“My husband was involved in porn soon after our marriage and refused to have any kind of intimacy, not even holding hands. I suspect that he does not even love me and is continuing the marriage only for the comfort of financial stability it offers him. He lost his job 2 years after we were married. Then we relocated and he has not found a job until now. It has been 17 years of unemployment.” This is part of a very sad story I received from a frustrated Christian wife who calls herself Hope.
In my last post we discussed how a husband could Biblically deal with a lazy wife and in this post we will use Hope’s story to help her and other women learn how to Biblically deal with a lazy and fraudulent husband.
Here is Hope’s full story and then I will give my response.
“I have just started reading your posts and enjoyed several of them. I have a query. Both my husband and I are Christians and have been married for 20 years. We have 2 kids who are still young. My husband was involved in porn soon after our marriage and refused to have any kind of intimacy, not even holding hands. I suspect that he does not even love me and is continuing the marriage only for the comfort of financial stability it offers him.
He lost his job 2 years after we were married. Then we relocated and he has not found a job until now. It has been 17 years of unemployment. If I raise this issue it makes him angry and frustrated. I think he wants to start a business but lacks capital. I have a good job but I have to pay the mortgage, cars, family’s expenses and any holidays we have. Basically I cover everything. I have a cleaner who cleans the house. My husband takes care of the children, send them to school and helps with their homework. Any extra income I save for my children’s future education and our retirement. There is not much extra to contribute towards his “dream business”. Maybe I am scared, in case he uses up the money for business and the business fails. I cannot earn back this kind of money now as I am much older now and coming to retirement age. He pays for all the expenses from my bank account. I never question him regarding how he spends the money or how much he spends. I use my money mainly to purchase items for our home. He is free to buy anything for himself. i don’t ask to account for each purchase.
He has mentioned having a joint account. I have trust issues; my marriage is not even normal. I have dealt with wives whose husbands left the marriage and the kids with all the family money in a joint account. Letting a husband have access to the wife’s account may be ideal in a good marriage but not otherwise.
His family has also been hinting that my inheritance monies from my dad’s estate should be shared equally with him. I am frankly disgusted with this as he has been so fussy looking for jobs and has left me to struggle with the family’s finances for years, despite my deteriorating health. I want to share what I have with him and the children but he wants to control what happens to the money. Legally he is not even entitled to this money. If I have to hand over to my husband what my father struggled to earn during his lifetime in the name of submission, I have decided either to pass on everything to the kids by a will or to forego my entitlement and give away everything to charity. Less fight this way.
I would appreciate your views.
My Response to Hope and other Christian women who find themselves in a similar situation
Hope – let me be clear to you and any woman who finds herself in this kind of situation. Your husband is a deadbeat. He is a leach. It would be one thing if you had just been married and he just lost his job then you would need to have grace about these kinds of things. But after 17 years he has proven the kind of man that he is.
God hates divorce and does not easily allow it
First you need to understand something about how important marriage is to God. In Malachi 2:16 God says “he hateth putting away”. “Putting away” is a euphemism in the Bible for divorce.
Just because your husband is not romantic or perhaps is too tight with the money or you feel he is unfair to you in other ways does not give you the right to divorce him. For a man, just because his wife is lazy, un-submissive or does not perform well in bed does not give him the right to divorce her.
Also contrary to what many Christian websites teach addictions in and of themselves are not cause for Biblical divorce. Addictions are only a cause for divorce if they result in things that God says he allows divorce for.
For instance if your husband has a porn addiction which leads him to sexually defraud you then you can divorce him for sexual defraudment. If your husband had a gambling addiction that lead him to consistently spend all your family’s money and you and your children were going without food, clothing and shelter as a result you could divorce him for failure to provide. If your husband had an alcohol addiction but his alcohol addiction did not affect him providing for you, having sex with you and he does not physically abuse you as result you have no Biblical right to divorce him.
