How Should a Christian Wife Deal with A Cheating Husband?

“My husband is having an emotional affair with his ex-girlfriend whom he got  pregnant during our separation. How does the Bible say a wife should deal with a cheating husband?” This question was posed in one of two emails I have received recently from two different Christian wives.

This question above was part of an email I received from a woman that has commented on this blog calling herself “Soul Fruit Sister”.  Below is larger excerpt from her email to me.

“My husband is having an emotional affair with his ex-girlfriend whom he got  pregnant during our separation. How does the Bible say a wife should deal with a cheating husband? His ex-girlfriend also has a boyfriend and another child with the man she is with now as well.

I saw text messages from her to my husband asking our marriage was and him writing back that it has been stressful between us. I also saw texts from my husband telling her how great she is, how gorgeous she is, etc. Meanwhile, he has pretty much emotionally abandoned me, although he still has sex with me and requires me to give him oral sex whenever he feels like it.

I’ve tried talking to him about talking to her this way multiple times, calmly, and at first, he said he would stop. His mother even spoke to him about it, and he told her he would quit but as of recently he still continues to speak with her on a daily basis about things he should only be talking with me about. I found this out by looking at one of his old phone’s that he recently had switched over. I don’t normally go through his phone because he keeps it on him at all times and he would be furious if I tried too.

It is now to a point where I’ve tried talking to him about it, telling him how it hurts me and how I would like for him to start setting boundaries that would reestablish trust between us, but he just ignored me.

The Scriptures command us to expose evil.  And in Matthew 18 we are told if a believer sins against us and refuses to repent after we have brought that sin to their attention, we should bring it to the church.

My husband claims to be a Christian, but his actions are clearly not those of a believer and he does not attend church. So, what then should my actions be?”

Below is another email I recently received from another Christian wife calling herself “Martha”:

“Dear BGR,

My husband claimed to be Christian many years ago when we got married. He was actually very active in our church and taught Sunday School at one point.  But over the years he has fallen away from the church but still claims to be a Christian.  He has not been to church now in several years.  While he never drives drunk (but rather has me drive him), I am still not happy with the amount of drinking he does or how foolish he gets when he drinks.  He also gets very flirtatious when he drinks.

So here is my problem, my husband travels for work often and recently he even admitted that some of his buddies have taken him to a strip club a few times when he has been away for work.  He claims he did nothing with the girls, but how do I know that? I have seen places on your blog where you have said that a man going to a strip club is him having virtual sex even if he never touches the woman. My husband has at least had virtual sex with these strippers and in the worst case he actually engaged in physical sexual activity with them.  How does the Bible say I should handle this as a Christian wife?”

So, what is the Biblical answer to the difficult situations that both these women find themselves in? What does the Bible say a Christian wife’s response should be to her cheating husband? Before we can answer this central question that both these wives are asking, we must put their question in perspective from a Biblical world view.

 

The Biblical Definition of a “Cheating Husband” is Different Than Our Modern Definition

Today most people, including Bible believing Christians, would define a cheating husband as a married man that is emotionally or physically intimate with a woman other than his wife.  They will refer to such a man as an “adulterer”.

There are a small number of wives today that would not feel their marriage is threatened by their husband having an emotionally intimate relationship with another woman while the vast majority of women would feel threatened by this.

And the reality is that often when a man shares his emotions with a woman, eventually she shares her body – at least in the beginning of a new relationship between them.  So, this concern that emotional intimacy between a husband and a woman other than his wife might lead to physical intimacy, is actually well founded.

But for most wives, it is not just the worry of their husbands engaging in physical intimacy with another woman.  Most wives want be the person that their husband shares all of his feelings with from his joys to his sorrows and his worries.

Let me put this another way.  For many women, their husband could never go near another woman emotionally or physically but if he holds back things from her, they also consider this to be “a breach of trust”.

It is not uncommon to hear of women divorcing their husbands, not because of sexual infidelity or abuse, but because of a breach of trust.  Either the husband lied to his wife about various things or he held things back from her.  Many wives want to know everything their husbands are thinking or doing and this is the center piece of marital faithfulness for many women.

I have actually heard of women that have no problem with their husbands going to strip clubs as long as they take their wife with them.  Other women don’t even have to go with their husbands, as long as the husband always tells her when and where he is going.  Some women even go so far as allowing their husbands to have sex with other women as long as the wife is present.   The common denominator in these situations is simply that there are no secrets between the husband and wife and nothing is held back.

Again, this comes back to a woman’s concept of marital faithfulness which starts with complete and utter openness, no secrets, nothing withheld and then in most cases it extends to physical intimacy as well.

In other words, for the overwhelming vast majority of women today, their concept of marital faithfulness is that they own their husband’s heart and his body.

But as Bible believing Christians, we must test everything we believe or feel by the Word of God as the Scriptures exhort us to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Christian ladies, this is one of those times I am going to ask you to brace yourselves and take off your cultural lenses.

Nowhere in all the Bible is a married man called an adulterer simply because he is emotionally intimate or sexually intimate with a woman not his wife.  But rather he is called an adulterer for the following three reasons:

  1. If he has sex with another man’s wife and then his sin of adultery is committed against the husband of that wife, not his wife. (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22)
  2. If he wrongly divorces his wife. (Matthew 5:32)
  3. If he marries a woman who wrongly divorced her husband. (Mark 10:12)

In other words, based on the Biblical definition of an adulterer, a married man who has sex with an unmarried woman is NOT an adulterer, but rather he is a whoremonger.  A married man can only be labeled as an adulterer if he has sex with another man’s wife or if he wrongly divorces his wife.  Another way of putting this is the only way a married man’s behavior can Biblically be labeled as the sin of adultery against his wife is if he wrongly divorces her.

The Scriptures recognize this distinction between whoremongers and adulterers in Hebrews 13:14 where we read “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”.

Some Christian wives may be reading this and saying “ok fine so my cheating husband is called a whoremonger by God and not adulterer.  Who cares? He is still a cheating husband and committing marital unfaithfulness by his actions.”

 

But then we must ask what is the Biblical definition of marital faithfulness of man toward his wife?

A lot of Christian teachers online and in Christian pulpits across America say that a man having sex with women other than his wife is him committing adultery against her, an act of marital unfaithfulness and grounds for divorce.  They say this based on Matthew 5:32 which we previously referenced:

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 5:32 (KJV)

The problem is they are ignoring the gender specificity of this statement by Christ. Christ says a man may “put away his wife” for “fornication”.

