When Your Spouse is "The Problem"

Years ago I had this blind-spot in my life.

I felt like I had no control over the pain I was experiencing—especially at the hands of my husband. I felt like a helpless victim tied to the proverbial train tracks while my husband was the locomotive, barreling down the tracks and aiming right at me! I would pray for God to save me from this horrible, evil, no-good husband. But alas, God seemed to only stand on the sidelines, glibly watching me squirm.

That was then.
night trains

This is now.

What’s made the difference? It came when I realized that God didn’t want me to get run over by a train, but he did want me to have something of a wake-up call.

I needed to wake-up to the false notion that …

  1. I was better or at least “less flawed” than my husband.
  2. I was powerless to change the situation.
  3. I was alone in the struggle.

I had slowly but surely given over my life to a victim-mentality. Don’t get me wrong. I had chosen this helpless stance as surely as I chose what outfit I wanted to wear each day or the breakfast that I wanted to eat.

Let me briefly unpack the three ways I woke up –

  • God revealed to me that my victim mentality was really born out of my pride. I felt that my actions in comparison to my husband’s weren’t as bad. The reality of whether they were or weren’t wasn’t the point. I’m sure there were times when he did act worse, but God wanted me to understand that I was just as guilty of sin and my husband’s sin was not blacker or uglier to God than my own sin.
  • God woke me up to the fact that I could change myself. Every little attitude that I turned over to Christ, every little act of kindness or forgiveness I gave to my husband changed our “relating.” I lowered, not only my defenses with my husband, but also with God—allowing Christ to convict and change my heart. By doing so, I influenced my husband and my marriage for good, and in time, I began to see the fruits of my proactive and humble choices.
  • I think that as long as I felt held hostage to my husband’s tyranny, I felt beyond God’s reach. One act of unbelief resulted in another. When I finally surrendered my fears and rested in God’s embrace, His presence filled the emptiness. I knew I wasn’t alone. And the funny thing is, when I felt God’s presence more, I also felt my husband coming alongside me more as well.

If you find yourself believing your spouse is “The Problem,” and you are not in an abusive relationship,* then first of all, please surrender your pride and fears to Christ. Second, consider reading It’s Not My Fault by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Even if you don’t have a victim mentality, this book will help you to know how to make proactive choices and changes in life.

In fact, if you comment on this post (and live within the continental U.S.), you’ll be entered into a chance to win a free copy of It’s Not My Fault. Oh, and consider becoming a follower too, if you don’t mind and aren’t one already.

I’ll be announcing the winner on Saturday (the 30th) afternoon or evening. So check back to see if you’ve won!

*This post is not speaking of an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship, then don’t wait another day, please seek the help of a professional counselor.

Photo credit by Lachlan (Flickr)

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  • Heather Spooner

    Thank you ,Beth, for sharing from your heart. I can definitely see the victim mentality in my own heart and mind. Thank you for being brave and honest enough to uncover the lies we all believe. I would love to try and win the book. Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s books ,Boundaries and Safe People, have helped me so much.

  • Chris Olson

    This is packed with wisdom Beth. How do we get men to value marriage, and all that it entails?

  • This would be a great read. My husband feels like we have to define whos fault it is were arguing.

  • oh my goodness… i have tears in my eyes right now. i recognise myself in your words and muc as i want to get out, i am scared.

  • rboerner

    When I saw the title I really didn’t want to read it because I saw those nice parenthesis “the problem” and knew that I would hear something that I really didn’t want to hear. 🙂 BUT…I love your insight and knew that God wanted me to hear what you were saying. This is really a struggle for me right now because I feel like some of our struggles are due to the fact that my husband has some personal issues to deal with and he doesn’t want to get help. So with knowing that, it becomes easy for me to say he’s “the problem”. I totally know I am wrong in thinking this way but it’s comfortable. Thanks again Beth for this reminder to work on changing myself. There are many times I feel like you write this blog just for me. HA HA!

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    this one has continued to be hard for me. not the fact that i CAN be wrong, but i really don’t like to be misunderstood. and i fall into the trap of every disagreement we get in, THAT’s what it is, well, he just isn’t understanding me! um. nope. this time, he just doesn’t agree 🙂

  • good stuff…and realizing that you both play a part in it def is humbling but most likely honest as well….

  • Kelli Woodford

    As usual, friend, this is excellent.
    Have been there-done that . . . and perhaps I still need this message on “repeat” in my brain, as that victim thing seems to be somewhat of a “default mode” for me . . . (for all of us?)

    Thank you for addressing it with such clarity and boldness. We all need a dose of that humble honesty Brian was talking about, if our marriages are going to succeed. And bring God glory.

  • Janae Maslowski

    “God woke me up to the fact that I could change myself.”
    Love this and I so agree. xo

    “Boundaries” was an excellent book, I haven’t heard of “It’s Not My Fault”, need to check it out.

  • Thanks Beth. So much depends on perspective doesn’t it. And always seeing someone else as the problem robs us of any ability to change the situation. Great reminder. Thanks.

  • sounds like a good book. happy day to you!

  • Carrie

    This is so true! I still find myself leaning into a negative direction at times but the holy spirit always steps in to convict me!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, It’s often very subtle and we miss the attitude creeping in. I’m so glad that authors like Cloud and Townsend can help all of us to identify it when it occurs. I’ll be sure to include you in the contest! And thanks so much for stopping by!

  • messymarriage

    That would be a good topic for another post, Chris. But I’ll say this, I do think there’s something in our culture that encourages men to disconnect in emotional and relational ways–it’s not “manly enough” or something crazy like that. Thanks so much for stopping by and I’ll be sure to include you in the contest!

