Why I Prefer Not to Give Advice to Women with Jerk Husbands

A while ago I wrote a post entitled, “Surprise (Or Not!) Men Are Spoiled!” in which I made the case that it’s natural enough for men to be spoiled and generally feel entitled. At the end of that piece I promised to write a follow-up piece that would address the question of what a woman can do with the fact that her man is spoiled.

Afterwards, I thought about what I would actually say to women who are involved with, engaged or married to men who are spoiled or clearly feel too entitled. Then I thought I wouldn’t write that piece after all.

Whoo-hoo! It’s good to be King of Your Blogmain.

But now, a month after the fact, a woman has left a comment on “Surprise (Or Not!) Men Are Spoiled!” in which she relates her ongoing struggle to act in a loving enough way to satisfy her husband. “I give and I give,” she writes, “and I get overwhelmed. I can usually go to God for more energy to keep giving, however when my husband comes to me and says basically, ‘the job your doing is still not good enough, ‘ I break down …. I really, really need the next article, John!!!”

And there it is: Three exclamation points!!!

So now I’m stuck. I have to respond. That poor woman!

Do let me just start off, however, by saying (too quickly, I know, and too abruptly—but what else can one do in a blog?) that the natural and true sympathy I have for “Amy-DaughterOfTheKing” tends to be pretty darn mitigated by the fact that, after all, she married the guy. Not to be obnoxious—and I know this can’t help but come of as exactly that—but it kind of drives me crazy when a person chooses to get into a relationship with someone who isn’t capable of maintaining a decent, loving relationship, and then complains because they’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t capable of maintaining a decent, loving relationship. To such people I always want to say, “But did you not know this person before you married them? If so, why did you marry them ? If not, why did you get married to someone you didn’t know very well?” (And then what you often hear is, “But he [or she] changed!”  Which is the same as saying, “Throughout our courtship the character qualities that now dominate my partner’s personality were in no way evident.” Which I just never quite understand as entirely really that feasible.)

And, effectively enough, this brings me to both of the big reasons I don’t actually want to give relationship advice to this woman, or any other woman in a situation similar to hers. First, I lack subtley on these matters; I am a complete relationship Nazi. I think everyone in a committed relationship should either start acting like the other person is more interesting to them than anything else in the world and live their lives as if they want to be worthy of the greatness of their partner, or get out of that relationship, and stop dragging the universe down with their . . . uncommitted ambiguity.

See? Entirely too Nazi-like. I mean, I think what I’ve said is true, but … but I understand that people tend to think stuff is a lot more complicated than that. Which of course it is. Except that it really isn’t. But people think it is. And that’s good enough for me.

Anyhoo, the second Big Reason I’m not too keen on giving relationship advice via this blog is that this blog is read by a lot of Christians. A fair number of them are Christian conservatives. I love Christian conservatives. I also love Christian liberals.

Basically, if you believe in the reality of the risen Christ, you and I are friends.

That said, though, you know how sometimes, in certain circles, people can use the Bible to basically impress upon women that it’s sort of their job in life to be “subservient” to their husbands? And you know how sometimes — not usually, of course, and certainly not by anyone with a normal, healthy understanding of what the Bible says about marital relationships — that whole “Women! Submit to your man!” thing can work to keep women in marriages that they really shouldn’t be in?

Well, so do I. So the other big reason I’m disinclined to offer Marriage Advice in this blog is because I know that if I do so I’ll run smack into a whole bunch of people’s passion about what they think the Bible says about this, that, and everything else in the world.

And within the vaporous, murky swamp of that conversation lie too many quicksand traps and snapping alligators for li’l ol’ me.

You see what I mean: I’m afraid that too much of the advice I’d give to Ms. Amy-DaughterOfTheKing would be taken by too many people as being un-Biblical. And then those people, I know, would be moved to write me and say and imply terrible things about me. And it’s extremely unpleasant to be told you’re not really a Christian. Believe me, this is something I know about. (And you would too, if you’d ever written a book for Christians called, I’m OK — You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbeleivers, and Why We Should Stop.Talk about … discovering the ugly underbelly of people who claim the Prince of Peace as their savior. Yikers.)

