Heart to heart

I feel disrespected by my wife and feel she might be having an affair

When I married my wife five years ago, I recognised that she had a teaching and preaching ministry. I did not mind, because I felt I could offer her love and support, which I have done over the years. Five years on, I feel my wife has started to look down on me, since she has started getting invitations to preach abroad in the US and the Caribbean. She has started talking to me in a disrespectful manner in public – something she’s never done before – and constantly asks me why I don’t preach. Her badgering is making me suspicious that she’s having an affair. I don’t know why my wife would behave like this. I love her, I support her. I’m an accountant who can provide for my wife and our two children. I also serve as a church treasurer, and mentor some of the young men, but I don’t feel called to be in a preaching or teaching ministry. My wife is making me feel very unsettled, and I am wondering what is the best way to handle this situation. I love my wife and family, but don’t want the new demands on her God-given gifting to drive a wedge in our marriage and cause its demise.

Charles, Cambridge

Esther Fenty replies

That’s a pretty big jump from badgering you to an assumption of having an affair! I appreciate that you are ‘feeling unsettled’, as you describe it, by your wife’s comments and behaviour, but try to put things into perspective. Perhaps your wife is unaware of the extent of her behaviour and the impact that it is having on you. However, your suspicions of unfaithfulness on her part could also drive a wedge between you.

You may need to consider that your wife is experiencing some additional pressures which go hand-in-hand with a public ministry. It is possible that, underneath the visible veneer, she is facing some inner or even physical challenges which need to be addressed. She may need to visit her GP for a health check, or she could be feeling the effects of fatigue and stress from all those public engagements, resulting in impatience, abruptness and possibly unintentionally disrespecting you in public. Understanding this does not excuse your wife’s behaviour, but it will help you to support her in solving the problems together.

Your wife may be surprised that you describe her attempts to persuade you to preach as ‘badgering’. She may be thinking that she is encouraging you to strive to a higher level of ministry. Like some others, she may not recognise the gifts as being on equal footing, and may see the public ministry of preaching and teaching as ‘higher order’ gifts. You might need a discussion about your differing perspectives on ministry gifts and how you use them, not only for the edifying of the church but also to complement each other. It is also possible that she is feeling that if you were able to preach, then you could be a potential travelling companion on her trips abroad. This may be her cry for help.

In any case, it is important that you communicate your feelings to your wife about the way she treats you in public, and about your different ministry gifts. Be careful that you do not accuse; you may need to start by asking for her views about how she feels her ministry is going.

People like preachers and teachers, who are constantly giving out, also need time for refreshing. You could also support her in looking at her travel engagements. She may need to take more rest between preaching trips. You could also help by arranging a relaxation break together.

Why are all the men I meet players?

I grew up in a home where my father verbally and physically abused my mother. When we went to church, however, people thought he was the perfect husband and father because he made us put on a public show of togetherness. Thankfully, my mother finally divorced him when I was 15, after he had an affair with a church member, and he left the family home. That was seven years ago. Now that I’m an adult, I have to confess I have major trust issues concerning men. I’d rather be on my own than go through what my mother went through, but my mother keeps on telling me that I mustn’t let my experience put me off men, as there are some good guys around. How can I do that, particularly as so many of the Christian men I seem to meet are players?

Ade, London

Esther replies…

This really is a sad state of affairs as, unfortunately, your experience has confirmed that some Christian men are players. However, as your mother has rightly pointed out, there are some genuine ones.

I am intrigued that you only seem to meet the ‘players’. Where are you meeting them, and do you need to widen your social network to meet people of both genders initially as friends and not as potential partners?

In the meantime, while you continue to have major trust issues about men, you will not be ready for a serious relationship. I am not sure from the tone of your letter whether you have forgiven your father, and this may be something that you need to consider. Interestingly, are you unwittingly attracting the same sort of men as your father because you have not addressed these issues? You may need to explore these issues with a Christian counsellor.

After exploring these issues and looking at your social groups, you may still conclude that singleness is your preferred way of life. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as your decision is based on sound reasons and not just on your past experience.

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