A woman who is married to a difficult man wonders where it all went so wrong. She may ask, "How did I miss these obvious signs he is a control freak?", "How did I not see how selfish she is?" She wonders what mood he will be in today, and if the fighting will start right away when he gets out of bed. They tip-toe around their husband to avoid getting them angry and upset. They long for a nice day without an argument, a meal without a complaint. These women cringe when they see the signs they have come to know so well that husband is sporting for a fight. Sometimes wives use sex or alcohol or sleep to manipulate the situation or avoid them.
Women married to difficult men often tell me they feel like a doormat or they feel like his maid and servant. They battle within themselves to be good and godly wives and mothers and struggle with the indignity of their position in the home.
One woman told me that her husband does not talk to her. Theirs was once a loving marriage and over the years they became distant and now he barely speaks to her at all. It is so bad that she found out about a family function via email and did not think she was invited because her husband never told her about it! They take separate vacations now, he goes on a cruise, she visits family. Still, she is provided for. All her material wants are there, she does not work outside the home, but she is desperately lonely. She lives in an emotional vacuum.
Loving the difficult husband means holding them accountable for their sin, even while you fear their retribution, retaliation and rage. It means that you reverence God, and fear Him so much you cannot allow these sinful behaviors to continue without confrontation. This is an act of sacrifice on your part. Because many times it means that you bear the brunt of their anger after the fact. Often there are threats issued from this person to withhold financial support (“You better start figuring out a way to support yourself” “If you do that, then I won’t allow the kids to attend Christian school”) emotional support, (“I am too busy to listen to you.” “I don’t have time for your constant whining about this, you make a big deal out of nothing.”) They may threaten to move out, or pack your things and leave them on the porch or throw them on the lawn for all the neighbors to see.
When you love someone enough to hold them accountable for their sin, they will usually express indignation and self-righteousness often shifting the blame for their sinful actions onto you. There is fear on your part as you really don’t know if this will accomplish anything that is good, while upsetting things on a monumental scale.
One of the most difficult aspects of the church’s involvement is the time that it takes for this to play out. You have already been living in this difficult situation for quite some time, and when the church leadership becomes involved we mistakenly think this hastens the process. Usually this is not the case.
If you are the spouse of a very difficult husband, and have brought this to the attention of your church leaders I would ask you to be patient with them. While you have been dealing with the moods, the lies and deception, and angry outburst and unrepentant heart for a long time, this may be the first your leadership has heard of it. They need to gather the facts in your case. There may be individual counseling that takes place with your spouse and couples counseling also.
Because the goal of all church discipline is restorative, your spouse will be given every opportunity to repent and turn from his or her sin. This may seem like an agonizingly slow process for you. I would encourage you to remember that the timing is in the hands of our loving, sovereign God who knows the end from the beginning. His desire is that your spouse repents, turn from his or her wicked ways and begin to walk worthy of the calling they have received.
The counseling should be directed at heart change, not simply behavior change. What God desires is change that lasts, and this is only possible with change in the inner man, what the Bible calls the heart. To be satisfied with simple behavior change is to stunt the process of true biblical change and is a guarantee that the former behavior will return one day.
Many spouses we counsel want results from the church leadership in a matter of weeks. It is unrealistic to place such a burden on them. They are charged with a holy obligation to sort out the facts in each case, listen to both sides of the story, and help you both in assigning your own responsibility for the failures in your marriage. Only then can you both see where change needs to take place in your own heart.