And I don’t want that kind of unpleasantness in my life right now. It’s Christmas!

Ahh … Christmas. Just feel the … weight going on, actually. But that’s really a whole other concern.

Anyway, Amy, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I couldn’t have helped you anyway. And the really good news is that you already know that. Let’s face it, Amy: You already know everything you need to know about what you should do to make yourself peaceful and happy. You just have to do what you know you should. And, of course, it’s in the gap between what we know and what we do that all of the world’s troubles lie.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Hjordes

    Amy…

    "Sex Begins in the Kitchen," by Leman (Christian writer/good humor).

    Start there and work through the bookstore – there are lots of great books out there. Secular, professional marriage counseling is good (yeah, I know, he won't go). Arm yourself with knowledge, take a good look at your own self-respect and self-esteem, then make decisions based on what God puts on your heart (not what others put in your head).

    John… no, she doesn't know what to do, because the church and her peers tell her one thing and her heart tells her another. But I respect you for your honesty and directness. Good blog.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Byron: Do you really think "read some books and get some counseling" isn't stuff she already KNOWS I'd say to her? That's not new or galvanizing input. That's something anyone on the street would tell her. I guarantee it's something she already knows. Who DOESN'T know what to do in a situation like hers? Who DOESN'T know you shouldn't let people mistreat you? Pretending you don't know something a child would know–pretending you don't know what's right in a situation like this–just helps you perpetuate the idea that you're a victim. Amy knows what to do. She needs to either insist her husband grow up and start treating her well, or decide whether or not living with a man who won't do that is worth what that costs her. If she decides it is worth it, and stays, then she's happy to have done that, and can't complain. If she decides it's not worth it, then she needs to leave–in which case she's greatly improved her life and has reason for hope and optimism.

    And yes, of course making herself happy and peaceful is what it's all about. What else? God didn't incarnate himself and have himself massacared so we could be anything less than at peace with ourselves and our lives. Shabby deal if he did.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    (Bryon: by the way, hope I didn't sound too hard to you personally. Wrote in hurry, so didn't do the Nice Guy pad. But you saw what I meant.)

    BillyB: That's a large part of what I'm saying. (Though, that said, it hasn't been my experience that pastors are NECCESSARILY the best marriage counselors. Depends on the pastor, of course. But you knew that….)

    Hjordes: Yeah, good point. And it makes me think of something: The way (some) Protestants are forever complaining about how Catholics "follow man, and not God." If you're a Christian, that means you carry Christ in your heart, right? So if your church and pastor are telling you one thing, and your heart is telling you another, isn't the degree to which you're listening to your church and pastor instead of your heart the degree to which you're following man, and not God?

  • http://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com Byron Borger

    Hey, John, it’s been a while. I occasionally want to post–to at least say hi, but find myself too busy. Sometimes it is just the wit of your writing that stirs me (“There it is: three exclamation points.”!!!) Nice. And sometimes your insight is really, really good. Thanks.

    And then, there are these pretty good replies that nonetheless cry out for some kind of a reply, at least from a bookselling nerd like me.

    This gal wants help. You tell her that she knows what to do. Uhh, I’m guessing that is not the case, otherwise she may not have asked you for advise.

    I appreciate very much your walking in the midst of the minefield of different sorts of readers, esp Christians on certain ideological extremes, who might go crazy if you write just the wrong thing. You named that pleasantly and honestly, and I don’t blame you for wanting to be cautious.

    Still, again, there are some solid Biblical answers for domineering husbands, and there is solid advice well rooted within the Biblical story of God’s redemptive work. In older days, we might have asked our grandma or pastor, but nowadays, many don’t have these kind of trusted mentors. So we write to bloggers and, if we’re smart, buy good Christian books.

    Which is to say, you could have suggested some resources, or hinted that she could find resources, for her and her husband, that might make a difference in learning to ways to relate, to be family, to care and show love.

    I’m not confident I should do that, at least not now, but I did want to weigh in and suggest that rather than say—oh, I think your heart will tell you what to do, or you already know—you might ask if she’s done any reading, taken any marriage renewal retreats, asked for guidance from marriage mentors in her community.

