January 24, 2012

“I confronted…nothing changed…now what?”

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Q:  What if I have respectfully confronted my husband but he continues in his addiction? His drinking is destroying our family!

Dr. E says:  As you know, giving advice through email is not the ideal.  I desire to serve you with godly wisdom, yet realize I don't have all the pieces, and have not heard both sides.  Please keep this in mind as I attempt to help within these limitations.

If your husband is refusing to deal with his addiction, you may need to give an ultimatum. As I have said, unconditional respect means you come across respectfully as you confront his unacceptable behavior, but it also means you set healthy boundaries.  For example, you can say respectfully, "It is time to deal with this. I believe in you, this is why I married you. But you are not acting like the man of honor I believe you long to be.  Until you get help for your drinking, I would not be respecting you if I just look the other way while your drinking destroys our family.  We need to separate (not divorce) until you let me know of your decision to seek help and for us to address these matters with a third party." 

This ultimatum should only be made after you have respectfully confronted him and asked him to get help, and he has refused. Before you do this, you must decide what your plan of action is going to be, and there must be a plan of action, or the situation will remain the same. To ignore the problem would be enabling, which contributes to the problem.  God’s Word does not advocate enabling sin but rather just the opposite. The apostle Paul warns us to not participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them.  NOT confronting sinful behavior can lead to enabling that behavior, allowing it to continue. 

Again, you must have a plan of action which could include an ultimatum for him getting help for his addiction, or he leaves for a time of separation (not divorce).  The details of this are something you should work out with Godly counsel – someone who is for your marriage and will come alongside you to support you in tough love and respectful confrontation.  You must protect yourself and your children.  Do not confront him alone if you fear his reaction. 

I am well aware of the devastation that addictive behavior brings to marriages.  I do not wish to minimize this in any way. This is sinful behavior that Christ would not have you tolerate.  If you need additional help to confront this, please seek out wise Godly counsel


Rosalyn said...

Extremely well written, sensitive and thoughtful. There are many people in relationships where enabling becomes a way of surviving. Jesus wants us to thrive. Conquering the fear of confrontation and accountability is freeing and empowering.

Honesty and truth never backfires.

Anonymous said...

Great counsel! My concern is what to do when a spouse does not repent? Do you stay separated forever? What about when there is repeated false repentence? I'm asking as a former wife of a heroin addict, I ultimately divorced to protect my kids (he tried to take them after refusing a drug test) It was a horrible situation yet it is still so heartbreaking to end the marriage.

Anonymous said...

very wise advice. I would add, that before doing so, to pray earnestly. Without God the heart of any man cannot change, or have the straight and desire to change. Drinking is a serious addictions, and it could turn someone into a violent individual, only the power of God can hold the temper. May God gives straight to all the woman suffering from this evil addiction.

Anonymous said...

This is very helpful to me, as my husband tries to tell me that I am not a Godly wife if I leave him because of his addiction. I have been struggling with my "plan of action" and questioning whether I am being Godly by even considering it.
Thank you!

Kathy D said...

Thank you for this. I am facing very similar struggles as the woman you are describing here. I appreciate your outlook as I greatly admire your ministry and your desire to strengthen marriages through God's Word.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Does this advice also work well in dealing with depression? I have tried every way I know how to help my spouse, but he doesn't want the help and/or think he needs it.

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