Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at [email protected].
Dear Dr. David,
I don't know if I need help or a way out. I have been married to my husband for nine years and have come to dislike him. When we met he told me he wanted a marriage where he could be the man God meant for him to be. I was impressed and naive at the same time. I was a single mother of two when we got married. Soon after I found out things about him I would have never imagined he could do. It started with his addiction to alcohol which he hid during the two years we were dating.
In the beginning he was having a hard time, so I supported him as well as I could emotionally. He ignored my effort to love and pray him through this. By the third year I felt like I had been tricked by the wolf in sheep's clothing. Every year got worse and my patience and love were waning.
In the last three years I left to live with my mother twice. The last time I came back, I found out that he had a female friend calling the house the night I came back. He says he has not committed adultery, but I don't believe him. He has lied so many times about changing his life, I felt I could not trust him. He stated he wants to reconcile, but I am not very interested. I pray but haven’t gotten an answer or don't recognize it. ~ Feeling Tricked
It is certainly not hard to understand why you no longer like this man. And while I’m truly sorry you are hurting, I can’t help but wonder how much of this problem you’ve brought upon yourself. You note that you were “impressed and naïve,” which is easy to understand. When we want something, or someone, we see what we want to see—this is called naiveté. All of us have been overly impressed and attracted to something or someone, setting the stage to be fooled.
The Apostle James, however, says we are tempted by our own desires, and then “after desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin.” (James 1: 14) Is it possible that you were anxious to see something in this man that wasn’t really there?
You also indicate that he hid his alcoholism from you for two years. Again, while this is certainly possible, I suspect there were plenty of signs you didn’t want to see. An alcoholic, and any addict for that matter, has character traits that can be detected. Again, perhaps your lack of experience, and denial, caused you not to see the warning signs.
You write that you separated twice. Did you insist on counseling so that your marriage would change? While setting boundaries by leaving is a start, returning without significant change is naïve. How could he be anything different than when you left if there was no intervention in the interim? You must insist on change, and have a definite plan for how those changes are going to take place.
Finally, you mention distrusting your husband regarding his fidelity. Distrust, in this case, sounds warranted. Here you’ve listened to your heart and senses, and this sounds like the beginning of wisdom. “Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” (Proverbs 17:24)
Again, stop doing things the way you’ve always done them. This is naïve, foolish and will only lead to heartache. As I suggest in my book, When Trying to Change Him is Hurting You, we cannot expect our mate to change unless we change how we interact with them. Insist on counseling to address the myriad problems which exist in your marriage. While things can be different, you must change the way you interact. You must seek help for your codependency, (desire to see things the way you want them to be,) set healthy boundaries, and seek intervention for your husband’s addiction and likely unfaithfulness. With these changes, you will be able to view your marriage from a stronger perspective.
Dear Dr. David,
My wife and I were recently reunited and remarried after a year and a half apart. She divorced me because of issues that I had with pornography and she was having an affair with a coworker. We tried counseling, but divorced, remaining friends because of our daughter. As time has gone on, we began spending more and more time together and were remarried one week ago today.
I didn’t fully know what to expect but knew that things wouldn't be smooth instantaneously. I had some inkling that something had gone on while we were separated/divorced but never asked the question directly. But last night, she told me that she had been with this same married coworker on several different occasions. So now I am faced with fear and anger that she got sexually involved with me and didn't think to tell me before we got married.
Recently my wife told me that she still has feelings for him, but knows that getting back with me is what is right. However, she calls him because she wants to know if there is any reason why we should be tested for STD’s. I heard her tell him she was sorry that she hurt his feelings, but didn't know why it was such a big deal. My wife doesn't want to hurt his feelings, but I’m the one who takes all of the pain and is supposed to function as if nothing has happened. I feel scared, weak and betrayed, and am unsure how to handle this situation. ~ Betrayed
Your letter indicates that it has not at all been easy, and you’ve overcome many obstacles to get to where you are. There are still more hurdles to overcome.
You and your wife have courageously shared secrets with one another. With all of them out in the open, they cannot continue to haunt you. You can now choose how to effectively deal with them, as I’m sure you will do.
Your biggest concern, understandably, is your wife’s ongoing relationship with her previous involvement. I concur heartily that this is unwise, and opens the door for trouble. Not only does it flaunt her past in front of you, keeping your wound open, but she leaves herself open to further infatuations and enticements.
Regarding testing for STDs, you would be wise to proceed with the testing so you can move forward, ending needless speculation.
Finally, I strongly encourage you to insist she end this friendship. Let her know how painful it is to you to have her carry on this friendship, and insist that you both resume counseling to learn how to set healthier boundaries in your marriage. Please read my book, When Pleasing Others is Hurting You for more information on healthy boundaries in marriage, and God bless you both as you strive to reconcile completely.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.