How One Woman Became a Warrior Wife

by | Jan 10, 2020 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 84 comments

Warrior Wife: The Real Meaning of Ezer Kenegdo
Merchandise is Here!

Maybe being a wife is about fighting FOR your husband, not just being nice to your husband.

I want to share a story that was shared on this blog this week, but before I do that, I want to tell you about a conversation my husband Keith and I had over Christmas.

I turned off the internet for 9 days while my kids were home, and just enjoyed being with them, and playing family board games, and loving on my grandson. But during my down time, Keith decided to catch up on his reading. He tries to read my blog everyday, but sometimes he gets busy and skips a day. So he read several week’s worth in one go.

And it took a long time–but what he realized was that a lot of the “gold” was in the comments. I often elaborated on stuff in response to things other people said, or sometimes people shared awesome stuff in the comments section. And if you didn’t read the comments section, you’d miss it.

Especially because so many people read my blog through email (did you know you can sign up to get my posts sent to you by email?), the comments often get missed.

So I’ve decided that every now and then, I want to highlight some comments that come through that are especially relevant regarding the series that we’re running that week. And boy did a good one come in this week! I want to feature this one from Roxy, left on my iron sharpening iron post about how to bring about positive change in marriage. She tells how she confronted her husband’s porn use, and I want to share her comment and then make a few observations from it.

Roxy writes

Iron Sharpens Iron Series: Marriage Should Make You Better People!

​My marriage (10 years) is in the process of rapidly changing this very moment because I finally drew a very hard line in the sand and told my husband, after his rather half hearted battling of the issue off and on for years, “Make the choice: me or porn.”  Things blew sky high a few weeks ago and I said some very hard, very necessary things that finally got through to him.

My husband is a excellent man, but he was drowning in this area and couldn’t pull himself out, even though he wanted to (crucial, of course). It had slowly destroyed me over the years, like a trickle effect, and had deeply affected our intimacy and communication. And he didn’t even watch “porn” in the usual sense (because of a filter on his phone, ironically)! “Just” sexualized stuff on YouTube a couple times a week, plus masturbation (so not all that bad, right?). But it made him angry, anxious, distant, distracted, and a dozen other destructive things.

I made several clear, non-negotiable requirements, and he has taken ownership of all of them, praise God. In the last few weeks he has become so much more peaceful, calm, and determined. He is a new man after only a few weeks of complete abstinence (we are doing a 90 day sexual detox together, as recommended by nofap.com, an awesome (secular) resource). We have had several hours-long, deep conversations which would have been impossible a month ago (and have never been easy for him).

The rapidity of his initial recovery has stunned me. We are in this 100% together. We text and talk every day about it. He volunteers information readily now about urges, phases, etc, as his brain heals. He is seeking Christian counseling, too. It is a miracle.

He told me the other day that his desire for me, while it’s always been high, is totally different now than it was even a month ago. He said it’s more focused, richer, and deeper. And then do you know what he said?

“Thank you for hitting me up side the head with a 2×4.”

I was speechless. All because my own (wise and godly) counselor had told me I needed to be a strong, equal, corresponding warrior-helper for my husband, and it is not in my nature anyway to sit by and watch my loved one flail for fear of being an” unbiblical wife.” (What, I ask, could be more Biblical than pulling someone out of the mire?!)

I was not being either strong or a helper to him. I mean, look at God and Israel! He set countless boundaries for them out of love, and let them experience the consequences when they went too far. It was totally necessary and done in love and for their good. Yet this is the total opposite of the message I’ve gotten all my life from countless books, blogs, etc, almost all of which I ingested in order to be a biblical wife and fix my marriage.

Now, we have a history of discussing this whole porn thing from time to time, and we didn’t have an awful relationship, and he is a good man, so I felt I could say these hard things to him, though I didn’t know precisely how he would react. I don’t know what would work for other women whose husbands are in deeper. I know my situation is not one-size-fits-all. But when my husband actually thanked me for blasting him out of the water in order to get his attention, that sealed it for me.

I say none of this lightly, and I haven’t even shared a quarter of the details. Setting a firm, clear boundary does not make me an unbiblical wife! On the contrary: it has strongly helped my husband and is saving our relationship. We are not out of the woods by any means, but I now have hope, all because I drew a line in the sand out of love and respect (get it?) for us both.

What an encouraging story! And what a wonderful picture of the point I’m trying to make all month in our Iron Sharpening Iron series.

A few things that stand out to me:

Being a “helper” to your husband means HELPING him, not making his life easy

I’ll be talking about this more in the series next week, but often we think the term helper, when used for wives, means that we are subordinate in some way, and that our job is to pave the way for our husbands and help our husbands in whatever our husbands want to do. He is the boss, he sets the agenda, and we just go along with it.

It’s based on Genesis 2:18:

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

In Hebrew, it’s “ezer kenegdo.” But what does the word “helper”–ezer– actually mean there? Well, in English it takes on a subordinate connotation. But that’s not the case when we look at “ezer” in the Old Testament. It is most often used as a military term, and often applied to God.

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Deut. 33:26-29.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2.

If ezer is applied to God, then being a husband’s helper can’t mean that you are somehow inferior. We see that as well with the qualifier “kenegdo”–or suitable for him. As Marg Mowczko writes about ezer kenegdo,

The word ezer is qualified by the word kenegdo in both Genesis 2:18 and 20. Kenegdo, often translated as “suitable for him,” gives the meaning that Eve was designed to be a corresponding and equal partner for Adam. There is no sense of subordination stated or implied, or even hinted at, in this passage in Genesis 2. 

Marg Mowczk

A Suitable Helper for Him

So God wants us to be warrior wives, which means that we help, support, shield, and fight FOR our husband’s good!

Find the discussion of the real meaning of “ezer kenegdo fascinating? Then tune into this podcast about the real meaning of the Greek word for “head”, as in the husband is the head of the wife

They sought good counseling to make positive changes in the marriage

I love what Roxy’s counselor told her: “I needed to be a strong, equal, corresponding warrior-helper for my husband”. Perfect! A good counselor that can point you to positive change can do a world of good. A bad counselor who keeps teaching that wives must not speak up against a husband’s choices because she must “submit” (using an improper definition of submit) can do a world of hurt. Some more posts that can help you finding a good counselor;

Being a “helper” to your husband means HELPING him, not making his life easy.

Many people WANT to make positive change, but they feel stuck.

This husband did not want to be caught up in masturbation and soft porn viewing. He didn’t want to be irritable and angry. He wanted to change, but he felt powerless. Will power alone wasn’t doing it.

When his wife stood up and said, “this is not happening anymore”, suddenly he found the strength and motivation to do something. He needed that extra push. And he thanked his wife for it, because he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere alone.

THAT is what I mean by iron sharpening iron. Sometimes making positive changes is just too difficult. But that’s where being a true warrior-wife, a real helper, can make a difference.

A lot of Christian resources don’t teach this principle properly.

I’ll be frank. As Roxy noted, a lot of Christian teaching in this area has been abysmal. One of the most fascinating parts of the survey that we’ve just finished was the open ended questions where we asked people to share resources that had helped their marriage and share resources that had harmed their marriage. The resources that people said harmed their marriage mostly tend to teach that women must put up with their husband’s behaviour and not challenge it.

This concept doesn’t work. It isn’t biblical. It isn’t right.

Over this next little while, I hope to correct some of this thinking. But in the meantime, check out 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. So many have told me that it’s actually the best book I’ve ever written, and I have free 6-week and free 8-week video Bible studies to go along with it.

Are you GOOD or are you NICE?

Because the difference matters!

God calls us to be GOOD, yet too often we’re busy being nice. And sometimes, in marriage, that can actually cause problems to be even more entrenched.

What if there’s a better way?

