4 Things A Wife Should Do When Her Husband Acts Immaturely
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
My husband married me when he was 26 and I was 32, and I had seven children already We then had four more children, who all are smart and very successful. Now, 50 years later, we realize that I am “his” mother and he is “my teenaged son”. We are very unhappy and do not know how to fix this. I can quit mothering him, but he is unable to care for me when I am sick, which is rare but does happen. He has often been childlike. I do not want to live out my remaining years like this. We don’t hate each other, but we need to change roles. How can this be done? (btw, my website is in redesign so looks not too good.)
I really appreciated your article. I am naturally a helicopter wife, but am applying your advice. I believe it will help. Though I’m still struggling with this situation:
When extra money is needed for bills, my husband makes no plans. He won’t get a 2nd job or figure anything out. He works, but in his spare time he watches cartoons and draws cartoon characters. I want to let him face the consequences, but being kicked out of the house we live in would devastate our son. He’s autistic and we’ve lived here for over a decade. It’s his childhood home and he absolutely wants to continue living here. So I borrow money, work extra hours, and have applied for assistance.
I admit I have stolen food in the past, but am trying hard to stop. I’m in prayer a lot about it and cry very often, and hate myself so much when I mess up. I would never steal gourmet or luxury items. Only the cheapest food, and as little as possible because I feel so bad about it.
Recently our fridge was nearly empty. Our son is already skinny and started rationing food. He regularly looks in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets to see what’s left before deciding if he’ll eat or save something till tomorrow. My husband has noticed this and says he feels bad about it, but doesn’t take action to change it.
All the stress and extra working has me not in the mood. I have sex with him once every 10 days. Is it right? No. But I don’t know how else to keep my sanity. He’s very loyal and would never cheat. He just waits for me and pretends everything is fine.
He collects toy action figures. There are over 100 of them in his room. (Yes, his room … there’s no room for me, so I sleep in the basement). Thousands of dollars were spent in the last few years. When our son started to worry about running out of food, I said, “Enough” and blocked the internet. He can’t go on toy websites anymore. Note, he doesn’t drive. And he doesn’t have a phone.
If I don’t block him from toy websites, he will feed his addiction by looking. I mean several times a day… addictively. Lately he’s been asking relatives to buy toys for him. They’ve only bought him a few, but I feel like his addiction hasn’t ended and may not ever.
He also overspends on gifts for relatives. 2 weeks ago I asked him if this could be the last Christmas we buy gifts for his large family. Every year we spend hundreds because he thinks he’s santa and wants it to be a magical day for everyone. I told him we can’t afford it. And that our son is going without. And why can’t he channel his need to give towards our son instead?
He writes me these sappy “I love you” and “sorry for all the hurt” notes. I do not respond or write him notes in return. He’s not sorry because he’s plotting and planning to keep doing it. Anytime we get a chunk of money (such as tax time each year), he starts getting ideas in his head. In the past I had to hurry and spend the money first (always on bills and groceries) to prevent him from hurting our family.
It feels like a tug of war. He blames his childhood (he grew up in poverty and barely got toys). I feel bad for him, but we’re not rich. I used to let his toys come before necessities many times. I used to feel bad for him. NOW I’M DONE. I have become the police. It’s ruined our sex life and I’ve grown cold. We exist on different floors of the house now. We would never divorce. I feel like this is more of an unofficial separation. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. If I talk to him, he only agrees to my face. But still plans to do whatever he wants (if I let him).
I wish he’d just choose to be responsible on his own. I wish he’d put our family first.
My husband was not given the life skills needed to be an adult (wasn’t ever asked to do a chore until he was 12, was spoiled ROTTEN and never told no.) Because of this, I literally do every single thing at home and with our baby. He goes to work (usually 10 hours a day 5 days a week) and then comes home and spends every spare minute gaming or watching TV while I do his laundry, cook his dinner, do the dishes, make the bed, vacuum the floors. He watches the baby alone for maybe a couple hours a week while I shower, and the second she starts acting up he brings her to me. When we have fights he blows up and breaks things. It’s reached a point that if he blows up any harder he could hurt me (he goes into a blind rage and doesn’t pay attention to what he’s doing,) so I’ve moved me and our baby 4 hours away until he gets his act together.