If your husband’s addiction does not result in a sin for which God allows divorce then you must practice God’s command to women with disobedient husbands:
“1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” – I Peter 3:1-2 (NASB)
But the Bible does allow for divorce in certain situations where God sees some particular sins as grave enough to break the marriage the covenant. Some of God’s reasons for divorce are gender specific. See my post “For what reasons does God allow divorce” for a more complete discussion on all the reasons that God allows divorce.
God allows women to divorce their husbands for failure to provide and sexual defraudment
In your situation Hope, your husband has committed two grave sins against your marriage covenant either of which would be grounds for Biblical divorce. These sins are failure to provide and sexual defraudment.
In my posts “4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal” and “Does God allow a woman to divorce her husband for failure to provide?” I point to a key passage of Scripture that is not taught in the vast majority of Christian churches today and has been all but forgotten or dismissed because it was given by Moses to the nation of Israel:
“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11 (KJV)
God requires every husband to provide his wife with three things – food, clothing (and by extension shelter) and sex. God was clear that “if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free”. This is part of the lasting moral law of God rather than the temporary parts of God’s law to Israel including sacrificial laws, cleanliness laws, civil laws and laws regarding the priesthood.
In the New Testament these three principles are reinforced in these passages:
“28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:” – Ephesians 5:28-29 (KJV)
In the same we as husbands provide for the physical needs of our own bodies by providing ourselves with food, clothing and shelter so too men are required by God to provide these things to their wives.
“3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” – I Corinthians 7:3-5 (KJV)
A husband and wife have both a responsibility to “render” (give) their bodies to their spouse and they have the “power” to take or make use of their spouse’s body for the purpose of sex. If one spouse denies the other this is an act of fraud similar to if an employer had made a contract to pay an employee wages and he fails to pay those wages that are owed he will be guilty of fraud.
Make sure he really is being lazy and sexually defrauding you before you take action
Obviously the first thing to consider would be if your husband is temporarily or permanently disabled from working. In this case a wife does not have cause to divorce her husband.
Ladies if your husband works a full time job and then comes home and chills on the couch this not the kind of laziness we are talking about. If you are a full time stay at home mom there is no reason why your husband should feel bad about chilling after a hard days work. Even if you both work because he has asked you to work – yes he should help but again this is not the kind of serious laziness that can be cause for divorce.
Also just because your husband is not making as much money as you would like him to make does not mean he is failing to provide. If he is working hard and doing his best to provide this is what counts before God. Even if he is unemployed for short periods of time like months you have no right as a wife to take action against him. Rather you should support your husband during this difficult time and encourage him as he seeks work.
Also if your husband is having health problems or perhaps he is not completely satisfying you in bed the way you would like that is not sexual defraudment. As long as he is not completely denying you and is making himself available this is what counts before God. This does not mean there may not be room for improvement – but it is NOT cause to take the actions we will talk about next.
See my posts “4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal” and “Does God allow a woman to divorce her husband for failure to provide?” for more complete discussions on these two very important topics.
But if you are like Hope and have experienced years of laziness and sexual defraudment (as opposed to months) this is not something God calls you to live with. God does NOT expect you to remain in bondage to such a man.
4 Steps to Dealing with a Lazy Husband
Step 1 – Exercise your right to bring your grievances to your husband
“13 If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;
14 What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?
15 Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” – Job 31:13-15 (KJV)
Even though your husband is your authority – that does not give him the right to not to hear your grievances. But make sure you talk to him in a gentle and respectful manner.
Step 2 – You need to seek out a marriage counselor as a witness to your husband’s sin
“Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” – Malachi 2:14 (KJV)
If your husband will not hear your grievances or refuses to change his ways then you will have to move to this next step.
In my post “When should a Christian couple seek a marriage counselor?” I discussed reasons for marriage counseling from a Christian perspective. I talked about how marriage counseling is often used for the wrong reasons.