Now let me know: Has the teaching on “helper” ever held you back in your marriage? Have you ever tried to be a warrior wife? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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84 Comments

  1. Dawn

    Love this!!Wish I had this teaching when I got married. I also thought I had to be the perfect wife. Don’t be the real me just be who you think your husband needs.I had low self esteem and because I didn’t think the real me was what he needed we didn’t truly get intimate and close like we should have. It lead to my husband having two affairs. I thought I was dealing with his tobacco addiction when I drew the line on that cause God kept leading me to where he had it and I felt we needed to get rid of that. Only then did I realize the magnitude of what had happened in our marriage. Thank you for your posts and helping woman like me get our marriages and our lives back for God

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Dawn, that breaks my heart–“I didn’t think the real me was what he needed.” I think that’s likely because so many women grow up hearing that they’re second class, and so how could we ever be what our husband needs? There’s something wrong with us. We aren’t taught to be confident in who God made us. We’re always falling short of this ideal that we’re supposed to be.
      We need to understand God’s great love for us and His great purpose for each one of us, and that He isn’t up in heaven angry that we aren’t being a “perfect” wife. He made me to be me! And that’s good. And that’s something important that I have to share with my husband. I pray that you both will continue to grow together and emerge from this thinking.

      Reply
      • Roxy

        “I didn’t think the real me was what he needed.” I suffered from this thinking for years. It profoundly affected what I saw when I looked in the mirror, as well as my view of my husband. Still working on it in counseling.

        Reply
  2. Lydia purple

    It’s so interesting how the English translation of Ezer Kenegdo can’t come close to the full meaning of the Hebrew expression.
    Literally it would mean “helper as in opposition to him” or “a helper against him” in a way being a faithful Counterpart, definitely not subordinate, but equal, seeing eye to eye, with a distinct task to be an opposing force for the husbands best interest. Not a nagging critic, but definitely not a doormat. The Hebrew is a deliberate contradiction, it is actually a very challenging “job description” since it’s not a passive obedient servant helper, but it requires actively seeking what is truly in your husbands best interest. Very much in line with the iron sharpens iron theme. It’s causing friction for sanctification.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’d love to sit down over coffee with you sometime, Lydia and mine your wisdom on all things Hebrew! That’s so interesting. I love that–friction for sanctification.

      Reply
  3. Tracy

    The book “Created to be His Helpmeet” by Debi Pearl did so much damage to my thinking. Living by the advice in that book made a big mess of our relationship and allowed him to become very entitled. Just submit more, pray more, love more, die to self…..I became a shell in survival mode from the fallout of that teaching.
    I’m learning to dig deep in Scripture and not just believe what is taught in so many of the books, blogs, radio shows, etc. I learned about ezer kenegdo a year ago and it was transformative in my mind and spirit.
    I believe the tide is turning on these teachings as so many wounded women and children are finding truth and a voice. I’m thankful that Roxy’s story is turning out well. I hope there are many more like hers. I still pray that one day my own story and relationship will be redeemed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I will join you in prayer for that, Tracy!
      I do agree–the submit more, pray more, love more, die to self–so often that just encourages selfishness, like I was talking about in this podcast. You make it super easy for your spouse to do all the wrong things. That doesn’t help anyone. Jesus did not act that way. Jesus encouraged people to be better. I think if we focused more on Jesus and less on rules, we’d get things right.

      Reply
    • Angie

      I second the damage that book and whole mindset has done. After 25 years of being a miserable “submissive” wife, daughter and mother, in desperation I started reading the book Boundaries about six months ago. It transformed me from the inside out, speaking Truth into me through God’s Word. I have never felt freer, happier or more energized in my whole life. When I finally took responsibility for my own feelings and actions and apologized to my husband for enabling him, his father (who lives with us) and our children it didn’t go over well at first, but it truly transformed our family. I sincerely believed with all of my heart that I was honoring God by following the misguided advice of these authors and church leaders, when in fact I was only contributing to my own bitterness. I felt like Paul who wanted so desperately to always do the right thing, but couldn’t. I had been taught that it was my job to sanctify my family by accepting or condoning their sin, when in reality I was taking on the role of God. Only He can set us apart to serve Him. As I started setting limits on myself and others (in a healthy biblical way) I couldn’t believe the change that took place in my beaten, weary spirit. I try not to dwell on the mistakes I made or the example I set for my children, but I am finally looking forward to a bright future being true to the woman God created me to be and not crammed into a distorted box I and others expected myself to live within. All of the changes I had been praying for in my marriage all these years started the day I put my foot down. It went against EVERYTHING I had ever been taught (and believed), but it radically changed my life and our marriage. I even started a bible study for my friends using this book and give out copies to anyone willing to listen to my truly life altering story. I’m about as excited as if I had been born again all over again. That how toxic my life had been based on those teachings.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Angie, that’s beautiful! I love how you’ve become a little evangelist!
        And I think it is like being born again, because you’ve finally met the real Jesus–the one who wants God’s best in everything, not just us to be “nice”. I love it!

        Reply
      • Tracy

        Angie,
        That is awesome! I have recently begun the Boundaries in Marriage study. It’s like learning a foreign language to me.
        I have repented before God for making my marriage into an idol and behaving like a Pharisee following the rules and formulas rather than focusing on Him alone. I’m learning to walk in a new path. I’m slowly healing from over twenty years of destructive behavior in emotional, financial, sexual, and spiritual areas of our relationship. Thank you for sharing your story. It encourages me that there is hope for change as I follow HIM in truth.
        And Sheila, thank you for your prayers and for taking on this Goliath battle. May God protect and bless you!

        Reply
    • Roxy

      “Just submit more, pray more, love more, die to self… ” Yes. And I spent a lot of time apologizing to my husband for my sins against him as well. That was good and right, I believe, up to a certain point. But things didn’t really start changing for us until I apologized for enabling him for so many years and laid down some boundaries. Not in self-righteous anger, but in warrior-wife mode and all in love.

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Sometimes I wonder if our understanding of what love looks like does not include the “tough love” but rather the softer and gentler side. That thinking can cause us to enable poor behavior at times.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly. Love means wanting the best for someone, not just wanting to be with someone or have a relationship with someone. That’s how love is sacrificial–we’re willing to give up the relationship for the sake of the betterment of someone–to point them to Christ. We don’t use the person or relationship as an idol, but instead serve by wanting the best for them. If we enable bad behaviour, we’re neither loving nor serving.

      Reply
      • H.

        So true. The most loving thing I could have done for my…soon to be ex-husband was to walk away.
        I gave him the tough love speech more times than I can count over the five years we were together.
        Very much like the lovely commenter who you highlighted in this article.
        But it always fell on deaf ears. He didn’t want to give up the porn. He half heartedly made the easiest ‘effort’ possible and then got mad whenever I pointed out that he wasn’t giving it his all, even though he admitted as much to me several times.
        I set boundaries and he crossed them over and over and over. I got angry and bitter and hyper-critical, full-on parent of a rebel child mode, because that’s honestly what our marriage felt like since the beginning. He wanted all the benefits of marriage none of the responsibility, not even sexually.
        I made mistakes, too. A lot of them.
        But I gave it everything, until I was an empty shell, barely surviving my severe depression, and he announced apathetically one day in December that he’d never loved me, nor wanted to get married.
        So…I love him enough to step away. To stop enabling. To stop trying to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. To stop making his life of self-destruction comfortable and easy by staying.
        I love him still, and his present course breaks my heart…I pray for him every day. But I think he wants a different life than the one we had…so I wish him to be very happy and to find freedom, even if that isn’t with me.
        I have committed him fully into God’s hands, and am learning to let go. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever done yet God has given me so much peace and grace. He is good.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, H., I’m so sorry that your ex has chosen darkness rather than light. That’s so heartbreaking. And yet, God allows us free will. It sounds like you did everything you could. I hope that you can find healing now!

          Reply
  5. AspenP

    My pastor described “ezer” with the picture of the movie 300 (Gerard Butler). He said to picture all of the Spartan soldiers side by side covering each other with their shields to make a literal wall against the enemy. That’s what marriage is supposed to look like. Two equally strong warriors covering each other and doing battle together side by side not one in front with one behind.
    300 is now a chick flick. 🙃

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Ohmygoodness! 🤣 Thank you for that!!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Maybe I’ll watch it now!

      Reply
    • Becky

      “300 is now a chick flick. ”
      This is the funniest thing I’ve read all day. 😂

      Reply
  6. Cynthia

    Love the ezer knegdo explanation as well as how it is not good for man to be alone.
    I sometimes see arguments that there always needs to be only one leader, but that is not what Genesis is saying. Not good to be alone doesn’t just mean that there is a need for companionship – after all, many people can get that from pets. As I was taught, it means that it is good that in this area, we can’t be the sole authority and have total control. Having some process that forces us to discuss things with another person isn’t a problem, it’s the way it is supposed to be.
    Knegdo also means “opposite”. Opposing someone, in the right way, can be part of God’s plan.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Cynthia. We need each other to keep us humble, accountable, and also to help us see things with new eyes.

