When Life Is a Relational Mess
"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." — Jesus Christ.1
A Daily Encounter reader writes: "I am desperate for help. I recently found out that my wife was sleeping with another man. She refuses to stop seeing him, claiming that they are only friends. I am told on an almost daily basis that everything I do is not good enough, and unless I do more, we will be divorced. I don't know how to do anything more. I cook, I clean, I do the laundry, and I spend evenings helping our two oldest children with school work and problems that they have faced through the day. I teach our youngest son (he is too young for school); I am in the military reserves, manage an apartment building, and am trying to run a business...."
"Dear Keith," [not his real name] I replied, "thank you for sharing your heart with me. Your life right now is certainly a struggle and I can certainly feel for you, but it is very important to realize that the only person you can ever change is yourself. If you try to change your wife, you will end up making things worse. However, as you change, she will be forced to change one way or the other, and there is no guarantee in which way that will be.
"Keith needs to work on Keith. First of all I strongly encourage you to pray and ask God to confront you with the truth about yourself and reveal to you what you are contributing to the relational disaster you are in. This is the starting point of all recovery. Speaking personally, I was in a very painful situation for many years. After years of therapy and things only getting worse, I literally begged God to confront me with the truth of what I was still contributing to the mess I was in. Almost overnight it became glaringly obvious just how totally co-dependent that I was in this situation. I kept protecting this person from the consequences of their destructive behavior. Once I saw the truth about myself, I knew exactly what I had to do. As Jesus said, 'You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'
"After you see the truth of what you are contributing to your situation, I suggest that you lovingly tell your wife that you see what you have been contributing to your marriage, and that you are not going to do this any longer. I then suggest that you go together to a highly qualified Christian counselor for therapy. If your wife refuses to do this, you need to let her lovingly know that unless she does, then you will need to distance yourself from her. Inform her that you will no longer allow her to treat you the way that she has been doing. This is tough love and in situations like yours, it is a vital need.
"If your wife refuses to go to counseling with you, then you need to get counseling to take care of yourself. This is imperative. Yes, it is expensive, but you can't afford not to do it. For several years I worked two jobs at the same time to pay for the counseling I needed to recover from my relational sickness.
"Also, pray and ask God to help you to find the counseling help you need so you can change. If you live in North America, for the name of a fine Christian counselor call the Narramore Christian Foundation at 1-800-477-5893 and press '1' for Dianne. She should be able to help you with the name of a Christian counselor or two in your area.
"By the way, once you change, your wife will be forced to change in her way of treating you. She may not want you to change so will quite possibly, at least for a start, treat you even worse. That's par for the course whenever we change our relationship patterns.
"Keep praying for the truth and once you see the truth about you and do what you need to do to recover, then you can pray to see the truth about your wife. Only following the truth will ever set you free. Once you see the overall truth, you will know what you need to do."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, my life is in chaos. Please confront me with the truth of exactly what I am doing to contribute to the mess I am in. Help me to change so that I will become the person You want me to be. And please help me to be 'as Jesus' to my spouse (or friend), and do what I need to do in order to resolve our situation. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus's name, amen."
1. John 8:32 (NIV).
NOTE: For help you may want to read my book, You Can't Fly With a Broken Wing. You can check it out online at: http://tinyurl.com/broken-wing-book.