This is a companion article toCloistered Fruit

Dear Pearls,

My husband and I have been married 48 years and have six married children. He has never bonded with me and is a workaholic and has hardly anything to do with me. I have come to believe I did or said something in the early weeks of our marriage that offended him and he divorced me emotionally. I have apologized and worked hard at trying to be a godly wife, but I do not think there is one thing I can do or say that will ever win him.

He hired a married woman to help him on our horse ranch 21 years ago. For 18 years I have known they were having an emotional affair, but had no proof and he denied it. I don’t believe the relationship is sexual, for he has been impotent for nearly 20 years.

I have felt for so long that I’m enabling him to continue with no consequences. I’ve considered telling him something like: “I think you kept me in your life just to be your housekeeper, but it’s the other woman you like and want to be with and talk to. Well, I’m no longer your servant. …It is not you I’m rejecting, it is what you are doing. You have been turning to another woman to fill the empty place inside of you. The only thing that will truly fill that empty place is believing what God says, not what you see or feel. I haven’t wanted you to lose the respect of your family, your friends, and your neighbors, but if this emotional affair is going to continue, the truth will come out. (Meaning I’ll ask some of the people who are praying for God to change his heart to accept God and me, to also pray for him to end his emotional affair.)

What does God say about me taking a stand like that? I have great difficulty understanding the difference between being a doormat and submission. I certainly feel like a doormat. Please help me!

Michael Answers:

You must be around seventy years old, and your husband, as well. You have endured this situation for two decades. I understand that you do not want to be a doormat. My advice is, that at seventy, better a doormat with a house and income than a doormat without a door, a bed, or a kitchen table.

The old dog has been impotent in body and you have been impotent in spirit. Seek solace in Christ alone and let your husband and his dear friend be parted by death. If they are bonded as you indicate, nothing will stop it at this age. Exposing him and laying down an ultimatum would be an act of vengeance—a getting back at him for all the years of emptiness you have experienced. And if you do bring pressure to bear, he will just shut down to you even further and find solace in a friend who never criticizes him and who finds him a fascinating person. Often old men have male friends that are closer to them than their wives. They have a camaraderie because they share the same interests and understand each other. This friendship may be of the same nature.

It is possible that after your husband became impotent he lost some of his confidence around you and feels more welcomed in a relationship where he is not expected to perform sexually. Think of them as two old cowboys and you the rancher’s wife. I suggest you ride this horse till it drops. It’s too late to change mounts or to retrain this one.

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Reflection by Michael

It is too late for this unhappy woman to recover the years the locust have eaten. If she had written me thirty years sooner, I would have made some suggestions that could have led to the creation of a glorious marriage. But what about you? Are you a wife in the position of the “Old Dude’s” wife? (See former article—“Cloistered Fruit”.)

I know, it raises my ire also. I would like to tell the subdued, tired, rejected wife of the husband having the emotional affair with the younger girl to just pack up all the girl’s belongings and throw them out into the street, then call Little Miss’s parents and tell them that their daughter is now homeless. I probably would have told her to do just that if she had asked me. But that would be like telling a discouraged, unathletic boy who has never hit the ball to just go out on the field and hit a home run. Now if the boy had no talent at all but was full of spit and fire, and was kickin’-dirt confident, I would tell him, “You can do it; just hit the ball out of the park.” The broken woman does not have the backbone to take bold action and then see it through with style. A dog with his tail between his legs is wasting his time barking or threatening to bite.

Now if the woman was like my wife, she would throw the girl into the street, pile her luggage on top of her head, let her walk to the nearest phone to call home, and them come back in, bring me to the bedroom and remind me to always milk my own cow and make no room for another heifer.

The reality is that, unless the basis of a good relationship is already established, such bold action will not work. My wife would have confidence in her seductive and persuasive abilities. But when a marriage is filled with years of bitterness and loneliness, and a man has found fulfillment outside the marriage, coercion and forceful action will have the taste of revenge and vindictiveness in it, and it will be met with further rejection. If the wife of Old Dude forced her husband to choose between his “ministry” to the young girl and her, he will choose the young girl. I have seen it happen many, many times. Ultimatums cut both ways. Many women, after seeing the back side of their husband for the last time, have said, “But I didn’t think he would do it! I just wanted him to see how much he has hurt me.” He was hurting, too, and decided not to hurt anymore.

What then can a woman in this situation do to restore her marriage and win her husband’s heart? Become lovely and useful. Men are interested in more than physical intimacy. I have seen men leave a beautiful babe for a homely woman. What does the rancher derive from his relationship with his employee that is not furnished at home? Understanding, common perspective, shared experiences doing things they both love, and respect as human beings. I say to all spurned wives, you cannot receive love and respect by demanding it and laying down ultimatums. To add to the equation a threat to tell the kids, or make it public at church, or “ask everybody to pray” will drive a bigger wedge between you and probably end all chances for reconciliation.

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What can a woman do? Whatever your husband is doing. Enjoy it, appreciate it, get involved, if you can; if you can’t be involved, be a sympathetic ear and a cheerleader. Don’t drive your husband with carefully placed criticism; motivate him with sincere praise and admiration.

I will say it again. To win your husband’s heart, become lovely. You can be fat or skinny and still be lovely. You can be young or old, smart or dumb, but you must be lovely if you want to be loved. Don’t assume you have rights as a wife. Earn your place in his heart and he will be faithful to you. Men don’t fish in another lake if the fish are still biting in the one they’re familiar with.

Men, it’s your turn

Are you like Old Dude? Mister, your role is entirely different from your wife’s. God holds you responsible on a higher level. He has given you a more sacred trust, placing your wife under your authority. You are entrusted with a precious gift, and it is your job to be her savior and sanctifier. God never gave any man a perfect woman, except Adam, and he failed to protect her against temptation. If your wife is not all she should be, gently mold her into the woman she can be. Never share your feelings, hopes, and dreams with another woman. Never allow yourself to have needs met by another woman. Never “share” with another woman the personal pains you experience in your marriage. You are playing with fire if you do.

The Bible says that a man should leave his father and mother and “cleave” unto his wife (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7). That word cleave means to stick together as one. We are told that believers “cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23). If you cleave to your wife like a mouse to a sticky trap there will never be room for another. If you are a man of ideas and your wife is a dummy, gently educate her. If you are a socialite and she is a homebody, patiently introduce her to your world, expressing how thankful you are to have her support. If you are a lawyer, discuss cases with her and get her opinion. When she comes up with a good idea, let her know that her ideas are valued. Brag on her publicly in front of your associates. If you enrich her life, she will enrich yours. Never allow your life to run off and leave her behind. Cleave to her; wrap her in your life and stick together through thick and thin—even if it is her thick waist and your thin wallet.