Marriage counseling should not be a way for a husband to abdicate his duty to discipline his wife. Many men take their wives to counselors because they are afraid or unwilling to discipline their wives but this is not a reason for marriage counseling. In the same way marriage counseling is often used by wives as a way to “tell on their husbands” for sins that they should be practicing the I Peter 3:1-2 principle towards as we discussed earlier.
But there are some instances where marriage counseling can be used in a Biblical way and in your situation this would be one of those times. You need to understand that you are not going to a marriage counselor to go around your husband’s authority but rather you are going to the counselor to use them as a witness to the grave sin your husband has committed against you and your marriage covenant.
Hope in your case your husband has committed two sins that can break you marriage covenant – failure to provide and sexual defraudment.
After you have testified against your husband you will need to decide if you want to give him another chance if he truly repents and says he will change his ways. However in this particular case Hope – with your husband being in this evil pattern for 17 years and the fact that he seems to be using you I am not sure how much you can trust anything he says.
You need to pray and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to if your husband’s repentance is genuine or not.
Step 3 – Bring him before your church authority
“15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” – Matthew 18:15-17 (KJV)
If he will not listen to counselors or refuses to go to counseling then bring him to your Pastor and his wife. If he will not listen even to them then he has chosen to act like an unbeliever, and now he will be treated as such.
Step 4 – Divorce your husband for failure to provide and sexual defraudment
“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11 (KJV)
After you have sought out a counselor and then your church authorities and if you husband fails to repent then you may divorce him.
Can you remarry after this?
There are many Christian websites and pastors (and even regular commenters on this blog) that will tell you that you may divorce your husband in this instance but that you must remain unmarried until he dies. This is not supported by the Scriptures. I have written extensively on this subject that once a wife has been freed from her husband in marriage she is free to remarry except in the case that the reason for him divorcing her was because of an adulterous affair on her part.
See my post “Is there such a thing as an “adulterous” marriage?” for more on this subject of divorce and remarriage.
A final word to Hope
Hope – I realize your husband may truly love your children and perhaps he treats them kindly and they love him too. But he is showing an utterly terrible example to them by his lifestyle. It sounds to me like your husband married you for your money. He also seems to be one of those men with dreams of grandeur and does not have his feet planted in reality.
There is nothing wrong with a man having dreams of starting his own business. But a man must support his family and perhaps takes jobs that he does not like while he is pursuing how he will start his own business. He can’t sit home for 17 years planning to start a business.
He has no right and no excuse whether he is addicted to porn or not to sexually defraud you. I pray that God will guide you in the difficult choices you need to make.
22 thoughts on “4 Steps to Dealing with a Lazy and Fraudulent Husband”
I was thinking the same thing, that he married this woman for her money. Also his family family sound like leeches as well telling Hope to share her dads’ hard earn money with her husband.
I think if he is looking for a job he should try fast food or retail. Granted it’s not a dream job but at least it is something until something in his field pops up.
wow. this was very hard for me to read. appearances were supremely important to my first husband, so he was affectionate with me in public, and he worked hard and made great money. but after about the first six months of marriage, sex spread out to weeks then months then years. i didn’t have anyone to talk to, and it was horribly embarrassing. all the years i was married to him i was very attractive and fit and hit on by men often. i could have easily had an affair on him, but i never did. all this was long before the internet. i do remember asking a female speaker at a women’s retreat, and her only response was, “Have your husband attend the men’s retreat.” when he started sleeping with prostitutes, i knew something had happened, but i didn’t know what. his behavior changed drastically. he was always cold at home, selfish, critical, rude, and always had a temper, but then he became angry and evil and dark. it would be about four years before i found out what it was. i began therapy right away. he went too, for a time. he went to a sex addict recovery group. then he decided it was all bogus, it was all my fault, and he stopped. he eventually presented me with divorce papers and moved out. till the day he died he blamed it all on me. every.single.bit.of.it and more.
i will say this to Hope and anyone else about this side of divorce. regardless of whether or not it was your fault, divorce is hell. it is horrible. it is many little deaths that seem to never end. my ex was exceptionally volatile and did many terrible things to us even after the divorce. though he passed away two years ago, my girls still have to work through the things he did.
i don’t see divorce as a ‘solution’ so much as a way out of a bad situation when permissible by God.
i hate divorce. i absolutely hate everything about it. even ten years later, and married to a wonderful, loving husband, i still hate it.
