Is your bride’s faith slipping?

November 14, 2010

in Marriage Killer, Shared walk, YOU4HER

I was going through some old e-mails I have not been able to reply to1, and came across two that were very. From different guys, months apart, but frighteningly alike. Over the years, I have received a dozen or more similar e-mails. They go something like this:

My wife wants a divorce. Says she no longer loves me. [Some say she’s not sure she ever did.] Says she is unhappy. Says she’s not sure she still believes in God. – or – Say’s God is no longer important or relevant to her life.

This one is particularity painful to me because twice in my life I have seen it played out up close with people to whom I was very close. In both of those situations, and the one’s I have seen by e-mail, the wife made her decision before the husband had a clue it was coming. Usually the guy knows something is off, but he’s not sure what, and questions don’t get real answers.

At first, these incidents seem age related, but I think they are actually more related to significant changes in a woman’s life as her children mature. A very common time for this is when all the kids have move beyond elementary school. It’s also common when the last child enters elementary school, and when the woman knows she will birth no more children. As the needs of her children change and diminish, there is a sudden hole. She is no longer needed as much as she has been, and she has a growing amount of time on her hands. A search for relevance, importance, and usefulness is understandable at this point in a woman’s life – but it’s also dangerous if she is not well grounded in her faith, or has a strong voice leading her elsewhere.

It’s easy to understand why a woman might come to see her marriage and/or her children as the problem, as a limitation that needs to be shed to become all that she was meant to be. In her mind, choices that she was a part of become something forced on her by her husband or motherhood, or circumstance. Her marriage, and family, become the scapegoats – allowing her to distance herself from the part she willingly played in who she has become. It must feel easier to “start over” than to try and fix a situation she no longer wants.

Which comes first, the desire to divorce, or the “loss” of scriptural morals that would prevent one from divorcing out of nothing more than boredom? I suspect that in most cases the two develop gradually, and both are well progressed before either becomes a runaway train that can only bring destruction. Thing is, the changes in spiritual beliefs are probably more noticeable than the changes in marital feelings. It’s usually more about what she does not do, what she stops doing. Loss of interest in church groups and activities. Running late when she never did before, and only for church things. More “schedule conflicts” with church activities. Less or no Bible reading (if she was once regular about this) or a change in what she is reading towards new age or other non-Christian religious ideas.

If a husband sees the signs soon enough, can he stop what will become a loss of faith and a desire to divorce? Probably not always, but I think it can be done in many cases. Recognise the changes as symptoms, not the real problem. The real issue is a deep dissatisfaction that she probably can’t grasp, much less verbalise. She needs to matter, she needs to have significance, and she needs to feel she is doing something bigger than she is. Help her to do this, and the symptoms should go away. Show her that what she has now grow to meet her needs. Convince her by your actions that you are prepared to make changes and sacrifices to build a marriage and a family that she feels is worth her time and able to make her feel fulfilled. If she wants to go back to school, or get some other form of training, be all for it. If she wants to start a business, ask how you can help. If she wants to throw herself into a non-profit, start doing jail ministry, or do short-term missions work, look for ways that it can happen. Be a real sounding-board, not a naysayer looking for reasons she should not follow her dreams.

Please use the comments to add your thoughts. I’d especially like to hear from any of you who have avoided this scenario going to maturity.

1 I apologise to all of you who have written and not heard back from me. The e-mails greatly exceed my time, and sometimes I don’t even get them all read. It is my hope and prayer that we have reached a place of a bit less business so I can read and reply to more e-mails.

Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:

Anonymous8

What Savvy Women Consider Sexy: Real women telling us what they find sexy. SWEET!


Better Husbands and Fathers

Date Your Wife: Blizzards!: Great low cost date idea.


Happily Married After

Retreat: Thank you David for reminding us that retreating from marriage problems is a bad plan.
Holidays and In-Laws: Excellent post, and a MUST READ if you have any family that expects you to visit during the holidays.
Still Accountable: “Regardless of the traceable origins of your behavior… you are STILL held ACCOUNTABLE for what you do. Regardless of the traceable origins of your behavior… you are STILL held ACCOUNTABLE for what you do.” [David L Patric] Yes and AMEN!


Intimacy in Marriage

Some Orgasms You Have to Work Very Hard For: Thank you Julie for posting on a very important sexual subject that goes unmentioned too often. If your bride’s lack of orgasm is not as much a concern to you as it would be if you failed to climax, something is wrong!


Journey to Surrender

The Hard Reality of a One-sided Journey: This one is for those of you who feel you are the only one in the marriage who is trying.