      Reply
  7. Free

    I’m thankful for my wife. I confessed to her and have been doing all the things I can do like therapy, filters and accountability groups. I am on the path of freedom and I am thankful. I wasn’t honest about all my progress first because of shame I guess. She found out when I was talking to my accountability group. She got upset because of the lack of trust I have in her. She says she wants to be here for me. She wants me to tell her every time I feel tempted so she can pray for me. I am so thankful to her and I am working on letting the shame go so I can be honest with her too and not just my accountability group. I am so thankful that she wants to fight beside me.
    I am curious about the 90 days no sex thing. We still have sex and I can’t say that it has affected me negatively. The only thing I worry about at times is that I notice my libido isn’t that strong , or it goes up and down very much. Wish I could hear how a couple has worked through that. My wife wants to continue to have sex.

    Reply
    • Roxy

      Hi Free,
      I love your comment. It is awesome your wife wants to partner with you, and that you are inviting her into the process. Your ownership of the issue is massive. Many women (including myself for a long time) can’t handle the details, which is understandable. But I find there is no substitute for a strong, loving, engaged spouse who wants to fight alongside you. Shame was part of my husband’s problem too. We are talking about that currently. He knew it was hurting me, but he couldn’t stop. And outside accountability partners hadn’t done much for him. We are working on getting more help on board. Talking about the roots of his addiction has been so incredibly helpful, too. Check out Jay Stringer’s book Unwanted. It’s about discovering the roots of why you act out sexually, even why you choose the particular types of porn you choose.
      The no sex thing: it’s been between 3 and 4 weeks for us since intercourse, and three weeks since orgasm for him. I miss sex very much. But we talked a lot about it and decided that 90 days of “hard mode” (what NoFap calls the period of time where an addict does no porn, no masturbation, no orgasm, no edging, no nothing) was right for us. All or nothing, if you will. We don’t want to mess around with it. He came into our marriage with his own private sex life, essentially, and then he began one with me. So he has more neural pathways to heal. He told me that some mornings after we’d had sex just the night before, he would go into the bathroom and masturbate (while thinking of me). He told me this analogy: imagine I have two separate train tunnels in my brain. They run parallel to each other, VERY close. When we had sex (one tunnel, legitimate) it would somehow jostle and shake and vibrate the other tunnel (illegitimate) because they run so close to one another. Nofap calls this phenomenon the “chaser effect.” I thought his analogy was very smart and helpful. Because of that, we went hard mode. Everybody is different, though. I’ve read that the chaser effect lessens with time on hard mode. I’m glad the brain is so resilient! Whatever you do with your sex life, both spouses being on board is essential, because no sex is certainly tough. Calls to mind Paul’s verse that abstinence in marriage must be done for a specific season for a certain reason with the consent of both people.
      We feel like such a team now. I wouldn’t trade our struggles for anything because of good that feels. May God richly bless the efforts of you and your wife!

      Reply
      • Free

        Thank you for your answer Roxy. So glad to hear that you are working through this!
        I can understand your husband because thats how it worked for me too. I dont think no sex for 90 days would work for us because we both want it. Also staying away from my wife has beena triggger. But this is new still. Im on day 42. Right now my libido has gone down very much. I know its horrible but I am worried that its the effect of leaving this. I sometimes feel like I “need” something new and thats why my libido is dying. Sadly that can lead to temptation because one wants to “restart” ones libido. In the beginning everything my libido was up high but these last days it has gone down. Even if we have had sex. So that worries me. I wont let this make me fall tough. I just hope I will be able to perform when my wife needs me.

        Reply
        • Roxy

          I hear you about both wanting sex. My husband and I both want it too, but we’ve made the decision now. It’s great that you and your wife have found something that works for you. Who knows? Maybe we will look back on our hard mode journey and see it wasn’t necessary to be quite so intense. We’ll see.
          Your lack of libido could be a “flatline,” which I’ve read about a lot on nofap. We’ve yet to encounter that part of the journey, but I’ve been cautioned to expect it. I think it’s like the brain goes into hibernation mode as it waits to see what you’re going to do with the thing you’re abstaining from; in this case, porn and masturbation. Libido can plummet as a result, but eventually comes back with a roar when your brain finally adjusts to the new normal (sex with wife only). The time of the flatline can vary in length, from what I understand. And your brain may very well be missing the wide variety that porn provided, so it’s giving up temporarily. I have not read much about flatlines when not on hard mode, but now I’m interested.
          I sure hope I don’t sound like a know-it-all. I’m anything but. Just glad to share what I’m learning with others who are on this journey too. I appreciate the conversation!

          Reply
      • Blessed Wife

        That part about the “chaser effect” is a fascinating insight!
        I came to my marriage a virgin with no porn use, but I’ve noticed a similar effect. About 8 hours after sex, my brain starts replaying the encounter and revving my body up again. Often my husband is unavailable then because he’s at work or in a hurry to get there. My urges get so strong that I can’t focus on anything else, and it can stay that way for hours or even days.
        One useful tool that has really helped is keeping an erotic journal. I write down everything that my brain is replaying: often this includes embellishments on the original encounter because the memory evolves into fantasy with time. It gives me a place to express the obsessive thoughts and urges, without taking anything from my spouse. Once it’s on the page, my brain can retrack to whatever I need to be doing.

        Reply
  8. Bridgit

    Thank you for sharing this. I love the “warrior” vision. …Years ago after going through 3 different “accountability” partners (We later found out they too were struggling and couldn’t help because of their own sin), my husband came to me and ask if I’d be his accountability partner. I initially said no! I’d been so hurt by his addiction. However, after prayer and prompting of the Holy Spirit. I knew God wanted me in this role. I knew when he was up at 2:00 am on the computer..no one else did. I had to set some strong boundaries because of the anger that comes with the addiction. But, we made it through! It’s been over 15 years since God brought freedom to him and our marriage. We both are so thankful for Gods goodness and our marriage. It’s worth the fight! 💕

    Reply
  9. Natalie

    Great post!!! I too didn’t see reach change in my husband till I too gave the ultimatum of “porn/overeating or me. If you choose the former, we will be getting a divorce.” I was raised to never ever even bring up the possibility of divorce because divorce was wrong unless sexual adultery was involved. But I’d argue that knowing that your spouse could leave you if you start neglecting them, yourself, and/or your marriage is actually a really beneficial thing!! It keeps you in check and (assuming you want your marriage to work) incentivises you to change when needed.

    Reply
  10. Amber

    I agree with Roxy 100%. My husband and I were in a similar situation, only he was lusting after women he saw, undressing them with his eyes, fantasizing about them. I in no way think this is “not as bad” as viewing porn. In fact, I think it has the same effects. I drew a line in the sand early in our marriage, and thankfully he chose to honor that line and work to restore our marriage. We’ve now been married 20 years! The teaching that a woman must submit no matter what is so, so harmful, because many Christian women want to do what is biblical. But what is truly biblical is not always what is taught in churches. I grew up in a VERY conservative Church of Christ. My dad was a preacher. I watched my mom submit to him in EVERYTHING. As a kid, I decided I would NOT be like that, even if it meant I wasn’t a good Christian. Later I realized it wasn’t truly biblical, the way they teach it in many churches. It breaks my heart to see women feeling guilty to do their God-given duty to stand up to their husband if he is continually sinning. To see them held captive by these horrible teachings. So sad. And the “church” continues to perpetuate these teachings! I am thankful Sheila that you are willing to speak out about these things.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Amber! It makes me so sad, too. But I honestly think things are changing, because young people want a real relationship with Jesus, not just a life based on rules. And young people won’t stand for it. We’ll see what that does to transform our churches!

      Reply
  11. BoundByLove

    Don’t know if anyone remembers that one scene in the first Harry Potter movie where Neville Longbottom stands up to Harry, Ron and Hermione. It may not have seemed like much, but that was huge. As professor Dumbledore said at the end of the movie.
    “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I do remember that! That’s great.