Because failure to provide is more obvious to others than failure to do homemaking duties, would you also recommend that Christian men who see other men neglecting their families in this manner to speak up, even before events force the wife to go before witnesses? I know that you’ve said before that it can be helpful when women privately speak to other women about how to be better wives and mothers. It seems to me that Christian men exhorting other Christian men to better behavior would be even more effective here. After all, husbands can use discipline on their wives while wives can’t use discipline on their husband, and so they would most likely appreciate outside intervention from someone who notices that their husbands are failing to provide.
Alex, yes I am all for men exhorting other men to do their duty first so that a woman is no t even in this position. I have had some young male relatives I have had to do this with. But in Hope’s story it appears his family was enabling him rather than confronting him. I don’t even think it would be wrong for male members of Hope’s family to exhort him and even confront him if this went on as long as it was.
Yes, it is very sad in this case that after all these years, Hope’s in-laws are still enabling her husband and encouraging her to share her money with him equally. I could understand if he wanted to start his own business, was already doing work and research to get it off the ground, and needed his wife’s financial assistance for start-up money, but it doesn’t sound here like he’s articulated a clear plan or given any indication that he’s ready to work towards this. My parents are friends with a couple who actually did that. He wanted to start his own business and was working towards it, so she temporarily supported them and earned the start-up money for him. It took some sacrifices on both of their parts in the beginning, but it allowed him to be successful enough that she could stay at home with their sons (they have all boys) and that they could have a very nice life with great opportunities for their kids. But while this man’s wife was working outside of the home, he was working hard too and giving every indication that he was putting her salary to good use. Hope’s husband doesn’t seem to be doing the same things to prove himself.
I also believe that Hope should be very careful about which counselor that she goes to. The counselor would have to agree with what BGR wrote here.
Before she returned to Colombia, my wife was sending money to her 40 year old son in Spain every month for over a year (from her pensions) because he is starting his own business. She said that both he and her youngest son, who is now 34, are excellent salesmen. I asked her, then why are you sending them money if they are such good salesmen? She said that the economy in Spain is bad right now. However, her oldest son lives in Valencia, which is the third largest city in Spain with over a million and a half people in the metropolitan area. I did an internet search for available sales jobs there and they are out there! A good salesman doesn’t have a problem finding work!
Unfortunately, there are lazy men out there with big dreams and they will stay that way as long as they have wives and/or mothers enabling them. The concept of taking a job that they don’t like while starting their own business is very repulsive to these lazy men!
In cases like this, is a wife also justified in regulating her husband’s purchases with her salary more than Hope is doing? As she says, she doesn’t control his spending, but she does keep their accounts separate because she’s worried that he’d drain a joint account. I guess that what I’m asking is: how much right does a husband have to his wife’s income if he refuses to work? (I’m not suggesting that she let him starve or anything like that, btw.)
One of the things I’ve grown more and more concerned about with American Christians is the idea that God would never let us remain in a bad situation. At least once a week at work, I hear my coworkers say something like “God never intended for you to have to………..” insert whatever issue they are currently struggling with. Now to the extent that God originally created a perfect world, I agree, but too many Christians have the idea that God will never leave them in a bad situation for any significant period of time. And that just is not true. If a wife is not respectful, a husband might just have to put up with that. If a husband is lazy, a wife might just have to put up with that, too. Just because divorce might be allowed in some situations is hardly the same as saying that getting that divorce is pleasing to Jesus.
I wonder if, in an attempt to avoid a divorce, Hope could try separating from her husband. She stops paying rent for him, buying him groceries, etc. She and the kids might move in with her parents temporarily. This would give her husband the chance to come face to face with reality and very possibly turn his life around. I’m not suggesting pulling the blanket out from under him and I’d advise giving at least a month’s warning prior to making the move.
