Few things hurt my heart as much as hearing these statements from sad housewives:
“I feel like a widow.”
“I’m practically raising my children myself, and I am so lonely.”
“My husband works long hours. When he is home, he is busy with his hobbies and things and doesn’t have time for the family.”
The standard answer given to these Christian ladies is that they need to work on being submissive, accepting and sweet. They are handed advice on how to improve themselves to make themselves more lovable. Write sweet notes to your husband and leave them in his lunch box! Greet him cheerfully when he comes home! Always say yes in the bedroom! Be his biggest supporter!
While love is indeed sacrificial, looking to the interests of others above ourselves, a healthy marriage was never intended to be solely the woman’s job. No woman can bear that kind of burden.
Marriage and family is a team effort, and if it’s not happening that way, it’s an aberration of what God intended for the family. Instead of trying to resign yourself to the substandard situation, look for ways to heal the things that drive it.
And no, I am not an unhappy stay-at-home mom rattling her chains. I love staying at home with my family. But I am also passionate about cultivating a happy marriage that is beneficial for everyone involved.
What should women do when they feel trapped and alone because their husbands are constantly absent, physically or emotionally? How should women handle their thoughts and feelings when they are desperately lonely?
Several things have been stirring in my mind in regards to these questions, and I’m writing them here not intending for you to feel like you have yet another to-do list. Take or leave it as it feels right for you.
Ask God for insight, then actively pray about what you hear. We are in a spiritual battle, and something as beautiful as marriage is inevitably targeted. Don’t play into that with a blind acceptance. Ask God to show you connections between the spiritual and physical world in your experience, and pray into that.
Is your husband operating out of lies that he believes about himself? Many times a place of unresolved pain in our hearts causes us to believe things that affect how we live. Pray against the lies that he might be believing–perhaps that he has to work constantly to be a good provider, or that his worth is based on getting top grades in grad school, or that his manhood depends on his skill in hunting or sports, or that his identity is based on the success of his business.
Also, you can ask God if this situation is temporary, (“My husband needs to finish a couple more years of school and then our schedule will be much easier.”) or if working all the time is an addiction. If it is an addiction, nothing short of the work of the Holy Spirit will change that pattern.
This is not about putting on super-spiritual airs and being demeaning, but about finding out the heart of God for you and your husband. As women, we can feel a lot of pressure from others to be loving and romantic. But sometimes those “loving” acts are just smoothing over a festering wound rather than going deep and cleaning it out.
You have a valuable voice. Use it. Something breaks within me when I see women trapped in silence. Women, please, don’t wait to communicate. I’m not talking about being sneering, bossy, or belittling. I’m talking about graciously speaking up about what burdens your heart. How can you expect your husband to work as a team with you if you don’t communicate?
Women who are quietly manipulative, hiding their tricks under a silky-smooth “meek Christian woman” veneer aren’t going to do anything good for the marriage. Instead of being silent and trying to accomplish what you want in an underhanded way, just speak up, kindly and reasonably.
If you can be calm and sensible during moments of tension, you have a greater chance of being heard. Of course we all want to be loved enough to be heard even when we are ranting, but an emotional tirade can easily come across as a personal attack. Take a few breaths, slow yourself down, and present your case logically.
Be willing to lower your standard of living. If you want your husband at home more, you might have to give up your ideas of a nice home, nice vehicle, and nice vacations. Don’t bother complaining about your husband working incessantly if you cheerfully spend all the money you can get your hands on. Most of us can live happy, fulfilled lives on much less if we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the marriage and family.
The willingness to lower a standard of living only comes when we refuse the spirit of fear. When my husband first talked about quitting his teaching job and starting his own construction business, it scared me. Of course we weren’t drawing a huge salary on his teaching job, but the paychecks were consistent and ample enough for us. Going to an unknown income was frightening for me.
However, school teaching was a stressful job, and every year I thought I was almost going to die during the last few months of school. Will finally quit, started his own business, and I had my husband again. I would never, never want to go back to life as it was before.
Get periodic soul-care. Every couple needs regular soul-care to stay connected and healthy. I believe counseling should be part of normal Christian growth. I don’t know why such an aversion to counseling exists–to me, counseling is not so much about seeking advice as it is about healing and connecting with Jesus in painful places. This healing enables us to relate as a couple in a more whole, healthy way.
Every once in a while, Will and I look at each other and say, “We need some spiritual help again.” Sometimes the process feels a bit like going to the dentist–I dread it because I know it will hurt and not be fun at all. But when the aching is fixed and the soreness healed, the relief is immense.
These suggestions might all sound too tidy and unrealistic–and I know that real life is a messy, complicated tangle. Yet in my own experience I’ve found so much help through praying, communicating, being willing to live with less, and getting counseling.
Above all else, seek Jesus. I believe that He is also fighting for our marriages, and He can help turn our husbands’ hearts toward home.