  • messymarriage

    I’m assuming that you are in an abusive relationship Kamana. I’ll certainly pray for you and include you in the contest as well. Thanks so much for being brave enough to share so honestly here. *Hugs*

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad you read it and were encouraged by it too, Becky! Yeah, if we start to fall into this thinking, it can really make our marriage much worse. We have to remain proactive and constantly surrendering our hearts and marriages over to God. Oh, and by the way, I DO write these posts just for you Becky! 😉 You and everyone like you, that is! Thanks so much for your continued encouragement and support!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, sometimes it’s simply about humbling ourselves and accepting that our spouse is “different” not necessarily sinful or wrong. Thanks so much for coming by, Tara! I’ll be sure to include your name in the contest too!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in marriage, it’s that we are all human and bound to fail or make mistakes. I give myself a break. Why can’t I do that for my husband, the one who holds my heart? Thanks so much for coming by and joining the conversation and, of course, the contest, Brian!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, there are times when this is harder to avoid than others–when we’re stressed, feeling lonely, feeling overwhelmed and overworked. So, I too, need the reminders, even as I write about it, Kelli. Thanks so much for coming by and I’ll be sure to put your name in “the pot” for the contest. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, so much of the time we get our needle stuck on “fixing our spouses” and forget that there is one person we have the ability to change–ourselves! Imagine that! I’ll be sure to include you in the contest, Janae and maybe you’ll get to check the book out first hand!

  • messymarriage

    It really does rob us or at least get in the way of gaining any sense of responsibility, Kath. Thanks so much for coming by and joining in the conversation and I’ll be sure to include you in the contest as well! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, it’s one of my favorites by Cloud and Townsend. I’ll be sure to include you in the contest, Annette. Thanks for coming by!

  • messymarriage

    Isn’t it great that we have a loving, heavenly Father who cares enough to show us when we get off track? I don’t know how unbelievers navigate this life without that support and guidance. Thanks so much for stopping by, Carrie. And your name will certainly be included in the contest!

  • Emily Wierenga

    it’s all about the renewal of the mind, isn’t it? thank you for this, friend.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    I needed this today!
    Thanks so much for your encouragement on my blog post about the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Angela

    Right now my defenses with my husband are very high. Thanks for the reminder that I need to trust God to be my defender.

  • Oh the perspective you steer me towards. This book sounds like time well spent. Thank you for sharing!

  • hi, just stopping by from Imperfect Prose. thank you so much for your sweet comment the other day at my place–just knowing my raw sharing may somehow bless someone–this is all i can hope for. this is a good reminder here, today, Beth–yes, humility like our Christ. thank you.

  • Donna B.

    Hi Beth, I love reading your articles! It’s fascinating to hear what you’re learning along the marital way and to see the spiritual growth and emotional maturity in you. Just wanted you to know I enjoy being a part of your journey, even if it is long distance. I praise God that your marriage to Gary is flourishing and that mine is as well. We’ll celebrate 15 years of marriage in September! Keep up the good work, my friend.

  • hey there, beth — as always, i am so glad i stopped by! i had to smile when i read your introductory sentence about the blind spot b/c i knew exactly where you were going with it — & it’s exactly what i’ve been wrestling with lately. in fact, my latest post is called “hope for a critical heart.” mhmm, that critical heart would def. be ME. but i am so, so grateful that God is GREATER!!

    your insights are so timely b/c i feel like the Lord is beginning to do this very work in my heart, but when you’re in the thick of that painful dying-to-self journey, it can be so, so hard to see the forest through the trees. so this post is like a beautiful light of hope at the end of the tunnel!

    thank you, as always, for the gift you so generously offer to all married people through your transparency, beth.

    blessings to you & yours,
    tanya

  • Chrissy

    Thank you so much for this post…I truly needed this today!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, Emily. And I’m so glad that God is in the business of renewing our minds when we give Him permission to. Thanks for stopping by!

  • messymarriage

    You’re so welcome, Elizabeth. And thanks to you for coming by and encouraging me as well! I’ll certainly include you in the contest for your comment! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, God truly is our Defender, Angela. And the best thing is that when we surrender it all to Him, He is able to turn that dreaded victim/abuser dynamic around and bless our marriage/life as well. I’ll certainly pray for you as well as including your name in the contest.

  • messymarriage

    Yes, Nikki, it is a great book. I’m so glad you stopped by and joined in the conversation and contest! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    You’re quite welcome, Nacole. I was blessed by your post and so glad you came by my place too. 🙂 I’ll be sure to include your name in the contest!

  • messymarriage

    Wow! So hard to believe that it’s been 15 years for you guys! Congratulations and thanks so much for your kind words too, Donna. I think we share the same heartbeat to always be growing and learning. 🙂 I truly appreciate your support and encouragement and will add your name to the contest as well. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Your post sounds really interesting too, Tanya. I’ll have to stop by your place next. And thank so much for your honest sharing and kind encouragement. We’ll just have to pray for each other in this journey to die to ourselves and live to Christ! Thanks so much for coming by! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad it was helpful to you Chrissy! Thanks so much for letting me know. It’s the little acknowledgements that a post helps someone that keeps me moving forward. It means more than many people realize. Be sure to check back to see if you’ve won the book. 🙂

  • what a delicious serving of wisdom!
    thank you for this nourishing share,
    Jennifer

  • Diane Tolley

    I surely needed this today. Forwarding it on to my daughter, who will also benefit. Thank you for your kind words of wisdom. Beautifully done. Another wonderful book on this same topic is The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell. It is so good to know that there is excellent help available! Thank you for sharing on NOBH.

  • Well spoken! Thanks