      Reply
  12. Dianne G

    In my case, after years of “pray harder, submit more, try harder” I finally realized that Biblical love confronts sin and not enables it. I had fought for my marriage through years of faithful intercession and speaking words of life to my husband, but realized that fighting for my marriage did not mean silently suffering while he continued to verbally, emotionally, and sexually abuse. Although my husband professed to have stopped using porn, he had refused to continue the recovery/healing process and began other addictions, increasing his deception/lying/concealing. After a year of wise and Godly counsel, I laid down some hard boundaries and required my husband to get help for his addictions and fits of rage. In his case, he did not have a desire to change, After a year of making excuses for not starting counseling, he told me that he knew he had destroyed the marriage, but saw no need to change and wanted a divorce. My pastors and I believe that 1 Cor 7:15 applies. Although I am grieved over his decision, I have peace. The Lord has provided for me and for my daughter in amazing ways. We have pastoral counseling that has been a gift from God, helping to untwist the warped ways I’d been taught about submission. My daughter and I are starting trauma counseling to help us heal. I am so encouraged to read stories of women whose husbands wanted help and have responded so positively to their warrior stance. At the same time, not all husbands will respond positively…and if that is your case, may I encourage you that the Lord is FAITHFUL.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Dianne, thank you so much for sharing your story, and for confirming that, in the end, it all comes down to God, and putting him first. No matter what happens, God will hold us and shield us and protect us.
      Doing the right thing does not always mean that what we want to happen happens. But it does mean that God is with us and that He can carry us.
      I’m so sorry your husband didn’t soften, but I’m so glad that you and your daughter are in a good place now, with lots of support!

      Reply
  13. Bre

    Love this! Even though I’m not married, I’m looking forward to the rest of this series! Probably because the pastor of the college ministry that I attend is really big on the iron-sharpen-iron principle. A lot of her personal, quirky, Christian maxims relate to the principles of that verse because she’s very big on envisioning and encouraging close, relational discipleship and friendships. It’s nice to get to hear how to apply those principles out in the “real world” in different relationships!
    I’m going to share these with my mom because, while we all love each other, there are many issues in her and my (step) dad’s relationship. Not my place to say stuff for the online world to see, but he’s basically extremely negative and angry at the world (and getting worse) and it triggers her mental health struggles and their relationship has been on the struggle bus for the last couple years since I went to college. While I hate to point fingers, it’s largely dad’s fault with his attitude and genuine inability to see anything from someone else’s point-of view and take any slight criticism.
    Mom hates the situation, but she hasn’t really done much of anything constructive about it. But her relationship with God is growing and she’s been praying and trying to figure out what God wants her to do because she’s reaching the end of the rope and knows they have to do something and not just dance around their issues and tolerate each other. I think that this series and the one you did at Christmas about dealing with family issues would help her a lot. I know that, despite the mess, my parents really do love each other and me, and it kills me to see how upset mom is and I honestly can’t imagine having to carry around the rage and hurt that I know that dad does and I think that reading some of this stuff might help her (and him!) because you and your team *get it* about dysfunction and mental health and all that stuff.

    Reply
  14. Doug

    That was a good example of an appropriate intervention and a happy ending. Thanks for sharing it. I don’t mean to pick it apart because I know it didn’t just “come together” out of the blue. Two people were heavily invested and made it happen.
    With that said, there were a lot of things in that particular example that, while not making things easier, at least some obstacles were removed.
    First, most would argue that she had at least some biblical grounds for the boundary she established. Not everyone would agree that pornography is biblical grounds for divorce, but enough would that she could claim it Personally, I don’t know the answer to that. What if she did not have the biblical grounds to use such a big stick? What if his sin was a gambling addiction, or if he was a highly functioning alcoholic. What if he had anger issues bit they did not manifest in any abusive behavior?
    The second thing I noticed, was that while she was clearly adamant in her stance, she also showed grace and patience along the way. I good way to say it is that she recognized the character of her man and was willing to fight for him, not against him.
    The third thing I noticed, was he was a willing partner in all of this. Maybe not perfectly willing all the time, but in a general sense. The fact that he avoided hardcore porn and instead “dabbled” in highly sexualized material other than porn speaks to the fact that he already had some conviction.
    I personally feel she handled her situation in a strong, effective manner, and I applaud both her and her husband.
    Not everyone can come out swinging the big stick. Not everyone has biblical grounds they can stand on to use that stick.
    Are you going to cover that in more detail in the coming days.
    Specifically, how can you encourage change in how someone might deal with old wounds. Can you “insist” on particular courses of action, and how do you make that stick. What boundaries can you place that are both biblical and effective?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Doug,
      Yes, I’ll be covering a lot of that this month!
      The issue of biblical grounds is an interesting one. Look, God wants us to be safe, and He values our safety. He wants us to care for our kids. If someone has a gambling addiction that is throwing your family into debt, then you simply must separate your finances, and often separate if that’s the only way you can give stability to you and your kids. If someone is an alcoholic, same thing. When someone has an addiction that is destroying them and destroying the family, there is grace there. I’m not saying that should be step 1; not at all. But you do what you have to do to protect yourself and your kids.
      We’ll also be looking at Gary Thomas’ book When to Walk Away this month, which talks a lot about that. God does not intend for you to be shackled to someone who is destroying you.

      Reply
      • Doug

        Thanks Shelia.
        I suspected that you might respond as you did, and I agree with you, that safety is the highest concern, and I don’t want to imply that anyone should stay in a relationship that places them at risk. I’m not speaking from a position of total ignorance. I was raised by a highly functioning alcoholic. He didn’t sober up till I was long grown. He was also a mighty defender, a good provider, and truly a good man. On the other hand, my wifes father was an abusive alcoholic. He was a friend of mine and I never saw that side of him until I was part of the family. He was very good at concealing it. Both my wifes and my own dad were vietnam veterans with undiagnosed/untreated PTSD. The thing is leaving to protect yourself and chuldren is not a case of iron sharpening iron. Sadly you are forced to make a choice between your safety and helping the man. In those cases, the battle is usually lost before it is began and all the boundaries in the world will be effective.
        You mentioned Gary’s book. I am very familiar with it. If you you thumb thru it, you will recognize my name. The chapter is Toxic to Tender. I wouldn’t have chosen the word tender to describe me now, but I’m trying.
        I survived a messy childhood, abandoned by my biological father as a todler, I survived a stepfather who had his own demons. I survived combat tours myself and I suspect that I have a degree of PTSD from that. I survived my wife aborting my child behind my back, and I am certain I have PTSD from that.
        Along the way I have fallen into anger/rage issues, pornography addiction, an affair and more depression than you can fathom.
        When you talk about mens failures and shortcomings, I know you do so from a place in your heart that cares deeply for women and their hurts, but I really don’t think you have a real and true understanding of men and their hurts. If you want to improve their behavior, you have to heal their hearts in most cases.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Doug, I do hear you. I do. But what I’ve found, too, is that BOTH men and women rarely get help for their brokenness until they are put in a situation where they basically have no choice. That’s why I think a woman setting boundaries so that the husband is actually motivated to get help with his issues is a loving thing to do. It is not that I don’t care about men’s brokenness; I do. But I also know that many men don’t get help until they have to, and I think that is the healthiest thing to happen here.

          Reply
          • Doug

            If you would, I would like you to expand on this statement.
            “That’s why I think a woman setting boundaries so that the husband is actually motivated to get help with his issues is a loving thing to do. ”
            I absolutely believe there are cases where setting boundaries has had a positive effect on a spouses motivation, but, and I think you would agree, that is not the purpose of a boundary. A boundary is to protect the heart and possibly even the body of the offended party. It is absolutely justified and necessesary in those cases.
            On the other hand, it seldom actually softens the offenders heart, and it could be argued that it does them emotional harm in some cases. It depends to a great degree on what wounds they carry themselves.
            I know that I never responded well to anything that placed me deeper into isolation, probably as a result of some residual abandonment issues. To this day, I struggle with that when my wife puts too much distance between us, tho I can usually knuckle down and overcome them. My wife used to use be big stick as a threat. Now I know she did so from a place of woundedness, probably as a result of childhood abuse. In short her defense amplified my own fears. The point is that her threats of divorce did nothing except reinforce my own abandonment issues, especially when she would then isolate me.
            I hope you believe that I am not being argumentative just for the sake of it.
            I know this is complicated. I absolutely can not tell you what would have broken me enouge to push me to change, but I do know what would have, and has pushed me the wrong direction. That conversation needs to be part of this if the intent truly is changing hearts.

