My husband’s lack of interest in our marriage has left me in a surreal search for self-worth through a myriad of surrogate husbands. These tack-on “husband replacements” are not working. I went to a Bible study and learned what it meant to be a Christian, e.g., discipline, commitment, being nice, and Christian duty. So, I gave them a try.
Discipline was exhausting. Commitment became overcommitment. Being nice swallowed my joy. More duty led to less freedom. Now I’m trapped while I wait on my prince, who is off pursuing his personal love affair with himself.
I remember when we first began dating. With creativity and resolve, my husband set his sights on me. Today? He left a long time ago and settled for false lovers that have not brought the satisfaction he craves.
I want my husband to know me. I want to know that I am worth fighting for and rescuing. My adventurer turned into milquetoast. He would deny this, but he is an imposter. He has set his life trajectory, and he is bouncing from one orbit to the next in search of only God knows what. His life does not touch my soul, and I live a life of disconnectedness from my used-to-be adventurous husband.
Student’s Case Study Questions
- How would you counsel the imposter’s wife?
- What is your plan to involve the husband in the counseling?
- How will you counsel the wife if the husband does not repent?
“My husband’s lack of interest in our marriage has left me in a surreal search for self-worth through a myriad of surrogate husbands.” This sentence is involved. The imposter’s wife said four complex and interrelated things, and you will have to explore all of them. At this point in your program, you should see these things and know how to navigate her through them.
1 – Lack of Interest: All spouses have an expectation of their partner showing interest in them. This desire is good, and no one should dismiss it out of hand. God made us for a community, so she is expressing a God-given desire. The problem with all our right desires that depend on someone else to enhance or fulfill is that we can fixate on them in unhelpful ways, which she has done here. One of the things you want to explore is how the relationship got to this point. You could presume that they were not always like this, especially while dating. Of course, if they were, you have to question her judgment for marrying him.
When and why did it go wrong? One of the most typical scenarios is the passive, unattentive husband. Passivity from a husband is the fountainhead for many things that go wrong in marriages, which also affects the children and their children. You want to explore all of the options, including her lack of joy to be around. Though the accent mark of responsibility is probably with the husband, there is no question that she is part of the problem.
One of the things you will need to guard against here is the empathy/sympathy construct. She is presenting herself as a victim. You know she is a victim-sinner, so you must not jump in the lake with her, or you will kill any hope of helping this couple. The courage you need to navigate her victimness while bringing light to her role in the marriage deterioration is vital.
One of the things to explore here is the double-confession notion and its role in their marriage. There is a 99.99999% chance that they do not practice this. Thus, what you will have is the accumulative effect of sin. E.g., her husband disappoints her. She reacts sinfully: retreat, various forms of anger (i.e., silent treatment), harboring a grudge, etc. He senses this and responds in kind. This concept is also the cyclic effect of sin. When a couple does not practice double confession, this cycle will start, pick up speed, and perpetuate where they are coexisting under the same roof, but they are not a loving couple.
2 – Surreal Search: You could translate the word surreal to blind. The complexity of a good and expected desire can send you into a delusional spiral where your judgment alters in ways that you do not fully detect until it’s too late. When multiple pieces converge in a person’s mind, surrealness, blindness, and delusion are the effects. The numerous elements are such things as good desires, disappointment, bitterness, isolation, loneliness, kindness from another, and the satisfaction of that “good” desire through other sources.
3 – Self-worth: You must have a clear understanding of self-worth, self-esteem, made in the image of God, and how our view of ourselves can turn into expectations and demands for someone to love us the way we love ourselves. Suffering, sacrificing, and deferring are not components of the person’s thinking, who expects a better marriage.
I’m not suggesting she should not have that ideal marriage, but the process to get there is the issue. Too often, folks interpret self-worth as an entitlement. We are of immense value because God made us in His image, but that does not mean we are the ones who determine the life we should have—as in a pampered life.
If you start relationship problem-solving with “what’s in it for me,” it’s nearly impossible for it to be correct. A person who receives their primary value by knowing God made them in His image can demonstrate to others what it’s like to be the recipient of such high love. They are not demanding but demonstrating—a directional challenge for folks who do not realize their worth in God. They are empty love cups who expect others to fill them rather than basking in the overflow of the cup that is running over (Psalm 23:5).
I meant by “directional challenge” that our love will go in one of two directions. We will give out our love to others or try to engineer love, turning it back onto ourselves. The person who “needs” others to love them to feel worthy will manipulate love so that they can keep their cups full. The individual who lives in the overflow is ready to love others in ways they do not deserve.
There are reasons a husband and wife do not love well. This truth is why you want to explore their presuppositions, shaping influences, and early childhood relationships. They are the way they are for a reason. Dating rarely reveals this, but it’s the settling into the marriage that brings out the pre-existing conditions, behaviors, attitudes, and expectations. But if a spouse does not recognize the “pre-existing damage” of their mate, they will miss the opportunity to love them to wholeness.
4 – Surrogate Husbands: Of course, the natural reaction to the “wrong direction of love” is that this person will look for false lovers who will never satisfy. These surrogates do not have to be other men. It could be her ministry; she becomes the leader of a Bible study. She finds value through what she does, which makes her feel loved, worthy, accepted, and appreciated. If she does not see what she has done to herself, her identity in victimology will capture her in an inescapable trap.
Don’t assume it’s “another man,” though it could be. What you can assume is that it’s something that she can manage, control, manipulate, and secure. She cannot control her husband, so she won’t fall into the trap of expecting something that she can’t manage to give her what she craves. She will gravitate toward the thing she can control, so there is the assurance of the thing she wants. I’m talking about self-reliance here.
These tack-on “husband replacements” are not working. I went to a Bible study and learned what it meant to be a Christian, e.g., discipline, commitment, being nice, and Christian duty. So, I gave them a try. Discipline was exhausting. Commitment became overcommitment. Being nice swallowed my joy. More duty led to less freedom. Now I’m trapped while I wait on my prince, who is off pursuing his personal love affair with himself. I remember when we first began dating. With creativity and resolve, my husband set his sights on me. Today? He left a long time ago and settled for false lovers that have not brought the satisfaction he craves.
5 – Victimology: Hear what she is saying. This entire case study is about her. The etymology of the word victim traces back to a root that means vicarious. A victim is a person who “takes on the sin” of another. They may not have asked for it, but they are carrying it nonetheless. She is doing it. Everything she has said puts her in the center of her universe, and she expects her husband meets her at the level of demand.
There are four areas that you must address if you’re going to help this hurting lady. My question for you is whether or not you see these things. If you don’t, you will not help her. Most counselors would listen to this story and counsel her as a victim. Please understand that she is a victim, but you don’t counsel folks as victims but as victors. There is a massive worldview difference between talking to this person like a victim versus a victor.
The former will bury her in a constellation of sins, surrounded by case-hardened self-righteousness. The latter will recognize the sins of her husband, and herself, and give her a path forward that will release her from all the sins whether it gives her the marriage of her dreams or not. Think about Christ here: He took on sin that He did not deserve, but He was a victor.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).