What’s a wife do when her husband behaves like a child i.e immaturely? How can she get back to maturity and confidence in God, instead of trying to fix, manage and protect her man?
New love comes with hard falls. Falling hard in love, I mean. For some wives, a grand love can turn into something else when she encounters the storms of early marriage.
Instead of allowing trials to mature her love, into a type that knows she cannot save her loved one from consequences, she can slide into protective mothering behavior.
I am familiar with the reaction because I wrestled with the feeling as a newlywed wife. (And I am still a work in progress, nine years later.)
It’s true that God put in women a strong nurturing drive and it expresses itself in marriage as a deep fervor to grow a strong marriage. That’s how God wired us.
The problem comes when we remove ourselves from under God’s direction and begin to be driven by instinct rather than His Spirit.
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, and it persisted notwithstanding excellent premarital preparation and godly examples in my life.
A few things influenced my thinking, namely, pride, ignorance and social influence. Pride, 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 good marriage looks 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 born again Christian, with a vibrant relationship with God and excellent teaching on what it means to be 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.”
Now my husband was not being irresponsible; he was just in over his head, like most newlywed men who are learning what it means to be a husband and to lead a home.
But when you walk with Jesus
When you walk with Jesus, He will point out the error of your ways. He’ll show you how to walk straight when you begin to trek sideways.
So. Let’s have a chat, dear wife because I’ve been reading your emails and I know how it feels to be frustrated but oblivious.
This is a conversation I wish I’d had with someone back then but you know how we learn from hindsight? Yeah, it can also be a good teacher.
So, here it is. Your husband is not a child. You need to stop treating him like one.
You see, when a little person hurts himself, the adult runs over to comfort and sooth their pain, 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.
Here’s how treating a husband like a child might look like
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 or 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 you sense he’s drifting from his faith. 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 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 his role as a husband and encountering the bumps and bruising inherent in a new season.
Instead of getting out of his way and trusting God to lead him, even when it’s hard, you succumb to the strong urge to mother, protect and save (even though he needs no saving at all.)
The above scenarios reveal a wife who is standing in the way of her husband’s growth.
When a child falls into trouble, whether by accident or choice, the adult engages that child at their level. But what happens if the child sticks two fingers into their two little ears, raises their voice to drown out the adult voice? As the grown-up, you’ll probably not stand for it.
A husband who routinely resorts to childish irresponsible behavior, who expects his wife to pick up after him has switched off his hearing.
Engaging his action, in essence, trying to raise your voice above his in the hope of having an adult conversation results in zero progress and resolution.
Because here’s the thing – before he switched off on you, your beloved had to first switch off on God. Before he walked sideways, he flipped the switch on his relationship with His Creator and decided he can do this thing by himself.
Your swooping in, kissing his boo-boos and treating him like a delicate infant is in fact putting yourself in place of God. Hard to hear, but true.
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.
You’ll become more angry, depressed, out of control and 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.”
I believe God ordained the principle of reaping what we sow to help us want to change, when we are wrong. Pain is a strong motivator. If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t change a thing.
When your husband behaves like a child, you need to hand him over to God.
God has a plan for your husband and marriage. That plan includes both of you getting to choose Him – you can’t do that for each other. Everyone gets to choose their relationship with God.
Your man needs to see His need for a Savior. He 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.
But he can’t do that if his woman swoops in and saves his day. And that is hard. You think mothering him is hard? Try being the Christian.
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 live on little-to-nothing 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 take the bus to church because he won’t get the car fixed.
It won’t be easy talk to your pastor or mentor about the difficulties you are facing. It’s not easy to say no when a yes would make things easier, at least in the short term.
If you are struggling to find a healthy balance in your marriage, here are four things you can do
1. Ask God to help you see your part in difficulties
I can tell you that I had no idea what I was doing until God began to talk to me. I did all the post-wedding mentoring, the prayers and, home-groups and I still didn’t understand how much I was trying to run my marriage instead of surrendering it to God.
Prophet Jeremiah wrote “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Chapter 17:9)
You don’t know how bad it is. You need to ask God to irradiate your heart with Truth.
2. Confess your sin
Yes, your sin, not your man’s. As you do #1, God will reveal the root of your mothering – the fear, pride, control, anger, greed, selfishness, comfort, ignorance, culture e.t.c.
It’s easy to see what your guy is doing wrong and miss what you are doing wrong. But nothing will get fixed until you face your own issues, these things that caused you to take the reins and play God.
Confess what God reveals. Refuse to sugarcoat, explain or downplay it.
Jeremiah 2:13 says “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”
Until you see your own attempts to build a marriage outside God as wrong and sinful, you will not change from the inside.
And while your husband may eventually change, you missed a significant opportunity to grow as a wife and child of God.
3. Gear up for the journey
Reading a post like this is easy. Implementing ideas? Much harder. But the good thing is that you are not alone. Marriage isn’t your idea; it’s God’s idea.
So don’t drown in lies like “me and my husband have to make this work.” No. The Bible says “A triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
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 angry and start to play the “I am the head of this home and you do as I say” game. Well, the truth is that Christ is the head of your home and you both do as He says.
So how do you walk this out?
Alongside prayer, talk it out; be respectful, be loving but be firm. If money is the issue, you might say something along the lines of
“______(insert your sweet names), our money issue is really out of hand. The loans and advances I have taken to cover the business – we don’t even know how we’ll pay it all back. I am stressed, burned out and really suffering. I want to help and I am supportive of you. But I can’t borrow money anymore. We need to turn a profit with what you have, or let’s sit down and find something else that doesn’t overextend us.”
You must lean on your support systems (pastor, mentor, counselor.) Talk to somebody. Educate yourself.
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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 fast, let’s pursue him, let’s embrace humility, let’s walk through hard times together. But let’s remember to differentiate seasons of hardship and struggle from a lifestyle of apathy and carelessness.
I want to encourage the wife who’s carrying the crushing weight of a husband’s irresponsibility/ignorance. We are called to be our husband’s Helpmeet; to help him live up to His God-given potential.
If he’s walking in the opposite direction, it is our duty to encourage and rebuke, lovingly and respectfully. When we can’t resolve between the two of us, or if you are scared to bring up hard conversations, you must invite a trusted third party, like a pastor or mentor.
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 to our prayers. But we don’t. In these circumstances, it’s important to remember that our lives and marriages are in God’s hand. And when things don’t go as planned, we can trust Him who loves us.
Let us not buckle under suffering or consider ourselves forgotten by God because we suffer. God is with us even in suffering. Jesus, the One we follow and shape our lives after suffered to the point of death.
His suffering and death was God’s plan for His life.
So as we wait for answers, as we wrestle through the hard seasons, let us remember; just because it’s hard doesn’t mean God isn’t with us. He is. And His Presence is the the only comfort and promise we were given.
Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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