I agree with you Anna that especially in America people think God does not want us to ever remain in a bad situation. We fail to draw any distinctions between different types of bad situations that is where I think the problem comes in. For instance many people would treat the situation of a husband or wife constantly yelling at the other and make no distinction between that and if they were physically assaulting their spouse. Still others will make absolutely no distinction between a man having a porn addiction and him actually going out and sleeping with other women. We just mix it all together.
I think though that we would agree that there are some things that God does not call us to “put up with”. For instance I doubt Anna that you would say a woman should “put up with” her husband physically abusing her or her children. In this case I think we would agree she should at least separate from him with her children and then have him seek counseling. If he continued in the abusive behavior it would be right for her to divorce him.
I tried to make the distinction in this story between how you handle things that are just happening in a new marriage or even may have developed only over several months or a year or so even in an old marriage. But in this story you have a pattern of very bad behavior from this husband of sexual denial and failure to provide that has gone on 17 years. She has made pleas to him to change his behavior but he has not. I would not be opposed to your idea of separation first before divorce to give him one last chance but I don’t think in the case of this behavior going on 17 years that separation is required before divorce.
Also I don’t think if someone divorces there spouse for Biblical reasons God allows and they have tried to seek repentance from that person for a long period of time that God is displeased with them divorcing their spouse. God is displeased with the spouse for forcing them to exercise that right due to their continued rebellion against God. No Christian spouse who has ever had to divorce a spouse who remains in unrepentant sin should feel one bit guilty. Did God feel guilty for divorcing his wife Israel? No. He had given her centuries to repent and she failed to do so.
For me on a personal level – I had no guilt about divorcing my first wife after her second affair. For me to stay in such a marriage while she carried on a relationship with another man would have made a mockery of God’s institution of marriage. Now while I did not have guilt about my sending her away in divorce – I did feel sadness. I did reflect on my own short comings in that marriage and I did reflect on the impact that the divorce would have on my children. But we should never confuse sadness over divorce(which we should have) over guilt over divorce or feel that we as the injured party did something displeasing to God.
I think that your idea of separation would be good advice for a woman dealing with a husband whose laziness had only recently developed into a concerning trend. Granted, your advice still could help Hope out with her husband’s failure to provide, although I fear that after seventeen years, he might just decide to let her divorce him and go after her for alimony. The other problem is that even if Hope’s husband did start providing, which would be tough because he’d honestly be hardpressed to find work after nearly two decades of unemployment, he’d still have seventeen years of sexual denial and porn addiction that was so severe that he came to prefer watching porn and masturbating to sex with his wife to overcome.
BGR and Alex, you both make a very good point about how this has been going on for 17 years and isn’t just a new development. While that is true, and while Hope has tried numerous times to convince him to change (with no positive results), I think there is a difference between pleading with a spouse to change and actually changing ourselves so we are no longer enabling that spouse. A spouse who asks an alcoholic spouse to stop being an alcoholic but continues to buy him alcohol is not likely to have the same results as the spouse who cuts off the financial access to alcohol and makes it that much harder for the offending spouse to maintain the sin. Now, it is of course possible that the offending spouse will still not change, but I think that separating is taking it to a whole new level that Hope hasn’t tried. And because it is new and more aggressive, I think it stands a chance of being more successful than her past attempts. He might prefer for her to divorce him but he doesn’t have power in that regard. If he were to divorce her because she wasn’t paying for his stuff anymore, maybe he’d win a lot of alimony, but he’d likely win a lot less than if she were to initiate the divorce (BGR knows more about how this process works than I do, I’m just venturing a guess here). Divorce court is in general a very anti-male environment, and while I don’t condone that, I do think that it might actually work out best for Hope here should it come to that.