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            I think you’re seeing “confronting” as a very negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Someone threatening you isn’t “confronting,” it’s threatening!
            Your solution presented here seems to be that if a husband is doing something wrong, his wife can’t confront him in case the reason he’s doing something wrong is because he has a fragile ego. That is not her problem–she needs to confront what is wrong. It is then up to him, as an individual with free will, to handle that appropriately.
            Yes, we can be kind or cruel in how we confront. But the confrontation is not the problem–and we were clearly encouraging people to be kind but firm in this post. So I have a hard time understanding why you would have a problem with that as there is no other option other than to be silent and hope for the best (which you also agree is not feasible).
            We have to accept at some point that living in community–whether with fellow believers in church or with our spouses at home–comes with inherent discomfort because we are not infallible beings. We make mistakes. We hurt each other. And that discomfort we get from being confronted is not always a bad thing–that can be the sign we need to change.
            The goal is not complete lack of discomfort–it is to grow together to become more and more like Christ. If someone confronts in a non-Christlike way, of course that needs to be addressed. But something being uncomfortable or not “nice” is not an immediate sign that it was not like Christ.

          • Maria

            Doug, to isolate someone means to prevent them from having any contact with other people for a period of time. If your wife does that to you, she is abusing you. Now, if all she does is decide that she will not share as much of herself and her life with you as you would like, that’s entirely different. If that seems like isolation to you than your perception is off. I don’t know which it is. Either way, I hope that you and your wife get any help that both/either of you might need.

          • Maria

            And I’m so sorry that you lost your baby to an abortion. She should not have done that.

        • Sarah O

          Absolutely there are some offenses that are going to require a good deal of discernment in how to set boundaries. I also think there are lots of boundaries/consequences that can be set without necessarily broaching divorce outright.
          I am excited to read to rest of the iron series to see how this can be applied to the more “standard” marriage problems, but I also know that not every scenario can possibly be covered and Sheila always tries to steer away from legalism.
          So for the example of mild gambling addiction, I think it depends on the couple and their circumstances. For many couples, separating finances or being unwilling to keep the addiction a secret from family and church may be sufficient. However, I also know of a woman who “aged-out” of foster care and has had a real fight to achieve some financial security. She has a lot of trauma around finances and fear of financial hardship as a result. If she had a partner who dabbled in a mild gambling addiction knowing that about her, I’d say that demonstrated extreme indifference and harm.
          One of the tough things about setting boundaries and being an ezer kenegdo is that boundaries often reveal the heart state. It’s rarely ever one thing in marriage, there is a whole nest of stuff to be unwound. If you set a healthy boundary with a loving, committed person, you will be successful in protecting yourself and discouraging them from a sinful behavior. If you set a boundary with someone who is more committed to sin and their selfish nature than the relationship, they will be more forceful in negotiating/pushing/violating the boundary. So you can start from a place of tolerable dissent and move to a place of more serious harm as the heart state is revealed, but either way you are learning the truth. Hope that makes sense.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Very well said, Sarah. Either way, you are getting at the truth, and God does not like things being hidden.

          • Sarah O

            Thanks Sheila. One last thought on this from the other side (the spouse who is being confronted). All of us have areas of weakness and few of us enjoy being confronted about it. I know I bristle when my husband takes issue with me and I have to really focus to stop, listen and consider rather than jump to defend myself.
            Pay attention to your knee-jerk reactions when being confronted. If I feel like trying any of the following, that’s generally confirmation for me that I indeed have a sin issue.
            -minimizing: “I only do it when…”, “it’s not as bad as all that…” My spouse has just told me it’s bad. He’s taken the courage to confront me. Minimizing is a prideful response that says, “I don’t care how it’s affecting you, I’ll be the judge of whether/when it’s a problem”
            – sin-leveling “sure I did that, but that’s nothing compared to when YOU…” “well I’m not perfect, and it’s not like I do x or y, can’t you deal with a little z?”
            -excuses instead of apology “I get triggered by certain things because of other events in the past that cannot be changed.” “I can’t help it”. This is an easy one because technically I’m admitting that what I did was wrong without taking any responsibility for my choice. I’m not making restitution or asking forgiveness, I’m asking for tolerance, leaving my husband/marriage unhealed and vulnerable to future infractions but still expecting to be let off the hook.
            -Unrealistic expectations of confrontation: It is indeed possible to do a poor job confronting your spouse, but when I take a confrontation about my sinful behavior and redirect it to be about my husband’s “tone” or “language”, I am using his hurt feelings as a diversion – feelings that I hurt in the first place! I know my husband is non-confrontational and so it takes a great deal of effort and emotion for him to confront me in the first place, demanding he do it flawlessly in order to be heard is very ungracious on my part.
            My husband and I are fortunate to have had help from a wonderful, licensed Christian counselor to recognize and deal with these issues in our marriage, and I share it because I see a number of comments modeling these behaviors. In the end, our sin is not just keeping our spouses unhappy and our marriages from thriving – any sin we sanction is keeping us from being the image of Christ and living the abundant life He died to give us.

          • Doug

            It makes sense, Sarah, but it isn’t the whole story. I had/have a strong leaning towards addictive behavior. In my case, it manifest mostly in a pornography addiction. I don’t say that lightly. I would have never considered myself an addict, and honestly believed it was preposterous that anyone could be addicted to pornography. It was not that I chose pornography(commited to sin/selfish) I didn’t even realize I had a problem, and i could not have been convinced I did. That was the depth of my denial.
            Another area tjat I had massive issues was anger. I think it was rooted in severe control issues, partly from my childhood, but also from PTSD split between my time in the military, and an abortion that I was powerless to prevent. These are not small things. They are every bit as detrimental to the soul as Rape, or other trauma. I did not choose to be angry.(commited to sin/selfish). I libed in a crimson rage for 20 years, because I didn’t know how not to. There was no choice in the matter. Actually, that is not completely true, but I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know there was a choice and had you tried to convince me otherwise, it would have been impossible.
            I am not that person any more, but I remember that person. You can say that I was choosing, and I would agree with you now, but how do you convince the person that doesn’t know he/she has a choice. Do you really believe sanctions of any kind will be effective?
            I don’t know the answer. God had to first show me the pain I had inflicted, and then the pain buried in my own heart before I could change, but angry or accusing words from the people I hurt were never going to reach me.
            I will be the forst to admit that my case is probably not typical but I also believe that a little bit of my story applies to everyone. Everyone carroes something in their heart.

    • Maria

      My two cents: we are all called to treat one another in a Christ-like manner. Therefor, if someone is harming his or her spouse by refusing to address addictions/ rage issues / etc, the bible does, in fact, provide justification for setting boundaries. The bible does not have to condemn a specific behavior by name for it to harm someone.
      When it comes to setting appropriate boundaries, I think that the boundary setting spouse is always fighting for her or his husband or wife. If said husband or wife is determined to continue in sin, it would feel like being fought against. But if he or she genuinely wants to be who God intended, it would feel like gaining an ally.
      When it comes to old wounds, I believe that we all heal in our own time and (to an extent) our own way. That said, there is no excuse for hurting someone else, even out of brokenness. If a loved one were causing me harm because of their old wounds (say losing their temper and yelling at me) I would say “I won’t tolerate being treated like this. We will talk when you are ready for a civilized conversation.” Then leave the room. When they are ready for conversation, I would acknowledge their pain and say that I know it’s not personal. And then offer help and support.
      If he or she is not causing any harm from their woundedness, no need for boundaries. Still lots of need for love and support. Looking forward to Shiela’s future posts on your question. I always learn a lot by reading this blog, both posts and comments.

      Reply
      • Maria

        Future posts on that issue, I meant.

        Reply
      • Doug

        I agree with you Maria for the most part. Where I disagree with you, is when you state that when someone is causing you harm that you have carte blanche biblical authority to separate or divorce. There are cases where that is clearly justified, but the teuth is that most are a bit murky. I used the example of gambling deliberately. If your interpretation of hatm is not having a roof over your head, then I would say you are indeed being harmed and the bible speaks specifically about not providing for your family. What if it causes a temporary hardship on occasion, or no measurable hardship. The same grey areas can be found in most patterns of sin. I personally don’t think that being distressed by, automatically means harm is done. Mind you, I am not justifying sin. Sin is wrong, but not all sinreaches the level of harm. Someone with an anger problem is not harming, unless there is a fear attached to that. I use that particular sin as an example, because I used to have a massive anger issue, but the truth is that it almost never manifest itself as yelling at my wife. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t right, but the person who siffered for it was myself most of the time.

