If your husband is having a crisis of faith, are you helping him or inadvertently making that crisis of faith worse?
It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And this week we’ve been looking at marriage issues as people start to age. We looked at what to do when your husband has a midlife crisis, and then yesterday I talked about why it’s normal to start feeling dissatisfied, and why that’s not always a bad thing, if you handle it right.
Today I want to look at another dynamic when it comes to these life reevaluations: are you giving your husband space to figure out who he really is?
A reader wrote to me with this question:
Lately my husband is seemingly becoming quite distant. He is not a communicator, and for the first time last week, he did not come home until 8:45. No phone call, dinner sat waiting and we have two kids. He was on his boss’ porch drinking beer.
There have been times he’s at least once or twice a week late for dinner, I kiss him and he’s had beer. He says he only drinks with his boss after work. We are both Godly, but I am the one where if there’s conviction–I hear it. He grew up in a home with parents as elders. So I’m lost on what he’s thinking.
He doesn’t want to date me, doesn’t want to do family together time unless his parents are involved. I am stay at home mom for our children.( my first yr not working) And he had vasectomy after Christmas.
Does any of this fall into play with his changes? I’m feeling like he resents me. I feel like, where is my husband? We talked, and I think he thinks I’m nuts. He becomes very defensive. But his actions actually make me worried and worried is not of God. Any helpful words for me. I love him and will never give up on him.
There’s a lot going on in this letter. First, they’re in the middle of a lot of transition. She’s just quit her job to stay home with the kids. He’s the sole breadwinner. He’s also the main emotional outlet for her. He’s had a vasectomy so they’re not having any more kids.
Given their age, this likely isn’t a midlife crisis. But it has a lot of similarities to some of the dynamics that I’ve seen happen to people in middle age, so I want to talk about it.
One thing first: it was really wrong of him not to call, and then just arrive home at 8:45. Her husband was being inconsiderate. It’s also wrong for him to ignore the fact that he has small children he should be caring for. How this husband is acting is not right. However, there’s another dynamic in the letter that I actually want to focus on today.
Often people have a midlife crisis because their life has become stifling.
Now, sometimes their definition of “stifling” is totally the wrong one. Maybe what’s stifling is having so many children to take care of and not being able to have fun anymore, or feeling like you’re tied down to a woman you’re not sure you love.
We all know men who have blown apart marriages for these selfish reasons (and women, too).
But there’s another kind of stifling. There’s also the kind that looks at your life and says, “Am I letting other people tell me what I should or shouldn’t do?” And that question can actually be a healthy one to ask.
Here’s what triggers this sort of life re-evaluation
Many teens want nothing more than to be accepted. And so they try very hard to do what their parents want. Then they get married, often to the kind of person that their parents want, and they spend the next few years with babies and jobs, trying desperately to do the right thing so that they will have the right life that everyone is always telling them they should want.
And sometimes there’s a trigger–maybe it’s suddenly having responsibilities ease off so that you’re able to think for yourself (that’s why it often happens in midlife) or maybe it’s meeting someone and getting close to someone who thinks differently than you do (like in this situation, with his boss) or maybe it’s having a ton of responsibilities and realizing something has to give. And when that trigger happens, you start to ask, “What kind of life do I actually want to live?”
Wives, be very careful of pushing your husband into a corner if he’s having a crisis of faith
I may be reading this letter all wrong, but I worry about some of the words she’s using:
- “we are both godly.”
- “his parents are both elders.”
She is very preoccupied with being godly. Normally I’d say that was a wonderful thing! We all, after all, are supposed to “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
But sometimes we put such rules in place as to what being godly means that we end up sucking the life out of, well, life. I’m reading a lot into this letter, and this may not be what’s going on here. It could just be a cultural difference in the way we say “we are both godly.” (We Canadians wouldn’t tend to phrase it that way).
So I don’t want the rest of this post to be about this particular letter writer, because I don’t know what’s actually going on in her house. After all, this guy could be really irresponsible and veering towards alcoholism, and if that’s the case, she needs some help! Contact an Al Anon support group about what to do. Talk to his parents and have an intervention. Absolutely.
But I have also seen women blow up their marriages because their husbands have wanted to do perfectly reasonable things, and the wives have overreacted. Again, I don’t know if that’s what’s happening here, but this letter made me remember those examples I’ve seen. And I think that scenario, whether or not it applies to this reader in particular, is worth exploring.
A lot of us spend our whole lives living under rules.
We want to be “godly”. “We wouldn’t drink because we’re godly people.” “We wouldn’t watch that movie because we’re leaders in our church.”
And sometimes it just gets to be too much. After years and years of being “godly” and doing the right thing–you just want to have some fun!
Here’s where the trouble starts: Is drinking beer on his boss’ porch necessarily a bad thing? What if they were talking about serious, life changing matters? What if he was trying to get to know the boss better so that he could speak into his life? My husband has a beer with work colleagues all the time! Some of their best conversations happen there.
And yet, you know what? I never, ever put a picture of us drinking wine or beer on Instagram or Facebook because I know many of my readers will assume we’re not “godly.” In fact, every Christian speaker and author I know (and I know a lot) does the same thing. We’ll all be out for dinner and we’ll share a bottle of wine, but then we can’t Instagram it because the alcohol is in the picture.
I never have more than a glass of wine at a time. My husband never has more than 2 beer, ever. And yet in nine years of blogging I’ve never admitted that we drink until today, because I have always been worried about people thinking we’re not “godly”.
Let’s not overreact.
What marriage dynamic is this reaction to his crisis of faith setting up?
If he admits he wants to have a drink, she will get very upset. She feels convicted FOR him. She’s praying that he will be convicted. So he simply stops telling her. And now drinking a beer has to become something secretive. So he’s out with his boss, and he knows he’s late, but he can’t call her without her getting very disappointed in him. So he doesn’t call.
Now, if he were going to strip clubs–totally different thing. If he were getting drunk–absolutely different thing. But if we freak out over a beer, we make it far more likely that he will get drunk because he will have to do all of his drinking away from us. And if we also define him as someone who is no longer seeking after God, and then that’s how he starts to define himself, too.
Paul wrote “I knew nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:20). The cross is what matters. But when we put up extra-biblical rules are ALSO non-negotiables in our eyes, then we turn people away from the God who is calling out to them.
Do you love Jesus, or your ideal of what the Christian life looks like?
Sometimes our husbands will make us nervous. My husband went through a period of doubt. A crisis of faith does not mean he’s leaving God. Instead of spending your energy trying to pull him back and make life just like it was before, what about praying that God will show you what path of faith He wants you both to walk on?
I have seen this dynamic a lot:
- Husband and wife grow up with a lot of rules.
- Husband starts to reject rules.
- Wife overreacts, assuming husband is leaving the faith.
- Wife treats him like he is a big sinner.
- He grows tired of all the pressure.
- He does leave the church, and there’s a huge gap in their relationship.
What if it could go like this instead?
- Husband and wife grow up with a lot of rules.
- Husband starts to reject rules.
- Wife prays about how she can support her husband during this emotionally difficult time for him.
- They talk about what faith is meaning to him, and wonder about finding a church where they both may feel comfortable.
- They seek out people who are also wondering some of these things, and find some new friends.
- They both leave the church for one that has fewer rules, and more of an emphasis on authenticity and grace, and their relationship is restored.
No, things aren’t always that simple. But I’d still rather be in the second group. What about you?
Let me know in the comments: Have you ever let go of a big “rule” that you had growing up about what you believed to be “godly”? How did that change your faith or your marriage? Let’s talk!