    And, anyway, I’m not sure making herself peaceful and happy is the goal, is it? I’m not a part of the Christian right you rightfully worry about, but one needn’t be a conservative to know that that just ain’t right.

    Thanks again for your almost always great writing, and your real service you offer with these thoughtful and fun pieces. Keep on!

    in Advent peace,

    Byron

  • Billy B

    I’m wondering why Amy-DaugherOfTheKing would seek advice from someone she don’t know instead of someone she does know, which should be her pastor.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Well, I didn't actually suggest that Amy to "walk away." All I'm really meaning to do is empower her, to help her realize that she, and she alone, CHOOSES to be victimzed by husband or anyone else. Once she realizes that, she can then, on her own, begin to take whatever steps she needs to, for as long as it takes her, to get herself to a happy/peaceful/okay place. But until then she quits looking OUTSIDE herself for a solution, she'll stay in the ugliness she's now in. (Hey, I loved your last sentence, Angela. That's really a perfect way of saying it.)

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta Sheppard

    Dear Amy . . . Daughter of the King! WALK away! Any man who calls himself christian and mistreats his wife is mis-representing the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He respected women, regardless of their character/behaviour! Any man who bruises his wife emotionally, psychologically or physically is a coward with a problem! What’s more, he has abdicated his right to the title of husband/father.

    I have been counselling couples for years as pastor/chaplain and I talk straight. Who does your husband think he is? I of course have not heard his side of the story, nor have I fully heard yours;however, methinks you need to clear out and give yourself some space until this man wakes up and realizes what side his bread is buttered on!

    Dear John: My experience has been that it is typical for men to side with the man! But you presented your case well…as always!

    It is not wise to get involved via a blog. None-the-less, it is true that a woman finds it hard to be understood by anyone, even her own pastor. ‘Tis sad but true that the abusive husband/male partner is too often treated kinder and given more understanding/sympathy than the lady who he promised to cherish.

    Greta

  • Angela

    I just went back to the “Spoiled” blog and read Amy’s post. It’s very hard to tell if what she is dealing with is an emotionally abusive husband, her own low sense of self-worth, both, or none of the above. I liked Skerrib’s response to Amy on that blog. It makes sense to me that Amy should be able to say no, or to explain to her husband that she is not the type of person to spoil him as his mom and sisters apparently did. John wants ask Amy, “But did you not know this person before you married them? If so, why did you marry them ?” But I guess I would have to ask the same of her husband.

    It is easy for us to tell Amy to walk away, but we don’t know her circumstances. Are there children involved? Does she have an income and/or family to support her? Is this something that can be worked out?

    Anyway, I can agree that giving advice to someone in a blog is pretty risky. It is too easy to read the printed word and, without the benefit of eye contact or voice inflection, get the wrong impression.

    So, Amy, talk to your husband, and if he is not willing to listen, then seek out a local Christian counselor for yourself. Above all, be honest with yourself about possibly being an enabler for your husband. Being a good wife does not mean making yourself into a doormat that neither you nor your husband can respect.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com odgie

    Hey John,

    I understand your reluctance about giving marital advice in this situation, but I want to address a comment in your post:

    “To such people I always want to say, ‘But did you not know this person before you married them? If so, why did you marry them? If not, why did you get married to someone you didn’t know very well?’ (And then what you often hear is, ‘But he [or she] changed!’ Which is the same as saying, ‘Throughout our courtship the character qualities that now dominate my partner’s personality were in no way evident.’”

    Sadly, this happens a lot more than any of us expect. I have had several good friends, men and women alike, who were on the receiving end of a “bait and switch.” All of these were bright folks, not given to impulsive decisions, and except for one none of them rushed into it. People always put their best foot forward when courting. Most of the time, after the marriage we can adjust to the reality of living with our partner when he/she is not putting the best foot forward. However, when some people let the un-edited versions of themselves out, all [unpleasantness] breaks loose, leaving their spouse overwhelmed and bewildered.

