Because of some confusion on how dangerous Roy might be, and because of some helpful comments, I’ve edited this post a bit. I hope it helps.
You’ll never believe the terrible state of my marriage. I was raised in a Christian family. My father and mother never fought. I wasn’t rebellious as a teen and my husband and I went through all the “proper” courtship process before getting married. Now, five years later, everything has fallen apart.
Roy, my husband, who was so loving and kind in the beginning has become rude, surly, and angry a lot of the time. The good thing is that he hasn’t hit me or the children, we don’t think we are in any danger. However, he gets really quiet and spends a lot of time working on his fly tying hobby in the basement. Every once in a while, he blows up and wowser, what a blow-up. He curses, yells, calls us all kinds of names, and throws things (never at anyone). We never know when he’s going to blow and what is going to cause it. We’re all walking on egg shells all the time.
Can you fix him? Can you help us?
Hurt & Confused
Dear Hurt etc.,
I’m sorry to hear about your situation. If it is any help to you, your letter voices some pretty common problems in a lot of marriages. People often expect everything in their life to smooth right out when they get married. Sometimes it is because they are finally getting away from their parents but now have a spouse. Sometimes they were in love and everything was going to be like that forever. There are a lot of reasons things can go from really great to really bad in just a few short years.
Before I go too far, you need to know that there isn’t anything I can do for Roy directly. The reason is that I’m not talking to him. I’m talking to you. I could tell you a number of things to pass on to him, but I’m pretty sure that would only make things worse for everyone. So, I won’t do that. What I will do, however, is give you some suggestions that will help you, even if Roy never changes.
Context is everything. I don’t know your context. I don’t know if you’re a great wife, your kids are all angels, you have a solid support network, your parents are supportive, but not assertive. I also understand that you are in a very difficult situation and have been for a while. I also understand that one letter isn’t going to solve all your problems and make everything right. However, I believe that I can give you some advice that will help you in your situation. So, here goes.
I believe it will help you to draw near to God. James tells us that when we draw near to God, he draws near to us (James 4:8). And you need God to be near you through these events. What God’s nearness will provide is a solid sense of purpose and soundness to your situation. God gives comfort in the midst of trials (2 Cor. 1:3-7). And you need comfort and a kind of understanding that you are not alone and that what you are going through is not senseless, useless, purposeless, and without end. God goes through these kinds of things with his people and you’re part of his people.
How do you draw near to God? A few things need to be acknowledged before I get into that. First, you can draw near to God. Knowing that you can is very important to whether you do. Many people don’t think they can draw near to God, and so they don’t. They just wander through life aimlessly. Second, not only can you draw near to God, he wants you to draw near to him. How do I know? Because he sent his only son to die in your place so that you could come to him. The reason most people don’t think they can come to God is because they are too evil or shameful to come. And they are correct. God won’t let people who are in rebellion against him come to him. And because rebellion earns death, there was no way for people to come to God. So, God sent his son to take the punishment that was due us. So, you can come because Jesus died in your place. Third, people in sin don’t want to come to God. They hate him and the last place they want to be is near the one they hate. Consequently, the fact that you do want to come should be a great comfort to you. People who can’t come, don’t want to anyway, and those who do want to come, can. So, come to Jesus. Draw near to God.
Now that we have the basis for our coming out of the way, how do you come to God in nuts and bolts kind of way? You begin by acknowledging what he’s done for you. You say something like, “Thank you God for sending Jesus to die in my place. I’m a horrible sinner, in need of forgiveness and cleansing. Thank you for giving me those things and for letting me come into your presence.” And viola, you have just come to God.
Now, what do you do? You should observe and put into practice a video I created about how to confess your sin. You can find it here. Next, you should find a Bible and begin reading it. I suggest you begin in The Gospel of Luke (you can find it in the Table of Contents). As you read, pay attention to Jesus. Notice how he is with people. Wonder why the unlovely people of his day flocked to him and why the leaders hated him. Ask God to transform you into someone who is like Jesus. Pay attention to what Jesus says and do what he says to do. You want to make it your goal to be like him. Notice his relationship with his father in heaven. Imitate that relationship as you relate to God.
Pay close attention to Luke 14,
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:25–33) .