Is there any advice you could give me?
Sarah, I am sorry! Sounds like you are doing the right thing for your health and safety. You can’t force your husband to change but you can create a healthy environment for yourself and your baby. Please seek counseling so you have clarity for your next steps.
I’m having a hard time finding that balance between serving and enabling, treating my husband like a child and him actually behaving like one..
I am by nature a nurturer and I enjoy taking care of my husband, his needs, our needs, however there are times during stress I feel resentment, “I do everything, I do so much for him with not as much in return” acting in resentment and not doing things for him that I normally would out of love because i’m feeling he is lazy etc??? It’s such a hard balance… After reading this blog and “how not to mother your husband” I haven’t woken up early to pack his lunch and make breakfast like I normally do, thinking he will make lunch and eat if he wants to or needs to, he is a grown up. Then to realize he instead has just been eating out and getting starbucks and so if I don’t want him to spend money on those things I must have to take care of them at home for him, but is that influencing him and serving him? Or is that mothering and enabling him? Lol I know its confusing but any insight into how to differenciate the two would be so helpful for me!
Yes..it’s a hard to wrestle through some of these things! You said “I do so much for him with not as much in return” I think I would start there..clearly you feel the scale is slanted in your direction. So something needs to change. You must talk about it though, not make an assumption. Talk about WHAT you feel needs to change, your lifestyle considered. If him buying takeout a few days a week so you get a break and rest (if he prefers starbucks than making his breakfast/lunch) so be it. It’s just something you need to discuss and agree on. It’s hard to pull back but some of these changes are necessary! You can also have a chat with a close mentor to help you process and work through it.
The Lord has been teaching me to turn immediately to Him when my husband is “acting up”. The last time he spoke disrespectfully to me, he was in the hospital and I was visiting him. He made rude remarks about my character that are not true in front of the nurses, then spoke hatefully to me in private. I asked the Lord what I should do and heard in my spirit, to go home, dont even say goodbye because I was too angry to talk to him. He called me several times on the way home, I didnt answer. When I arrived at home I called. He cried, which is typical to make me feel guilty, which didnt work and asked if I was going to leave him, which usually makes me angry. I asked the Lord to control MY emotions and we actually had a good conversation about the situation. LOL, it didnt last long, but each time I am getting better at lovingly confronting instead of allowing him to act like a baby.
thank you very much Ngine. your article is really inspiring and healing. God bless you. well, the issue bothering me is this: my husband engaged in an extra marital affairs with his cousin living with us. the girl confessed to me and i really felt and still feel terrible about it. he did apologise to me and promised it wont happen again.but i observe that he cant just get his eyes off her. even when i confront him, he denies it. then i came up with the suggestion that he should tell her to go but he refused and told me he doesn’t want to offend his friend and brother, that is, the cousin’s father and that they have really gone a long way. inside me, i feel he values family friendship/relationship to ours. well, right now i seems not to trust him again and this has really shattered my joy most especially my sex world with me. yet he told me i don’t have a problem but he slept with a girl under my roof. well, i don’t know what to believe anymore. please i need your counseling. because most times i feel i and my love for him is not safe.
Juliet, I am sorry about the situation in your marriage. I advice that you confide in someone urgently – a mentor or close trustworthy wise friend, a pastor or counselor so they can walk with you and help you with specific steps to take. The fact that it’s a family member just adds to the complexity of the problem. I agree with your assessment that she needs to leave because it’s next to impossible to heal (all three of you) under the current arrangements. Your husband needs to come to terms with what he did and I don’t think keeping things under wraps is helpful. Please seek counseling, from your church, a pastor or Christian counselor. Please read this post for more advice https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2012/05/discovering-your-husband-is-having-an-affair/