In the circles I move in, I often encounter women who are decidedly more spiritual than their husbands. This leads to a very common problem of “how do I get my husband to ‘get it'” Men of course experience this same problem, but in general feel less constrained when it occurs. For a woman, however, it can really be a huge burden. Because I encounter this so much I wanted to take a few minutes to give some practical advice.
First, Not all ‘unspiritual’ Husbands are the same. Here are a few of the profiles that I have encountered.
Christian but not so Charismatic
This husband is usually a really great guy. He is a good father, but he doesn’t ‘get’ why you are so excited about gold dust or prophetic meetings, or fill in the blank. First of all, if this is your husband, thank Jesus before you go to bed tonight for what a wonderful man he gave you. The fact that he doesn’t ‘get it’, is may be a two way street. He is turned off by something that seems flighty or irrational. You have found something good that you both need, but he is never going to get it if you are floating around on a cloud and accusing him of being unspiritual. Help him to see Jesus in what you are doing, and he will want it.
This is probably the most common profile of all. Your husband goes to church with you, but it’s not really ‘his thing.’ Like the truly Christian husband, he is probably not a bad guy overall, but in this case, he is probably less threatened than just plain disinterested in your thing. He is probably mildly critical toward you, but overall not a bad guy.
If your husband has an addiction, it’s going to cause a lot of stress on your marriage. There are a few things to understand. First, he probably genuinely loves you. Addiction is powerful and drives you to do things you would never otherwise do. Secondly, you have to put your foot down against his addictive behavior. Wives of addicts tend to enable their husbands and it just gets worse and worse. You need to say ‘no’ and expect him to change, or there will be consequences. Third, if it’s a porn addiction specifically, recognize that it really does have nothing to do with you or how you look. A lot of wives totally melt down over this and judge their husbands in a way that is not helpful. How would you want him to react to you having an eating disorder? You should treat it the same way.
Abusive Religious Husband
This is a rare profile, but it does exist. Your husband has become attracted to something really unhealthy and gotten a lot of really bad ideas about women being silent in church, etc. This leads to him treating you in ways in your marriage that make you feel dehumanized — essentially a form of spiritual abuse. If this is your husband, you need to realize that you don’t have a marriage problem, you have a religious abuse problem. You are going to have to stand your ground against him and pray that he repents.
OK, so what are the ways to get out of these situations? Well each is different, but here are a few principles you will need regardless of who he is. Love does win, and so if you want to win your husband back, you will have to find a deeper kind of love, and here are a some pieces. I’m going to serve a bit of overly-frank advice to help you, because it’s hard to get in person. If you do all six of these things, you will see him move.
1. Mercy. If you are judging your husband for not being nice enough or being a sex addict, or whatever his weaknesses are, you may get to feel holy about yourself, but you are part of the problem. You need a true heart of love for him. Love is not about baking cookies on his birthday, it’s about caring about his soul when he is not doing well. My wife has always been there for me in this way, and it’s a big reason why I’ve survived as far as I have. It may be hard for you to have mercy because you feel vulnerable and like he has all of the cards, but this often feels more exaggerated than it actually is. Love wins.
2. Stand up to his sin. I mean the serious stuff here. I’m talking about if he is staying up all night long doing who knows what, or not coming home on weekends, or has secret chats, or fill in the blank. Draw the line. Tell him you love him but he is violating your marriage, and you and the kids will be at your moms until he decides to get a grip. I can tell you for a fact, that most men when faced with the choice of losing their wife and kids even for a night, will sober up something fierce. When you pull the Divorce card first, you are hurting you, your children and him in ways that are often unnecessary. Use the leverage you have to say no. There are other steps in between as well. Sleeping on the couch is huge downer too.
3. Don’t blow it out of proportion On the other hand, I have seen many wives who for the sake of sympathy really blow the situation out of proportion. Accusing your husband of being a pedophile because you found porn on his computer isn’t helpful. Accusing him of being an abuser because he wrestled you to the ground after you came after him with scissors isn’t honest. Accusing him of being unloving because he wasn’t nice enough to you about opening the car door is being high maintenance. You might have girlfriends that will cheer you for how bad that SOB is, but if you care about your marriage, you will start putting things into proper perspective. I should also add that in female communication terms, most men are what women would consider mildly critical. If he isn’t nice about your salad, that doesn’t mean it’s time for him to get therapy.
4. Say Less. The Scripture teaches wives to “win their husbands without a word.” This is piece of counsel, seems on the surface to mean “allow him to abuse you and he will come around” but that’s not what it means at all. It’s actually a very shrewd piece of wisdom that will work. The reason why has to do with the differences between men and women and the structure of why we are attracted. Men are attracted because a woman sends some kind of submissive signals. When you start lecturing him and telling him what to do, he is guaranteed to shut down. When you become a good listener, he is more likely to open up to you and care what you have to say. If you are trying to bring him around, that means you are in a posture where he might not do as much listening to your things as you would hope, and you need to turn the tables. The more you listen to him and make him feel affirmed, the more he is going to be receptive to the direction you are sensing. Which gets to
5. Respect Him. Even if he is in no way living up to the kind of leader you wish he were, you need to show him respect. Respect is one of the key things a man needs from you. In the same way you need him to find you attractive, he needs you to find him competent. How would you feel if your husband called you fat? Well that’s about how he feels when you deride his competence. You have to find ways to reinforce what he can do, even if you need to speak prophetically about it. After all, you never let him tell you how you REALLY look in that dress, do you? When you start expressing the spiritual leadership by going to a bunch of conferences, this is going to make him feel insecure and like less of a leader
6. Don’t be super-spiritual. Bragging about your visit to the third heaven is not going to win your husband back, it’s going to make him think you are flighty. You need to treat it more like an evangelism situation. Share with him in a way that shows you love him and respect where he is coming from. Some things that happen or that you see may just be between you and God for now. Don’t let your insecurity force you into making him feel less than because he hasn’t had these experiences. Let him in at the level that he is able to digest, and be thankful when he takes a step forward with you. Some of the behaviors in the Charismatic movement are much more offputting to men than they are to women and so be patient.