What Jesus is calling us to, in this paragraph, is to think about who we are dealing with when we draw near to God. He is the creator of the universe. He is God; Lord of lords and King of kings. Allegiance to him is no trifling matter. As I said above, he sent his only son to take our punishment so that we could have this kind of relationship with him. Notice also, that he keeps using the word ‘disciple’. A disciple is someone who follows a teacher, who follows the leader in such a way that they identify with him and become like him. This is what you want as a Christian. You want to be like Christ. And this begins with total and absolute submission.
The good news is that the one to whom you are submitting loves you, cares for you, wants you to be near him, protects you, guides you in good ways. He is not a demon god. He is not looking for a reason to squash you and destroy you. He wants the best for you. He is on your side. Notice this verse, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28–30).
The reason I brought all this up is that now we are going to focus on your relationship with Roy. Remember that I said we can’t do anything for him because he isn’t with us in this discussion.
We need to talk about your relationship with Roy in the context of your new relationship with your God and Savior Jesus Christ. Remember, back in Luke 14, that you need to hate your husband in order to follow Jesus. In another passage (Mt. 10:37), Jesus explains this by saying that we need to hate other people in comparison to how we love him. So, we don’t hate the in the sense that we want to kill them, rather, we are to hate them in comparison to how we love God. So, if God tells you to do something and Roy tells you to do the opposite, you need to choose God and not your husband. This is why I would tell you that you may not sin, even if your husband tells you to.
This is important because the Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands. God says to submit to your husband (Eph. 5:22), but you may not submit if he tells you to do something that God has already said not to do. The reason you submit to your husband is because God tells you to, and he also says you may not sin. I hope this makes sense.
What if your husband isn’t asking you to sin, but is simply a mean, rude, obnoxious man? Let’s stop for a moment and discuss why this causes you so much trouble. It is natural to be hurt by someone in a position of authority because they should be protecting you. This kind of pain is normal and is one of the reasons you need to draw near to Christ for comfort. On the other hand, much of your pain may be due to your own pride. Is some of your pain because of your pride? Do these thoughts roar through your mind? “Roy is disrespectful and demanding, and who does he think he is telling me to do those things? He belittles me, makes fun of me, controls me, but doesn’t he know that I’m someone important? Doesn’t he know that I’m the center of the universe?” There is a sense in which, if you agreed with Roy that you are nothing, you wouldn’t mind being treated that way. You would think you deserved it; it is who you are and you are getting what people like you should be getting.
Here’s what you need to know. You are somebody, but not because you think so. You are somebody because God thinks highly of you. God’s son Jesus died for you to make you into somebody. But God wants you to submit to him first and he wants you to submit to your husband because God is God, not because Roy is. God wants you to rise above your situation and see that God is doing something on a higher plane. God is working through you in your husband to change him through you. But he can’t do this (at least not as quickly or efficiently) if you won’t be obedient to God first.
God will work in Roy’s life through your obedience to God and submission to Roy. How can I say such crazy things? Consider 1 Peter 3:1-6,
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:1–6).
This passage specifically tells us that a husband, who is not obeying the word, “may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they see your see your respectful and pure conduct.” Respectful and pure conduct begins by being respectful and pure towards God. A woman cannot treat her husband in this way if she doesn’t have the power of God in her to obey him first. This is why I started this letter with the basics of Christianity. You need to walk with God first. Then, by walking with God first, you will rise above your situation and rest in Christ for the good results. Do what God says, especially when he tells you what the outcome will be and that it is what you are looking for in the first place.
What does respectful and pure behavior look like? Peter gives us the first clue. It means becoming your husband’s greatest cheerleader. Praise him when he does anything well. Notice and comment on it when he is respectable in anything. Talk him up to the kids, friends, neighbors. Cook good meals, things he likes. Do all your wifely duties with joy and excitement. Be transformed into who you would be if he were the greatest husband on the planet. Remember, that you are doing this for Jesus Christ, the one who died for you, not for your husband (as if he were your lord). You have risen above your situation and you are serving Roy because you are serving God.
I would give one warning at this point. When a husband notices that his wife is being unusually kind and respectful, he might react by being even more belligerent and nasty. So, things might get worse before they get better. However, you should take this as a sign that God is at work in Roy, and instead of freaking out and running away (thinking that everything is backfiring), you should double down and be even more kind and gracious to him.
I hope this helps.