Heart to Heart by Esther Fenty

I DON’T WANT TO STAY WITH MY CRITICAL HUSBAND ANYMORE

I have been married for over a year, and am wondering if I made the right decision. I was 32 when I wed my husband, but I’m now not sure I married the right person. He was attentive and caring when we were courting, but has turned out to be a critical husband. I’ve never been criticised so much in my life. The criticisms usually consist of being told I’m big-headed, because I’m doing well in my career as a trainer/speaker (my husband is a social worker); being told I look frumpy and, most cuttingly of all, being made fun of because I was a virgin when I married. I’m so disappointed. I’ve started talking down my job, have spruced up my image, and tried to be more adventurous in the bedroom, but to be honest I don’t want to be intimate with my husband. I’m constantly worrying about what else he will find about me to criticise. I’ve hinted to my mum that things aren’t going well in my marriage, but she’s told me to hang on in there. I’m in two minds. I want to save my marriage, but then think if the next 10 years of my marriage are going to be like this, then separating would be fine. What should I do?
Judith, London

Esther Fenty replies
Usually, I assume that those who read a faith-based magazine are Christians, but I could be mistaken, as you have said nothing about church or faith, etc. However, I trust that you will find a faith-based response helpful.

I am so sorry that your experience of being newlywed has turned out to be such a nightmare. Marriage should involve leaving one’s parents – both emotionally and physically – and cleaving or uniting together with one’s spouse; this includes a sharing of minds, souls and bodies, and giving mutual support to each other, so that each person can reach their potential. In a Christian marriage, God should be the Head, and solutions to problems can be sought through good communication, discussions around biblical principles and prayer.

There is a fine line between constant criticism and emotional abuse. As a social worker, your husband should be aware of the impact of this. Despite this, I would still like to give him the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that maybe he is not aware of the extent of the damage to the relationship that his behaviour causes. However, if he was able to hold it together during courtship but has now changed soon after marriage, I’m not so sure.

It is also possible that underlying this critical spirit are issues of insecurity and low self-esteem. Perhaps he is a person who likes to control others, or he thinks that the man should be the head of the home and this is his way of demonstrating it. Whatever the reason for his behaviour, you cannot go on like this.

I am not sure whether you have suffered in silence and acquiesced to his demands, rather than tell him how his criticisms make you feel. If you have not done this, as a first step, you need a calm discussion as soon as possible. If you suppress your feelings, you may explode at the wrong time, and react in a way that you may regret. Perhaps your husband also has some areas of dissatisfaction, but he has chosen the critical path (which is no excuse for his behaviour) rather than discuss them.

If your husband does not respond positively to this discussion, you may have to try some mediation or counselling. You did not say whether you had any premarital counselling before your marriage. If you did not, you might consider going through some of the topics you would have covered with a counsellor, and then seeing how you can move forward.


THE WOMEN IN CHURCH ARE TRYING TO TEMPT ME

I’m a young Christian man, who was recently appointed youth leader, and have been receiving lots of speaking engagements. I love God but, prior to my appointment and because I was geeky, I was overlooked by the women in my church. However, since I’ve started speaking out regularly, I’ve been inundated with interest from young women in my denomination. And some of the women are sexually suggestive. I’m surprised, because I thought these women were Christians. I don’t know how to handle this attention, and definitely don’t want to fall into temptation, so any advice you can give would be helpful.
Roger, Bristol

Esther Fenty says
It would seem that some people are more interested in status than the real person when it comes to marriage. While it is great that you are a youth leader – and presumably a good public speaker – you will need to choose your close friends very carefully. You should be appreciated for who you are (warts and all), and not because of your position.

Therefore, while this new attention might boost your self-esteem, do not let it be a distraction. I am not sure how the sexual suggestions from these women are communicated – whether it is verbally, written or through some form of social media. The Bible declares in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, ‘Stay away from every kind of evil’ (NLT). Therefore, avoid the temptation of being alone with these women; block them from social media and, in future, limit the number of people to whom you give your details. You can talk to them in church.
If you haven’t a male mentor for support and guidance, then consider having one with whom you can share these issues and to whom you can be accountable. This may also be the person who can pray with you when you seriously start to think of a future spouse.

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