It is also very true that, even if he were to become less lazy, he’d still have the 17+ year porn habit to overcome. I can personally relate a little to this as my husband had an addiction to porn for over 20 years (although he was porn free for over a year when we married so sexual attraction has not been an issue for him). This will be difficult and I honestly don’t know how best to help Hope with this other than to say that things can get better as my husband has seen and experienced. But in the mean time, it might be one of those sucky situations she might have to put up with.
It is a tricky situation because I don’t believe the Bible supports the concept of a wife disciplining her husband. So where a husband has the right and responsibility to remove the financing when his wife acts sinfully does a wife have this same power with her husband? It almost seems in this instance that she would be using separation as a disciplinary tool which Biblically speaking she does not have the right to do. However she does have the Biblical right to divorce him(free herself of him) because of his sin. This is not discipline – this is termination of the marriage.
I agree that God hates divorce, but he also hates women usurping authority over men. The divorce if it occurs based on these circumstances is not her fault – but rather his fault. She is not responsible to discipline her husband – he is responsible to discipline himself or his male relatives or church authorities should discipline him.
A wife having to put up with a porn addiction or alcohol addiction or any other type of addiction on the part of her husband is indeed a “sucky situation” that she will have to “put up with”. You and I would agree that the presence of these addictions does not grant a woman a “get out of jail free card” as many Christian counselors falsely teach. These are sucky situations that God call’s women to endure. In the same way men as husbands may find themselves with a wife who has an alcohol addiction, addition to pain pills, or anger and disrespect issues. His wife might be a horrible cook, a horrible house keeper or she might give him “star fish” sex in bed with no enthusiasm toward sex. These are also “sucky situations” for men and God does not grant men the right to divorce their wives for these kinds of reasons.
But while both the man and woman must remain committed to the spouse with the offending behavior their response to that behavior in the relationship will look different depending on their position.
The wife cannot discipline her husband for offending habits. It is very common for women to use sex or the threat of leaving as a way to discipline their husband for his offending habits or addictions – God does not allow this. In fact it is very common for women to deny their husband’s sex when they know he has a porn addiction and this is the exact OPPOSITE of what God wants them to do. This is not what Hope was doing here and in fact she wanted sex with her husband but many women in Hope’s position would have been actively denying their husband.
But a husband can and must discipline his wife. If she has an addiction it is his job to actively help her by getting her treatment and also by keeping things from her(financial or otherwise) that would feed that addiction. He IS responsible for her, she is NOT responsible for him.
But going back to Hope’s story – yes if it were only a porn addiction that would be a sucky thing she would just have to live with. But she does not have to put up with sexual denial (whether that is a result of the porn addiction or something else). God says she can end the marriage in Exodus 21:10-11).
Do you really think that a wife is required to allow her husband to continue to harm himself by continuing to buy him alcohol? I really do think that there is a clear line between refusing to enable someone to continue harm themselves or you and disciplining them. The other thing is that biblically, wives are not obligated to financially support their husbands, and husbands are not supposed to be financially dependent on their wives. That’s why I think that Hope withdrawing financial support from her husband would be different from her withholding sex. She’s not obligated to do the former, but she is obligated to do the latter. Finally, I do think that there’s a difference between a woman threatening to leave every time something goes wrong–that’s definitely something that she should not do–and explaining to her husband that he’s breaking the commandments for marriage and that she will not be able to continue the marriage if he does not make efforts to begin fulfilling his obligations. The first is a manipulative threat while the second is giving him an opportunity to recognize his failings and change before a wife has to divorce.
I agree with this post. If a man will not work to provide for his family, I do not think a wife is obliged to give him money out of any money she may earn. After a year of unemployment and lying about work ( my x would lie and say he had a job and was going to work, really he did not and was not, this happened multiple times) I got a part time job. It was not a lot of money but did allow me to pay the mortgage and buy groceries and gas. I gave my x husband $50 to buy groceries one day while I stayed home and looked after our 2 children. He came back 4 hours later with $10 worth of groceries. I asked what happened and he said his truck broke down while in town and he had to buy a part and repair it. I found out from a friend a couple weeks later that he had been at a mutual friend’s house and had bought meth with most of our grocery money. I never gave him any more money after that.
