By Joy Ballard
What does oneness in marriage mean when your husband is struggling mentally, spiritually or emotionally?
Perhaps he is going through the valley of the shadow of death, as Psalm 23 puts it. Maybe a tragic event triggered this dark season or maybe he has some mental health issues with which he’s grappling. When a husband is struggling in this way, it is deeply unsettling and disorienting, not only for him but for your marriage relationship.
There is nothing more lonely than being in an intimate relationship without intimacy. Conversation is dry. Smiles are forced. Bedtime is dreadful, with a deep chasm between two people who should be passionate lovers.
If you are a wife who is trying to bring light into the darkness that your husband is walking through, you are not alone!
Hope When Your Husband Is Struggling
There are many wives who have walked through the darkest valleys with their husbands and come out on the other side to a renewed and restored life together.
When my husband lost his job several years back, our family was launched into the unknown territory of grief. Not only did our whole life change because of that abrupt transition, but we all felt the effects of a husband and father who was struggling to find his footing.
Those of us not going through that inner turmoil can feel like we see the way out. We try to give helpful suggestions. But unlike physical pain, there is no obvious or easy solution to emotional, mental or spiritual pain. Unlike a broken bone, there is no estimated healing time for a broken soul.
There comes a point when you realize that the broken part of your husband is not something you can fix, only God can. So what can you do?
Steps of Hope When Your Husband Is Struggling
Keep hope alive in your own heart.
Dig deep to find the things that both ground you and carry you forward. Maybe it’s the music you listen to or the books you read, or sitting in the quiet with your Bible, or going for a run. What breathes long lasting hope into your own soul? Do more of that.
Build your side of the bridge.
A hurting husband is hard to figure out. Be patient, and ask God for wisdom to find the right moments to talk. By honestly and gently sharing yourself without pressure for him to reciprocate, you are building a trustworthy bridge that he will cross over toward you when he’s ready. Vulnerability is much harder for men, so you need to show that you are a safe place for him.
Strengthen your soul.
When you change your focus from fixing (aka: helping) your husband to fixing what you can in your own life, you give space for God to do the healing, growing and restoring that you both need. When your husband is in pain, it inevitably affects you too. You enter into a need for restoration as well. Strengthening your soul in Jesus has an effect on others without you even trying.
Simplify and slow down.
A busy pace of life causes hurt people to mask their pain in order to survive. Slow your lifestyle down to a pace that allows your soul to simply be. Without the hurry and noise, you’re left to face the pain and you will want to reach for distractions to avoid it. Only by having the mental space to face it, acknowledge it, and give it to Jesus will you start to experience his healing.
Find wise, safe people with whom you can talk.
You need a friend or two with whom you can be honest. Find friends who are mature enough to remain unaffected by your husband’s struggles or far away enough that they are not within your immediate community. Most of all, talk to friends who will pray with you and strengthen your faith.
In time you will look behind and see that the difficult path you both traversed has led to a sweet and pleasant place. There is hope on the other side of every dark valley because we trust a God who loves to bring life from death.
Wife Step: If you resonate with this as a wife, take a moment to acknowledge the heaviness you carry, give it to God and let his peace strengthen you. If you know a wife who is walking through this, be that safe friend she needs.
Joy was born and raised in a multicultural, bilingual family in the country of Mexico. Although she loves a good taco, her love for a Minnesota guy won out. 14 years of marriage, 4 kids and many geographical locations later, they now reside in Indiana where her husband is completing a doctoral program. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. When not deep in the throes of homeschooling and parenting, Joy enjoys devouring books, stringing words together, dabbling in watercolor, and sipping coffee with friends. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography