Q & A: The Home

It seems my wife is more interested in the men she works with than me.

You cannot control what your wife does or how she feels, but can only invest in your own health so that, in your renewed strength, you can in time sow effectually into her life for the outcome you want. This is one of the hardest concepts for husbands to accept.

Again, if she is interested in other men, that reflects your failure to be in her life in the support way she needs. I find that women would rather be in love with their own husbands. A good confession for you to make is, “If my wife does not want to be with me, I don’t blame her.” You are the investor.

I want my wife back.

Your FIRST goal must be your recovery to health. It cannot be to recover the relationship with your wife that you have lost. This is a hard concept, but my goal for our counseling will be to support you for moving past the needy preoccupation you have with your wife so that you can focus to work on yourself.

Shouldn't we be talking to each other to work on the issues we have? Or even just telling each other our thoughts, feelings and opinions?

No. A different counseling plan will support you for working on your marriage in this way, but it will distract you from your most critical need which is to focus on the choices you need to make right now for your own recovery to health.

What about her actions and words? Shouldn't she be responsible to me, and I to her?

No. Your wife is responsible to the choices she must make to establish her in health, then out of her health, she is responsible to her children - not to making you happy. Your happiness comes out of your service to support her.

Shouldn't I be seeing some change in her?

The change you should hope first and foremost to see is in yourself, not in her.

Should I just put this in God's hands instead of trying to do it myself?

Yes, absolutely! But remember, putting it in God’s hands does not mean that you do nothing, but that you seek to connect to God’s resources so that his provisions for health can flow into your life.

I just wish my wife would change her behavior.

Again, God’s first call to you is to make choices for your life that increase you in health. It is not to focus on fixing your marriage, on your wife's behavior (past or present), or on the status of your relationship with her. Those are appropriate hopes for you to have for the future, but they are increases (outcomes) which God gives. If you attempt a Plan B strategy to accomplish them, you will be disappointed with the result.

How do I put my wife first?

You can put your wife first by making wise choices for your own health – because her greatest need for you is that you are healthy. In time, as you are renewed in your strength, which could be six months or longer, you can think about sowing into her life.

I'm trying to wait patiently for some return.

Your expectation for a return from her right now will disappoint you. The focus you must have at this time is for the return which God produces in your own life as you are connecting to his provisions for your recovery.

Shouldn't we be putting each other first?

No. She needs to put her own health first, then her children’s health. You need to put your health first, then in time, as you are recovered to health, the health of your family.

I am not God nor can I be. He can not fail, but I am fallible. Even those with the strongest faith falter at times. They are not expected to be perfect.

This is a good confession. You are indeed broken and have no power of your own to serve your wife in the way she needs you, and your only hope is for God to enable you - which he does as you take time each day to include in your life his provisions for your healing. Absolutely you will fail, but we husbands and minister don’t use that as a pass to excuse ourselves from making the daily choices that renew us in health. Again, you cannot be perfect to live out the role of a husband, but you will need to consistently make the choices each day that renew you in health so that your ministry to others, beginning at home, is empowered by God’s provisions for your life, beginning with Christ.

I have your hurt in my heart and welcome the opportunity to help.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10J18

Don, how can having sex be an addiction when the need seems so normal?

When sex is a recreation, it will result in an addiction. To illustrate: God gave food to support health. Every food he provides empowers us for living. He also gave aesthetic value (taste) to food. He was not obliged to do that, but he did. Thank you, Lord, very much!

But when we make taste the reason we eat, it becomes a recreation. Rather than food being a resource to which we connect for the flow of God’s provisions to support our health, we use it for superficial pain relief. The problem is: When we eat food because it tastes good rather than because it is good for our health, the result is unmet needs and broken health.

The result is also addiction. God's provisions establish us in health and empower us for life and service to others. But every choice we make to meet our essential needs which disregards God's provisions for meeting those needs results in addiction. That's because of our fallen human nature: We become bored with (build a tolerance to) the foods that taste good and move on to something more interesting and tasty. Actually, we become bored with anything we do for superficial reasons (because it tastes good or feels good). However, the foods we eat that God provides to support our health always satisfy. Whoever tired of water or became addicted to it?

God’s plan for sex was to procreate life. The husband is a resource for the investment of the seed that supports his wife for living out her calling to be a mother. God gave aesthetic value to the experience. He was not obliged to do that, but he did. Thank you, Lord, very much! But when we make the aesthetic value the reason we have sex, it is reduced to a recreation.

