Dear Pearls,

My wife and I are on different pages. The only thing that is keeping us together is the common goal of wanting the best for our fantastic daughter. When she leaves for university I intend to leave my wife. Am I wrong? Here is the situation:

1) I save; she squanders thousands.

2) I have been faithful. Yet, for most of our 20 years of marriage, she has pushed me away sexually and tells me repeatedly to go to the bathroom for release.

3) She claims I cannot be trusted and have to earn her respect.

4) She does not work. I make a six figure income. We are comfortable, but cannot afford the lifestyle she expects.

5) After work I am expected to help with housework, meals, and laundry, which I do. But the house is always a mess. She is a hoarder. There is a room of junk you cannot even get into.

6) Once she said she was going to report me as being abusive. I told her I would be glad to call the police on myself or report myself to the church. She said to call the church. I did. The church leaders knew the charge was bogus and said they wanted to stay out of the matter.

When my daughter goes to university I intend to give my wife 75 percent of the assets, walk away, and put my daughter through university. Is that reasonable?


Michael Answers:

Since I am hearing only one side of the story, it is impossible to judge in the whole matter, but you have given me enough information to ask some pertinent questions of you and to make a factual observation concerning your wife. The most glaring revelation as to the root of your problem is your statement that, “She claims I cannot be trusted and have to earn her respect.” She reveals that lack of trust and respect, in brushing off your advances and suggesting a disgusting alternative. Her desire to “report you for abuse” suggests she wants outsiders—the government or the church—to acknowledge something she cannot get you to acknowledge: that you have hurt her. Her hoarding suggests she is insecure in her future, although that could be the leftovers of an impoverished youth. Her failure to clean the house indicates a lack of self-respect as well as thanklessness for your lavish provision all these years. It is a slap in your face.


Your wife is deeply pained, broken as a human being, unfulfilled as a woman and very lonely. She blames you. She may not think you are the source of her problems, but, at the very least, she blames you for not being the cure.

Understand that this is not a question of who is right and who is wrong. It is a question of what you can do to heal her of deep hurts and fears. It is obvious that you have been making sacrifices for the sake of your daughter, but are unwilling to make the same sacrifices for your wife. I understand that she has affronted your masculinity and you just want to get away from the hurt. Try to understand her pain and it will invoke compassion in you.

It is very clear that your wife thinks you are duplicitous in your life and commitment to her. You were careful to say, “I have been faithful…for almost 20 years of marriage.” I am assuming that 20 years represents the entire marriage and not just the length of time you have gone without further unfaithfulness. Your characterization of her is typical of a woman that has lived with the shame of being rejected for another woman, or of a woman whose husband has molested his child, or is into pornography.

If none of these are true, the next thing I would consider is, did you create guilt in her by engaging in premarital sex? It is often the case that a highly principled virgin who surrenders to her passions and engages in shameful sex before marriage takes that guilt into the marriage and comes to identify all sex with shame and guilt. The association is missed because the inhibitions are not manifested immediately after marriage. It usually takes several weeks or months for the passion to subside and some additional factor of little consequence to trigger the guilt and cause it to override the passion. Once the guilt threshold is met, the only thing that will remove it is complete confession to each other and expressions of shame and repentance. If she sees you ashamed of your sin, confessing you were wrong, her trust can be restored, knowing that hypocrisy no longer lives in you.

Whether I have tagged the root or not, the key is to get her to open up and express to you why she is angry, hurt, and bitter. She will be reluctant to open up to someone she doesn’t trust, and you can only restore that trust by becoming transparent yourself. She must become convinced that you are no longer the man that hurt her, that you are approachable, that you will not condemn her or shut her out, that you are interested in her as a person, not just for physical intimacy.

So far your entire approach, as expressed in your letter, is to be concerned with your own needs and how you can meet them. You are self-centered, and insensitive. I understand how years of rejection can work on a man, but getting divorced is not going to meet your needs. Your need is in your heart, and you will take that with you wherever you go. You need to listen to my messages Sin No More, listen to the audio Only Men, and watch the DVD Marriage God’s Way.


Debi answers:

Dear John,

You are a wimp, and even in your threat of parting you are not doing what is good for your wife, but what makes you LOOK like the honorable victim. My advice is practical. It involves simple life changes. But until you repent, begin to seek God, study his Word, and honor him, there will not be a soul change. True joy comes from peace with God.

Your wife doesn’t respect you because you don’t respect yourself. She says you “cannot be trusted and have to earn her respect.” I couldn’t respect a man that made love to himself in the bathroom either. Furthermore, she doesn’t like herself any better. She is depressed. Both of you are at fault for the lousy marriage. You are heirs together in this life, and together you share the blame. As the man, it is your responsibility to save your wife from her fear, guilt, and hang-ups. When a man leads his wife in love and goodwill, she usually knows it is in her best interest to follow. On rare occasion, a man’s wife is a harlot or full of bitterness and there is not much the man can do about it, but that is not the issue here.