    I think this happens more often among Christians because our subculture tends to push marriage as the be-all and end-all. Go to a Family Christian Bookstore sometime and count the number of marital self-help books. Ask a few believers how many sermons they hear on marriage in a year. Speaking for myself, I had the gall to graduate from a Christian university without being married or engaged and many people started looking at me askance. Under that kind of pressure, it is fairly easy for someone to choose poorly when choosing their spouse. Fortunately, my parents never leaned on me about it and supported my desire to wait for a woman who met my essential criteria. Otherwise, I can’t say that I would not have eventually caved in.

    I realize that none of this excuses a poorly thought-out choice regarding a spouse, but I am convinced that some people approach the decision in the best, most cautious manner possible and still wind up with a lemon. Sad but true.

  • http://savemenot.wordpress.com samanthamj

    you said – “‘But did you not know this person before you married them? ”

    You would THINK that would be a strait question… but, actually, it’s trickier than that.

    Take me. I discovered after several years of marriage (and have lived with this realization the last several more years of my marriage) – that even though I dated my husband for 5 years before we married – that “No, I didn’t really know him”.

    Oh, it wasn’t that he changed – although, obviously we both HAVE changed (ok so, we both use to be really skinny and now we’re not. So what?!?!)… And, it wasn’t that I didn’t KNOW him or at least TRY to… because I did dated him for FIVE years before we married… from the time I was 18yrs old – 23yrs old. It was just that I THOUGHT I knew him when I didn’t. Well, that, and the fact that I was still young and naive- and maybe a bit of a hopeless romantic.

    See…?? I thought he was cool, calm, and mysterious. It took me a long time to realize that he just didn’t know HOW to hold a decent conversation or how to communicate in general. Who knew?? LOL

    Live, learn, and work at it… or Run like hell… Fight or Flight, basically. Sometimes, you have to do both… Fight them off just to get out the door to take flight. In my case.. all I needed to do was to fine tone my mind reading capabilities so that he has no need to talk. It’s working… sort of…. 18 years and holding, at least. As long as he keeps thinking happy thoughts we’ll be all set.

    ;)

    ~smj

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Carol: Please see my comment #11 above.

  • dsilkotch

    I've greatly enjoyed reading your posts, John, but I think this one was maybe not as well-thought-out as it might have been. No courtship can tell a person everything there is to know about another person the way a few years of marriage can. And the dynamics of any relationship change and adapt with the passing of time, the individual growth of the spouses, the addition of children, etc.. (Tangent: I've always thought "spouses" to be an awkward-sounding word. I wish the plural of "spouse" was "spice" or something fun like that.)

    I dated my husband-to-be for about two years before we married, and actually being married to each other still turned out to be a bit more complicated than either of us realized it would be.

    I've always liked this quote by Daphne Rose Kingma:

    "In marriage we marry a mystery, an other, a counterpart. In a sense the person we marry is a stranger about whom we have a magnificent hunch. The person we choose to marry is someone we love, but his depths, her intimate intricacies – we will come to know only in the long unraveling of time. We know enough about our beloved to know that we love him, to imagine that, as time goes on, we will come to enjoy her even more, become even more of ourselves in her presence. To our knowledge we add our willingness to embark on the journey of getting to know him, of coming to see her, even so wonderfully more.

    Swept up by attraction, attention, fantasy, hope, and a certain happy measure of recognition, we agree to come together for the mysterious future, to see where the journey will take us. This companionship on life’s journey is the hallmark of marriage, its natural province, its sweetest and most primal gift.

    In promising always, we promise each other time. We promise to exercise our love, to stretch it large enough to embrace the unforeseen realities of the future. We promise to learn to love beyond the level of our instincts and inclinations, to love in foul weather as well as good, In hard times as well as when we are exhilarated by the pleasures of romance.

    We change because of these promises. We shape ourselves according to them; we live in their midst and live differently because of them. We feel protected because of them. We try some things and resist trying others because, having promised, we feel secure. Marriage, the bond, makes us free to see, to be, to love. Our souls are protected; our hearts have come home."

    ********

    That's the happy ending version. Sometimes you end up married to someone who just isn't willing to put that much of themselves into the marriage. There are all sorts of reasons why a long-term relationship might founder, and while walking away from a frustrating situation might be the *simplest* solution, it's not always the most rewarding solution in the long run. (And, granted, in some situations walking away is the only healthy thing to do.)