And now comes a Biblical truth that completely conflicts with our American cultural values.

While Scripturally speaking, marital faithfulness for a woman toward her husband does hinge upon on her exclusively giving herself sexually to her husband there is no Biblical warrant for making the same statement of husbands toward their wives.

The reason that emotional and sexual exclusivity is never given as a criterion of marital faithfulness of a husband toward his wife is found in the following passage of the Bible:

“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)

And there you have it right there in the Scriptures.  The reason emotional and sexual exclusivity is never given as a criterion of marital faithfulness of a husband toward his wife is because God allows men to practice polygamy or specifically polygyny.

I realize there is a lot of opposition in the Christian world and elsewhere to polygamy.  Often Christian preachers will say “polygamy was a sin God overlooked for a time”.  But such a statement is an assault on the holy character of God.  God never condones, regulates or allows something he considers to be sinful.

In Genesis 30:18, God rewarded Leah with another son because she gave her handmaid to her husband as another wife. God expressly set forth rules for the practice of polygamy in Exodus 21:10-11, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 and Deuteronomy 25:5-7. While God warned against Kings hording wives in Deuteronomy 17:17 as Solomon would later do, he told David in II Samuel 12:8 when he sinned with Bathsheba that he had given David many wives and would have given him many more wives.

In Ezekiel 23:1-5 God pictures himself as a polygamist husband of two wives, those being the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.  And in Romans 10:19 we read that God is taking on a new wife in the form of the Church to make his first wife, the nation of Israel, jealous so that she may return to him.

Those who oppose polygamy as an allowable extension of God’s design for marriage and insist that “God’s design was for a man to be married to one woman as seen in his creation of one wife for Adam” must then say God violated his own design in allowing and regulating the practice of polygamy for Israel.

And those who say “well God allowed divorce to and that was not part of his design” fail to recognize that God said he hates divorce in Malachi 2:16 but never in all the Scriptures does he say he hates polygamy or that he had to allow it because of sin.

And before we move on from this subject of polygamy back to the Biblical definition of martial faithfulness, I want to quickly address one other argument against the practice of Biblical polygamy.  Some may say “Well maybe God allows polygamy for men, but the laws of various nations including the United States do not.  Therefore, even though God allows men to practice polygamy they cannot because it is illegal by the law of the United States.”

The problem with this belief is that is built upon the false teaching that civil authorities are unlimited in their power.  Many Christians believe the government can regulate and legislate any area of our lives as long as that regulation or law does not ask us to sin against God (Acts 5:29).  But Christ taught us that civil government is actually limited in its scope when he made the following statement below:

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”

Mark 12:17 (KJV)

Jesus did not say render to God everything that is God’s and everything else render to Caesar.   No, my friends, he told us to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. God never granted authority over marriage to the either the civil government or the Church. Instead he granted authority over marriage to the family and specifically to fathers. This is why it is consistently seen throughout the Scriptures that fathers give or refuse their daughters for marriage (Jeremiah 29:6, Exodus 22:16-17) and neither the civil government nor church has any part in this.

For more on the subject of Biblical polygamy see my five part series on Polygamy which starts with “Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 1”.

 

Now, having proven from the Scriptures why emotional and sexual exclusivity is never given as a criterion of marital faithfulness of a husband toward his wife we will return to what God defines as marital faithfulness of a husband toward his wife.

Unlike how God defines marital faithfulness for a woman, marital faithfulness for a man has nothing to do with the exclusivity of his relationship with his wife, but rather it centers on his loving provision for his wife.

Marital faithfulness of a husband toward his wife is defined by God in Exodus 21:10-11 as a husband providing his wife with food, clothing and sexual relations.   

So, we can see by looking at the Scriptures that like many other things today, our definition of a cheating husband is very different than God’s definition of a cheating husband.

God’s definition of a cheating husband is a man that does not provide his wife with the necessities of life including sexual relations.

The New Testament repeats the concepts we just read in Exodus 21:10-11 where we see these responsibilities of a husband toward his wife repeated in the following 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)

“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)

The word “nourisheth” has the idea of provision which would correlate back to Exodus 21:10’s command that a man provide food for his wife.  The word “cherisheth” does not carry the modern romantic definition of this word which has come to mean “putting one’s wife on a pedestal”.  It actually has the idea of a mother hen keeping her eggs protected and warm which correlates back to Exodus 21:10’s command for a man to properly cloth his wife which would protect her body from the elements.

And Exodus 21:10’s call for men to perform their marital duty with their wives, or in other words give them sexual relations is restated in the passage above from I Corinthians 7:3-5.

 

Are You Saying it is OK for Husbands to Have Sex with Other Women?

Unless your husband is properly practicing Biblical polygamy in which he intends to continue to provide for you and new wives he takes no it is not OK for him to simply have sex with other women. To do so is by definition whoremongering which God says he will judge in Hebrews 13:4.

The reality is that most men in western culture will not or cannot practice Biblical polygamy because of cultural and financial obstacles to doing so.  It does not make it wrong for the few men who can overcome both these obstacles, but the majority of men simply cannot.

Neither of the husbands mentioned in the two emails I received are attempting to practice Biblical polygamy.

Martha’s husband who is going to strip clubs is definitely engaging in a least virtual sexual relations in these clubs, if not actual physical sexual relations.  Therefore, he being a whoremonger which is a sin against God’s law.

But what about Soul Fruit Sister’s husband and his emotional affair with his ex-girlfriend? That one is a bit trickier.  Is he engaging in a virtual form of sexual relations with her? Right now, the answer appears to be no.

Is what he is doing still inappropriate? Yes.  And here is the reason why.

While he may not be having virtual or physical sexual relations with this other woman, he may still be guilty of making “provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14) and putting himself in a position where some type of illicit sexual relationship could happen and this is why is actions are wrong.

How Should These Two Wives Deal with Their Husband’s Sins?

As I just stated, Martha’s husband by attending strip clubs is definitely committing the sin of whoremongering by engaging in at least virtual or physical sexual relations with strippers.

Soul Fruit Sister’s husband is making provision for himself to fall into sexual sin which is a sin in and of itself.

In the case of Martha’s husband which is clear cut case of sexual sin it would not be inappropriate for her to bring this to her church elders if her husband was church member.  But my reasoning for this is not based on Matthew 18 which Soul Fruit Sister alluded to.

First let’s look at Matthew 18:15-17 (KJV):

“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.”

