Sunday, June 3, 2012

Second of the Three Intolerables

It seems paradoxical that so many spouses will call it quits for trivial, petty matters, while others will tolerate serious betrayals and keep hanging onto toxic marriages for years.  They imagine they are being forgiving, caring, understanding.  But they are slowly poisoning themselves with all the negativity that they choose to put up with.  They have become codependent.     

Some behavior or habits are intolerable in a marriage, and the marriage either needs to end, or each spouse needs to actively and aggressively find help to change.  Anywhere in between is just an existence, not a marriage.

The second intolerable?  Addictions.

Drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, any obsessive behavior that consumes a person's mind and attention to the detriment of his or her family relationships and/or health.

"I love the sinner, but hate the sin," is a common saying, which is generally the right idea.  Whoever is caught up in an addiction needs help, love and compassion, while his addiction should be fought against.  But how this is interpreted by some, is to do nothing more than complain, beg, plead and pray that the offending spouse change.  When the addict promises to stop, begs for forgiveness, makes an effort, but goes right back to his or her addiction after a period of time, the codependent spouse will also go right back to the same tactics of pleading, crying, complaining and getting angry.  But nothing more is done.

Why?

  • Because my addicted husband is the primary bread winner, and if I kick him out, who will pay the mortgage?  
  • Because Jesus says we must forgive 70 times 7 times, and hopefully sooner or later, he'll really mean it when he says he's sorry.
  • Because the kids love her and it would break their hearts if I made her go to rehab.
  • Because I'm not strong enough to make it on my own without him.
  • Because then the whole family would know this dirty secret.
  • Because I believe that marriage is for life and that God would be angry with me if I end it.

If you look at these excuses, you can see that the underlying logic is that of fear. What will happen if...?

But have you considered that if you love the sinner, you'd realize that he is in desperate need of help, but is unable or unwilling to break out of this addiction on his own?  Maybe there is a great counseling program that he or she can access, but for some reason, just won't.  Maybe he or she has tried and tried and feels too demoralized with each failure.  So how does the combination of pitying and nagging help?

If you love your addicted spouse, you need to be ready to take drastic action, even if it means allowing them to lose you, so that they can awaken a sense of indignation towards their destructive behavior.  Allow them to feel the shame of being exposed to their extended family, and for them to see that someone loves them enough to say ENOUGH.  Everyone's heard about tough love, but it takes a very focused and loving spouse to be able to administer it.  Sometimes love does hurt.

Addictions are just symptoms of deeper unresolved problems.  Self-hatred, disappointments, fear, a desire to escape the pain of the real world.  Giving up a substance is one thing. Getting healed of the root cause is a totally different thing, that has to happen on a deeper spiritual level.  So giving your spouse an ultimatum to just quit the addiction, or you're out on the street, is not intelligent.  Find the options that can help them find their freedom - a program of intensive counseling, rehab, spiritual deliverance, whatever is needed.  You also, need to find the counseling and prayer that can help you get out of the codependency rut.  Your nagging can actually become a trigger for your spouse's addictions.  Not the results you thought you would get, right?  You may even be addicted yourself, to your own negative thought processes.

There are of course, risks.  What if you tell him or her that if they don't seek help urgently, that the marriage will end, and then they go off the deep end?  What if they never do change? What if they don't like the counseling, resist the steps they need to take to be healed, and end  up in the gutter?  That's where your faith in God has to kick in.  True, he or she may never change.  But in that case you and your children will be better off free from the bondage of those addictions.  When it's all said and done, each of us has to answer for our own choices.  You can't rescue someone who desperately wants to remain lost.

On the other hand, your prayers can allow God to reach your spouse in ways that no one can.  Even in the gutter, he or she can make that decision to fight for a real life.  They will remember all you said and know just where to go to find what they need to be free.  Some people need to hit rock bottom.  And some stubbornly refuse to change.  But that's a choice that no one can make for anyone else.  


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