So your husband is the problem and you feel frustrated because everyone keeps telling you to change.
You believe it would make all the difference for someone to camp at his doorstep for a change.
I remember how I felt when the burden of change was placed on my shoulders. As newlyweds, my husband I went through a season where I felt like he was the problem.
All we needed, I believed, was his transformation for our marriage to feel like heaven on earth.
Mostly I was upset at his tendency to shut down when he or I was upset. When you can’t talk, it makes a marriage really hard.
We worked on our communication for a season of time and then I grew tired. Really tired.
We were pretty close to our mentors, and one day I poured out my frustration to one of them. He told me “Don’t give up. You can’t give up.”
I was floored. “Wait…don’t do what? Why don’t you tell him not to give up on me, on us? Why don’t you break him out of his man cave?”
(My husband was feeling frustrated too. You can read his perspective in this post – Communication in Marriage – a Husband’s Perspective)
If you are feeling frustrated today, upset because you feel your husband is the problem but a lot of the advice is directed at you, here are two things to remember.
When your husband is the problem but you feel pressured to change
1. You are right to expect your husband to change
There’s such a heavy burden placed on wives when a husband goes sideways.
But when the husband is the problem a wife needs to feel like somebody gets that. Sure, let’s offer advice on how to cope and work through the issues, but let us offer empathy as well.
Maybe the misfocus has to do with women’s nurturing natures; women like to fix things. (See When Husband Acts Like a Child)
Nevertheless, especially in the Christian circles, the poor focus has something to do with our beliefs; when we think that all the problems of the world can be fixed by praying more, loving more or being more patient.
Off course, prayer, love, patience are godly virtues. God commands us to love, to pray, to be patient. But that’s not all God commands us to do.
He asks us to encourage one another towards godliness “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24
To confront fellow believers who sin “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path” Galatians 6:1
To draw limits when a believer doesn’t quit their sin Matthew 18:15-17
To love and submit to God in all things “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
So we all need to get on board with the truth that more sweetness or acts of submission will fix not all marriage issues.
Sometimes love looks like strict boundaries. (See Boundaries In Marriage: 5 Guidelines For Setting Limits with a Difficult Spouse)
Sometimes compassion looks like getting out of our spouses way, even when the act threatens all our dreams (See Divorce? When a Wife Feels She has Done Enough)
Sometimes love will look like saying hard things to your husband (See How To Say Hard Things to Your Husband)
Yes, wife, you need to be heard
Somebody needs to call it what it is. Somebody needs to speak the whole truth, not just the parts that are easy and noncontroversial.
A lot of the people who read my blog come from conservative backgrounds and in that world we are still trying to figure how to handle the complex and hurtful without setting aside the grace of God.
It’s messy and hard.
I am alarmed when I read emails from wives and hear all the complicated things they are going through. Immediately, I point them towards mentorship and counseling, only to find out they are in murkier waters as a result of some counseling they received.
Ultimately, I know God will take care of every pain and ache we go through, as we let Him: marriage is His idea after all, and there’s no battle He hasn’t won.
As long as a woman is walking with Jesus, He will fight her battles; He will comfort her.
But I am also sad because the church community is meant to be the primary source of comfort and counsel for the hurting and seeking.
And it confounds me that God still uses us – his imperfect bride – to heal, to change, to encourage. He hasn’t changed His methods; He doesn’t have another body. The church (you and I) are is still the primary way He reaches the hurting and lost.
You need a community.
If your husband is the problem, but he doesn’t see it, you need to talk to your pastor. Or a mentor/Christian counselor. If you don’t feel heard or seen by them, by all means find another one.
If the standard response from your church is “pray and submit” when your husband runs around with other women or flaunts his addictions, ask God to direct you elsewhere.
Ask Him to equip you with the right tools and give you the right connections.
If you have done your best and no human counsel fits your circumstances, understand that you have access to Wisdom Himself. He is just and fair. He comforts and understands and always offers a way forward.
God gets your story even if no one else does.
For every wife (and every human being really) there comes a time when she feels misunderstood by all individuals in her circle. We do ourselves a huge favor when we allow this neglected-feeling to point us back to God.
We must recognize that everything we read about marriage (including what I say on this blog) is meant to point us towards God. Not replace Him.
When people can’t soothe our aches or offer the respite we need, we can’t give up on God. Instead we need to thank Him because their failure forces us to depend on Him for everything!
Take the opportunity to view people as instruments and channels in the hands of an almighty God who never fails.
If the channel fogs up and can’t grasp and understand all your needs, remember that’s all they were, to begin with. Channels, not the Source.
Don’t give up on the One who sent them, the One who owns everything. Turn to Him and say
“The human channel can’t deliver what I need right now. Their book has excellent tips, but it’s not an exact fit for my situation. The blog is impressive, but it’s not bearing the fruit I need. The teaching seems good, but I can’t get my husband to listen to it.
But one thing I still know; My Source still lives. Humans are limited, but my God is not. When one faucet fails it doesn’t mean the Source has failed..it just reveals our limitations as humans.
It trains me to increase and build my faith in the One who is all mighty and strong. I will continue to believe you, God. I will trust that you will send me the help I need. I won’t give up You.”
At the end of the day, if God is all you have, you still have everything you need.