Some Christians have wrongly interpreted Matthew 18:15-17 to mean we can go to our church elders anytime anyone in the church does even the slightest thing to us.  If they won’t admit their fault to us in private, we can run to the church elders and tattle on them.   But this is not what Christ is saying at all when we look at the entirety of the New Testament witness.

As Christians we must balance two principles.

On the one hand we are called to follow the Scriptural principle and example of Christ which in I Peter 2:19 states “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully”. So, if our first instinct every time we are wronged in any way by a fellow believer is to run to the church and tattle on them then we are not following Christ’s example in suffering wrongly.

So, what is the standard of bringing one before the Church for Church discipline?  The standard is given to us in the following passages of the Bible:

“11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. “

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (KJV)

 “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.”

2 Thessalonians 3:14 (KJV)

So, if a person is living an openly sinful lifestyle which includes him being a fornicator or if a person is a church member and telling people not to follow the Bible such people can be brought before the Church for discipline and possible expulsion if they refuse to repent.

So, in the case of Martha’s husband if he were a member of a church than his fornication at strip clubs would constitute an assault on the purity of the church.  Therefore, she would be right in bringing his sin to the church.

But here is a key concept that must be understood.  His sin of fornication is against God, not his wife.  But that is the opposite of how most churches and Christians would approach this sin today.

Remember we have shown from the Scriptures that a husband can only commit adultery against his wife in one way and that is by seeking to divorce her for a reason other than her being sexually unfaithful to him. So, if a man wants to put his wife away, because his girl friend wants him to dump his wife and marry her this is absolutely something that should be brought before the church if he is a church member as it is a direct sin against his wife and also against God and the purity of the Church.

But in the case Soul Fruit Sister’s husband putting himself in a possible position to sexually sin I am not sure this rises to the level that she would bring this to the church if he were a member.

However, whether these husbands were both church members or not must realize the most the church can do is condemn their actions and expel them from the church if they will not repent.  In either case of them being members or not of churches, the wives will still be left with the aftermath.

So how should a Christian wife deal with her husband’s whoremongering or even putting himself in a possible position to sexually sin because of inappropriate emotional intimacy with another woman?

The answer is found in the following passage of the Bible:

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

I Peter 3:1-6 (KJV)

Would the two wives who wrote me agree that their husbands are not obeying the Word of God in the behavior they are engaging in? I think they absolutely would agree.

So then it would follow that If they agree that their husbands are in fact being disobedient to the Word of God then they must also agree with God’s prescription for how Christian wives should deal with the disobedience of their husbands including but not limited to the sin of whoremongering or making provision for the flesh to fulfill its desires.

And Gods prescription for how wives should deal with their disobedient husbands is to win them to God without preaching the Word at them, nagging them and shaming them.  But rather he wants them to wind them by their pure and reverent behavior and to adorn themselves with a quiet and meek spirit.

This prescription for wives in dealing with the sin of their husbands is the exact opposite of what a wife’s sin nature will tell her to do and unfortunately it is also the exact opposite of what many Christian pastors and teachers will tell wives to do.  But it is the truth of the Word of God.

Do I Still Have to Have Sex With My Whoremongering Husband?

I have seen many women throughout the years try and take the approach that since their husband is whoring around and might give them some sexually transmitted disease, even one that is fatal like the AIDs virus, that this gives them a free ticket to divorce their husband or at the very least refuse to have sex with him until his whoring stops and he is tested for STDs.

But let’s change the situation a bit.  What if a woman’s husband worked for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or some other medical group where he traveled around the country or even around the world and it might be possible for him to contract a whole host of infectious diseases non-fatal and fatal alike? Would it be right for his wife to say she does not have to have sex with her husband because it might be too risky?

Now from a non-Biblical, secularist world view the answer here is simple.  Your happiness as well as physical and mental health are the most important thing in the world.  You don’t owe your husband sex or anything else for that matter that you don’t want to do. In fact if makes you happier, just leave the bum.

But God gives this command to both husbands and wives in marriage:

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

I Corinthians 7:3 (KJV)

Except for limited agreed upon times for prayer, fasting or medical conditions like surgery, child birth or other things like that – a wife has no Biblical warrant to refuse to render under her body under her husband in the act of sex.

And if you are a woman that believes that God created you for a purpose and that the Bible is the Word of God and the guide for your life then your personal happiness and even health should not be your greatest concern.   Your greatest concern should be to bring glory to God and sometimes that means suffering wrongly because of others wrong actions.  We see the following example of Christ given to us in the Scriptures:

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

I Peter 2:21-24 (KJV)

Just as Christ bore the consequences of our sins, sometimes a wife must bare the consequences of her husband’s sins.

 

The Reality of Whoremongering Husbands Reveals A Sinful View of Marriage in Women

Often times in life one person’s sin will also reveal another person’s sin.  For instance, sometimes we will find out after a man engages in whoremongering that his wife was sexually denying him for years before he ever committed the acts.  This in no way justifies his sin, but this is an example of one sin in one person revealing the sin another person.

The central question of this article was how Christian women should deal with what our culture calls a “cheating husband”.  There is no doubt that a whoremongering husband is sinning against God as we have pointed out here and we have just outlined the Biblical prescription for how Christian wives should deal with this.

However, the sinful reality of a whoremongering husband can also reveal our culture’s faulty and unbiblical view of marriage. And many Christian wives today have that sinful view of their marriage whether their husband ever engages in whoremongering or not.  It is simply that whoremongering by a husband brings this faulty type of thinking of wives to the surface for all to see.

And that sinful view of marriage is rooted in the false belief that wives are entitled to their husbands centering their hearts, minds and affections solely on them.   It is their belief that they are entitled to total transparency, to know their husbands every feeling and every thought. That in essence their husband’s heart, mind and life should belong to them exclusively.

God speaks of this sinful inclination in women in Genesis 3:16:

 “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

A lot of Christians do not understand what that last phrase means when God said to the woman “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”.  Many people have seen the woman’s desire to her husband as a loving desire and Christian feminists present the phrase “he shall rule over thee” as saying man’s headship over woman was only because of the fall.

Both of the above interpretations of this very important passage of the Bible are wrong.  God knew his words in Genesis 3:16 would come to be distorted so he used similar phrasing just one chapter later when speaking to Cain in Genesis 4:7:

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

Was God saying Sin’s desire for Cain was good? Absolutely not! Sin’s desire was to dominate and control him.  God knew this so he told Cain that he must rule over his sin nature, otherwise his sin nature would desire to control and dominate his life.

