How would you respond if your husband refused to repent or seek help for his addiction?
“I would end my marriage and find Christian therapy on my own and try to heal.”
“At this point in our journey, I would take that to mean he wanted his addiction more than his family. I would probably separate from him for a time.”
“… I would need to protect myself and my kids. I would have to leave for a while to show him I will not tolerate that kind of behavior… I would let him know that I believe in him and support him as long as he is trying to change but if he refuses and shows no remorse… I would have to move on and file for divorce… Through it all I would definitely be seeking God’s guidance and getting help through Christian counseling…”
“I would have to demonstrate tough love. I would not be able to live with someone who I felt was disrespecting me. The pain would be too great. I would ask him to leave. I would continue to pray, and ask God to bring him to a place of repentance.”
Another woman spoke of “…step-by-step instructions that have been discussed…” with them by their counselor. If her husband refused to repent, there “…would be a time of shunning…” and there would be “…specific responses and requirements…” of her husband in order to “…restore the marriage.”
I posed this question to several women in different stages of the healing process with their husband and his addiction recovery, and their responses were all somewhat similar. The consensus among women seems to be that an unrepentant husband would warrant a time of separation and possibly even divorce. And the sad truth is that there are many, many men who refuse to repent and reject healing in their marriage. Men who are not convicted over their addiction and refuse to seek help. If you’re the wife of such a man, you must be thinking “what am I supposed to do?!?” In my experience, the best place to start is with God.
Throughout Scripture, we see that God is a God of restoration. We see evidence of his heart for unity. Specifically, the Israelites of the Old Testament are spoken of as God’s bride. He had an amazing love for them and longed for intimacy with them; however, Israel repeatedly strayed from the Lord and committed spiritual adultery. Because of their sin, there were times of devastating consequences and separation from the Lord. Their sin did not go unnoticed. But we also see that God continued to rescue them, over and over again. He continued to embrace them when they chose to repent and turn away from their evil ways. Even today, after Salvation has been given to the Gentiles, God has made provisions to restore Israel in the last days. What we can gather from this example is that God loves reconciliation. His entire purpose in sending Jesus Christ to die as a propitiation for our sin was to reconcile us to Himself. Us. We who have committed spiritual adultery again and again and again. Yet God chooses to redeem us, to forgive us, to restore us. And as image-bearers, we have been given this same supernatural ability to forgive even the most painful offense.
If you have a husband who is unwilling to repent or seek help for his addiction, he desperately needs an encounter with God. Only through the realization of his own depravity and by the strength of Jesus Christ can he truly hope to overcome his addiction. Nothing is impossible with God. It is possible for God to bring your husband to that place of repentance and work deliverance in your his life. I’ve witnessed it in my own marriage. Women all over the world have seen the miraculous transformation that can take shape in a husband who finally realizes just how depraved and perverse his addiction is, how much he truly needs a Savior. It’s amazing. There is no man beyond the grip of God’s grace. There is no sin beyond the power of God’s forgiveness. There is no marriage beyond the tender mending of God’s mercy. And there is no broken heart that His wounds can’t heal. But in the end, there are still those men who will repeatedly reject God’s grace, reject God’s forgiveness, reject God’s healing and mercy, and ultimately choose to drown in their addiction.
In such circumstances, Scripture clearly states in Matthew 19:9 that sexual immorality is grounds for divorce. Even so, we know that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and we know that He is a God of restoration and healing. Divorce should be a last resort, not an immediate proceeding. It should only be sought after all other resources have been exhausted and it is clear that your husband has no intention of changing. My advice would be a time of separation from your husband in which the goal would ultimately be repentance and restoration, not divorce. This time of separation should be a time spent in prayer, seeking God’s mercy for your husband and your marriage. You would need to express to your husband what your requirements for reconciliation are, ie. confession and accountability, counseling, joining a support group, reading specific books, setting up boundaries and following steps to help him overcome the addiction, etc. Separation is never easy. But it’s possible it can bring your husband to a place of brokenness where God is able to begin healing the wounds that have kept him ensnared by his addiction. It can lead to repentance and the desire to seek help. And despite your husband's choices, God is still at work in your life. You can use this time of separation to seek healing in your own heart. Whether things turn out the way you hope or not, God still has a purpose and a plan for your life and He can restore your heart. Even if divorce is the final answer. Seek God and ask Him to show you how to respond to your husband in your specific circumstances. Ask Him for wisdom and courage as you confront these sins that are plaguing your marriage. And don’t lose hope. There’s always hope.