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Wifey Wednesday: Helping Your Husband Through a Dark Time
I recently received an email from a woman with a really tough question: what do you do when your husband, who is normally a responsible, wonderful man, does something stupid and now can't forgive himself?

In this case, and I think it's okay that I share, he had a DUI, which unfortunately all too many of us do. He doesn't normally drink, but this was an exceptional social circumstance which I won't get into, but which is understandable.

Now he's devastated. He wonders if he's a good dad. He wonders if he can continue to lead in many of the capacities that he has been leading. He's questioning himself in all aspects of his life. He just can't forgive himself.

When your husband is in a tailspin, what can you do to help? That's a tough one, isn't it? And I think it applies to many situations, and not just this one. What about when your husband is laid off, and now feels he can't care for the family? What if he is studying for a degree in something and then fails his final exam? In all of these cases he's doubting himself. He's mad at himself. And what can you do?

First, I think it's important to sort out our own feelings. Are you mad or bitter at him for what he did? If you are, don't try to stuff it inside. Admit it and deal with it. Find a way to forgive him. Wrestle in prayer. As much as possible, though, try to do this between God and yourself. Don't bring him into it if he's already beating himself up about it. (if he doesn't realize the severity of something he's done, that's another story). Then, when you think you're at the point where you think you have forgiven him, talk to him about it. Tell him you were disappointed or upset, but that you still love him and forgive him. He needs to hear that. He doesn't need to hear "oh, it doesn't matter", or "don't worry about it", because he knows that's not true. You need to be honest. So admit that you were angry, but that you know that what he's done is not the sum total of who he is. He is so much more than that, and you love the total package.

Now that you've dealt with yourself, how do you help him? One of the most important things for a husband is to feel like he is his wife's knight in shining armour. He wants to know that you admire him, that you think he can sweep you off your feet. That you are proud of him. That's why men react so poorly to any perceived failure in themselves. They feel like they are no longer a real man, a man who is worth admiring.

Ironically, we women can undermine men by trying to over-convince them that they are still wonderful. We can start treating them like children, trying to encourage them every moment, and coming up with new wonderful things to say about them. If a man already feels emasculated, and you start praising him constantly, he's going to feel like a basket case. You think he needs you, like he can't stand on his own. That's not what you're intending, but that's what's coming across. So I would say support him, be there for him to talk to, encourage him a little bit, but don't overdo it.

Then I would just suggest that you treat him like a man. If it's a question of losing his job, treat him as someone who still works. Make his lunch for him in the morning, and ask him what his plans are for the day and when he's going to be home. If you're the primary breadwinner now, and he's home with the kids, discuss your work arrangements, and ask his advice on how to spend money or save money. Don't take it on yourself. Ask for his input.

If he feels like he's no longer able to lead at church, talk to him as if he is. Ask him when he's going to call those youth he's been mentoring, or if he'd like to have that younger married couple over for dinner so you can help them out. Show him that you still have confidence in him, and treat him that way. I don't mean that we're callous; I just mean that if you express confidence in him, in a quiet way, he's likely to pick up on it. But if you decide that you're going to relieve him of stress in this rough time of his life, and you'll try to carry the family for a while in order to give him space to get over this disappointment, then ironically you can be making things worse. You're showing him you don't actually need him in the husband role, and that you can do it on your own. You're showing him he's not necessary. And that can make the whole thing worse.

It's often harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others, and men especially can beat themselves up. I think we as women help when we learn the difference between supporting and comforting. Men don't always want comfort; they do want support. And support means expressing confidence in them, while comfort often means encouraging them without any expectations. That can be the wrong thing to do.

If your husband has had a failure, don't let him wallow. Treat him like he's still your man. Ask for his advice. Pray for him. Keep your life as normal as possible; don't withdraw from all your church things, for instance. Show him that you still believe in him and think that you are incredibly lucky to be married to him.

And pray hard.

And I hope that helps! It's a tough place to be. I've been there many times when my husband has felt like he's messed up at work, or back when he was in school. He didn't want pity. He wanted someone to jumpstart his engines. And that someone was me. You can do that, too! So go to it!

Do you have any advice on marriage you want to share? Any help in this particular situation? Why not write a Wifey Wednesday blog post? You can copy this picture at the top of this post onto your own blog and then write something. Then come back here and fill in the Mr. Linky with the URL of your post! We'd love to visit you!

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At 4:41 PM , Blogger Megan said…

Excellent advice!!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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