So, looking back at Genesis 3:16 in light of what God said to Cain, what kind of sinful desire was God saying a woman would have toward her husband?

The sinful desire God is referring to in women is their desire to know their husband’s every thought and to have his complete desire, affection and really life’s focus be on them and them alone.

The scary thing is – what I have just stated is now the central philosophy of modern marriage counseling and teaching both within the church and outside the church. And it this modern ideology which totally turns the Biblical model of marriage upside down.  Does the Bible say the husband was created for his wife or does it say his wife was created for him?

The Scriptures have an unambiguous answer for this question.

“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

I Corinthians 11:9 (KJV)

Conclusion

In the case of a whoremongering husband a wife may have to bring this to the Church if he is a church member.  But her motive in doing this should not be from a position that he has sinned against her in his whoremongering or adultery if he has been with another man’s wife.  But rather that he has sinned against God and possibly another man in taking his wife and his sin is polluting the purity of the Church.

But if he is not a church member or he has been excommunicated from the Church she has no biblical right to divorce him.  Instead God calls her to continue to submit to him and attempt to win him to God by her reverence and pure life style that she displays before him.

And a wife must also remember that often as God reveals the sinful actions of her husband, he may also reveal the sinful inclinations in her heart to be possessive and controlling toward her husband thus forgetting her place in God’s creation order.

Why the movie “Fireproof” offers unbiblical and BAD marriage advice

One of the biggest of problems with the Fireproof movie is that it turns marriage into an idol. People are exhorted to do just about anything to save their marriage. Fireproof was released in September of 2008 and it became an instant hit in churches around the country. The “love dare” and many other books and marriage teaching materials spawned from this movie and some churches to this day still use this movie to teach advice about marriage.

Movie Synopsis

Fireproof features Kirk Cameron in the lead role as a firefighter named Caleb Holt. The movies shows right from the beginning a strained relationship between Caleb and his wife Catherine. He is short with her and she is disrespectful with him.  Eventually Catherine says she wants a divorce and they go through the divorce process during the movie. Caleb talks to his father who had become a Christian in recent years and his father tells him of marriage troubles his mother and he had.  He offers to send his son something that he wants him to try before he gives up on his marriage.

It must be pointed out that neither Caleb nor his wife Catherine are Christians at the beginning of this film.

Caleb receives a handwritten journal that is later referred to as “The Love Dare” and it gives Caleb 40 days where each day he must working on his marriage with most days asking him to do something kind for his wife.  In the middle of the movie when Caleb feels his efforts with the love dare are not working his father uses his failed efforts to bring him to Christ.  Then after becoming a Christian he redoubles his efforts despite his wife basically spitting in his face the entire movie only for her to accept him back at the end of the movie.  She becomes a Christian because of the change she saw in him and they renew their wedding vows as Christians.

So now we will dive into the problems that make “Fireproof” a movie that Bible believing Christians should reject.

The chain of events that lead to the breakdown of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage

Most Christian reviewers of the movie as well as the people who produced the movie itself want your primary focus to be on Caleb’s wrong behavior and not Catherine’s. There is only one small scene in the movie where a Christian nurse confronts Catherine’s sinful emotional affair with a doctor at the hospital. Catherine’s behavior is seen simply as a wife’s natural reaction to a mean and self-centered husband and we are supposed to believe Caleb’s behavior came out of thin air.

Caleb says the problems started about a year earlier. So now I will present what I think were several problems that lead up to breakdown of their marriage based on several key statements made in the first two arguments of the movie.

Here is the chain of events that eventually lead Catherine to seek divorce from Caleb:

  1. A year earlier Catherine comes to Caleb asking for him to use part of his savings for his boat to pay for a new hospital bed and wheel chair for her disabled mother who is living in a nursing home and Caleb refuses to part with any money from his savings feeling that he works hard as a firefighter and after saving for years deserves to get his boat.
  2. Catherine reacts to his refusal by going to work full time as an administrator in a local hospital. Caleb tells her that if she is going to work full time then she will need to help pay the bills in the house while he will continue to pay the house payment and their two car payments.
  3. Catherine begins spending much more time with her mother on the weekends in addition to working full time and Caleb becomes frustrated by his wife’s neglect of him and her home.
  4. Caleb begins looking at porn at some point and Catherine starts sexually denying him and tells him that she won’t give him sex while he looks at that “smut” and she would not compete with it. She later tells him that he has lost all honor in her eyes because he looks at porn.
  5. Catherine’s bitterness toward Caleb over her feelings about him being selfish with his savings, his looking at porn and his not doing enough in helping with the affairs of the home leads to a very disrespectful attitude toward Caleb.
  6. As could be expected in any marriage that has experienced these types of issues there is also a complete breakdown of even the most basic communications between the couple.
  7. Caleb gets frustrated with Catherine’s disrespectful attitude and he finally let’s her have it. He yells at her in frustration and gets in her face telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she has been after she has spent several minutes smarting off to him.   She goes from being a defiant and disrespectful wife all of sudden to a fearful victim who begins to cry in fear.  She tells him “I want out” and thus begins Caleb’s and Catherine’s journey into divorce.

It must be noted that beside Catherine’s neglect of her home, her sexual denial of her husband and her highly disrespectful attitude toward him she compounds her sinful behavior by beginning an emotional affair with a doctor at the hospital where she works.

The sins that Caleb and Catherine each committed

Caleb acted selfishly in not wanting to part with any of his savings for his boat to care for the legitimate needs of Catherine’s mother for a hospital bed and wheel chair.

Catherine began to grow bitter at Caleb for his selfishness with his savings and at the same time decides to put her mother’s care ahead of her duties to her home and her husband.

Catherine’s comment acknowledging she has been sexually denying her husband and that she would not “compete with that smut” (the porn he had been looking at) also reveals a sinful heart of pride on her part.  While much our current culture (including Christian Churches) teach that a man must have eyes only for his wife this concept is not supported by the Scriptures (see my post “10 Hard Truths Christian Wives must accept about their husbands and porn”).  Even if it were sinful for him to be looking at porn and it was required by God for him to focus all his sexual thoughts and energy on her it still would not be right for her to sexually deny him.

Could Caleb have helped more around the house with his wife working full time and helping to care for her mother on the weekends? Probably.  But there is an argument to be made that unless a husband asks his wife to work to help support the family and if she decides on her own that she needs/wants to work then he has no obligation to help her with the duties of the home.  In essence she as decided to pull “double duty” – to work outside the home while fully keeping up with her duties to the affairs of her home.

