by Greg Gifford, PhD
For six months I met with a husband who was so likeable! He talked of how he struggled to be obedient to God, how his faith was existent, just waning, and how he wanted to love his wife but simply didn’t know what to do. Six months of this! And in that six months, his wife knew that he was a total phony. He said he was trying; she knew he wasn’t. He said he believed in Jesus; she knew he didn’t. I’ll never forget her saying, “A husband who loves his wife doesn’t look at her the way he looks at me.” In this blog, I’ll suggest a few methods for confronting the winsome, manipulative husband.
First of all, the husband wants to get you on his side and minimize his responsibility in the damage of his marriage. “Thank you for understanding where I’m coming from. Thanks for your discernment. I appreciate all that you’re doing for us.” However he can ally himself with you, he does. Then it seems as if the wife is the wayward saint. She doesn’t believe him, nor does she believe you because she lives with him. Changed people don’t act like that (she thinks)!
As you confront a winsome, manipulative husband you must draw clear lines of demonstrative repentance. Things that are clearly observable and difficult to attain. Matthew 3:18 uses the idea of the “fruits of repentance” and 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “godly grief produces repentance.” Call the winsome, manipulative husband to clear, measurable demonstrations of his repentance. For instance, “you will allow your wife to pick which church service she wants to attend and then you’ll attend another service. … You will attend this men’s Bible study at this time. … You will meet with a biblical counselor for this number of months.” Make it clear, difficult, and sustained over a long period of time.
Don’t let him manipulate you by speaking of the difficulty or the struggle he has in following through—a lack of completion of these things demonstrates no repentance on his part. You must see it this way—if he is truly repentant, he will have an “eagerness to clear himself” (2 Cor. 7:11). The winsome, manipulative husband must be held to strict steps of accountability for a sustained period of time to demonstrate his repentance.
So in your counseling ministry, you are not called to be harsh towards husbands but you must have clarity in your approach. These men can manipulate people to attain what they desire. And they will do the same thing to you! Be willing to love them enough to call them to take clear, demonstrable, difficult steps of repentance to demonstrate that they actually mean it. And don’t accept excuses! Repentance always bears fruit and that is especially true for the winsome, manipulative husband.