    I guess my point is that as long as both of the involved parties *want* the marriage to work out, there's hope that it can. But if one person's doing all the compromising, all the sacrificing, all the forgiving, while the other one's just sitting around being unsatisfied all the time, then some serious changes need to take place (in *both* spouses)(spice?) before it's ever going to be a true marriage.

    /soapbox

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Kudos John. I've know three Christian women who have been in similar (and yet, entirely different and unique) situations. Well, ok maybe four if you count my wife of 27 years. Counseling helped us and I'm less of a jerk since becoming a Christian 9 years ago.

    In the other cases, the husbands had long since abandoned their respective wife. In each case, the "husband" still physically lived at the same postal address but they were no long part of the marriage (loving their wife, serving, encouraging, etc.). When I see this, I am very supportive of the woman who separates/divorces. From where I was watching, the women did not leave their husbands, they merely acknowledged the husbands prior departure from the relationship. In each case, the man lacked to courage to either work at the marriage or to physically walk away.

    Liberals call me conservative. Conservative call me liberal. It seems, sometimes, I have nowhere to lay my head.

    Man, I just hovered over the "say it!' button thinking of the impending backlash … and I wondered how many times you lingered over the publish button.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    By the way–just for the record and all–I certainly understand the way so many women really ARE victims of their husbands. And I understand how easy it is for a woman–especially a woman with children–to essentially become trapped in a bad relationship with a man. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, my wife works for an organization that basically saves victims of domestic violence. And I’ve worked in shelters for such places myself. I’m very familiar with the whole … universe of domestic violence.

    “Women trapped in bad relationships have a whole bunch of stuff they need to do. One of those things is to learn to take responsibility for the role they played in arriving where they’re at. I was just meaning, here, to Amy, to emphasize that particular aspect of her healing challenge. I know it’s not the only thing she needs to do; it’s just the one I chose to emphasize.

  • Sue Hill

    John, I am a Domestic Violence Legal Advocate in a small community. I came into this job never experiencing a rotten relationship. I thought as you "why don't they leave?" Well after 3 years here I have learned some of the reasons they don't. We call them the "F" words. Fear of Failure, Finances, Feelings, Fantasy (thinking he/she will get better), Faith, Fatherhood (not wanting to take the children from father) Familiarity (childhood experiences), Fatigue (too emotionally and physically exhausted). John, there are so many reasons why other than these and it's very complicated but as a Christian I ask them: is this what your loving Heavenly Father wants for your life? My Pastor beleives that there are the 4 A's that warrant a divorce, Abuse, Addiction, Abandonment, and Adultry. But It's still very difficult to give advise or counsil them. So, I, like you, try not to advise them but to give them options and let them know there is a better life for them with or without the "difficult" partner. Thanks for bringing this important issue to light.

  • Phineas

    What you wrote is very intellectually interesting. It is very hope-less and very secular. You clearly have responded to Amy out of arrogant disregard for her tragedy and your response shows not a shred of Christianity in it.

    As a marriage educator and minister, I do see a lot of people who claim they “married the wrong person” and others who did make a very bad decision in who/why they married. Our Christian response should not be to “ditch” the “mistake”. That is worldly thinking at its worst. You promote divorce. You give vinegar to a person who is crying out for water. Are you so brilliant that you are entitled to take her heart and drag her out into the street and publicly ridicule her like this?

    You said “She needs to either insist her husband grow up and start treating her well, or decide whether or not living with a man who won’t do that is worth what that costs her. If she decides it is worth it, and stays, then she’s happy to have done that, and can’t complain. If she decides it’s not worth it, then she needs to leave–in which case she’s greatly improved her life and has reason for hope and optimism.”

    In your stewardship as a blogger on a Christian website, you should be applying God’s wisdom and compassion to what you say. It is not God’s will that people should abandon their problems and mistakes, but to seek His solutions and act like Christians instead of movie stars.

    Christian marriage is a covenant. Pharisees believed in divorcing “for any reason”. You sound like Oprah and Dr. Phil: place your “self” above all else. This not mature thinking.

    Do we get to divorce, just by saying “I made a mistake”? How small is your God that you do not think He can make her marriage into what it is supposed to be?