In either case it appears that Catherine has also been woefully neglectful of her home.   There is also another question regarding whether or not she should have been spending all those weekends with her mother at the nursing home.  Did they not have nurses to care for her mother?

Even though Caleb was not a Christian man he worked many hours as a firefighter and expected and had grown accustomed to his wife being the keeper of the affairs of the home. This is a natural instinctive expectation for any man in regard to his wife even without knowing anything about the Biblical commands for wives to occupy this role. Our society has tried to reprogram men to be “joint keepers of the home” with their wives but this reprogramming has still not taken affect with a lot of men. The refrigerator and cupboards being stocked, meals being made and his laundry being done were all things Caleb had come to expect from Catherine.  Then when she went to work that began to change.

I believe this change in Catherine’s neglect of her home was due to several factors.  She believed that since she had to work due to her husband’s selfishness with his money that she was no longer going to take care of all the affairs of the home.  He was going to have fend for himself – he deserved that for how he had been treating her.  She also decided that her mother’s needs were more important than her husband’s wishes. Even if she was right about all the wrong things he had done – her wrong behavior in reaction to her husband’s behavior caused a destructive spiral of sinful behavior in their marriage that eventually lead to their divorce proceedings.

Right behaviors that could have prevented the collapse of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage

First Caleb could have realized the true need of Catherine’s mother for a hospital bed and wheel chair and sacrificed his dream of a boat to help her mother’s real need. This would have strengthen her love for him. But rather than do what was right Caleb acted selfishly and refused to help her mother.

However, Catherine could have chosen to act to both preserve her marriage and at the same time help her mother at the same time.  She could have taken the difficult road of fully taking care of the needs of her home and working full time at the same time.  Would this be tiring for her? Absolutely.  But then she would have been fulfilling her duty to her home while at the same time helping her mother. Another thing to remember is Catherine and Caleb had no children so really Catherine’s duties to her home would not have been as burdensome as if they had children.

Caleb could have chosen to be more discreet about his porn use and least given his wife the perception that he was not looking at it anymore after she caught him the first time knowing how much it hurt her feelings.  He seems to be have had little regard for being discreet about his porn habit.

Catherine felt great emotional pain regarding her husband’s porn use as she felt she was to be center of all his sexual thoughts and that she should not have to compete with images or thoughts of any other women on the part of her husband. But even with her hurt she could have decided to act in a right way and not drive him to look at porn further and also increase his frustration toward her by sexually denying him.

Caleb tries to save his marriage

At first both Caleb and Catherine just want to pull the eject level because of hurts they each feel they have suffered at the hands of the other.  But then Caleb’s Dad convinces him to fight for 40 days to save his marriage using the love dare journal.

Caleb while not being a Christian yet out of respect for his father decides to give it a try. In the beginning he is doing these things expecting his wife to notice and then apologize for her behavior and they could make up and cancel the planned divorce.  But as he does each kind thing toward her she becomes more and more hostile instead believing his actions are not based on genuine changes she would like to see.

This is where we get into some unbiblical concepts and misapplied biblical concepts that are introduced by the love dare and Caleb’s father.

Fireproof confuses God’s unconditional love with God’s conditional affection

Many Christian men and women do not know that God has two kinds of love for us. There are certain actions God performs toward us that are completely based on God’s unconditional love for us. His salvation for us is chief among these actions and this passage is used in the movie to refer to God’s unconditional love:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

This passage is used as central theme in teaching Caleb to unconditionally love his wife.  Now should a man unconditionally love his wife? Absolutely.  That is what all men vow to do when they take a woman as their wife.

However when a man vows to unconditionally love his wife he is vowing to unconditionally provide for her, protect her, care for her when she sick, lead her, forgive her when she sins against him, show her kindness, teach her, discipline her and sacrifice himself for her.

When Caleb refused to take money out of his savings he was not sacrificing himself for his wife’s true needs as he should have.  When he became a Christian he realized what that meant to sacrifice himself for his wife and took the money out of his account and paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair.

But the Bible shows that God’s affection for us is in fact based upon our affection toward him:

“No, the Father himself loves you BECAUSE you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” – John 16:27 (NIV)

The word here in the original language for “love” is different than the word used in Romans 5:8 in regard to love.  This word could be translated as “affection” so it could read as this:

“No, the Father himself shows affection for you BECAUSE you have shown affection me and have believed that I came from God.”

See my post “Why doesn’t my husband love me anymore?” for more on this subject of unconditional love and conditional affection in regard to both God’s love for us as individuals, his love for Israel and a husband’s love for his wife.

Getting back to Fireproof – they teach that God only has one kind love and it is always unconditional. In the view of fireproof a husband is not only to unconditionally love his wife by providing her, protecting her and sacrificing himself for her but is also called to perform unconditional acts of affection toward her.

The message we get from Fireproof is that a man should do things like buy his wife flowers, make her romantic dinners, clean the house and a host of other acts of affection despite his wife’s continued sinful behavior including complete and utter disrespect, a generally critical and hostile spirit, neglect of her duties to the home, sexual denial and even an emotional affair.

The Biblical truth is that while God calls husbands to unconditionally love their wives he does not call them to unconditionally perform acts of affection toward them in spite of their rebellious and sinful behavior or to cause them to turn from their sinful behavior.

What did God do in the Old Testament when his wife acted in rebellion against him, disrespected him and she became unfaithful like Catherine did here in this story?

“41 They will burn your houses with fire and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women. Then I will stop you from playing the harlot, and you will also no longer pay your lovers. 42 So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you, and I will be pacified and angry no more. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,” declares the Lord God, “so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.” – Ezekial 16:41-43 (NASB)

From Ezekiel and many other Old Testament passages we can see just how God handles a rebellious wife.  He brings her conduct on her head. He disciplines his wife.

Notice in this next passage from the book of Isaiah how God removes his blessing from Israel because of her rebellion:

““What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?

Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?

5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:

I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;

I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.

6 “I will lay it waste;

It will not be pruned or hoed,

But briars and thorns will come up.

I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” – Isaiah 5:4-8 (NASB)

God did not continue to bless Israel and do even more for her and perform unconditional acts of affection toward her while she was in her rebellion. God’s example as a husband to his wife Israel is in DIRECT contradiction to what Fireproof advices husband’s to do with a rebellious and unfaithful wife.

