Q: I know my husband is smart and talented, but he can't seem to stick with a job. In the 11 years we've been married he's had six jobs, and we've moved four times. I sometimes feel like I'm married to a kid who can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. I don't want to be a nag, but can I help my husband settle on one career so we can stay put?
A: It is, of course, conceivable that one man could end up in six bad job situations that were untenable or unfair. But considering the frequency, it would be good to investigate the real reasons behind your husband's job changes. It's great that you can see his talents—your husband needs exactly that kind of support. But your mate's co-workers and bosses, who don't love him as you do, may see things you're not aware of.
Several things could be causing your husband to experience career upheaval. First, incompetence. It could be that his job performance has failed to meet the standard.
A second possibility is that your husband is good at performing required tasks, but lacks the people skills that would make him a success. If that's the case, you can help him work on how he relates with others to succeed in an office environment.
A third reason that people tend to change jobs is boredom. Perhaps your husband is so competent and smart, and the jobs he's taking are so routine, that he reaches a point where he can't take it anymore.
A fourth possibility is that your husband is a guy with a restless, "don't fence me in" spirit. Some people actually enjoy frequent moves.
No matter what the cause, your husband's job-changing pattern has gone on long enough. Talk with him seriously about these four possibilities. Also, consider spending some time and money on aptitude testing and vocational counseling that could point him toward work that would suit his personality and skills. When you talk about this, include yourself in the solution, so your discussion will feel less threatening to your husband: "Let's get some professional assistance to figure out what we can do to help make us more satisfied."
Q: I became a Christian soon after we got married. My husband was pleased since he'd gotten saved as a teenager, but I'm much more excited about growing in my faith than he is. In fact, now that I'm trying to teach our children Christian beliefs and values, my husband thinks I'm too fanatical. It's a constant sore spot between us. What should I do?
A: You're in a tough, but unfortunately common, situation. There seem to be only two really tenable positions: either you believe in God or you don't. Intellectually speaking, being lukewarm on the matter of God makes no sense. It's foolishness to say, "I believe in God, but not enough to be interested in him or in what he wants for my life."
So you may have to consider the possibility that your husband does not have a living faith in God, despite his childhood commitment. Only God can judge whether he is a believer or not, of course. But the fact that he's stopping halfway in his commitment to the Lord and that he's irritated by evidence of your spiritual vitality says something about his spiritual condition. I encourage you to begin praying for your husband's salvation right away. In a sense, you'll begin to live your life as a Christian married to an unbeliever.
But as a wife, it's fair for you to confront your husband in the area of intellectual and spiritual honesty: "Are you really a Christian? Do you really believe this stuff beyond just polite acquiescence? Because if there is a God and we're God's creation, then teaching our children to know him well would be the most natural thing we'd ever do."
Be prepared for your challenge to provoke some anger and resentment. But if your husband can be honest with himself, he'll have to admit something is wrong with his in-between reasoning. Some sort of conversion or spiritual recommitment will probably be necessary before he can be your partner in living together as genuine believers.
Q: For the past two years of our seven-year marriage we've been dealing with the fallout from my husband's addiction to pornography. He had counseling and now he claims to be over it, but I feel like I can't trust him. I get paranoid if he even looks at certain TV commercials for too long. I'm wondering if I can ever trust him again and if I should.
A: Do you have any reason not to trust him? Think carefully to see if there is any real evidence to support your feelings of mistrust. Did you find some pornographic literature or receipts for questionable purchases? Are there unaccounted for periods of time in your husband's schedule? If there is hard evidence, you may have reason to confront him.
But if there are no strong signals that he's fallen back into old patterns of addiction, I urge you to resist with your whole heart the temptation to doubt him. Your trust in his renewed commitment to purity is crucial to his success. And your fears can discourage him to the point of feeling, "If that's what she thinks of me, I may as well go ahead!"
So be supportive and give him the gift of your confidence. If he'll let you take the role of accountability partner, agree that you can "check up" on how he's doing every week or two and ask gently, "Are you still doing okay?" or "Has this been a tough week for temptation?"
If you're still struggling with believing he's steering clear of old behaviors, talk with him about it. Perhaps he would take the further step of joining an accountability group. In many churches, men form groups to help one another avoid sexual temptation.
As you bring your fears out into the open, you can pray together, asking God to continue giving your husband strength and courage in the face of temptation and to give you confidence and trust in your spouse.
Jay Kesler is president of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He was formerly a pastor and also served as president of Youth for Christ.
Jay is not able to respond personally to readers' letters. But if you have a marriage question you'd like him to address in this column, send your question to:
Q & A
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Carol Stream, IL 60188
Time to Try Something New
We need your help in launching a new regular feature in Marriage Partnership.
The new column will show how couples use teamwork and decision-making skills to make needed adjustments in their marriages. In each issue, we'll feature a different couple telling how they settled on a goal and then worked together to achieve it.
If you have a story to tell, let us know—in 500 words or less—what steps you took and what decision-making principles you followed in dealing with issues such as:
- Changing careers or accepting a job transfer
- Deciding to go back to school
- Agreeing to have another child
- Simplifying your lifestyle
- Developing a family financial plan
- Committing to a new ministry
We'll pay $50 for each usable story. Send your story, along with your name, address and daytime phone number, to:
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1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.