Marriage Gems

Low Conflict Does Not Equate with Great Long-Term Marriage: Lori Lowe has a great write up of various research which shows that avoiding conflict is a marriage killer.
The 5 Marriage Types and Their Risk of Divorce: An interesting article which includes the fact that traditional marriage have the lowest divorce rate
Happy Relationships Create a Fountain of Youth: Looks like I am going to live a very long time! ;-)


The Marry Blogger

What I learned in Traffic School: Resisting vs. Non-Resisting: Another good marriage tip from driving class. (Almost glad he got that ticket!)


One Flesh Marriage

Finish Line!!! and Negatives of the 10-Day Challenge???!?!?!?! : Two good “debriefing” posts for those who tried the 10 day sex challenge.


Project M

Trouble in Paradise, a.k.a. You Can’t Solve Your Marriage Problems by Moving to Paradise: A very good guest post which tells us that “Changing your location or the things you own may put off relationship problems for a little while, but they don’t solve them.” Don’t think it would be better “if only …” – if you can’t make it work here and now, a change of location won’t solve the problems.


Simple Marriage

Buck Naked Marriage: Strip away the unnecessary and focus on the bare essentials. : I have not read Corey’s new book yet, but based on following his blog for a year I have no doubt it’s a good read that will help almost any marriage. (And no, I’m not getting a kickback on this one.)
Holiday Tips for Divorced Parents to Avoid Holiday Headaches: If either you or your bride have kids by a previous relationship, PLEASE read this article.

12 comments
Brook
Brook

I am a generous wife. We had a 'traumatic event' in our marriage a few years ago that greatly changed, as you put it, my feelings of significance. I had been a stay at home mom, and this was no longer a completely satisfying role for me. I longed for something else. My husband's personal commitment to the word, regular study with other men, and communication about what he was studying and learning was a huge benefit to me in a time when I felt my faith slipping. He also (sometimes reluctantly) supported my choice to go back to school and then work. This was a huge change in our family. Most of our regular friends held strong beliefs not in support of women working. It required a change for my husband from the 'comfortable' routine we had established. It was him, supporting me, and bravely helping me accomplish a goal that I had put on hold. It was not his goal, and honestly not his preference. My choices were not out side of scripture, and were not without consideration of everyone in our family. They were fairly self centered ( a characteristic I rarely exhibited) I did refuse to take the attitude of " I've served everyone but myself, I lost myself" or many other common phrases women say at these transitional times. I remained aware that every decision for the previous 10 years I had been actively involved in. I think I could hold this healthy perspective because of my husbands faithful deep personal REAL relationship with the Lord. Our change has been and is a success. I know whole heartedly we owe that success to the Lord. I felt compelled to write the success story, because I know all to well there are too many marriages that enter this transition and do not emerge in tact. Though there is no One Size Fits all approach, The keys to life begin with establishing deep personal relationships with Jesus Christ. As written in other posts, your spouse may still choose poorly, but Christ will supply your needs.

Derek
Derek

I think you are on the right path. You can only let God's love for her be reflected through you. It could be a week, month or years before she realizes what she is really missing and longing for in life. You keep drawing closer to God and closer to your wife. You can't change her heart but God sure can. Just ask him to help you do what you need to do so that He can do what only He is able to do and that is save her. May God bless you both and give you wisdom. Derek

purple_smurf
purple_smurf

My wife and I have been married just over two years. She is American and I am British. To cut a very long story short, she stopped going to church nearly a year ago, she didn't want to and I didn't want to force her. At the time, I was in my first year of training for the Baptist Ministry and I had to pull out of it. I'm currently unemployed and seeking work. We've got many issues going on there!! I love her and am absolutely convinced that god does too. She came from a very very fundamentalist background, where following God is about 'doing the right thing', and I've never heard her talk about God's Grace or Love, and get the impression while it was talked about occasionally when she was growing up, it wasn't highlighted. Everything was about toeing the line with God. I personally think she didn't get the love she needed as a little girl from her parents, even though in many ways she had a 'good' childhood (land with their house, playing in the woods, home-schooled and lots of play, etc) I came to see that if she will come to God, it will be through being given freedom and experiencing it, even if it is painful for me to let her not attend church, and give up what I wanted to do and felt called to. (I still do) We are young (I'm 36, she's 28) and have no kids yet. I can't say it's been easy, but I love her and want her to rediscover God and Jesus through the way I love her. I think this is probably totally different to the situation you were talking about, but there are a few overlaps. She has started an online business, (she's very crafty and creative) making small felt animals and craft stuff, and I've encouraged her in that, and she seems to be happier in herself. I've tried to support her, but it's taken a very heavy toll on me, as she doesn't seem to be interested at all in God anymore. She tells me she loves me, and she's committed to me, but I feel we've lost something between us since she stopped being interested in God. (I haven't said this to her because I don't want to hurt her). Can anyone give me any encouragement?