Again, the problem is the nature of our fallen human condition. We become bored with anything we do for superficial reasons. A husband thinks his wife is the problem, but the problem is that he is a user, and whatever he uses today for superficial pain relief will not serve him in the same way tomorrow. So he begins to look around, never mind his health and commitment to his wife and family. This is classic addiction.

To use another illustration: God gave music to provide an aesthetic value for the experience of hearing the Gospel. But when the music instead of the words becomes the reason we listen to a song, in time, we will tire of the song. However, if the words are the reason we listen, the song never gets old. That has been exactly my experience. I got very bored with the church songs of my childhood because I did not have an appreciation for the words, but sang and listened to them for the sound. Fortunately, I learned about God’s redemptive plan for music (to provide aesthetic value to our experience of hearing the Gospel message), returned to hear the words of those old songs, and wonderfully benefit from hearing and singing them today.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10H13

You seem to insist that if a wife does not want to be with her husband, it is not her fault. But do not Christians reject intimacy with Christ and did not Israel reject God?

Yes, God’s people can reject his provisions and also the resources through which they come - even after we have experienced them (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-29) – just as we can barricade ourselves to shut out natural light.

But God’s provisions are not the problem: “Who God is” is effectual and his Word/Seed (provisions) cannot return void; rather the problem is our own rejection rooted in our sinful natures (Isaiah 55:11; 59:1-2).

But a using and abusing husband is not God; so if his wife does not want to be with him, he cannot argue that her fallen human nature is the problem.

Certainly if she is rejecting God, the reasons lies within her; but if she does not want to be with her husband, he should wait until she experiences God through him before he excuses himself as the problem.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Please ask (my wife) to read some of the books I have read. I know they have helped me and I am sure they will help her.

For our counseling plan, the only books I am encouraging your wife to read at this time, other than support for her fitness and nutrition, are the Psalms and the Gospel of John.

I hope the books you are reading are supporting you in the concepts of investment leadership. Your wife is probably more interested in what your life says to her right now in that regard than the books you want her to read.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Why do wedding vows not mean anything to you? Why are you encouraging my wife to leave me?

Your wife's health is broken and needs an environment free from the pressure of your continued demands and expectations in order to begin her recovery. I am not encouraging her to leave you, but to make choices for her health, and for you to invest in her so that she won't.

I do support wedding vows, but if the strength of a marriage is only the wedding vows, the relationship is at risk from the start. I encourage you to focus on your commitment to meet your wife's needs, not on her commitment to the wedding vows.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

My wife does not respect my decisions as the head of our home.

As head of your home you are not the decision maker. Your wife will better respect you for supporting her connection to the resources that help establish her in health and happiness - so much so, that she will increasingly welcome the opportunity for you to influence the decisions you must make together.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Please clarify your statement that you do not counsel wives to stay in a "dead-end relationship."

My earnest hope and prayer for every unhappy wife is that she will be renewed daily in her experience of God's love and care for her and increased in her confidence that God will intervene in her husband's life to transform his heart to serve her unmet needs as she waits. But I do not counsel wives to suffer through a relationship with a dysfunctional, self-absorbed, authoritarian husband with disregard for her own health, motivated solely by the expectations of religious rules, her husband, family members, friends, etc. - which is deadly legalism.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

My wife is seeking a divorce because she says she is unhappy, but not for scriptural reasons. I feel I am really the innocent party and can marry again. What do you think?

It is the husband's role and opportunity as the vine in the home to care for the health and happiness needs of his wife. If his wife is not happy in the relationship, I believe it reflects more his failure as her husband than her failure as a person.

As to your innocence: You can hold to the position that a husband is innocent in a failed marriage only if you insist that a wife should get over (survive) her unmet needs. Also, consider again the innocence of a husband whose wife leaves the marriage because she is unhappy, but instead of him setting out to be personally renewed in his own health so that he is enabled to win her back, he lets her go and moves on to marry again.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Explain again the difference between a husband's human love and his agape love for his wife.

Human love is the husband's ability to enjoy his wife, but it is conditional, so will not hold up under adversity. God's love (agape), birthed and nurtured in us by the Holy Spirit, is unconditional, meaning it enables the husband's relationship to his wife to be motivated, not by anything that is true about her, but by something that is true about who Christ is within him.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Do you believe a wife should give her husband a divorce when he asks for one? Even if she doesn't want to be out of the marriage?