    I think you should turn in your credentials and go work for Jerry Springer.

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  • http://n/a Carol Ann

    As a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship, I found this article to be kind of hurtful. . . I can see that you do not have experience actually *being* in one of these relationships and, as you are a man, I don’t think you ever have been or ever will be (though I do acknowledge that women can also be abusive, so I won’t say that with certainty). You just don’t seem to realize that there is a lot more to these relationships than a black and white scenario. As these relationships progress, the woman’s self-esteem is actually broken down over time so that she cannot stand up for herself, see that she *needs* to stand up for herself, and leaving almost becomes out of the question.

    I understand completely where you are coming from, because before I was in one of these relationships myself, I ruthlessly judged women victims and repeatedly said the same thing, “Just LEAVE!” Only when it happened to me did I realize how truly horrible these situations are and how impossible and hopeless it can feel to ever regain freedom in your life. I still struggle to this day with scars from that relationship. And I will continue to say that leaving him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life.

    Did I leave my relationship? Certainly. But I gotta tell you, it wasn’t because people were yelling “leave!” in my ear (though I heard that just about every day). It was not because people were making me feel stupid for staying (though they were). It was not because people were telling me I could do better (I did not believe I could). It was because God showed me His love. God’s love was what got me out. So that’s why I have a problem with this blog. I just don’t see too much of the God’s-love approach in helping this woman, and that is what she needs. Nothing else could have saved me from that relationship, no matter how angry my friends and family were or how many “just leave” talks I had to endure. Nothing else could have gotten me out.

  • Pingback: More About Amy-DaughterOfTheKing « Suddenly Christian

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta Sheppard

    Sue Hill, you are right on! The “F” words are appropriate…I agree with you that God has not called a woman to suffer abuses at the hands of any man. A jerk, in my mind, is ignorant and not to be trusted. Jesus death included liberation and respect of and for women. Fair treatment of females is part of the New Covenant in my way of thinking. It is consistent with the grace, unconditional love and justice of God for all people. I still maintain that Amy needs to walk away from this man. But it is her choice….. chances are the F words will win. As for her husband? God can fix anyone if they want it. But I am not optimistic. Does the leopard ever change it’s spots?

  • Byron Borger

    Hey, John, I said all kinds of nice stuff about you. Just kidding, your firm and clear response was helpful.

    Again, I'm not so sure. One guy who posted said her peers tell her one thing, and, I'd say, pop culture another, her church, maybe, something yet again, and her sinful self bubbles up with one set of thoughts and her new self has new instincts and then there is all those voices from her relatives and, and, well, the world, the flesh, and the devil.

    So who wins. I talk to people every week about this kind of stuff and I am sure some have some deep wisdom inside. There are others, I am equally sure, simply do not. Their instincts are akilter and their intuitions a mile off base, with little common sense let along a Biblically-shaped worldview. So they need help.

    Maybe your point that they know they need help and can find it at a bookstore is true, but, frankly, it is interesting to me when somebody finds a balanced and thoughtful Christian book that speaks their language, seems wise and helpful, that they can understand and enjoy, well, they ARE surprised. Maybe they've heard somewhere that there are these kind of resources out there, but they've not connected well with grace-filled tools of the trade.

    And then you said your advise maybe wouldn't have been galvanizing. Ah-ha. So you meant to say that you didn't have anything to say to her that was, uh, stupendous and utterly life-changing. Well, that may be so. I sometimes feel pretty silly inviting folks to read something pretty basic and what seems to me to be nearly self-evident and they find it, well, galvanizing.

    And, by the way, I am not so sure, truth be told, about what to DO about a crotchety life partner. Obviously abuse ought not be tolerated. But how to handle and what to do and how to proceed, in faithfulness to vows and God and truth and beauty, yada, yada, yada, isn't always that obvious. Life is sticky, the call to radical discipleship complex, and the ethics of tough decisions isn't usually really simple (esp given the complexity of Bible teaching on so many topics.) There again, a community of believers, reading books and struggling together, in grace and commitment to learn and grow and change, is the galvanizing call. Thanks for allowing me to chime in.

    Keep up the good work, with or without the "nice boy" pad. Your great.