Let me clarify my previous comment about “threats” from wives. I really was talking more about threatening to leave over things that do not allow for divorce in order to get him to stop certain bad habits. If what he is doing Biblically warrants divorce than her warning to him about their marriage possibly ending is the right thing to do.
On the finances issue you are right that God never requires a woman to provide for her husband the way he commands a husband to provide for his wife. However God tells women they are to submit to their husbands in “everything” in Ephesians 5:24. That would certainly include whatever money they earn or have. That is why I believe that the only option in the case of a woman having to deal with a deadbeat husband is for her to remove herself from his authority by seeking divorce – then what she earns and what she has she can Biblically keep from him.
I agree with Alex that not enabling someone is different than disciplining them (and I’d argue this works for both genders, not just a wife to a husband). If a husband was a pedophile and requested his wife drop off their child for some “alone time” I’d hardly agree that she was obligated to enable that. I’d also argue that if a husband was an alcoholic and requested that his wife pick up alcohol for him, she would not be required to enable that. It seems just as logical (although obviously not as extreme as the pedophile case) that if a husband is lazy and requests to leach off his wife’s money for rent, entertainment, food, etc. that she does not have to enable that. No threats, no discipline, just not enabling. This is actually a lot of why I agreed with your last post about how to deal with a lazy wife even though we disagree about spousal discipline (in the majority of instances you mention…I’m not inherently entirely opposed to the concept).
Let’s not forget that God says He “hates divorce”. If removing funds (that is not the same as stealing a husband’s own money) or separating is a way to avoid that, I’d hardly see God having a problem with that. Keep in mind, we’re talking about actual laziness here. Not a husband enjoying some time on the couch after a day’s work. Just like a spouse enjoying a glass of wine isn’t an alcoholic.
Sorry for the double post, but what is separation if it isn’t a last warning before divorce? It is meant for one spouse to show the other the seriousness of an offense prior to cutting all ties. I don’t see it as something that only husbands are allowed to use. I don’t see it as disciplinary, but if one agrees with the concept in general, I don’t see what the difference is by applying it here.
BGR, would you argue that a wife is obligated to provide sex to her husband while they are separated? If not, I don’t see why she would be obligated to provide financial support (outside of support for the children which I don’t believe either parent should fully abdicate until the courts force them to re-engage). In fact, as Alex has pointed out, even if she were obligated to provide sex to him during this time, I don’t think it necessarily follows that she is obligated to provide financial support.
I also do think that it would be okay for a wife to refuse to do something that would clearly and without debate cause physical harm to her husband (e.g. picking up liquor for an alcoholic husband). It would be sinful for her to hurt him, and I don’t think that a husband can command his wife to do that.
And to be clear, I would make a distinction there between addictions that cause physical harm (e.g. alcoholism and drug addiction) and addictions that do not (e.g. gambling or porn). I’d also like to clarify that when I talk about porn addiction, I’m not talking about just looking at porn or even frequently looking at porn. There’s some scientific debate now as to whether or not porn addiction even exists because there’s not sufficient evidence to demonstrate neurological dependence. But there are definitely men and women who develop enough of a dependence on porn that it interferes with their lives, relationships, and obligations. By that, I don’t mean their spouses getting jealous. I’m talking about getting to the point where they use porn so frequently that they begin regularly denying their spouse sex or start neglecting their other duties because of it.
AnnaMS & Alex,
As I said in the beginning this was a tricky situation for me looking at this from a Biblical perspective. I have always held the position that a wife does not have to submit to physical abuse by her husband toward herself or her children. So in the AnnaMS example of the husband having a history being a pedophile she has no obligation to submit her children to that in the same way she does not have to submit herself to physical abuse by him.
