What do you do if you find out something bad about your husband, but you don’t want to ruin Christmas for your kids?

Reader Question: Do I confront my husband before Christmas?Sometimes the questions I get are really sad. And this week one came in that was heartbreaking. A woman writes:

I’ve come to a sort of peace that I do my best and can’t force my husband to address things if he refuses to. Cyclical porn relapses, general unreliability, and the fact that he does not actively seek work despite the ongoing lack of income from his self-employment (I’ve been the main breadwinner for almost 2 years now). But I’ve thankfully reached a level of stability where I can keep on keeping on until either God gets through to him (he won’t go to counseling) or he leaves us.

But now, in a phone that my husband gave me that was previously his, I’ve found some month-old messages between him and a woman. There are a few instances of her asking to borrow small amounts of money, and terms of endearment and sentiments are exchanged that should be reserved for girlfriends or wives. 

I understand that this isn’t right and I need to talk to my husband to determine what is going on and how it needs to be addressed. But it’s almost Christmas, and I feel really sickened at the thought of confronting him and possibly having to deal with the fallout at this time of year. I just want my kids to have this family time first.

Based on past reactions to other issues I’ve had to talk to him about (porn, sleazy massage shop visits, etc), I would guess his reaction is going to oscillate between over-the-top rehearsed remorse, threats of leaving me based on him “not being good enough for me”, and accusations that anything wrong that he does is because I won’t let the past go (meaning, I’m not allowed to bring up any other issues from the past because he views each issue as entirely isolated from each other and not part of his actual character on display).

With all that as possible responses, am I wrong to just wait a few weeks and let my kids have their holiday fun without all the potential tension and threats that affect the entire household? I think I can manage it, but I need a second opinion.

Such a hard situation to be in! I’m so sorry. Let’s try to think this through.

Don't Want to Ruin Christmas with Marriage Problems: Do I wait to confront my husband until after the holidays?

Logic alone can’t dictate what you should do.

Looking at this scenario as she’s laid it out, I’d say that she’s been putting up with a whole lot for a long time, and this one action doesn’t seem to be anything really out of the ordinary. I have a family member who told her son she was leaving his dad on the son’s birthday. Think about how that affects every other birthday that son has for the rest of his life. His birthday is now tied up forevermore in the divorce. I can totally understand not wanting Christmas to be associated with that.

At the same time, in situations like this, I don’t think logic is always the answer. Human relationships are messy things, and God is working behind the scenes. I think the real question is, “when does God want you to say something?”

Like Ecclesiastes 3:7 says, there is a “time to be silent and a time to speak.”

But I don’t know what that time is in this particular case. And I don’t think it’s always the same for everyone; if it were, we wouldn’t need God. We could just logic and reason our way through everything, because there would be set rules to follow. But there aren’t.

So I guess I’d say: Pray, and pray hard. Get some friends around you who are also praying. Journal and listen. And see what God is prompting you to do. It’s not always easy to tell, but I’ve had times when I’ve felt a definite release to do something, and I pray that you’ll feel that, too.

Whatever you do, use this time wisely

Get your financial affairs in order. Seek out a counsellor. Talk to one or two mentors and fully inform them of what’s going on so that they can be there to support you when you do talk to him. And, of course, pray a ton.

Your marriage has a serious problem that will not get better until he realizes what he is doing.

You are right–he has a character issue that he is not addressing. He is asking you to respect and trust him when he has done absolutely nothing to warrant that trust (and how can you respect someone when you can’t trust them?) What he is saying to you is unreasonable and wrong and manipulative.

At some point, the question has to be: are you willing to live with him, exactly as he is, for the rest of your marriage? Or do you want to do something about this? Because he is very unlikely to change absent some need to, and quite frankly he has no real need to right now.

To go along with that, there are three questions that have to be answered:

  1. What does God want for my husband?
  2. What does God want for my kids?
  3. What does God want for me?

God’s will for your husband is that he be transformed into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). The way that we tend to learn and change is by reaping what we are sowing (Galatians 6:7). If, instead, you enable your husband to act horribly but never really bear the consequences for his actions, he likely will never change, and the behaviour will likely get worse.

God’s will for your children is more difficult to ascertain. It is certainly true that children fare better growing up in a home with two married biological parents, even if those parents are unhappy, than if the parents divorce (according to large scale studies by Judith Wallerstein). However, that may be true in the broad sense; it is not necessarily true for each individual child. And besides that, the studies also show that children of high conflict marriages and abusive marriages do better if those marriages are ended. Living with a narcissistic parent can also be highly damaging! So all of these things have to be carefully prayed over.

And finally, for you. God’s will for you is to live in truth–not covering things up and being honest about what’s going on, but also being honest with what we’re feeling. Perhaps God has done an incredibly mighty work in you and you are incredibly strong. But I would think that this situation hurts a great deal. And you may be trying to hold everything together so that you can keep going. I don’t think that’s sustainable.

I guess what I’d say is that it’s okay to be really sad. It’s okay to feel betrayed. It’s okay to feel lonely, to feel rejected, and to feel abandoned. Those are natural human emotions. God does not ask us to cover over our emotions and be joyful; he asks us instead to be honest about the emotions and, in midst of the mess, to find Him. We don’t have to work everything out first and put on a happy face. We’re allowed to be devastated.

I’ll be talking more about that tomorrow, but I just want to reassure you right now: I am truly, truly sorry. And not just for this woman, but for all the comments I receive from people who are married to spouses who are ever so selfish and cruel. This is not what God ever intended for you. And I hope that, in the midst of this Christmas season, you’ll encounter a God who came down from heaven to enter our mess. He understands, He cares, and I pray that He will guide you to what you should do next.

And if you’re looking for a resource to help you, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage goes in to how to live in truth in your marriage, especially thoughts 5-7. If you need clarification on how to talk about issues, and what to do if your husband refuses to admit there’s a problem, I think that book can help!

What advice do you have for this woman about whether she should say something now or wait? Let’s talk in the comments!

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