But didn’t God show that he would “allure” Israel back to him?

Often times Hosea and the prostitute God called him to marry are brought up to bolster Fireproof’s approach to the rebellious and unfaithful wife. But if you closely examine the story of Hosea you will see that God had Hosea take a prostitute as his wife who was later unfaithful to him and he took her back to show that AFTER Israel repents and turns from her wickedness God would remove his discipline and restore her blessings and her rightful place as his wife.

For more on the subject of a husband disciplining his wife see my post “7 Ways to Discipline your wife”.

Fireproof does get it right about a husband confessing his sin to his wife

God calls husbands to confront sin both in themselves, their wives and their children. But before a husband can confront his wife’s sin he must confess his own and make it right.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Luke 6:42 (NIV)

Caleb did do this with his wife in the movie after he became a Christian. This is something the movie actually gets right.

I do though think it was silly in the movie that he paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair and he did not tell her about it. He could have used that as a powerful moment to let her know how sorry he was for being selfish with his money and that he had paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair to demonstrate his repentance.  It could have avoided prolonging their problems and if she would have never thought to ask who actually paid for it they may have continued with the divorce.

Fireproof teaches the false doctrine of “Happy Wife Happy Life”

During an exchange early in the movie before Caleb’s conversion he is talking about how is respected everywhere he goes except in his own home.  His fellow firefighter tells him that he has been there before his wife not feeling respected and it was a rough place to be. His friend tells Caleb that ultimately his marriage problems were not about his wife’s disrespectful attitude toward him but rather it was because of his mistreatment of her.

He offers this advice that he learned in marriage counseling “Your wife is like rose, if you treat her right she will bloom but if you don’t she wither and die”. This is the essence of “Happy Wife Happy Life” that is taught in both secular marriage counseling and sadly in most Christian marriage counseling in our society.

Today marriage counselors often say that most marriage problems come down to the husband’s treatment of his wife. If the husband would just love his wife as she desires to be loved and do whatever she wants their marriage will be great and in return she will love him and be the best wife to him.

But this is blatantly false.

God calls Christian husband’s to make their first concern to honor God with their lives and to model the relationship of God to his people in their marriages. In keeping with that primary goal of marriage husbands are called to sacrifice themselves not for their wife’s happiness – but rather for her holiness:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” – Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)

In most Christian churches when they teach on the sacrificial love that God calls Christian husband’s to emulate with their wives they stop abruptly at “gave himself up” but they never explain for what purpose a husband is to give himself up for his wife. The primary purpose of a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife is to make her holy not to make her happy.  In fact often times a husband will be called to make leadership decisions that his wife disagrees with but he believes are in the will of God.  This might make her unhappy. He might have to confront his wife for some sinful behavior she is doing and this will definitely make her unhappy.  But the goal is his wife’s holiness, not her happiness.

Now is it wrong for a husband to try and make his wife happy where he can? Of course not.  If what his wife is asking for would not conflict with what he believes God would have him do then by all means he should do it.  If a husband were presented with the same scenario with saving for some boat or other unnecessary thing and a true need arose for a close family member he should sacrifice his wants in these kinds of cases.

Now there is also the case of a selfish wife where is she is very demanding of her husband’s time and money on a regular basis and not for legitimate needs like a hospital bed and wheel chair for her mother.  Men need to be careful in these cases to not spoil their wives.

See my previous post entitled “Does the Bible teach “happy wife happy life”?” for more on this subject.

I have personally seen the damage that the Fireproof movie has caused in marriages

When Fireproof was released in September of 2008 I was in the midst of my divorce from my first wife. My story in many ways mirrored the story of Caleb but in some ways it was different.

First let me state the biggest difference is that my wife and I were both professing Christians and we both had attended church for most of our lives. When I say “professing” I don’t mean that I did not truly believe because I have truly believed in God since I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior at the age of seven years old.  But by “professing” I mean in my opinion I am not sure that my ex-wife was ever truly a genuine believer.  I cannot say for sure that she is not a Christian as only God knows that.  But the fact that she has rarely graced the door step of a church in years and the way she has lived her life since our divorce has not given me any cause to think her faith is genuine.

But the reasons for the breakdown in our marriage were similar in some ways to Caleb and Catherine and different in many other ways.

My first wife thought I worked two much – I worked a full time job and a part time job to support our big family with five children. Unlike Caleb though I was not tight with the money and pretty much anything my wife wanted she got if we had the funds. In fact in many ways I was too soft on her as she was an extremely lazy woman with a princess mentality.

Like Caleb I also had a habit of viewing pornography although it did not affect my desire for my wife in the least bit and for all of our marriage until the last year of it we had sex several times a week. At the time though and for most of my life I condemned myself on a regular basis for viewing porn and I ask God’s forgiveness and her forgiveness on a regular basis. After my divorce from my first wife God finally revealed to me that my self-condemnation for viewing porn was misplaced and that I could view some type’s porn guilt free as long as it did not lead to obsessive behavior or affect my desire for my future wife.

Now the reason that our sex life decreased rapidly in the last year of our marriage was not due to my porn habit or any decrease in desire on my part for my wife.  The decrease came because for the first time in our marriage she began to sexually deny me.  At first it was only a decrease in our relations and then eventually she started to flat out deny me.

What I eventually came to learn is that she had been having an affair with another man for the past year (which completely explained the change in our sex life). She cited my working too much and my history of viewing porn as her primary reasons for the affair. She felt that she should have been the only woman that I desired to see naked and she should have been the center of all my sexual focus and really my life’s focus.  She wanted to be number one in all areas of my life and she felt she did not occupy that position based on me putting so much into my job and my viewing porn.

I started attending a support group at a church for people facing the possibility of divorce or actually going through divorce. The director of that group was a huge fan of what was at the time new “Fireproof” approach to handling the wayward wife.

He actually told me that I needed to do what Caleb did in the movie and compete for my unfaithful wife. He convinced me for a time that my porn use was just as unfaithful to my wife as he being unfaithful to me with this man she had been sleeping with for the past year.  Many good Christian men have fallen for this false comparison as I once did.

I did what Caleb did and I apologized to my ex-wife in tears on my hands and knees.  I begged her to return to me and that I would treat her like the “jewel” she was if she would just give me another chance while I knew she was still seeing this other man.

For a time following this horrible Fireproof advice I was given I convinced myself that my ex-wife was not truly the lazy and the self-centered princess that she truly was.

