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Q & A

My Husband Got Fired Again

Q. I have been with my husband for almost ten years. He changed his career within the last two years to the computer industry. Since then, he hasn't held down a job. This year alone, he has had three different jobs. He either quits or they end up firing him. I have always been the breadwinner in the family, and I keep trying to support him, but deep down inside I am losing respect for him. I've tried bringing it up in both subtle and direct ways. Neither works. The conversation only gets turned around and he ends up angry and not talking to me. He just got fired again last week. He's showing no initiative to find a job and is taking naps with the kids every day. I'm not sure how much longer I can take this. I love my husband with all my heart, and I just want to resolve this problem.

A. It's confusing and frustrating when you try to be faithful, you try to do what is right and nothing changes. It's understandable that you are weary and losing respect for him. He has probably lost a lot of respect for himself. You don't want to "mother" your husband but in some ways that's the situation you find yourself in. It's sounds like if you try to make some changes you get in trouble and if you do nothing the situation remains the same.

Unemployment, especially for long periods of time, produces many confusing and conflicting emotions for both husbands and wives and can be destructive to a relationship. In our experience one of the core emotions that emerges is fear. Men and women share many of the same fears, but there are also some significant differences. Women's fears often revolve around isolation, loss of support, and abandonment. Men are likely to fear anything that may make them look like less of a man. Unemployment certainly is one of them. These fears are heightened when men sense criticism, disapproval, rejection, humiliation, or exposure of their weaknesses.

The longer a problem continues the more difficult it is to change. The deeper the rut the harder it is to get out of it. The encouraging news is that you still love your husband and want to resolve this problem.

It's clear that what you've done so far hasn't worked, and so we would encourage you to start by getting a sheet of paper and folding it in half. On one side make a list of everything you have done that hasn't worked. On the other side make a list of things you haven't done but that have crossed your mind, that some of your friends have suggested, or that you may have heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper in your ear. You might even take the list to your pastor to look over. At this stage don't eliminate anything because it seems too radical. Your situation may require some radical action.

Now, find a couple of women whom you know who are women of prayer and ask them to pray with you every day for the next thirty days about what God might have you to do. Ask them to, at least once a day, take their copy of the list out, look at it, pray over each option, and note any insights or ideas that come to mind. At the end of the thirty days get together with these trusted friends and share together what God has shown you. You may be surprised at the results.

Here are a few additional suggestions that others have found helpful. Sit down and write him a letter that you may or may not send. In the letter express your love, your hope, your deepest heart's desire for the possibilities for his life and your marriage. Also clearly communicate your despair, discouragement, and frustration. Put your sense of hopelessness and helplessness into words. Let him know just how serious the situation has become.

If you decide to share it with him it would be best to give the letter to him and let him process it before discussing it. When you do discuss it be careful to avoid speaking for him or at him. Use "I" more than you "you." Also, watch out for the subtle trap of over-generalizations such as, "You always" or "You never." The more he senses your disapproval the more his failure focus kicks in and the less motivated he will be.

Suggestions for him would include taking a personality inventory such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or a career inventory such as the Strong-Campbell to explore some new hope-giving options. He could take classes on finding the right career. He could begin to meet with some men in his church for discipleship who could encourage him, give him some hope and motivation, and perhaps even have some connections for a job.

We would encourage you as a couple to find a small group to be a part of, intentionally encourage each other, seek wise counsel, let your friends help you, focus on the positive things (Philippians 4:8), read the Psalms (Psalms 40:1-3 is a great place to start), find friends you can trust, develop a daily routine including physical exercise, and remember that meaningfully change usually takes time. Once you've done these things, remember. Don't focus on what you can't change. Dwell on what you, with God's help, can change.

I've Never Really Loved My Husband

Q. I have been married for thirteen years and have four wonderful sons. The problem is that I have never really loved my husband. I married him spontaneously when I was very young. I had been unfaithful to him numerous times before I became a Christian. He is a nice man, but I feel as though I am living a lie. He recently was ordained as a pastor, and we have a small youth ministry together. I feel trapped in my existence. What should I do?

A. The fact that you have been married for thirteen years and have four great sons is no small accomplishment. Apparently there are a number of things that you and your husband have done that are healthy and good. There is nothing wrong with wanting to "feel" in love. God invented love. He created us with the ability to experience love on every level.

Your question suggests that you may have some erroneous assumptions and misperceptions about love and marriage. What is love? How do you define love? Where did you get your definition of love? For many people love is similar to the feeling of being infatuated. That thrilling and exciting rush of romantic love. You know, the kind that happens on the Titanic right before the ship sinks. For them love can be defined as a feeling that you feel when you feel that you're going to feel a feeling that you never felt before.

Perhaps one of your assumptions is that if you had been in love with your husband when you married him you'd have the perfect marriage now. Feelings of love come and go. Many couples who started their relationship passionately in love with each other do, over time, "fall out of love." They get older, their partner's body changes, kids come, there are emotional changes and after ten or fifteen years it's easy to fantasize about something different, something better, someone who is better looking and more exciting.

On a short-term basis it feels great. But it doesn't last. Many heartbroken women have told me that a good man, an honorable man, a man of character and integrity, a dependable man who loves his wife and his kids, a man who loves the Lord and desires to learn and grow, is a whole lot better than one for whom commitment is a dirty word.

Just as good marriages go bad, so can bad marriages go good! In 1988 a survey of 13,000 asked couples to rate their marriage on scale from very unhappy to very happy. Five years later, of those couples who had rated their marriage as very unhappy but had stayed together and worked on the relationship, 86% said they were happy or quite happy. We believe that once you are married the person you are married to is the "right" person.

Over the years I have worked with many women who have expressed concerns similar to yours. One of the first steps is to step back and take a look at what true love really is. The best definition of love comes from I Corinthians 13, and the best summary of that classic chapter says that, "Real love involves an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person." Feelings of love come and go, but the deepest kind of love can be cultivated in the soil of commitment.

We want to encourage you to take some time to learn what real love looks like. In the Love-Life book and tapes, Dr. Ed Wheat talks about different New Testament words for love. Each reflects a different dimension of this God-given emotion. As you ask for God's wisdom and direction, as you seek to be faithful, God will help you cultivate the kind of love relationship that will be rich and full and last a lifetime. mp

Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D., is the author of numerous books and is executive director of the Center for Marriage and Family Studies and Professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Carrie Oliver, M.A., is a clinical therapist at the PeopleCARE Clinics, specializing in marriage and family and women's issues. She is a seminar leader and co-author, with Gary, of Raising Sons … and Loving It! The Olivers have three sons.

We are not able to respond personally to readers' letters. But if you have a marriage question you'd like us to address in this column, send your question to:

Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Or e-mail your questions to: mp@marriagepartnership.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Love; Marriage; Work
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2001
Posted September 30, 2008

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