How should a Christian wife handle a deadbeat husband Episode 1

“My husband only works when he feels like it. For six to seven months out of the year he refuses to work on his business… he does nothing but play video games. This leaves me with the majority of the financial burden when he is in no mood to work for months on end. He asks his brother for money when I have used all my resources to pay the rent and there are utilities and groceries needed…

So my question is this: If my husband continues to refuse to provide for his family, to habitually deny me sex for no legitimate reason, to refuse to make provision for the possibility of children of our own, and continues to be emotionally abusive, do I have a right to, One: Divorce him on biblical grounds, and Two: Remarry without being presumed an “adulteress” someday?”

This is part of an email I received from a Christian wife who wants to go by the name of “Aria”.

A lot of my posts deal with the evils of feminism and in truth I believe it is a much larger problem in our society than the issue with men that we will discuss here.  But just as God hates rebellion in women he also hates laziness in men. So while the problem of deadbeat husbands may not be as great as the problem of unsubmissive wives in our modern culture it is still a problem that we as Christians must address.

I have received several emails like this from women over the last year and I feel it is time to start to share more of their stories so that other women will know that that God does not expect women to be trapped with deadbeat husbands.

But before we continue with Aria’s story though we need to define what I mean by a “deadbeat husband”.

A deadbeat husband is a man who refuses to fulfill any one of these 3 minimal requirements of marriage that God requires of all husbands toward their wives:

“10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11 (KJV)

The new testament also reinforces this principle of these requirements of husband toward his wife when the Apostle Paul states:

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)

The word “nourisheth” has the idea of feeding or providing for and “cherisheth” is not a romantic term as we now think of it but has the idea of protection.

So if a husband refuses to provide food, clothing (also shelter) and sex to his wife she may be free of such a man in divorce.

Now that we have defined what a deadbeat husband is from a Biblical perspective now we will look at Aria’s story.

Aria’s Story

“Hello,

I have come across your blog recently in a search for answers to my biggest questions concerning wanting to divorce my husband. I will be as straightforward and matter of fact as possible as to my circumstances and my reasons for wanting out of the marriage.

A little background:

I grew up as the daughter of a minister who, despite leaving the ministry in a professional capacity, still taught and studied, abundantly, the Bible, and the works of Spurgeon, Sproul, MacArthur, Calvin, Luther, etc. I lived with my parents until I was 27. My mother was/is an extremely domineering, psychologically abusive woman, who ruled our home and my father with an iron fist. I lived in fear of her for thirty years. I was always taught that a woman should remain under her father’s authority until he gave her away in marriage, however, I saw the situation as being flipped on its head; my father being ruled by an unruly and unstable woman, and allowing it to happen. I did not feel safe nor did I feel my father had any real authority. I left that home at 27 and continued to date my husband-to-be. My family disowned me.

I married my husband 6 years ago when I was 28 and he was 39. We dated for about little over a year. We are both professing Christians. We had a Christian wedding. My husband was divorced. His wife cheated for two years, he refused to divorce her, and she, in turn, finally, divorced him – that is what I know of the story from his side only. I have, since being married, heard, second hand, that he was impossible to live with and lazy. They were 7 and 9 (boy and girl, respectively) when we married.

My husband promised to have his vasectomy reversed and for us to begin having children one year into the marriage, which he soon declared after that I had agreed to 3 years (which I did not).

These are the issues I am dealing with currently:

  • My husband only works when he feels like it. For six to seven months out of the year he refuses to work on his business blaming it on it being “the slow season” – so he does nothing but play video games. This leaves me with the majority of the financial burden when he is in no mood to work for months on end. He asks his brother for money when I have used all my resources to pay the rent and there are utilities and groceries needed.
  • My husband is irresponsible with money. He spends money on games for his PlayStation 4 and XBOX ONE (and yes he has both) before/instead of paying the bills. I have tried to be his help meet in this area going out and getting a full time job of my own. I have no issues with the income he brings in, however, it is gone by mid fall, and I am left with supporting the family from October to March or April of every year. He even got angry with me for getting us each life insurance policies, both of which I pay for myself.
  • My husband refuses to have his vasectomy reversed, and I am now 33 and am losing my childbearing years at an alarming rate. I am being denied the ability to be a mother. He has not kept his word about getting the reversal after the first year that we both agreed on before marriage. He promises me every year that he will get it done. We are now halfway into our sixth year of marriage.
  • My husband refuses to lead spiritually. I have expressed that I would like him to, but we don’t attend church together, and he only does a devotion with me if I ask him to. He has no desire to attend church or lead his family in a biblical way. He attended church regularly in his first marriage and while we were dating, so I did not see this coming.
  • My husband habitually denies me sexual relations for no legitimate reason whatsoever. (I am well within a healthy BMI, I have been a model, and am frequently asked to model. I have very good hygiene, am regularly groomed and shaved, dress well every day, and do my best to present well – this is not a brag, it is to say that there are no physical obstacles as to why I should not be pursued. In fact, he told me early on that I was his ideal woman, but that he would not tell me how beautiful I am so that I would not get a big head.)
  • I don’t know what you believe about psychological abuse, but I constantly feel manipulated, and am lied to regularly about everything from finances to when we are going to have children to what he may have told me two minutes prior. I feel the withholding of sex is just another way to try to create an insecurity and doubt within myself about whether I am worthy or not.