But then I realized very quickly what this man from this church support group was saying was wrong and that I was trying to convince myself of a lie. Was I the perfect husband? Certainly not. Did I work too much at times and was I neglectful of her at times? Yes. But what I did certainly did not justify what she did.

Did God win back his unfaithful wife by performing acts of affection? No way! He brought down the house on Israel because of her sin. My ex-wife and other Christian men who had unfaithful wives saw their wives emboldened in their unfaithfulness by the example of the Fireproof movie.

It was their husband’s fault not theirs and their husband’s needed to win them back.  What heresy! What an utter and complete false teaching this is!

Yes the story of my first marriage did tragically end in divorce and with her quickly marrying the man whom she had the affair with.  It was interesting that not long after our divorce before I married my first wife she realized the mistake she made and this guy was not all he acted like he was and she wanted me to consider taking her back but of course there was no real repentance for what she had done. I told her NO WAY and even if I remained a single Dad for the rest of my life that would have been better than being with a wife like her that I could not trust.  About two months after that I met the women who would later become my future wife.

As I have written on this site in other places my second wife is a good Christian woman and she certainly has more character and is a far more trust worthy person than my first wife ever was. She truly loves my children and has been a great step mother to them.

But I came to realize that she was indeed a “rebound relationship” not long after we were married and I realized all the differences between us we had overlooked even while both being Christians with her feminist upbringing being a big red flag I overlooked.  But I have learned a lot from my first marriage and this second marriage has taught me a great deal as well.  We have our rough days and she and I both struggle with certain sins.  I still struggle with working too much at times as my wife will attest to. I have tried to carve out some time together and we try and schedule date nights (something I did not do in my first marriage).

But we do love one another and care for one another and we try to do our best to make it work despite there still being many conflicts of marriage philosophy in our marriage. And to answer the question everyone will ask in the comments – is my wife still a feminist? Yes but not as much as she was when were first married.  Over the years through our many discussions (some more gentle and others more heated) God has worked through me trying to teach her God’s Word on this subject and she is not the same person she was when we were first married.  But we still have a ways to go and sometimes my wife will have relapses and revert back to her old feminist attitudes and it gets tough during those days.

In my first marriage I never disciplined my wife and I did not confront her sinful behavior until the end of the marriage when it was too late. I provided for my family but I did not lead in all areas the way I should have. But in this marriage I have learned to stand up and lead and sometimes do the difficult task of confronting my wife’s sinful attitudes and behaviors while admitting I have some sinful habits and behaviors myself too.   It’s not that I don’t still struggle with disciplining my wife and my kids – because I certainly do – but at least now it’s happening.

Conclusion

We have demonstrated that one of the biggest of problems with the Fireproof movie is that it turns marriage into an idol. People are exhorted to do just about anything to save their marriage.  God does NOT call us to enable sin to save our marriage.  Our faithfulness to God and his will and design for our life is the most important thing.  Some marriages cannot be saved due to unrepentant behavior on the part of one or both spouses.

Do I think Kirk Cameron and those who produced this movie had good intentions toward helping couples to save their marriages and stem the tied of divorce? Yes I do. I think Kirk Cameron is truly a man of faith and so are the people who produced this movie and they were sincere in the beliefs about what they thought love in Biblical marriage looks like. But sometimes Christians can be sincerely wrong.  Egalitarianism is evident even in the movies theme phrase “Never leave your partner behind”.  Despite modern misconceptions about what Christian marriage looks like the Bible never ever refers to marriage as a partnership.  It calls a wife a husband’s companion but never his partner.  Instead the Bible refers to marriage as a patriarchy.

Contrary to Fireproof’s motto “Never leave your partner behind” – God did in fact leave his wife Israel behind after he disciplined her and  she failed to repent of her rebellion and unfaithfulness toward him and then he divorced her.  He tells us in the New Testament that he has taken on a new wife in the form of the Church to make his first wife Israel jealous and one day Israel will repent and be restored as his wife in addition to the church.

I am surprised it took me so many years to write my feelings about this movie but now I am glad that I have.  I hope that Christians will realize that while there is some good in Fireproof the good DOES NOT outweigh the bad.  It completely distorts how God’s unconditional love works and neglects the discipline of God and his conditional affection.

10 Reasons Christian couples should NOT see marriage counselors

Reasons not to see a marriage counselor? I know it sounds crazy by our modern understanding of marriage. If marriage is a partnership of equals and in any partnership there will be disagreements why would counseling ever not be a good idea?

In an article from GotQuestions.com (http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-marriage-counseling.html) they list these 10 reasons that Christian couples should seek marriage counseling:

1. Inability to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
2. One partner dominating the relationship so that the needs of the other are not met.
3. Inability to compromise.
4. Either partner stepping outside the marriage to “fix” the problems.
5. Breakdown in communication.
6. Confusion about the roles of each spouse in the marriage.
7. Pornography.
8. Deceit.
9. Disagreement about parenting styles.
10. Addictions.

These are actually NOT reasons for a Christian couple to seek marriage counseling. But to understand why these are not reasons to seek couples counseling we first need to understand four principles regarding Biblical marriage.

Four Biblical principles that should be considered before marriage counseling is pursued

The first principle of Biblical Marriage

The wife is to submit to her husband as her head in everything(Ephesians 5:23-24)

The second principle of Biblical Marriage

The wife is to reverence her husband as her master (Ephesians 5:33 & I Peter 3:5-6)

The third principle of Biblical Marriage

A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves his Church and as he loves his own body (Ephesians 5:25-31 & 33)

The fourth principle of Biblical Marriage

A husband is to know and honor his wife (I Peter 3:7)

So as we can clearly see from the Scriptures – marriage as God designed it is not a partnership of equals but it is instead a patriarchy (male lead hierarchy).

Some people might ask – why are the first two principles referring to women submitting to and reverencing their husbands?

I address a woman’s obligation to submit to and reverence her husband first because in the Bible God always addresses those under authority to obey and respect their authority first. Then God addresses those in authority and their treatment of those under their authority. So these principles are actually in the Biblical order that God addresses husbands and wives.

Biblical Principles regarding counseling

In my guide “When should a Christian couple seek a marriage counselor?” I discuss from a Biblical perspective the pros and cons of modern marriage counseling.

In that guide I discuss that while the Bible exhorts us to seek wise counsel, it also tells us that it unwise to allow ourselves to either hear counsel that undermines God’s law and his design of marriage or even if that counsel is wise if it is given in the wrong venue then it can still be wrong.

