Q. My friend’s husband treats her badly. How can the church help before it is too late? It is just a matter of time before they get divorced.
A. You are correct in thinking that this is a problem for the church, but not so much for larger church institutions where those stepping in to help may not know your friend or her husband very well. Help from relative strangers is usually effective only for the most motivated and/or self-confident husbands.
There are two separate problems to address: (1) the husband’s insensitive behavior, and (2) how your friend handles the hurtful behavior. Two separate courses of action should be taken.
Getting Help to your Friend’s Husband
We will assume that your friend’s husband is resistant to admitting that he is doing anything wrong. What is needed to overcome the resistance is someone who has earned the right to be heard. Ask your friend if any man has helped her husband with something difficult like yard work or invited her husband to something he really enjoyed, like fishing or a sporting event. In short, what other man has loved the husband in ways that built loyalty and trust?
This is why we are trying to stimulate deeper Christian friendships based on obedience to the Togethers. If the husband was in such a friendship, one that acted like the church is told to do, saving this marriage would be much easier. Unfortunately, most people in churches are mere acquaintances. Even if your friend’s husband served on some church committee, that does not build the kind of personal relationship with another committee member that can help a man look at himself honestly.
If there is a man who has paid the price of deeper love and commitment to your friend’s husband, you can contact that person and ask him to help improve and save the marriage. After you have obtained your friend’s permission to talk to the man, call him on the phone, explain the situation from your friend’s point of view and talk over how he can help. You and he can form a team to put the marriage on stronger ground.
Or, you can contact the husband directly, if your relationship with him is strong and you think he will listen to you. This is a strong and acceptable course of action, but risky in that the husband can negate your input by thinking you are on his wife’s side. Your position could be more secure if you do a lot of work with your friend first to help her change her dysfunctional part in the painful marriage.
Helping Your Friend
There may be some things your friend does to encourage her husband’s poor treatment. She may not value herself positively enough to strongly and lovingly request change. She may act as though she is not worth being treated decently. Or she may not have spoken up yet at all. Maybe she has not asked for better treatment, making it clear how her husband will benefit by treating her better.
Then again, your friend might not be doing a good job as wife. Perhaps she has charged high balances on credit cards. Maybe she doesn’t do her fair portion of household chores. As her friend, you might be in a very good position to see her shortcomings as a partner in life with her husband.
Of course, whatever your friend needs to do to change, you can help her do it.