Enriching Relationships for a Lifetime   with Dr. Gary Oliver

Question

My husband is showing no initiative to find a job. I'm not sure how much longer I can take this. I love my husband with all my heart, and I just want to resolve this problem.

Answer

Itís confusing and frustrating when you try to be faithful, you try to do what is right and nothing changes. Itís understandable that you are tired, weary and losing respect for him. He has probably lost a lot of respect for himself. You donít want to ďmotherĒ your husband but in some ways thatís the situation you find yourself in. It sounds like if you try to make some changes you get in trouble and if you do nothing the situation remains the same.

Unemployment, especially for long periods of time, produces many confusing and conflicting emotions for both husbands and wives and can be destructive to a relationship. In our experience one of the core emotions that emerges is fear. Men and women share many of the same fears but there are also some significant differences. Womenís fears often revolve around isolation, loss of support, and abandonment. Men are likely to fear anything that may make them look like less of a man. Unemployment certainly is one of them. These fears are heightened when men sense criticism, disapproval, rejection, humiliation or exposure of their weaknesses.

The longer a problem continues the more difficult it is to change. The deeper the rut the harder it is to get out of it. The encouraging news is that you still love your husband and want to resolve this problem.

Itís clear that what youíve done so far hasnít worked so we would encourage you to start by getting a sheet of paper and folding it in half. On one side make a list of everything you have done that hasnít worked. On the other side make a list of things you havenít done but that have crossed your mind, that some of your friends have suggested, or that you may have heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper in your ear. You might even take the list to your pastor to look over. At this stage donít eliminate anything because it seems too radical. Your situation may require some radical action.

Now, find a couple of women who you know who are women of prayer and ask them to pray with you every day for the next 30 days about what God might have you to do. Ask them to, at least once a day, take their copy of the list out, look at it, pray over each option, and note any insights or ideas that come to mind. At the end of the 30 days get together with these trusted friends and share together what God has shown you. You may be surprised at the results.

Here are a few additional suggestions that others have found helpful. Sit down and write him a letter that you may or may not send. In the letter express your love, your hope, your deepest hearts desire for the possibilities for his life and your marriage. Also clearly communicate your despair, discouragement and frustration. Put your sense of hopelessness and helplessness into words. Let him know just how serious the situation has become. Be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scripture for what the Bible has to say about work. Write out those verses and the references. Donít try to convict your husband. Simply share what the Bible has to say and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.

If you decide to share it with him it would be best to give the letter to him and let him process it before discussing it. When you do discuss it be careful to avoid speaking for him or at him. Use ďIĒ more than you ďyou.Ē Also, watch out for the subtle trap of over-generalizations such as, ďYou alwaysĒ or ďYou never.Ē The more he senses your disapproval the more of his failure focus kicks in and the less motivated he will be.

Suggestions for him would include taking a personality inventory such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or a career inventory such as the Strong-Campbell to explore some new hope-giving options. He could take classes on finding the right career. He could begin to meet with some men in his church for discipleship who could encourage him, give him some hope and motivation, and perhaps even have some connections for a job.

We would encourage you as a couple to find a small group to be a part of, intentionally encourage each other, seek wise counsel, let your friends help you, focus on the positive things (Philippians 4:8), read the Psalms (Ps 40:1-3 is a great place to start), find friends you can trust, develop a daily routine including physical exercise, and remember that meaningfully change usually takes time. Once youíve done these things, remember. Donít focus on what you canít change. Dwell on what you, with Godís help, can change.


Carrie Oliver, M.A., is an educator and a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D. is executive director of The Center for Relationship Enrichment and Professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Olivers have co-authored Raising Sons . . . and Loving It! (Zondervan). Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.

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How do I love my husband?

How do I love my wife?

©2012 The Center for Relationship Enrichment on the campus of John Brown University
2000 West University Street, Siloam Springs, AR 72761 (479) 524-7105 CRE@jbu.edu