        Reply
        • Maria

          Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Doug. Separation or divorce are on the extreme end of boundary setting. Other measures could be things like separate finances for gambling addiction. Separate bedrooms for porn use.
          The options are not limited to no boundaries at all or live completely separate lives. And yeah, it is possible to overreact and draw a line that is way too drastic for the situation at hand. However, things might be more serious than it seems. It’s easy for people to minimize their own problematic behavior and make too big a deal of someone else’s. All we can do is focus on our own behavior and our own responses.
          Personally, I think that I would feel uncomfortable sharing a bed with someone who was threatening me with divorce. So for me, a boundary would be no sexual intimacy until the issue that was considered grounds for divorce is dealt with. Hypothetical, though. I’m not married, just trying to figure things out before I get there and find out I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Which is probably how it’s going to happen anyway, lol.

          Reply
          • Maria

            *issue being dealt with* could mean that the spouse being threatened with divorce is in the wrong and repents. Or it could mean the spouse threatening divorce was in the wrong and repents.
            And the “focus on our own behavior” line was, well, out of line. I meant we can only control ourselves, but that’s not what I said. What I implied there was that it’s not ok to notice and think about (ie focus on) another person’s behavior. That was wrong. It absolutely is ok to notice how another person is behaving.

      • A regular reader

        Maria, this is similar to what a wise older woman taught me to do when I first opened up about our pathological marriage. I didn’t start learning to set boundaries in marriage until more than 20 very painful years. First, she taught me to put my inner heat shield up, recognizing that it was his problem, between him and God, and that I shouldn’t give him the power to get inside and hurt me. When I would bring up an issue he didn’t want to admit to, whether he was going into a sulky, angry fit and using all his manipulative strategies, or sneaking around and trying to cover it up, or hungrily undressing women with his eyes, or any number of other destructive habits, I learned to calmly say, “This isn’t pleasing to God. Since we seem to be unable to communicate about this in a respectful and constructive way, I will be happy to discuss it again in the presence of a counselor. ” And turn and walk away.
        That was about eight years ago, and it was the turning point that, along with divine intervention to change his heart, has led to a mostly happy marriage today.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I love that! Thank you so much for that practical example of what to do.

          Reply
          • Maria

            Seconded!

    • Roxy

      Hi Doug,
      I want to make it clear that I never used the word “divorce” with my husband when I finally spoke up. I can not judge other women’s situations without knowing anything about them, just wanting to clarify for my own. I tried to make it clear in my original comment that I don’t know what I would have done if my husband was totally unrepentant. I grieve for those in that situation.
      And I tried to make sure I handled my words with grace and patience, even though I was very firm. I had had way too much patience before, actually, but I never wanted him to feel like his sins were so much worse than mine, like I’m some angel. I have spent 18 months in counseling confronting my own issues, and it has humbled me, thankfully. My husband has a great character, and I have tried to stay focused on that, even though I fail at times.
      It surprised me a bit when my husband told me he would have been addicted to much harder stuff if he hadn’t had an accountability app installed on his phone. And I was the checker! I hated the thought of being the “porn police”, but he asked me to keep checking on him. Even so, he kept watching soft core stuff, knowing I would see. He said he did a cost-benefit analysis every time he looked. Which proves I had steered into “too nice and patient” territory. He knew he could look and I wouldn’t do much, if anything!
      I appreciate your encouragement. You are right I don’t have some obstacles other women have. The thing I’m most thankful for is that my husband is a committed Christian and seeking to grow in his faith. He did feel conviction, but couldn’t stop.

      Reply
      • Doug

        My apologies, Roxy. I didn’t mean to misrepresent what you said. I took the statement of “me or porn” to be an implicit threat. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what I thought, and it does nothing to diminish your mutual victory. I celebrate it with you.

        Reply
        • wifeofasexaddict

          Dear Doug,
          Dude. Divorce is not the only consequence that could be used.
          But I think divorce is acceptable for a lot more than just adultery. Paul gives us lists of people to avoid- don’t even eat with them- “revilers”is one. Don’t stay with a verbal abuser. Proverbs tells us to avoid “fools” over and over. Gambling addict??
          Any kind of addict is doing great harm to their family. God doesn’t want his children to be hurt. In fact, the purpose of making men give wives a formal certificate of divorce (as opposed to just chasing her off) was to protect women.
          We need to stop telling women to be weaklings and give them the strong, equal position God intended them to have. It helps everyone.

          Reply
          • Doug

            Wifeofasexaddict.
            You will see that I am very careful not do state one way or another on where divorce or any other sanction is justified. I think it is something that we each have to decide for ourselves, if the situation arises, but I think it should be done for the right reasons, and with Godly counsel. For the record, I would strongly encourage anyone in that position to be willing to hear alternative views, and not just the one that sounds good.
            Not every case is equal, even when harm is claimed.
            One person might have a sharp temper, but their spouse is pretty thick skinned, so it really does no harm.
            Another person might occasionally say something offensive, but the person receiving it might be especially sensitive to it, maybe as a result of previous wounds at the hands of another, and the harm might be greater.
            In effect, the greater sin causes less harm, and the lesser sin causes greater harm.
            Do both, or neither, have grounds to claim harm.
            We can always reverse the roles. Can a husband divorce his wife for overspending? It can be every bit as destructive as a gambling addiction.
            What about overeating, or smoking, or any other self destructive behavior that threatens the long term stability of the marriage. I have a particular fear of being left alone. Is that enough to claim harm, if my spouse does things that adversely harm their health.
            I am not just throwing these out for the purpose of conflict or consternation. These are all valid questions.
            I am not calling for women to be doormats, but I am saying that some women need to develop a spine(some men as well). In some cases that might mean setting hard boundaries for offenses that are literally intolerable, but also being willing to endure some that don’t meet that level of severity. And I don’t mean endure them while constantly reminding a man or woman of their shortcomings, but recognizing that we all fall short, and sometimes we have given our best effort to effect change, and not been successful, so we graciously accept some harm and hardship into our lives. In short, dying to ourselves, because we also made a vow of for better or worse.

  15. Tired of Being stuck

    This is such a helpful article, I have been married just over 9 years now and my husband is a good man and great father (we are expecting baby #4 this spring). We have had a problem with sexual desire on his end and a complete shut down when we try to discuss. Marriage and sex therapy went nowhere when we did that many years ago.
    I have recently been talking to God about this, you know the kind where he starts it in the middle of the night where you have no distractions?
    My husband is an Iraq veteran and I think he is suffering from PTSD based on some things he has mentioned over time and his inability to emotionally connect in any significant way. That and how he studied to pass the psych eval to get out of the Marine corp and not get held back on discharge.
    I have been serving and giving and trying my best to take on as much responsibility as I can to make life easier and hoping that with each job or better schedule (he is in law enforcement on shift work) it will get better. But it doesn’t work that way and I am on empty now, I can’t keep doing this without some reciprocation.
    I have realized just this past week that as hard as I try and pray and wait, it isn’t going to change him and I told him that we need to get help. And I told him he needed to be the one to start the process or I just won’t move on this next job where I will lose my entire outside support group – bible study and church unless I really have him. He says he doesn’t know where to start, but I am not going to arrange it all this time as I am sure that in order for healing to take place it has to come from his decision. I don’t want to nag, but I am not letting it go around this cycle again. I am seeking wisdom on how to pursue this in a helpful way that doesn’t involve me taking over yet again!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally understand your desperation. It sounds like a really wise thing. The only thing I will say is that he may need to deal with the PTSD before he can really make some positive changes. It may really be impeding his own ability to make decisions or do things. Is there a PTSD support group you can join? He just may honestly need some healing, but I think making it clear that he has to take ownership of it is a wise step.

      Reply
    • wifeofasexaddict

      Dear Tired,
      You have every right to require him to get help. HE needs help. Marriage counseling will not be beneficial right now. He can start at the VA since he is a veteran. Or guy talk with the guys down at the VFW. It can be hard, when you’re at the bottom of a barrel, to see your way out. But he needs to try.
      I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m sorry he’s going through this. Military life is SO hard. It’s tough on spouses too. You shouldn’t have to carry all the load indefinitely.