I moved out nearly five months ago, leaving him with the understanding that I would file for divorce by the end of this year if he did not have his finances in order, continued to refuse to get a vasectomy reversal, he continued to deny me sex, and refused to get counseling with me. I am completely self-sustaining, and he is in no way financially responsible for me at this time – but I have gone without many things I am in need of for it.

I have done my part caring for his children, being sexually available (and pursuant, despite continual rejection and verbal shaming for wanting sex), being a partner to him, keeping the house in order, respecting him and his decision-making to the best of my ability, and taking care of myself while he remains overweight, etc.

So, apart from how all of this causes me to feel worthless in his eyes, I am more concerned with what is the right thing to do under these circumstances. I believe he has not been a husband to me in any sense of the word. And, honestly, I waver, as I was taught, my entire life, that you only divorce when your husband has physically “cheated” on you, or if he is beating you and will not get help and repent. I was also taught, if you do divorce for any reason other than physical infidelity, you cannot remarry and will be considered an adulteress.

So my question is this: If my husband continues to refuse to provide for his family, to habitually deny me sex for no legitimate reason, to refuse to make provision for the possibility of children of our own, and continues to be emotionally abusive, do I have a right to, One: Divorce him on biblical grounds, and Two: Remarry without being presumed an “adulteress” someday?

On a different topic; have you ever delved into psychological and emotional abuse? I feel this is a subject that the world does not shy away from, but is prevalent, even in the church. It is an invisible, yet terribly scarring type of abuse. It goes against everything the bible says about “living with your wife in an understanding way,” caring for her as “the weaker vessel”, and loving her, giving oneself up for her “as Christ gave himself up for the Church.” To crush ones spirit, and to use emotionally manipulative tactics to do so, is abominable, and not uncommon. My own mother was this way. My own father was not obedient to God in disciplining my mother to keep her from wreaking havoc on her own family, which is scattered and broken, and has spread throughout both sides of the extended families.

Any light you can shed on the divorce and remarriage issue would be taken into careful consideration. As I feel very much like a slave in bondage needing to be loosed. I am just wrestling with the rights and wrongs and what is biblically allowed for someone in my situation.

Thanks for your time and consideration,

Aria”

My Response to Aria

I have actually known men personally who have done what your husband has done staying home playing video games while they send their wives out to work or they depend on other relatives to financially support their laziness.  It infuriates me when I see this.  I believe it also infuriates God when men do this. While laziness is sin when it happens with men or women – I believe it is especially heinous when it happens in men. God created men to be ambitious and work and make their mark on the world.

A man who has no drive to work is like a woman who has no drive to have children.  It completely goes against the gender directives that God designed in men and women.

All husbands have failings in different areas just as all wives have failings in different areas. You are right that Christian husbands have a responsibility to discipline their wives for their sinful behaviors as your father should have done with your mother.

But while husbands and wives may sin against each other in countless ways God does not allow divorce for just any sin.

The story you describe is painful to imagine any Christian wife going through. But things like a husband lying to his wife, not fulfilling his promises (even denying you a child) or not spiritually leading as he should does not give a woman the right to divorce her husband.

There are many tough marriage situations where a wife is called to practice the I Peter 3:1-2 principle toward her husband who is being disobedient to God:

“1Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own 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, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” – I Peter 3:1-2 (NASB)

So sometimes as tough as an ungodly husband may make things on his wife – she is still called to continue to serve him, reverence him and love him.  In some cases women can even win their husbands to obedience to God by their continued submission and service to their husbands.

However God does allow a woman to divorce her husband for these reasons:

  1. If he fails to provide her with food and clothing (shelter is implied with clothing).
  2. If he refuses to have regular sexual relations with her (sexual defraudment).
  3. If he physically abuses her or makes attempts on her life.
  4. If he abandons her.

See my article “For what reasons does God allow Divorce?” where I discuss all the Scriptures relating to each of these four points.

What about “adulterous marriages”?

The only marriage in Scripture that could be considered an ‘adulterous affair’ or ‘adulterous marriage’ is when a woman unjustly divorces her husband and then marries another man. In this case she would be considered an adulterous and the man who married her would be considered an adulterer.

Please see my article “Is there such a thing as an adulterous marriage?” for my discussion about all the Scriptures related to this topic.