You write: "Husband is now with his second girlfriend (plus many other women online) since leaving our home several years ago after over 20 years. Friends and family were shocked by his unfaithfulness. I have been hanging onto the Lord since day one, but now wonder if granting the divorce isn't what I should do so that I can let go completely and go on with my life in the Lord. I want to live by 1 Corinthians 7, so believe I should remain unmarried for the rest of my life if my husband does not return. My husband doesn't want to initiate the divorce because he claims that he has no grounds, but that I can give him one so that he can be free completely."

Of course, your husband has already broken the marriage bond, whether or not he does so legally. You should 1) focus on your health needs, physically, psychologically, and spiritually, and 2) seek to connect to the resources God brings into your life for the flow of his provisions to meet those needs.

If God brings into your life a Christian man who understands and embraces the grace leadership role of the husband and father in the home, and you want to be married, you should grant the divorce in order to comply legally and to accommodate the new marriage.

Also, if alimony and child support is an issue, legal proceedings would be in order. Otherwise, you have no obligation, in my opinion, to grant a divorce. A legal divorce should not be an issue in order for you to "go on with your life in the Lord."

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Explain your comment that close-knit families are sometimes the most dysfunctional.

Children will respond to the nurturing of their parents by giving them lifelong opportunity for influence. But this gravitating to the resources of their support is not the same as clinging in codependency.

Children with unmet support needs will crave the acceptance and approval of their parents; but healthy children will have confidence of their parents' unconditional love, are strengthened by it to make healthy choices for their own lives, then move on to invest in others.

At the base of all this is legalism which is rooted in the absence of confidence in God's unfailing love. Legalists tend to pursue God's favor instead of his healing, so are sickly and dysfunctional to serve the needs of others.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

When the Bible instructs the husband and wife to submit to one another, does that mean both are to obey the command, or that the husband must submit first, then wait until his wife is strong enough to submit to him?

God's plan for the husband is to invest in his wife's health and happiness needs, which will increase her trust in him and willingness to give him opportunity for influence in her life (which is the meaning of the word "submit").

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

1 Peter 3: 1-2 seems to contradict your non-support for wives to stay in a dead-end relationship.

"So, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they may, without the word, be won by your conversation (behavior)."

In this passage and elsewhere in the Scripture, the wife is clearly called to holiness and purity, to the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, and to submit (give opportunity for influence) to her husband.

First to be considered, however, is that this call is not just a cold assignment to duty as, for example, to a military person; rather, it is an effectual call of the Holy Spirit, illustrated by the way the sun calls the water vapors upward. This means that, just as with every other standard to which we are called, a wife's ability to respond in obedience to this call must be enabled.

Where does this enablement come from? We know from our understanding of the grace message that God has made multidimensional provisions for our enablement to respond to his call, especially through intimate relationship to Christ, but also through resources of investment leadership which, for the wife, includes her husband.

So whatever the instruction is to the wife, it is with understanding that the husband, even though he may not be a believer, is a support person to her in essential ways, and is not relating to her in a way which disrespects and sabotages her health. That is the dead-end relationship we do not support.

Dear (husband), 1 Peter 3:1-6 is not addressed to you but to "wives." Peter's instruction to you begins in verse 7: So that is the business you need to attend to for your first concern.

"So, you husbands, take care of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs and honoring them as the weaker vessel (more vulnerable to danger), and as being heirs together of the grace of life (God's provisions); so that your prayers (in her behalf) will not be hindered (by your behavior to sabotage her health and happiness)."

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 8L15

My wife acts like she could(n't) care less about me. Even if she just pretended, I would be motivated to try harder.

Your perception of her interest in you may be a matter of temperaments. Consider that her method of communicating her love for you and your method of hearing it may not be well matched. So temperament profile testing may be helpful for both of you.

Consider also that husbands sometime insist on the wife performing because they do not understand investing for the outcome they want. The purest motivation for a wife's response to her husband is her awe of him because of the investment he makes to support her health and happiness needs. Also, if your wife performed for you, you would not know the measure of her interest in you even if she had any.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

How can I invest in my wife if she does not care about me?

In the context of human love (which is conditional), you can't.

But God's call to the husband to love his wife is agape (God's love). This love for your wife is unconditional and is possible only as God enables it.