      Reply
      • Doug

        “””You have every right to require him to get help. “””
        NO, NO, NO.
        You have every right to encourage him to get help. You have every right to get help for yourself if he refuses to move forward. If he is being abusive, you have the right, and maybe even the duty to separate or divorce.
        I don’t know the circumstance, but I am a combat veteran. I am currently seeing a counselor myself for other issues. Counseling is hard. Re-living is Hell. Nobody has the right to force that on anyone.
        If I could speak to him right now, I would be among the strongest advocates of counseling, but I wouldn’t sugar coat a thing.
        That is where I am having a tremendous issue with this whole concept. Nobody really grasps the cost of some of these supposed “interventions” They just know they don’t want to pay themselves. You don’t get to claim that your intent is for their good, when what you are really concerned with is making your life easier.
        Tired of Being Stuck. I wish there was something I could tell you, other than hang in there and be strong. By all means, be an encourager, and set whatever boundaries are appropriate. Sadly, from your post, the lack of intimacy is just something you can not fix with a boundary. That is a battle I have fought for years. It really is something that the only real power you have is to put more distance between you, and that is just the opposite of what you desire.
        I would encourage you to reconsider some of your points. Is it really so hard for you to take the lead in helping him with some of the things that he clearly has difficulty with. Help him find a group, or a counselor, or whatever it takes. Don’t wait for him to do it, because he literally might not be able to do it without your help. See if you can find a Facebook group of veterans, or something. I belong to one myself, that is all Desert Storm veterans. They look after each other, and encourage each other, outside the formalized system.
        Please, don’t let him place you in harms way in any way, but if you can be one, be his rock if he needs one. That would truly be the act of a Warrior Wife

        Reply
        • Lea

          It seems like you take hard boundaries and end of your rope kind of concerns (you need to do x because this cannot continue) as threats.
          The truth is, these likely have come only after a lengthy attempt at ‘softer’ efforts. Sometimes you have to stop and say no because the situation is untenable and sitting around hoping for better and trying to encourage change has not worked.
          I don’t like ultimatums unless they are really meant. This cannot continue, something has to change, if it is does not this is the result. That is not a threat. That is communication of reality.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Exactly, Lea. And I think if we were to speak up more in the little things in the day to day, we would often have little need of these hard confrontations. But you can be firm and kind at the same time in these little interactions.

          • Doug

            I know it seems that way, Lea, but that isn’t the case. In the past tho, I know that I would have, and that is why I am saying something. I really don’t know how to explain what I mean, other than to say that whatever approach is used needs to be tailored to the brokenness of both individuals.
            I have abandonment issues stemming from childhood, so yes, a boundary involving some sort of separation absolutely feels like a threat, I recognize my issues now, and can more accurately interpret the intent, and I can calm my fears. I can do that now……. In the past,, I couldn’t. It isn’t that I was “over sensitive” or anything else. It was how life had conditioned me to interpret it. In short, it was beyond my ability to control.
            My wife and I both are Adult Children of Alcoholics. There are a number of characteristics that are common issues for ACOA. One that my wife struggles with is accepting any critique or correction. I KNOW she has struggles in that area, so I have to be careful when I say something that I don’t trigger a defensive response. I wasn’t always good at it, and if I said something she perceived as a criticism, her heart went directly to a defensive posture. I can’t tell you how many times she responded to a criticism with a remark along the lines of “I’m not ever going to be good enough, so I will just leave.” That response then fed directly into my abandonment issues, and things often snowballed from there.
            We have both done enough work that for the most part, we have broken out of that cycle. We have learned to communicate, which is really what this entire series is about, but it didn’t happen overnight.
            When I advise caution in how to proceed in my remarks, it is because I know that when you are trying to change behavior in broken people, They don’t always, maybe almost never, react in a way that a rational healthy person would respond. What they perceive as real is tainted or distorted, much the same way that a rape victim might see all men as a potential threat.

        • wifeofasexaddict

          My husband is not only a sex addict, he is also in the US Army. So let me talk about this from an army wife’s perspective. I have suffered through 4 deployments, same as he has. My daughter has too. My son hardly knew his dad until he was 3 years old. My son called his dad by his first name on a regular basis until he was 7. Ok. I understand deployment. I didn’t see or do the things he did, but I suffered too. Tired is suffering because of her husband’s PTSD. She has demonstrated compassion and has gone far to help him. She has tried to make his life easy. He needs to take responsibility for his problem, hard as it is, and stop letting his wife suffer all the consequences. I am absolutely not callous to his suffering (as my husband is callous to my suffering). But he needs to own this. She doesn’t need to let him hurt her or bear the whole load forever.
          Doug, I’m sorry for your suffering too. But you seem to be making excuses for people who suffer. I have PTSD too, both from my childhood and from my marriage. I have been seeking help since the first time my husband confessed to infidelity . He has only sought help when forced too. And some of that time he was half-assing it. You better believe I have the right to confront him and hold him accountable for how he treats me.

          Reply
          • Doug

            Wifeofasexaddict.
            First, I want to thank your husband for his service, and thank you for the sacrifices you and your family also made.
            I don’t think we see things as differently as our respective comments might indicate I do think we have a tendency to interpret comments and ideas differently.
            I never said that you did not have the right to expect and demand proper behavior. You absolutely have that right. I don’t, however, believe you have the right to set the path for how he reaches that behavior. You can set boundaries around his behavior, for your own welfare. You can encourage a particular course of action, and set conditions describing consequences but that is it. I don’t know how other people respond, but I think that I would have responded very poorly if I thought something like counseling was being forced in me. I go because I want to, for myself. My counselor has commented that I am probably the most receptive man she has ever worked with. I don’t know if I am or not, but whatever she wants from me, whether I am initially reluctant or not, I follow thru. As I said in my comment above, some of it is very painful. I’m not going to describe the process to you, but I will tell you that I am not a weak person and I have never done anything so difficult.
            I need you to understand that I am not making excuses for myself or anyone else. It isn’t about that. It is an understanding, first, that it is very easy to live in denial. It is easy to believe that “I don’t need counseling” or hold such a hopeless outlook as to believe that “nothing can help”. I think I went back and forth between those, and I was not making excuses. They were both firmly held beliefs. Standing in the closet with a loaded 45 shattered the first and left me with nowhere else to turn but the second. I didn’t believe counseling would help, but I couldn’t go on the way I was and I had tried everything else. When I walked in to my first session, I really didnt believe it would help, and I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be a second session but I was commited to giving it a chance. There was nowhere else for me to tirn if it failed.
            In short, I did it for me.
            Till I reached that point, if someone had tried to make me go, I would have been reluctant to go at all, and certainly would not have put in the work I have. So there would have been little to no value.
            I am sorry for everything both of you have endured. If it seems I dismiss your hurt and excuse his behavior, I can assure you it isn’t true. It may be that his is more familliar, and I can empathise with his more easily, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about yours.

  16. Bill Johnson

    Re. Roxy’s comments: I was mentally comparing myself and what my response would have been to that of her husbands, and I realized that her attitude is what made all the difference! My wife’s approach to just about EVERYTHING is to nag, bully, and beat me into submission; to simply make the emotional price of a behavior too high to continue it, even if I think it’s the correct action, deep down. That approach actually only made me more secretive, and taught me just to cover my tracks better. What would work with me is a “team-US” attitude like R’s. I don’t care how “woke” or how whipped a man is, male brains are wired to resist feminine coercion, sometimes to the death! I gather, as well, that she made herself readily available when he was feeling “the need” without the all-too-typical female judgement of whether he “deserved” it, or had “earned” it or not. Most Men will quickly ghost a woman, emotionally or physically, who presumes to sit it judgement of him all the time.

    Reply
    • Maria

      Human brains are wired to resist coercion.