We need make sure that both WHAT counsel we receive and HOW we receive are right.

For instance there are things that a man needs to learn from another man in private about how to properly treat his wife and children. But it would be inappropriate in most cases for a man to be being corrected by another man in front of his wife and children. It undermines his Biblical authority over them, even if the advice is Biblically based. One of the few cases where it would be ok for a man to be corrected and stopped in front his wife and children is if he were physically abusing them.

See my post “When should a Christian couple seek a marriage counselor?” for more guidelines on when Christian couples should actually seek counseling and how they should seek it in various scenarios.

Now we will apply these Biblical principles about marriage and counsel to GotQuestions.com’s list.

Application of Biblical principles regarding marriage and counseling to GotQuestions.com’s 10 reasons for marriage counseling

“1. Inability to resolve conflict in a healthy way.”

Ok if this has to do with physical abuse by either spouse then I would agree the counseling needs to be sought and in some cases the civil authorities may need to be involved.   But often this issue of resolving conflict in a “healthy way” refers to couples yelling at one another.

A husband should not be yelling at his wife all the time, while there may be some cause for husband to raise his voice to his wife if she acting in a rebellious way. But even if a husband does yell at his wife more than he should – this is not something for a marriage counselor to solve. This is not something where a wife gets to run to a counselor and say “he yells at me too much”. He is her authority, she is to reverence him, obey him and serve him as his wife despite his flaws. This does not mean she cannot bring her concerns to him gently – but there is no cause for a third party in the form of a marriage counselor to come in and undermine his spiritual authority.

“2. One partner dominating the relationship so that the needs of the other are not met.”

Ok let’s be honest – they are prettying much targeting men with this “dominating the relationship” comment.

But first what does “dominate” mean?

These are some definitions of “dominate” as given by Webster’s online dictionary:

“rule or control”

“to exert the supreme determining or guiding influence on”

“to have or exert mastery, control, or preeminence”

“to occupy a more elevated or superior position”

Did we not just see in the Scriptures that the husband is the wife’s head and she is to regard him as her master in all things? Is the husband not to occupy the superior position in marriage if he is to follow God’s design and model for marriage?

So a man “dominating” this marriage in this regard is not only not wrong, but it commanded by God.

But if by dominating that means he is selfish and cares nothing about meeting his wife’s needs that God has commanded him to do then this is indeed a problem.

God defines what a wife’s needs are and how a husband must meet them. He must provide food, clothing, shelter and sex to his wife. He must know her (talk to her and spend time with her) and honor her position as his wife. But how he goes about these tasks is at HIS discretion. It is not the place of the wife to seek out a marriage counselor for her husband’s failures in these types of things.

“3. Inability to compromise.”

What compromise? The husband is to be the decider and the wife is to be the follower. A husband is to hear his wife’s concerns about various issues but ultimately the decisions are his to make whether it be in what church they attend, financial areas, what they teach their children regarding morality and the disciplining of the children and other areas of their marriage.

“4. Either partner stepping outside the marriage to “fix” the problems.”

If this is referring to a wife bad mouthing her husband or husband bad mouthing his wife to others then yes this is wrong – but again this is something that can and should be handled by the couple themselves.

“5. Breakdown in communication.”

Yes couples need to talk (I Peter 3:7 husbands need to know their wives, and Titus 2:4 wives are to show affection for their husbands).

Let’s first tackle the silent husband. If the husband is not talking to his wife this usually is for one of two reasons. The first has to do with her behavior regarding issues such as sexual neglect, neglect of her home, neglect of her children or disrespectful speech or behavior. The second reasons husbands may be silent is simply a selfish neglect toward their wife.

In either case a husband does not have the right to give his wife the silent treatment but neither does his wife have the right to seek out a marriage counselor in order to “tell on him” for his neglect. She needs to work within the marriage to find ways to encourage him to talk to her and to continue loving him, respecting him and submitting to him despite his neglect in this area.

But what about the silent wife? A wife giving her husband the silent treatment is more than just neglect to her duty to be affectionate toward him. It is an act of rebellion. It does not call for marriage counseling. It calls for Biblical discipline by her husband.

“6. Confusion about the roles of each spouse in the marriage.”

What confusion? The Bible is clear – the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to submit to her husband in everything. The husband is to lead, provide and protect and the wife is to be the keeper of his home and bear and care for his children. No confusion, no counseling needed. Only an acceptance of the four Biblical principles of marriage that I outlined is required.

“7. Pornography.”

Again let’s not kid ourselves – this targeted at men. Your husband looking at a picture of a naked woman may be offensive to you but again what Biblical right do you have to go and “tell” on your husband to a counselor (or anybody else for that matter)? Is he accountable to you or is he accountable to God?

“8. Deceit.”

If a wife hides things from her husband say in regard to spending or is secretly undermining his directions for the children this is a sin against his authority as she is accountable to him. But he should not take her to marriage counselor over this, but rather he should exercise Biblical discipline toward her (e.g. cut up her credit cards).

If a husband hides things from his wife we must really look at what he is hiding. If he is hiding an affair or the fact that he is a drug dealer then these extreme situations would warrant a wife seeking outside help from his authorities in the church or civil government depending on what it was. But other than these big ticket items if he is hiding spending or hiding other things from her – HE is not accountable to her. He is her authority, she is not his.

“9. Disagreement about parenting styles.”

Yes husband and wives are going to disagree about parenting styles. The husband should hear his wife and truly consider her position. But at the end of the discussion it is ultimately his decision as to what parenting style will be applied. The Bible does not allow for a wife to drag her husband to a marriage counselor to convince him that her style is the better one to use.

“10. Addictions.”

A drug addiction or alcohol addiction may be a reason for a wife to seek help from her husband’s authorities as these can directly affect the safety of her and her children. A gambling addiction may be a reason to seek outside help IF this addiction is causing the family not to have food or shelter which a husband is required to provide.

But other than these types of addictions if a husband is say “addicted” his job, to watching sports, watching regular movies, watching porn on his computer or playing video games it is not the place of a wife to seek outside help for these things for her husband. Remember she is not responsible for him and his behavior. Only those things which can cause a real danger to the family or are cause for Biblical divorce would allow a wife to seek outside help.

Conclusion

As we can see in most cases except for extreme conditions none of these 10 reasons for seeking couples counseling would be Biblically valid when we apply the four principles of Biblical marriage to these situations.