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Q & A

Married to the Job, a Wayward Wife, and Malicious In-Laws

Q- Since we purchased a business two years ago, it has consumed more and more of my husband's time. Six days a week he is gone by seven a.m. and doesn't return home until midnight or later. Our kids are growing up without him, and I am desperately lonely. Should I urge him to sell the business?

A- Before you suggest selling the business, consider some alternatives. For starters, realize that your husband is working hard to support his family and make the business succeed. Not all men take those responsibilities seriously. So as you discuss a solution, I hope you'll focus on the business—not your husband—as the problem.

To help reduce the number of hours he is away from home, perhaps you and your children could help out with the business. That would reduce your husband's work stress and also would give you more time together.

At the same time, your husband should seek advice from a fellow professional. Something's wrong if he is working 17 hours a day. Perhaps another businessman could offer insights that would increase efficiency and reduce your husband's workload. When I was a pastor, our staff helped match businessmen with others who were willing to review their organizations. On two occasions this saved the businessmen's marriages, mental health and livelihood.

Meanwhile, even though you're lonely, try to support your husband. Several years ago, an Air Force study determined why some military kids go bad while others do so well. The essential factor turned out to be how supportive the military spouse, usually a wife, was. When a mother was routinely positive, saying things like, "Well, Daddy's protecting the free world. Without Daddy poor people would be run over by irresponsible or evil people," her children, despite the regular absence of their father, were much more likely to turn out well.

Eventually your family may have to sell the business. But first, see if you and your husband can make it work by making some changes and seeking outside advice.

Q- My wife and I married ahead of schedule because we were expecting a baby. In working hard to be a good provider and father, I neglected to be a sensitive husband. Years ago my wife had a close male friend. He recently left his wife, and now my wife says she doesn't love me anymore. She says she and this other guy are only friends, but she admitted kissing him. Is it possible to save a marriage when only one spouse wants to see it work?

A- You can't make your wife stay with you, but you must make your best effort in the areas of repentance and changed behavior, and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in your wife's life. You're starting at the right place by acknowledging your past inattentiveness. Maybe you've also felt trapped, like you backed into marriage. Talk about these things with your wife, and seek her forgiveness.

The next step is to court your wife again. This might feel hokey, but behaviors of kindness and courtesy will eventually become more natural between you. Also, tell your wife, "Honey, I want to do better at being your husband. What things about me irritate you?" This is tricky, too, because you must make a good-faith effort to right the wrongs.

Remember what you once had between you. Go back and fan that original spark! Start doing the things that worked for you in your early days together.

You ask if it's possible for only one spouse to "save a marriage." I think the Bible's direct teaching for those who are unequally yoked addresses this concern. If both partners in a relationship are deeply committed to Christ, they can work through virtually any problem. But in cases like yours, I see an inequality where one spouse seems to be committed to Christ as long as it doesn't upset her personal happiness, while the other is committed no matter how it might affect his personal happiness.

If your wife is convinced that Christ understands her unhappiness and will eventually overlook a sinful choice, there's little you can do to convince her otherwise. But your changed behavior might sway her. It might also help to seek out a third party—a pastor or other authority figure—who might help your wife realize that God wants her to honor her marriage vow.

No matter what happens, keep praying.

Q- After 12 years of marriage, my husband's family still makes cutting remarks about how he married beneath him. They blame me for any minor problems our family or kids have, and I can't take it anymore. My husband admits his family treats me badly, but he won't stand up to them. Is it inappropriate to exclude myself from family events?

A- Avoiding activities with your extended family for a time is a good idea—not just so you can avoid further hurts, but also to bring the conflict to a head.

Scripture seems to take two approaches regarding this type of problem. One biblical approach is that, when reviled or rejected by others, you "wipe the dust off your feet" and move on. The other approach is to "walk the second mile" or "turn the other cheek." I think you've already been walking that second mile, and martyrdom isn't working. Beyond that, you need your husband as an ally, not a silent observer.

The Bible says, "For this cause the man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his own wife." Your absence from family functions will force your husband to pay more attention to this dilemma. He needs to make it clear to his family that his loyalty is unequivocally yours. Perhaps it will help motivate him if he views his family's cruel behavior as a criticism of his own good judgment. After all, he chose you and loves you. He should stand by his decision.

Your absence from family functions will most likely provide further grist for their complaint mill. What actually might force a change in them would be your husband's absence from family functions. Ideally, he would show up without you and explain, "No, she isn't here. The reason she stayed home is not that she thinks you mistreat her, but that you do mistreat her. Your attitude toward her is wrong."

He could offer them a trade-off: "Unless you change your behavior toward my wife, you're not going to have me here either." He should identify specific ways of talking or behaving that must change. After being confronted by their son, I hope this family will respond with apologies, as well as some healing gestures toward you.

Jay Kesler is former president of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He is also formerly a pastor and served as president of Youth for Christ. Jay and his wife, Janie, have been married more than 50 years.

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

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Affair; Business; Family; Marriage; Marriage Struggles
Today's Christian Woman, Winter, 1997
Posted September 12, 2008

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