Also, take care that you do not put your wife in the role that is not hers - of relating to you in a way that supports and motivates you to love her - which makes her essentially the vine in the marriage. It also means your love is conditional.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Doesn't 1 Peter 3:1 instruct wives to submit to their unbelieving husbands?

"Likewise, wives 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."

Sorry, 1 Peter 3:1 is not a proof text for a wife to serve, give a pass to, and tolerate her self-absorbed, dysfunctional husband at all costs, including her health. Whatever truth we learn from Peter’s instruction, it must be understood in the context of the following:

1) The relationship of a Christian husband and wife is organic. Any perspective on Christian marriage that is not rooted in that concept is error.

2) In its organic context, the instruction for a wife to “submit” to her husband means for her “to give him opportunity for influence” and assumes his heart toward her is redemptive and that he has won her confidence.

3) Wives are not called to support/serve their husbands, but to respond/connect to the support/service of their husbands who are responding/connected to God’s support/service to them.

4) Every instruction in Scripture assumes enablement, also that the leadership vine we are connected to is alive and fit. Jesus calls his bride to abide/remain connected to him (John 15:1-8) who is the Living Vine (so that we do not wither and die). We cannot imagine that he would call a wife to remain connected to a dead vine.

5) The husband Peter refers to that can be won by his godly wife is not necessarily failing in his support role to his wife; his disobedience to the Word may be otherwise, i.e., to a general range of other issues.

6) Especially did Peter want wives to understand the importance of their husbands’ protection during the first century when the church was scattered among the nations, was without civil protection, and suffering intense persecution.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 9L12

Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 7 prohibit divorce?

Our counseling offers the following guidance and support from our understanding of 1 Corinthians 7:10-17.

1. A wife must not separate (chorizo: depart) from her believing (faithful) husband. But if she does, she must live as unmarried (not give herself to another man), or else be reconciled to her husband. (The exception which Christ gave in Matthew 19:9 is not given here.)

2. And a husband must not divorce (aphiemi: send away/put out) his wife (who separates from him, but he must pursue her to win her respect and confidence).

3. If any brother (faithful Christian husband) has a wife who is an unbeliever (apistos: unfaithful, disbelieving, rejects God’s plan/provisions for health) and she is willing to live with him (with a view/commitment of giving him opportunity to win her confidence), he must not divorce her (aphiemi: send her away / put her out). For the unfaithful wife may be renewed by the care of her (faithful) husband.

4. And if a woman has a husband who is an unbeliever (apistos: unfaithful, disbelieving, rejects God’s plan/provisions for health), and he is willing to live with her (with a view/commitment of learning to meet her needs), she must not leave him (aphiemi: divorce, abandon). For (perhaps) the unfaithful husband will be renewed as he sets out to meet his wife's needs.

5. Otherwise, if the family separates, the children will be at risk for brokenness and may never be influenced for Christ.

6. But if the unbelieving wife or husband leaves (chorizo: departs) the marriage to enter into another relationship (fornication), the faithful spouse is not bound (Matthew 19:9), but free, so should not insist for the sake of marriage that he or she stay, for God instituted marriage to support health.

7. Also, there is no assurance that staying in the marriage with an unbelieving (apistos: unfaithful, disbelieving to trust/receive God’s provisions for health) spouse, just for rules-sake, will have a good outcome anyhow.

8. Rather, everyone should live out of the strength which God provides and calls us to.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

Should I tell my husband that I cheated on him?

No, you should not tell him.

But this advice is based upon you understanding and embracing God’s provisions of grace. Most traditional counseling would disagree. But counseling from a grace perspective is different.

The concepts of grace which I have shared with you are (a review):

1. Everyone of us is broken. We were born broken.

2. God provided for our healing and recovery through resources in creation (the soil and atmosphere), community (supportive relationship in the home and church), and especially through our experience of Christ.

3. Brokenness and failure are the result of unmet needs.

4. No brokenness can prevail against God’s provisions for our healing. This means, the choices we have made in the past have no power to hinder the work God is doing now to rebuild our lives - unless we are still making those choices.

5. Forgiveness may be the most important concept for you to understand right now. Forgiveness means “removal.” It is two-fold:

The first is the removal of God’s judgment against us because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. We receive that forgiveness the moment we trust Christ’s death on the cross as the only payment God will accept to satisfy that judgment. It is a one-time event – like in a court room. That means, when you trusted the payment Christ made for you, God removed (forgave) the judgment. You do not need to seek that forgiveness again because you already have it.