What about psychological and emotional abuse?

I do not disagree that husbands and wives can treat each other in uncaring ways.  They can say hurtful and spiteful things to one another. They can sometimes do as you have said and crush one another’s spirits with their actions.

When a husband or wife do this they are not living up to the way that God expects husbands and wives to treat one another.

But I don’t think we need a special carve out for “physiological or emotional abuse” any more than we need special “hate crime” carves outs for crime as we have made today.  Murder is murder. Assault is assault. Not honoring your wife is not honoring your wife.  Not reverencing your husband is not reverencing your husband.  Provoking your children to wrath is provoking your children to wrath.

We just need to call sin what is – sin.

We don’t need new categories for sin – God has given us all the types of sin in his Word.

So can you divorce you husband?

While your husband may have committed a litany list of sins against you there are two that stand out as sins that God considers grievous enough for you to end your marriage.  The fact that he does not work consistently and makes you have to support his laziness is enough by itself to allow you to divorce him.  His sin of sexual denial by itself would be enough for you to end your marriage. These two sins together make for an air tight case for Biblical divorce.

I applaud you though for giving your husband time to repent. I don’t think anyone should enter divorce lightly without giving the offending spouse a certain amount of time to repent.

But if he fails to repent by the end of this year I believe that you can be free of your marital bonds to him as Exodus 21:10-11 clearly says.

While God can do anything it sounds like your husband has been a lazy man for most of his life and it is highly doubtful he will change.  When this year ends if God gives you peace about this I think it would be right for you to end your marriage.  And you are free to marry another man and it will not be an adulterous marriage to do so since you have divorced your husband with for just causes.

Update 5/1/2016

For those who read this story when I originally published it she has asked me to change her code name to “Aria” and remove a few details from the story that she feels may make it too specific if her husband or family were to ever read it. So if you remember her previous code name or those details please  don’t reference them in comments. Thank you.

 

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9 thoughts on “How should a Christian wife handle a deadbeat husband Episode 1

  1. However, if you do divorce your husband you need to give yourself plenty of time to heal before remarrying. Some suggest at least two years. You also need to be very careful that you do not marry the same type of individual or another ungodly man (even if he goes to church).

  2. I also believe that a grown man who plays video games constantly has the emotional maturity of an adolescent.

  3. Another note for Aria: vasectomy reversals aren’t 100% effective, and the effectiveness of the reversal goes down after time. According to WebMD’s page on vasectomy reversals, the procedure:
    *Leads to overall pregnancy rates of greater than 50%.
    *Has the greatest chance of success within 3 years of the vasectomy.
    *Leads to pregnancy only about 30% of the time if the reversal is done 10 years after vasectomy.

    I know that his refusal to give you children on its own isn’t enough of a reason to divorce, but if you do end up staying with him and he keeps putting off the reversal, you may need to consider adoption. I’m sorry to be the bearer of potentially bad news.

  4. For all purposes, a Christian who is not obeying the Scripture is akin to a non-believer if they do not repent. If you’ve confronted them over their sin and they refuse, then you are to take them to the Church (Via Matthew 18). Additionally,

    1 Corinthians 7:12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not [f]divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not [g]send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through [h]her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called [i]us [j]to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

    If anything, separation may be an option if the situation(s) do not improve. This may be a wake up call to the other spouse to turn their life around.

    However, I would never, ever, ever, counsel divorce given what Jesus said on the topic: “What God has put together let man not separate.” This is the law fulfilled, and the original intent.

  5. Hey there, Jim again. Really been enjoying your content. Your posts make me think about things that I have been dealing with in my own marriage; nothing I will get into at this point but maybe in the future.

    I have been having some arguments with my wife over the role of man and woman in marriage and I believe the core of it comes down to her interpretation of her own purpose for being created. When I try to bring up that she was created to be my helpmeet, she replies that she has heard many egalitarian arguments against that. She even went to an online biblical greek reference website and found out the original meaning of the word “woman” the word “ezer.” Apparently, this word is used in the Old Testament only twice to refer to a woman and over 10 times to refer to God or military aids thus giving the word a place of power and authority and not at all implying submission. I do not know how to reply to her when she says this as this appears to make sense but I know is a lie somehow. What do I say to her and how to I regain control as the dominant man God has called me to be?

  6. Dragonfly,

    This is will be a continuing series I will come back to as I get letters from women about deadbeat husbands but I am not sticking with only deadbeat husbands. Often times I get working on a series but I get letters from people that changes my direction.

  7. @ Deep strength

    I am in agreement with your position that separation is possibly available, but not divorce. I cannot find scriptural support for a wife to ever initiate a divorce, even though many are willing to call separation divorce. In any case a wife that leaves her husband because he is lazy or an inadequate provider is not free to remarry as long as her husband is alive, at least that is what I believe the scriptures teach.

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