2. When your husband is the problem, remember the only person you have control over is yourself
This is the heavy part. The reason everyone keeps telling you to change is because you have control only over yourself. You can’t change your husband.
Obviously, if he’s the problem, he needs to change.
But from experience and regardless of whose fault it is, I’ve found that there’s always an area to improve on, an attitude to drop, a new way to trust God when the other spouse struggles.
My spouse’s weakness always reveals new ways for me to trust and to grow.
So how do you walk this out? How do you keep putting one foot in front of the other even when your husband is the problem?
– Hold on to God tighter than you hold on to your husband.
While marriage the is essential, it’s disintegration or struggle doesn’t mean the end of life. God is still there, still faithful.
I pray it never gets to that but the day we all learn to hold on to Christ tighter than we cling to our spouses (and all the perks and benefits of their change) is the day we all start to walk in real freedom.
I’ve found that the closer I get to Christ, the more I understand how much He loves me and how much victory I have in Him. And that helps me approach my battles differently.
I begin to see the reality of this verse “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)
– When your husband is the problem, you must surround yourself with a supportive community.
You need a friend, a group of people who get you, your situation and who can be your support system. God uses people to help people. It’s just how He set things up!
The best time to cultivate such a community is when you don’t need it. You don’t plant when it starts raining..you put a seed in the ground and then when the rains come the seed automatically comes to life.
So be there for others now, care for them now so they can be there for you in your time of need.
Furthermore, don’t hide your issues in the name of protecting your marriage. Yes, newlyweds struggle too!
Don’t believe the lie that you are too young to have problems. Real life does not respect marital age..neither does the enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ 1 Peter 1:8
Secrecy is one of his weapons – He wants to shame you to silence, so you don’t reach out for help. Don’t fall for his lie!
A good community/person will pray for you when you can’t. They’ll correct you when you are “too nice” or too harsh. They’ll provide a safe place if you need a roof over your head for a season of time.
They’ll take your kids for a few nights so you can work on your relationship with your husband. God will use people to heal you, hear you, protect you, guide you, affirm you. Pray and then take steps to obey.
– You must grow up
One of the hardest things I have had to do in marriage is to grow up. Maturing is not an option: it’s a necessity for marriage. (See Growing a Strong Marriage: The 8 Signs of a Maturing Love)
Maturity means being able to say no to yourself and some of your dreams. Accepting that you won’t get everything right away and that’s okay if it will make you and your spouse better people.
Disclaimer – For those facing abusive, adulterous, addictive situations in marriage, please seek the help of a good Christian counselor, a pastor or even authorities, if you feel unsafe.
I hated it when my husband and I couldn’t talk. He hated not having a safe place to grow. We both had dreams of a happy marriage, but first, we had to cross the bridge called delayed gratification.
And that’s one of the hardest things we must do as newlyweds, lay aside our immediate wants and dreams as we tend to the issues at hand.
A lot of times we are driven by our lofty premarriage goals “oh he will love me and make me so happy!”
We are terrified of the consequences of not having those dreams met “What will my friends think of us now? “What does this mean for our future?” “Is this really what I signed up for?”
And then we make rash decisions based on our fears “I better cut my losses early.”
We don’t realize that no one ever built a great marriage in a single day. And sometimes dreams have to die before they can live. (See 6 Things I would Tell My Newlywed Self)
There’s no formula to a good marriage, each marriage is unique, and we have to hold on to God and seek His counsel and guidance every step of the way.
If growing up is so important in a marriage, exactly how do you grow up?
– Walk with God. Keep a daily discipline of prayer and reading the Word. Involve Him in your daily life, moments, decisions, thoughts and meditations. Ask Him to help you want Him.
‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13
– Make fasting and prayer a lifestyle. (See Fasting For Your Marriage – The How To and Benefits)
– Have a mentor. Someone said that we don’t improve until we have someone to imitate other than ourselves. Seek mentorship, be hungry. (See 9 Things Every Newlywed Couple Should Know About Mentoring)
– Keep godly friends. Do life with others. Don’t be a hermit. Meet with other couples, particularly those around your marriage age, to hang out and do life with.
-Pursue knowledge. Read blogs and books, watch sermons and videos on marriage and relationships.
– Pursue individual passions. Don’t make your marriage your source of everything. Bring life to your marriage, not the other way round. Take care of yourself, be purposeful, exercise and eat healthy. Happy marriages are made up of happy individuals.
In conclusion, when your husband is the problem…
It’s true that you can’t change your husband. But you can be changing, growing even as God is working in him.
I love the story of Joshua in chapter 5: 13-15
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”
Very often when we go through challenges, we want God to take sides. We expect Him to fix our husbands as a sign “He’s for me”. If He doesn’t do what we expect, we feel like He’s against us.
But just like the angel reminded Joshua, we need to remember that God is really on His side. He is far above our foibles and teams and divisions.
God is for Himself.
And that should make you and I very glad because the Bible further says “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!”
If you are wrestling with the overwhelm of new marriage (or struggling with foundational aspects of marriage), you want to pick up my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years. You will learn how to work out the kinks, find joy in imperfection, positively influence your marriage and create the marriage of your dreams, one intentional choice at a time. Start your journey when you buy the book –> Amazon I Barnes & Noble I PDF
* Resource to help
How To Navigate Conflict in Marriage – my all new conflict navigation course.