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Lyle - I understand that depression can leave a person unable to do much at all, and in some ways you may not have had much choice during the depression. That said, it sounds like your "absence" put a great deal of responsibility and stress on your bride. She paid a price for that, and is no doubt still recovering. Do whatever you can to help her get past that, and to take some weight off her shoulders for a while. She needs a break - help her get it. I suspect that what happened with your new employee was a case of you crossing a line your wife never dreamed you would cross. When that happens, we naturally question everything we thought was true. "If he can do that, what else is he capable of." So it's not just what you did, but that you have caused her to reevaluate who you are and how much she can trust you. Your suggestion that she is unwilling to let you into her heart lest she get hurt again is along these lines. The marraige counseling is good, and the same for your personal counseling. Work hard at these, and be as open as you possibly can be. The things you least want to discuss are probably the things you most need to discuss. It's not easy, and it's painful, but if you devote yourself to it, you will see good results. Your bride needs to see consistency from you, and she needs to see it for a season. She has to learn to trust you again, and that is not an easy thing to do - or even to want to do. "Linda" is a threat to your wife both as a person and for what she represents. If there is any way you can modify the work situation so Linda does not answer to you, that would be a very good move for your marriage. This is not because you might do something, but because making that change would be a very good sign for your wife. The good relationship you had while on vacation is a positive sign - is shows that the two of you can have apart from the stresses of everyday life. This means there is a good base, and that there is still mutual love and desire. Know that is there, and work to find it and to protect it from the things that eat at it.

Lyle
Lyle

Hi This comment is going to be quite long because I was inspired to share my situation and ask your advice. I don't share outside of with my wife (I will call her Sally) and that may be part of my problem. I have been following your blog for a a few months now. I got over a bad depression about a year ago. My wife stood by me looking after our two teenage children, one who has ptsd and aspbergers. After two very stressful years and various counselling sessions my wife had had enough. She gave me an ultimatum. To either get better and start paying more attention physically and emotionally to her (that she was a good looking woman and that if I didn't appreciate it there were plenty of other men out there who would) or she would leave she also mentioned that your blog would be good for me. My memory is still not good as far as time frames for everything that happened but within 1/2 of a year I had recovered and was feeling good about myself. At that time was when my wife also got sick/depressed. At first she would not admit that she was in a depression but since I had so recently come out of my depression I could tell the signs. At that time I was ready and wanting to come back to our relationship which I had neglected through my depression but she was no longer interested. At this time I also was given a new employee. The new employee was a younger woman that I found "attractive". After about a week I noticed that my new employee also seemed to be flirting with me and I told my wife/best friend about her and that I saw her as being attractive. As my wife and I are very much spiritual and have high moral standards this caught my wife by surprise since she did not believe that I would ever have eyes for anyone but her. I told my wife that I would not go farther than I have with the flirting and that I no longer have any desires with her. As I said before my wife is now in a depression and this incident tipped the scales and has had a very severe affect on our marriage. My wife wants to know why this happened in the first place and at first I said I don't know and was quite defensive. After this I tried to pay much more attention to her by setting up dates and going on a family vacation for three weeks. However; As part of getting back to dating I suggested we take dance lessons which I have never done because I said that I was tone death and couldn't hear the beat. The person who had mentioned the dance lessons to me was the young woman (new employee). My wife entered us in the dance lessons but when I let her know that my new employee (I will call her Linda)would be there Sally got very anxious about it and we had two or more sleepless nights going through whether I could honestly tell Sally that I no longer had feelings for Linda. Linda was sent out in the field to work about 1 moth prior to my going on vacation (which I shared with Sally). During the vacation it seemed like my wife had forgiven me my transgression and we were having some of the best sex of our marriage and were once again quite open with our friendship. Once the vacation was over we went back to our old routines and life seemed to be good as I was still finding things to do for dates etc. About 2 months after our vacation Linda came back to the office because her work experience in the field was over. I did not tell Sally although during our long discussions I had told Sally that I would be totally open with her. I guess I was selfish, I don't like confrontation and I explained it to myself that I didn't want to hurt Sally by bringing Linda into our conversations. About three weeks later I let Sally know and our relationship went for another dive. Sally then let me know that she is vary insecure about her physical looks (which I find very attractive) and that she also doesn't have any worth in her life. I have consistently told her that I find her very attractive and that I would like to help her find something to give her a sense of worth outside of the family. ( I lately took Sally to an open house for a Christian college and we agreed that she would start a course this summer to learn how to teach English as a second language). The issue of my infidelity continues to be strong and Sally has lately went to a spiritual advisor who told her that it is not Sallys SIN but that it is my sin. Sally says that she is now empowered and that she will not let others have so much power in her life (I take that to mean that she is not going to allow me into her heart for fear of being hurt) I don't know what to do. I continue to read your blog and try to act on your suggestions. I am now in Marriage therapy and also therapy for myself, we go to dance lessons etc. What is yor advice?

