgotten by God because we suffer. God is with us in suffering. Advocate for yourself. Think about your safety and wholeness and step forward in confidence, knowing that you matter.
Summary – when your husband is immature
When you feel like you are addressing an immature husband situation, four things to remember
Help For Discerning Abusive, Destructive Marriages
Abusive marriages can be hard to discern, especially in the Christian circles. A chronically irresponsible husband who puts your well-being in jeopardy is indeed being abusive. My approach with the post was to walk you through how your options might look like in that moment, but I want you to know that there are more resources to move you further along the road. Below are some of them.
- Is this Abuse? Free resource by Sarah McDugal
- “Is this Abuse?” The 6 Step Guide to Uncovering Hidden/Covert Abuse (free) by Helena Knowlton
- Find out if you’re in an emotionally abusive Christian marriage by taking the emotional abuse quiz. By Natalie Hoffman, Flying Free
Emergency Hotlines around the world:
If you’re feeling unsafe, please call emergency hotline in your country. For stateside help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or browse their website for free help. Abuse Hotlines. Canada: 800.799.SAFE (7233) United States: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). United Kingdom: 08 08 16 89 111 Australia: 1800 015 188New Zealand: 0800 456 450 Kenya: 0-800-720-072 Nigeria: 0800 033 3333 South Africa: 0800 428 428