  • Byron Borger

    Dear Greta,

    If your following this blog, and see this, I'd want to qualify your passionate call to her just a bit. You nearly insist that she walk away, if he bruises her, emotionally.

    I guess I'd say in a fallen world, we all bruise each other, don't we?. Living in faithfulness to another sinner is, well, the nature of the human condition, and your jumping so quickly without nuance to the option of leaving is, well, itself a very bruising thing for her to do. And will include some terrible sadness on her part, which you seemed nearly glib about…

    Of course it is sadly necessary some time. I may have not seen as much domestic violence as you may have in your counseling practice, but I understand its horrific nature. So your solidarity with her is good.

    Still, this logic took my breath away: if somebody hurt you, you bail? We'd all be ex-husbands and ex-wives if that was the foundational principle. Surely, even in a quick blog, you could be more careful to qualify your advise, and to offer a justification for leaving a marriage in a way that is more helpful than, anybody that bruises you emotionally is a brute. This is true. And it applies,sadly, to nearly every marriage I know, as we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, for better and for ill, magnificent and hurtful.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta Sheppard

    Byron, I appreciate your comments…..sorry if I seemed ‘ nearly glib’ in offering my feelings. My response was based on the fact that when a married woman has to email a perfect stranger for advice on what to do about her abusive marriage, I see that as a call for help! No doubt the locals around her are insentive to her cries. I get the feeling the husband’s offensive behaviours are not just one-shot occurences. When name-calling, put downs, criticisms, harrangings, etc, are constant, don’t tell me that it is not emotionally abusive. Mental abuse is emotional abuse. Certainly any marriage has certain moments but Amy’s sounds continuous. No woman should have to put up with a harrassing male; whether it be casual or continous. Does Jesus do that with His Bride? uh,uh! The pattern for a christian marriage is ‘husband, love your wife as Christ loves the church! Jesus doesn’t demand, He beseeches! Big difference!

    Marriage requires work by two people. I have been married to the same man for 58 years! I guess I know a little bit about it. Certainly there is forebearing. There is giving and taking. But when there is no respect there is no hope!

    When I advised Amy to ‘walk away’ it was to give herself breathing space……which would in turn give him thinking space, hopefully! It’s called tough love! Thankfully my man loved and still loves me unconditionally. And I have always returned back in good measure what is given freely to me.

    In reality, when a woman is dealing with a nerd she has to practice tough love. Let him do without her for awhile. Byron, surely you wouldn’t suggest she just ‘stick it out’? Pardon me, but that is typical of the average male defending another male. I am honest with a woman and will tell her if she is wrong in her attitudes or actions. But I cannot defend a man with an angry nature. He needs help. But as long as she stays with him, he won’t seek it. I did not say divorce, either. Separation first! She only goes back after he has agreed to and followed through on getting counselling….then proving to her that he has changed. However, statistics prove and we have learned, all to sadly, that a man will fake it just to get her back scrubbing his clothes and taking his dirt again. Sorry guys!

    I admit we all have our moments of disagreements and upsets and we forgive and get over it. But in a womans mind a real man who has promised to love and cherish her, (even though born from Adam’s seed), will basically be a good man; loving, understanding and respectful. They don’t have to like brocolli either!

    smile…..!

  • http://www.praisefree.com Sukky Fagbohun

    Marriage is a covenant between three people. God, the man and his wife. Many women stay in emotionally abusive relationships not because they like it but because they love honor and obey God and also because they know the value of marital covenant. I personally do not believe that a woman should tolerate any form of marital abuse, but walking away is not the solution especially when there are children involved. Verbal or emotional abuse is an indication of lack of respect for the abused. I think Amy should regain her dignity and self respect back from her husband by being independent. Apply your time to improving yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.

    He will notice the changes and respect you. You deserve it.

  • arlywn

    really hard to give advice with out knowing a situation- not ti mention the advice giver must accept that saying, showing, telling and advising might all draw the same conclusion: ignorement.