      Reply
    • Halley

      male brains are wired to resist feminine coercion
      While I agree with Maria that this can be applied to the broader human condition, your sentence is what I have been living for the past 8+ years of our marriage.
      I feel like my intention is to be this helper, this warrior, that we as wives are called to be. But no matter how I go about it, my husband won’t listen to me, calling me too emotional, critical, judgemental, or a combination of those and similar adjectives.
      It makes me feel like I am a complete and utter failure in my role as a Godly wife. I don’t know what to do anymore!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Halley, I’m very sorry. That doesn’t sound like a healthy dynamic.
        Also, notice that we seem to be equating “feminine coercion” with simply speaking up. That’s not true. That’s manipulative and controlling and wrong.
        You are made in God’s image. You are allowed to have an opinion. To disagree with your husband is not being emotional, critical, or judgmental. Certainly we can speak in ways that are critical and judgmental, but simply speaking the truth in love is not being critical and judgmental, and yet many label women that way simply when they disagree with men. If that is the case in your marriage. I’d recommend reading this post on the emotionally destructive marriage. I’m so sorry you’re walking through this.

        Reply
        • Lea

          And nagging is used when a man doesn’t want to do a thing that he probably really should be doing, or has promised to do, but will not. That’s a problem.
          It’s also a problem if you get to the point where you don’t want to do a thing you really should do just because your spouse wants you to do it? Whatever got you there, that relationship is going to be a mess if you can’t get out of it.

          Reply
          • Doug

            “And nagging is used when a man doesn’t want to do a thing that he probably really should be doing,”
            Lea, That just isn’t a solid truth. Sometimes nagging is exactly what you say it is, but sometimes it is the wifes sins of impossible expectations, greed, or selfishness. Honestly, that remark was rather offensive, because in effect, it lays every sin at a mans feet. I can point out the verse where the Bible states that it is better for a man to sleep in the corner of the roof than live with a contentous woman.
            Yes, some men have behavior patterns that feed into a negative, ungodly response, but some women are like that all by themselves. Some women truly are disrespectful, despite having godly husbands.
            Women don’t need men to push them into sin. They can find their way into sin just as wasily as we can.

  17. Jo

    Roxy, I am in a very similar situation and I want to know how you knew what to ask for. I am afraid that if I insist on addressing the problem, I am on the hook for providing the solution, and if I can’t come up with one that works, it will have been a lot of pain for nothing. I am not sure I have the emotional fortitude to insist on knowing the details of the addiction, and I am absolutely terrible at knowing when someone is lying to me or telling me the truth. Seems like I am paranoid at times and overly trusting at others. Some days I am so depressed I am barely functioning myself. I would love to be a strong warrior, but I am a mess. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to guide me, but I am afraid of getting it wrong and acting in my own strength and flesh.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Jo, sometimes with something this big we need someone wise to be walking through it with us. Roxy had a really good licensed counselor; it could be that you would really benefit from that, too. It’s hard to know sometimes on your own, but that’s where we do need to ask for help.

      Reply
    • Roxy

      Jo,
      I just prayed for you. I’ve had many days where I was a depressed mess, too. I understand what that’s like. I am so sorry. I do agree with Sheila that you might benefit from a wise, experienced, licensed counselor who can help you wade through the particulars of your situation and find some mental, emotional, and spiritual footing. It made all the difference for me.
      That you even want to be a strong warrior in the first place is a good sign, in my opinion. Please believe that. If was one of the things that first motivated me to find counseling myself, 18 months ago.

      Reply
    • wifeofasexaddict

      Dear Jo,
      See if there is a Betrayal and Beyond support group in your area. That has been a great help to me. And tell your husband he has to join the Pure Desire group.
      You don’t have to provide the solution to HIS problem. You just have to decide what you will and won’t put up with. You can ask him to sleep on the floor or on the couch if you catch him (for example). My husband slept in the guest room for 8 months after a particularly bad relapse. Just make sure that your boundaries and consequences are for your safety (this includes emotional), not punishment, revenge, or controlling him.
      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. But you do have the right to make requirements of him and hold him accountable.
      Note: there is no guarantee you will have the same outcome as Roxy. Her husband had ears to hear. Another man, given the same ultimatum, might choose porn. But you still have the right to be safe. That includes emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, financial…….. safety. You don’t have to tolerate bad behavior or be afraid.

      Reply
  18. Melissa W

    I haven’t read all of the comments as I have spent the last three days at the hospital with my mother who had a triple by-pass and am just not catching up, so maybe someone has already brought this up. In studying ezer (helper) in the old testament it has really stuck out to me recently that Eve is the only woman in the entire old testament that is called the ezer/helper of their husband. No other woman is called that, not Sarah, not Rebecca, not Leah or Rachael. Go down the list, not one. So I think the far reaching use of the word “helper” to describes wives in general is misguided because scripture itself doesn’t do it. Not that as spouses we aren’t supposed to help one another, we are. But I don’t think the use of the term in Genesis to describe Eve should ever be used to describe any wife since and most certainly shouldn’t be used to describes the role of wives as a submissive one. The Bible is very clear, you quoted it above, about what Eve was there to help Adam with…his aloneness. Why? Because he is the only human being ever to be completely and utterly alone without any other human being ever being present with him until Eve. When God created humans in his own image it had to be in relationship with other humans because the image of God is a relationship of love between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. So, I have refrained from calling wives the “helpers” of their husbands altogether because it is clear that that description was for one wife and one husband in a completely different set of circumstances than any of us will ever be in. To add anything else to “helper” except that it exclusively describes Eve as the solution to Adam’s aloneness is to add to Scripture in my opinion.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Interesting, Melissa.
      I actually think that the idea of a warrior-helper is intended to be passed on, because the story is very symbolic of so much of life as well–just as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil shows up again in Revelation. And I don’t think that the word means submissive in any way, but rather that as humans, we are to work together and we can’t do it alone, which is a broader message we all need to hear as well. We need each other, and we’re here to be a help to each other. But I hear what you’re saying.

      Reply
    • E

      So interesting! I have NEVER seen that mentioned about Eve being the only wife described ‘ezer’ and I honestly have never really thought anything of it, or of the teaching that all wives should be ‘ezer’ to their husbands.
      I have recently read Rachel Held Evans book A Year of Biblical Womanhood and there was a great chapter on Proverbs 31 and the Jewish interpretation of that proverb and how it is so different to the westernised modern Christian interpretation. I wonder what the Jewish teaching on wives as ‘ezer’ is? Is this another part of scripture that has been ‘lost in translation’ when being interpreted by Christian theologians?

      Reply
    • Maria

      Why isn’t it mentioned, though? Was it understood (in that culture) that God’s plan for the first marriage to ever exist was an archetype for all other marriages? I’m not familiar enough with ancient Jewish culture to be certain. Any thoughts?

      Reply
  19. Dean

    I am glad I saw this article. The reader’s comment resonates so much with my experience.
    For me too, it was not “real” porn, but rather things like music videos (which, when used the way porn is used, ARE porn). And it was not a daily thing but more like once or twice a week. And I was actively trying to get rid of it and stop it.
    When I admitted it to my wife, she was quite shocked at first, and told me something like “Pfff, you do whatever you want” and stormed off.
    That was really bad. I needed her help. But I realized that that was one of those things that were beyond that. That she felt betrayed and disappointed, and that I had stained our marriage.
    I am very grateful that she quickly overcame those feelings enough to choose the path of fighting with me and helping me, and of rebuilding trust, and of eventual forgiveness. She read a lot about my issue, became my accountability partner, set boundaries, came up with many ideas and initiatives about what would help me be less tempted, about how to rebuild trust, etc.
    This was a very difficult time for me. My ideas of how to quit were different from hers. It felt like her boundaries and expectations were making things very difficult.
    But, of course, that was the addiction speaking. It is not by chance that my half-assed attempts to quit had not worked earlier.
    When you diet, you can occasionally take days of rest from the diet. It is not like that with something like porn and masturbation, once your wife is involved in your quitting process. You cannot be like: well, today I am making a small exception, but tomorrow: back to it! And that is why it worked.
    With her help, it was tough, but it did work. So I eventually ended up telling her many things along the line of “Thank you for hitting me up side the head with a 2×4.”

    Reply
  20. Warrior

    This is SO good! I used to struggle with this concept for years, being a pushover and a nice, super nice girl. I thought I needed everyone to like me… But people wouldn’t respect me at all. Then I learned that my (ex) husband cheated on me and I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I started reading articles and books about women power, real love and setting boundaries. And – voila, I learned how to stand up for myself and stopped being a weak pushover. It took me years to fully embrace the idea that it’s ok if some people don’t like me. But today, today I won’t let anyone step on me. I’m a warrior. Thank you!

    Reply

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