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QUESTION: Re Dealing With an Immoral, Irresponsible Mate

The following question comes to me via The Question Box on our congregation’s website, http://www.Plymouth-church.org where I answer questions. I share this, because I think it may be of general interest.

I know the bible says that the man is the head of the house & should be respected by the wife. What is a woman to do when her husband is immoral & irresponsible at times? I feel great guilt for the ill feelings that I have for my husband for his behavior. What advice does the bible give for this?

Things become very difficult whenever a wife loses respect for and trust in her husband – or vice versa. Part of your feelings toward him, no doubt, come because you feel trapped. It is normal for us to begin to resent anything that keeps us in what we perceive (and maybe rightly) as a trap.

The best advice I can give you is for you to follow Jesus. Peter in his first epistle spoke much of what we might term noble suffering. For example, he addressed slaves (not wives – though in the first century, many wives were almost treated as slaves):

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and yuou endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. – 1 Peter 2:18-23

In the next chapter, he does address wives.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. – 1 Peter 3:1-4

You did not tell me if your husband is a believer or not. If he is not a believer, this passage addresses your situation with one answer. There are also other possibilities. In 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, another apostle writes:

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? – 1 Corinthians 7:12-16

I understand “if the unbeliever leaves” to mean that he either leaves his wife completely for another woman or he refuses to live with his wife and her alone. That is, he is continually being unfaithful to her. In such cases, there is not much a believing wife can do – except to let him go. In this context, that would mean to divorce him. That is not the preferred solution, however. Both Peter and Paul advise living with the unbelieving husband in such a way that you might be able to bring him to know the Savior.

If he is a believer, there are other things you can do.

First, you can confront him for his behavior. 1 Peter 3:7 addresses these words to husbands:

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. – 1 Peter 3:7

If he is mistreating you, his behavior also affects his relationship with God so that he hinders his prayers. In fact, he is acting like an unbeliever. If you have confronted him, you can do as Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17

I would recommend taking a godly couple whom both of you respect and trust to be with you if you have to “take one or two with you.”

Your situation, as it is, is untenable. You need to do something to make it better – or you may find it necessary to get out of your present living arrangements with this man. I see nothing in Scripture that requires you to stay with an abusive, unfaithful husband. (Excessive irresponsible behavior is abusive.) Yes, the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, and she is to submit to him (see Ephesians 5:23-24). Yet, the next verses tell him what being “the head” means:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. – Ephesians 5:25-29

As your head, he is to love and cherish you as Christ loves and cares for His church, which is His body.

You will need to approach this matter with much prayer and with deep humility if it is to succeed. When you talk with your husband, you will need to go in the spirit of Galatians 6:1-5. You cannot succeed in it without a clear conviction that God is working in you and with you to make things better in your home.

I hope these suggestions will be of some benefit to you and that you will be able to work a change in your husband’s behavior as well as in your attitude toward him.

Please write to me again to let me know how you are doing.


One Response

  1. […] post:  QUESTION: Re Dealing With an Immoral, Irresponsible Mate … Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: father, gracious, heart-as-ever, Lord, possibilities, […]

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