    And then nothing has been accomplished. The advice giver hasnt helped. The advicee still has a problem, and probably feeling worse.

    change starts with the one that wants it. And the one that wants it generally gets it. I think John was right. Deep down, everyone knows that if there is a problem it must be fixed. If a relationship is gone sour, it must be changed. And sometimes a relationship is fixed, and its YAY!!!! And other times one should walk away. I’m sure lots of women know examples- and when they hear about them, they all say it wont happen. The wont make the same mistakes, they know better. A guy wont do this to them… blah blah.

    But in the same situation, most women dont act like they say they would. Cause they dont want to admit the problem, or denial has won their hearts. And thats a problem too.

    change happens to everyone. Good or bad, whether they want it or not. It’s how one deals with the change, and the situation that matters.

  • http://mamarosi.wordpress.com mamarosi

    The more that I dig into your blog the more answers I find…I truly thank you for your willingness to even discuss these matters and allow your readers full input. All of this helps me in my current situation, and I do think that I know in my heart what to do, but it’s hard sometimes to do what you know in your heart to do when you have children. That weighs heavy on me, and wonder sometimes if I’m not the selfish one, wanting a Christian husband instead of binding myself to a non-Christian one in the hopes that Christ will somehow soften him over the course of time. I just attended one of the most meaningful weddings and part of the ceremony was the braiding of ribbon. The husband representing one strand, the wife the other, and the third one representing Jesus. I want that. No doubt. I want a husband who truly means to love and cherish me in the good times and the bad, not one who will withdraw or worse, lash out in the hard times. Since I am not married and never have been to the father of my children, I still feel somewhat free to walk away. We will always have the tie thanks to our children, and I can continue to do my very best to love him unconditionally in the most Christ-like way possible, but I do not have to settle for less than what God would want for me and my marriage relationship. I feel that I need to just rest in that and be willing to say goodbye to a relationship that never was right to begin with, and hopefully by saying goodbye someday it will be time for a new hello. And saying goodbye to a relationship does not necessarily mean a goodbye to the father of my children…just a goodbye to the relationship. Anyway, I’m just thinking aloud here and thanking you and all of you for your responses because they are all helping me… Blessings and Thanks!

  • Brenda

    Well, it's really hard to know what's going on for this lady by the information I have read–that she gives and gives, and her husband basically says it's not enough.

    My marriage has been hard work. I often felt that my efforts were unappreciated and ignored. After much agony, tears, threats, etc., I decided to stay with him and just let him live his own life and I would live mine. I felt that the emotional trauma I suffered at his hands had ruined me for another relationship, so I would stay with him and make his life hell, just be being there. (And yes, people have called me dramatic.)

    I started a little home business, found a job that challenged and totally engaged me, and joined a gospel trio that traveled throughout several states and even made some albums–one in Nashville with some of the Gaither musicians (that was an amazing experience, and one that boosted my confidence!).

    My husband surprised me by supporting my long absences from home. He ate frozen pizzas while I was away doing concerts and took care of the kids and everything at home so I could be away.

    Since I was in a "gospel" group and didn't want to be a hypocrite, I used our travel time to think about my marriage and what had gone wrong. After awhile I realized I had been pretty "needy" and that no one person can provide 100% of the emotional support for another, even their wife. I also realized my "giving" had strings attached, since I wanted him to give back in the same way I was giving, and that wasn't his way at all. I realized I could have been just a little oversensitive. Even now I'm still not sure how much of the problem was my princess complex and how much of it was his selfish ego (there I go, being dramatic again!).

    Sadly, even after 35 years, and after learning to take myself less seriously, i can't say I have the marriage I dreamed of. On the up side, I know my husband and I genuinely care for each other. I will often meet him on my drive to work–he's just checking on me. And when he's training a horse, I will hang around the corral to see if he needs my help—or an ambulance (it has happened!). Seriously, if I need somebody to be there, I can count on my husband. And I will be there for him.

    So, while we are completely different personalities, our commitment to each other has brought us a long way. We've learned to enjoy what we can together, and go our separate ways with the rest. I'm sure there is someone who thinks this sounds horrible, but it's not. We both just hung in there when things didn't turn out like we had hoped, and decided to make the best of the way things are.

    Do I think this is the answer for every marriage? Of course not.

    Everybody's story is different. That's why life, like this website, is so interesting.


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