The second is the removal of our sinful condition (of our bodies, minds, emotions, and wills) which remains even after the judgment against us has been removed (forgiven). This forgiveness or removal is not a one-time event but is on-going or progressive as we make choices each day to receive God’s provisions for our healing. It is the forgiveness Christ taught his disciples to pray for in the Disciples’ Prayer (the “Lord’s Prayer”).

6. Some of the reasons why you might think you should confess your past to your husband are:
  • It forces us to talk about our problems.
But talking about your problems does not solve them. The problem is your unmet need for God’s provisions; the solution is connecting to God’s resources (in creation, community, and Christ) for the flow of those provisions into your life.
  • Keeping it a secret will eat away inside me like a cancer.
It will be unmet needs, not a secret, which eats away at you.
  • I will always be thinking about it when I am with him, like it is an elephant in the room.
When the Holy Spirit has revealed to you your failure and you have 1) confessed it to God and to yourself and 2) begun making the choices to daily include in your life God’s provisions for your healing, your past will cease being an issue. God does not think about it anymore, and he will not bring it to your attention. It may be stored in your memory, and you may grieve that you failed, but even that will heal in time.
  • I want to be set free from guilt and shame.
There is no legal guilt. When you trusted the death of Christ on the cross for you, you were set free from the judgment against you. “There is no judgment remaining for to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Feelings of shame are not from God, but are from Satan who is the “Accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10) in order to condemn and discourage them. Your daily experience of Christ will renew you in your faith concerning God's provisions for your life so that nothing Satan says will matter.
  • I can’t live with being dishonest.
Honesty is confessing your brokenness to yourself and Christ. It is not the same as revealing every failure you've ever had to your husband. Silence is not always the same as being dishonest.
  • I owe it to my husband to tell him.
You owe only to invest in others for their healing (beginning with your children) that which has been invested in you. Also, your husband's knowledge of your failure will not serve to help him in any way. It will not result in his healing. A husband’s greatest need is 1) to connect to God’s provisions for his healing, beginning with Christ, and 2) to understand God’s redemptive plan for him is to serve the health and happiness needs of his wife as Christ models and enables it.
  • If I do not tell him and he finds out later, he will think our marriage was based on a lie.
Your marriage will be based on a lie only if it is based upon your strength and efforts to work on it. But if it is rooted in the work which Christ is doing in your lives, it will be based on a sure foundation. God’s provisions cannot fail.

There is much more to be said. Consider scheduling with me for an individual session so that I can follow up to clarify any of these concepts or to answer any questions.

I am sorry for the hurt you are experiencing right now. But I can promise you that if you will look to God in the way I have talked to you about, “your tears may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Don Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/GracePoint Counseling

My wife has a much better paying job than I do. I am having a hard time dealing with it.

Your feelings about this are normal. It may help to consider that any work we do which is redemptive (meets a need, solves a problem) is God’s work. If it is work he has given you to do, that is really all that matters. 

Also, the more you understand your role as a husband, that it is to be a resource to your wife for living out her calling (either in the home or marketplace), the more you will welcome the opportunity to support her, so that, even if her job pays more or seems more significant, her confession will be that she is successful to do her work because of you.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10J20

My wife wants to go back to school. She says it would help secure our family’s future. I think it would occupy a lot of her time and add more stress to her, but she thinks I am just looking out for my own good.

Dear (Husband):

1) It is God’s plan for the wife to seek her husband’s support for the choices she makes in behalf of her health.

2) When she does not do this, it may be because of her own counseling issues, or because her husband has not won her confidence that her health and happiness needs really matter to him.

3) We husbands do good to consider if we are "just looking out for (our) own good." That’s because of our fallen human nature. So we just confess that possibility and trust that Christ will increase his disposition in us as we give him opportunity each day during our quiet time worship.

4) You should not attempt to control or manipulate your wife's choice in this matter. It will not produce a good outcome. 

5) Your best hope for her to give you opportunity for infuence in her life is for you to
  • focus on your own healing and renewal so that you can 
  • identify, care about, and invest in her core health needs (temperament needs), and then
  • set her free, trusting God for the outcome he gives according to his redemptive plan.
Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

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