The real question we have here is about a wife protecting a husband from his hurting himself. I was studying a passage I know well last night from I Samuel 25 with the story of Abigail, her husband Nabal and King David. She intervened on her husband’s behalf after he sinned against God’s anointed – King David and King David and his men were about to wipe out her husband and all her household. She did step in and went directly against her husband’s wishes to save her family from his evil actions. In fact God later killed her husband even though David spared him and then David took her as another his wives. So I think we have a Biblical precedent in Scripture that in this type of situation where a husband is endangering himself and the family that a wife can act on his and her families best interests against her husbands wishes.
So I don’t think it would be wrong based on this precedent for a Christian wife to refuse to do something for her husband that she believes will cause direct harm to him, her or her children. If that means not buying him alcohol or some other drug he is dependent on than that is what she must do – respectfully refuse. If he is endangering her children to the point she feels separation is warranted than so be it.
On the separation issue there is a type of separation that the Bible talks about and one that it does not. The first type is talked about it I Corinthians 7:10-11:
Now there are many Christian preachers and teachers that use this passage to say that the Bible forbids all cases of remarriage for a woman(unless her husband dies). But we know this is not the case because it does not take into account the entirety of Scripture or even the entirety of this chapter. In Deuteronomy 24:2 we read after a man sends his wife away in divorce that “And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.” In Exodus 21:10-11 we see the language that if he sins against her by failing to provide for her physical needs (including sex) she is “free” of him. This same language of being freed or not being in bondage to a husband who has abandoned his wife is used in this same chapter of I Corinthians 7 when Paul writes “A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases” – I Corinthians 7:15.
So we know that Paul is NOT saying that in all cases of separation a wife must remain unmarried until her husband dies. Then the question is what is he saying? I think he is talking about a woman who separates from her husband for unbiblical reasons. This is why he writes “Let not the wife depart from her husband” when he clearly knows based on Exodus 21:10-11 a wife is given the right by God to depart from her husband because of his sin. He is talking about a wife separating from her husband for unbiblical reasons.
But what is not addressed here or elsewhere in Scripture is a wife separating from her husband FOR biblical reasons. I am willing though to be silent where the Scriptures are silent meaning I am going adjust my position and not say it is wrong for a wife to separate for Biblical reasons as the Bible nowhere condemns this practice.
So I say all this to say to say after examining the Scriptures and seeking the Spirit’s guidance on this issue I am pretty much in agreement with what you ladies have said here.
Thank you for the thoughtful and thorough response. I really appreciate that, and I think that you’ve drawn very clear guidelines for wives here. We can’t stop submitting to a husband who has problems like drug or alcohol addiction in other things, but we can appeal to him to seek treatment and refuse to enable him to continue to damage his physical health. Furthermore, separating from a husband for a reason that wouldn’t be grounds for biblical divorce is wrong, but separating from a husband for biblical reasons in hopes of reconciling and avoiding divorce could be an acceptable option because the goal is to avoid divorce, not to usurp the husband’s authority. (Also, a wife separated from her husband would likely have to stop benefitting from his income, so she would be surrendering martial rights and privileges during this period.)
BGR, that was a fabulous example you mentioned of Abigail and Nabal. I do want to clarify that I do not view separating as a step to be taken lightly at all. I’m not a fan of the concept in general, but I do recognize the need for it due to the sinfulness of humanity. At first, I was totally opposed to the concept because it seemed almost like rejecting the spirit of the law in favor of the letter of the law. So a person who was no longer living with their spouse or engaging in a relationship of any kind could still say “but see, I’m still married, I haven’t gotten divorced so i’m still okay”, when it seemed to be making a mockery of what marriage actually looked like. It is only when separation is done with the intention of getting back together in a real marriage and not simply as an alternative to divorce that I am more in favor of the idea. Without any hard evidence for this, I’m guessing the majority of separations that take place in America are unjustified and not something either of us would support. So I have a lot of respect for your unwillingness to jump on the ‘separation bandwagon’.