You neglected to lead! You have allowed a no-win situation to continue for 20 years. From the beginning, you should have helped her grow as a person by putting her in the position of having to learn self-restraint, accountability, and work ethic. These lessons are best learned by being a HELPER. In a good marriage a wife is a help meet—a suitable helper. She is busy helping her husband in his business, trying to save for a joint vision, and basically being his indispensable right-hand woman. Your wife has had none of the above. She was given a position (wife) and never given the glorious victory of helping you become a success. It is enough to take the hope and accountability right out of a lady.

You will need to artificially jump-start her idle drive. But this is only to re-set the situation. After she gets motivated, you will need to make room in your life for her to be a very necessary HELP to you in all areas of your life.

At this point you just want out of your miserable marriage, so I know it is hard for you to believe, but, as many have proven, relationships are so much richer and more satisfying when restored. Once “the grace of life” rules in your marriage, you and your wife will look back a thousand times and give thanks that you chose to fight for your marriage. Both of you will be thankful for the other and for the forgiveness that you have toward the other. It will not be easy, but it is worth the effort. At first it will cause hard feelings, but if you show dignity and honor she will come to see that what you are doing is out of good will and is best for her and your marriage.

My radical answer is a response to the radical direction you say you are headed—divorce. Your wife needs to learn what she should have learned years ago. You have enabled her to be disrespectful by tolerating her abhorrent behavior, which is probably due to your own guilt of knowing she is reacting to your sin. Sin begets sin.

First, you need to deal with your own sin. She needs to see you are seeking to walk in truth before God and man. Openly admit you have been wrong and are seeking to set right the things you have blotched. Make sure she hears you listening to Sin No More. After a few months of your changing she will begin to believe you are seeking to honor God; then she will not fight you when the correction to your marriage begins to affect her.

Take her out to eat one evening to a nice place. While there, explain to her that you know that your sin of not walking in truth and not being a leader has not been good for her. Tell her you sought advice and have diligently been seeking to honor God in all that you do. Tell her you were advised to do several things; some of which will affect her.

Tell her you have closed all your credit card accounts and are now paying them off. If she wants a credit card it will be in her name only. Tell her to establish a bank account in her name so she can pay off her own card as it comes due. Ask her how much money she thinks you should put in her account monthly. Explain that the agreed amount will be set in stone. You are doing this for two reasons. The first is to help you get control of your bad habit of looking over her shoulder and nitpicking at what she is spending. The second is so she can learn to live within her means. If during the coming months she needs more allowance, then suggest that she get a part-time job. Remind her how smart and capable she is. She will need to see you have her good in mind.

The evening of your talk concerning the money, bring up the housekeeping issue. Tell her a messy house really disturbs you and when you come home from working all day you are just too tired to clean it. Talk about the idea of hiring a housekeeper two days a week. If the housekeeper idea doesn’t work, you might have to set up an area of the house that is yours.

For twenty years, your wife has felt that she is a loser. And in fact, she is. So are you. As heirs together in the grace of life, the only living sign that either of you have succeeded is your daughter. You think your daughter will not need her mama and daddy after she goes to college, but you are wrong. Her world is about to expand and more than ever she will need both of you as a compass. A broken compass always points in the wrong direction.

You think you can just divorce the “loser” and marry again and everything will be just wonderful, but that is not true. You are half the problem, and as such you will always be that same problem, only with a different lady who has other problems. Sadly, you can’t divorce yourself. It is much better to face these hard issues head-on and deal with all the emotional turmoil and fighting that will occur until the two of you grow up.

Your wife will find all this change disturbing yet stimulating. She might step up and decide she likes being married and start acting like she is a wife with a man who is, after all, a real man. With a few nice compliments and a little encouragement she might do the right thing. I suspect she has goodwill toward you, but she appears to be a little lazy and self-centered. This fault can easily be fixed with some motivation and should have been fixed long ago. So don’t think of quitting, but instead start planning how you can bring your lady alongside you and keep her there.

The two of you are heirs together. Is it grace you are inheriting or defeat? Your daughter is a direct heir of the life you and your wife create together. What will she take into her marriage? Will it make her a better wife? Will she be a happier person because of the love she has seen in her parents? It is past time to do the right thing.

The suggestions I have made are only a beginning, a hint at the direction you should take. There will be surprises and adjustment required. Don’t stop here. Get your wife involved in your life, your work, and your interests. Find her an exercise class; study health and herbs together; encourage her to volunteer with the elderly or teach Sunday school. If she is handy with crafts then talk with her about helping in a preschool art class. See if she is interested in going to back to school to study something that would help you in a side business, and then start a business. Be sure to have a hobby together. Plan a mission trip abroad to change your life’s vision and be heirs together in the grace of life. Life is too short to miss a single day.

Let her know that she is in fact, the love of your life. You need her. You bless the day she came to you. You think she is beautiful. You are amazed how feminine she is after all these years. Mush, mush, and more mush. Women love it if they can only believe you mean what you say. Every woman longs to be cherished, and every loved woman wants to bless her man.


• Pray for your spouse’s wisdom, peace of mind and that their heart would be set on the Lord
• Read:

  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Ephesians 5:25–33

• Watch:

• Listen:

• Buy:

  • Roses