Mark
Mark

Please continue on the subject when the couple actually gets a divorce for those reasons. How should a man behave, while witnessing his ex-wife doing all the crazy things she can imagine of, including immediate new intimate relationship as a "punishment for her ex-husbands behaviour", and still blaming him for all. Thanks.

tundratraveller
tundratraveller

Although this blog is for the benefit of husbands, as a spouse I would like to comment. My husband has been "reborn" (his words) from a four-year depression during which time he imploded and secluded himself from me family and a relationship with our teenage boys and isolated himself physically from me. Medication and support from his co-workers has brought him to a happier place demonstrated in extroversion, confidence, and a return to the church. I agree a slipping faith can be a breeding ground for many character and behaviour changes for both men and women that can lead to divorce. What I'm dealing with now is his noticing/attraction to younger women which he's sharing with me and commenting about--something he didn't do in our 19 years of marriage. Thankfully we're working with a marriage counsellor (something he wasn't willing to do in the past when I first noticed the signs). He doesn't see the inappropriateness or damaging effort of his change in character. What scares me is from The Generous Wife blog: "Watch your character for it becomes your destiny," and that destiny may exclude a relationship with me. My request is to pray for the respect, devotion, sanctity, and sacredness of the marriage covenant for your marriage and all married couples!!!!

Pete Carroll
Pete Carroll

Hmm interesting Blog. I have a slightly different angle on this scenario. My wife has never professed a faith and therefore was never in a position where she could lose her faith, but she certainly has struggled through the loss of significance issues and the need for something to affirm her as being important. We have now been married nearly 34 years, and for the past 10 years she has been studying and growing (with my encouragement) for all the qualifications she felt she had missed out on due to her parents putting her down, then the need to have a job to help make ends meet, then kids and finally returning to the workplace after a significant break to raise the kids. We have had many 'difficult' conversations about our differences (particularly my faith and her antipathy to all things church) and even as recent as last week she observed that we are miles apart in our faith walk, but what I am now seeing in her is that with her established self worth she is now ready to explore the possibility that there just might be a higher being that can offer something more to her own efforts! It has been a long and rugged road and at times I felt we might not make it, but there are signs of a renewed faith search that I am encouraged by.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@purple_smurf - First let me thank you for putting your marriage ahead of your "calling". I've seen men who don't, and it makes for a bad marriage and a bad pastor. In those situations like I discussed where I know the facts, the woman who "left God" was always brought up or got into a very legalistic and "religious" form of Christianity. Little to nothing about love and grace, and an unbalanced focus on wrath and condemnation. This no doubt increases the desire to not follow or believe in God, and it makes it easy to throw out the baby with the bath water. I agree with you that she needs to see God as He has reviled Himself to us, not as some group has chosen to portray Him. Doing that now that she has been scared off is difficult. One possibility would be to live it out in front of her. Find a tangible way to love as Jesus did. Volunteer with a group that is working with "the least of these" and show them, and through that show your bride, who Jesus really is. My prayers are with you.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Mark - It sounds like you are in a place where anything you say will be rejected without being heard. If she wants you to be the "bad guy", she will find a way to make you that in her mind. My best advice it to be as kind as possible. If you have kids, make the interactions over them as easy as possible. I would also let her know, simply and in a few words, that you would like to try and reconcile. Offer to go to counseling with her. Unless you are actually a major selfish jerk (and I'm not saying you are) the reality is your wife has problems that are not your fault, and changing where and who she lives with is not going to fix that. She is running from her problems, and does not realise that some of those problems are her stuff and came with her when she "escaped". If the same things happen again, she might realise that she has some guilt in the matter. If those problems kill her current relationship, she may be willing to try and fix what she had with you. And pray. Pray hard and long. God won't change her mind, but He may orchestrate circumstances to show her the truth. Sorry I don't have anything easier or more sure for you.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@tundratraveller - Depression mutes or silences a lot of urges and desires. When the depression breaks those can come back, and having not dealt with them for a long time the filters and defense mechanisms for coping with these things may not be in place. I AM NOT trying to defend what your husband did, but rather offer a possible explanation for why it happened. Regardless of why it happened, I think an important issue going forward is if it changes. If he has repented, if he is doing better, that is a very good sign. I would also see his willingness to meet with a counsellor as a good sign. Be as open and transparent as you can with the counselor the more s/he knows, the better you can be helped.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Pete Carroll - You certainly right that women who are not following Jesus have similar issues. Without Christian morals, it would seem she might be even more likely to cut and run. On the other hand, such a woman might be more open to discussing the situation earlier on - Christians often ignore things they think they should not think or feel, and that can make those things stronger. Regardless, kudos to you for being aware and proactive. You have my ongoing prayers.

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