Addictions in marriage are becoming ever so popular. Whether it’s alcohol, gambling, porn, or video games, which is the topic that I’m addressing today, addictions seem to be rampant in our world today. We are a culture of unrestraint or we’re easily deceived to think we won’t fall into the addiction trap. I wish this reality weren’t so, but it is. Perhaps I just hear more about it since I run this on-line space, a place where women feel comfortable opening up and sharing their deepest, darkest secrets?
Here’s one woman’s story…
I have been married to my husband for almost 7 yrs. About 5 yrs. ago my husband became obsessed with a game on his iPhone. He was constantly playing and would even stay up for days playing it. I was told from a friend that he should be careful with those games because you can spend money on it and it adds up quick. My husband informed me that he wasn’t spending any money. Well 3 months goes by and our car is repossessed because we hadn’t been making payments. Well I started doing research in all our bank accts. including my husband’s business acct. Well long story short, he had spent $5,000 on that game in 3 months. I was devastated. He lied at first, but then quickly turned very apologetic & said he didn’t realize he had spent so much!! He swore he’d never play again! Fast forward 5 yrs. and I have caught him several times playing that same game. But every time I find out, he lies and says he’s not playing until I show him proof. I sat him down today and told him how hurtful his lies have been and told him that I will not accept him playing that game because all it’s done is cause turmoil!! He said if I’d quit snooping and get over it, he wouldn’t have to lie and we wouldn’t have any problems. He said he’s a grown man and he spent a lot of money on that game and that he wasn’t going to throw it all away!! He then stormed out and said that I’m going to ruin this marriage over a game!! So what do I do?? Do I allow him to continue to play that game even though it upsets me? He talks to other females on there, also, and that gives me a sick feeling!!
Click below to hear my response.
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Jolene: This is a tough spot to be in. When you are married to a man who lies, is irresponsible, addicted, and you feel like you have to parent him – there is a lot going on there. I titled this podcast Dealing with Addiction in Marriage because that is what this is. He has a gaming addiction which is a sin addiction.
Eric: Is this different from any other addiction?
Jolene: No. Well, with porn- sexual addiction does more harm to the physical body and causes a great amount of discouragement and self esteem issues for the wife, but an addiction is still an addiction. In this case, I don’t know if he is a believer, so we are going to assume both sides:
If your husband is a believer, he should be concerned about his addictions and your feelings, but that is not happening. So, where do we go from here? Eric, you are a guy and a believer. If you were in this situation, what should I do as a wife?
Eric: Whether he is a believer or not, you need to deal with the addiction. You don’t put up with the addiction and you don’t put up with the sin. You cannot encourage your husband or support his sin. Does that mean you should divorce? No, it doesn’t mean that. Does it mean that you should separate? Possibly. Does it mean accountability with men at the church? Absolutely.
Eric: But, this baloney about “if -she-wasn’t-snooping-then-everything-would-be-fine-and-she’s -causing-the-problem”, that is ridiculous.
Jolene: Right. He has tried to put his sin on her and he can’t do that. So let us assume he is not saved. Based on his actions here, I wouldn’t think he was.
Eric: But she can’t be his mother.
Jolene: No! That is a fine line. Whether or not he is not saved, you’d still apply these same thoughts. However, with a believer, you could go one step further and get accountability at the church. You could practice the Matthew 18 principle of rebuking in love and so forth. If he is a believer, go read that passage and you might have to implement that in your marriage at some point. So let us assume that he is not believer. As a wife, it is your reverent conduct that will win him over. One of the great things you said in your letter was that you sat him down and told him how hurtful his lies were. When a wife shows humility, vulnerability and transparency, that generally softens a husband’s heart. When a wife starts to parent, that man is going to back up and he isn’t going to want anything to do with you! You’ll have to learn the difference. If you have some kiddos in the house, that will really help. As a parent, it can be easier to see the difference in the way I treat my sons and how it should not be the same way I treat my husband. But if you are a gal with no kids, you might not understand what it is like to parent. If you are trying to tell him, “You need to get rid of the game!” or “I’m not having this anymore!” if you are coming across as a mom, he is not going to be receptive to that. A wife should come across differently. Think about the time when you guys were dating or engaged. You were swooning all over each other, in each other’s arms and you couldn’t get enough of one another. Go back to that type of woman, remember how you were at that time and try to portray that heart and perspective to him. A loving, kind, gracious, encouraging, physically inviting wife will draw her husband closer instead of him wanting to back away.
Eric: Something that comes to my mind is the idea of oneness as the Bible teaches. Most marriages don’t understand oneness.They see their marriage as Him and Me. If the attitude is taken that we are one, (Jolene did this early on in our marriage), since we are one, if I am destructive or saying something bad about myself, then that hurts us.
Eric: If she takes the attitude of, “Honey, we are one” then they could come to common ground some agree-ability on whether this is the best way to build their relationship together. This does not mean that she’ll put up with it, but if she appeals to him that way, it may open up some opportunities.
Jolene: I would ask him some questions in a gracious way. Not in a mothering way. I certainly wouldn’t come at him as you find out he is playing the game again. I’d go out on a date. I’d dress up, have my hair all done, cute shoes, lipstick, the whole nine yards. Whatever he loves, because you are appealing to him. Talk about your marriage. Not the addiction, in that sense, but the marriage. Find out what his desire is for your marriage. Does he want to draw closer to you? Does he want you to be his friend? Because at one point, you guys did. At one point, you both wanted the relationship. Right now, what is happening is that the addiction is superseding and getting in the way of the relationship. You are trying to approach the addiction and I am saying you should be approaching the relationship aspect. Take this perspective and build from there. Any guy who has spent $5,000 on some video game feels like an idiot when you point it out to him. He isn’t going to feel good about this. He realizes this is an addiction. But men and women are prideful and it manifests in different ways. We come at it by mothering and telling them they are doing it wrong, as if we were their Holy Spirit – that does not bode well for a relationship. I would come at this problem by building the relationship, building the friendship, and building the physical oneness in the marriage. Then when all that is moving in a good direction, then you can talk the objections and find out his heart. He might even tell you, “I wish I wasn’t addicted to the game” but right now he is hiding from you because of two things: 1) He is embarrassed and 2) He is not connected to you. He feels like you are snooping and in his business. He doesn’t feel like he wants anything to do with you. No adult person wants another person patrolling them. I understand that he has an addiction, but you have to approach two different aspects of it: try to build him up and help him along. If you are always coming down on him and telling him that he is screwing up, he is just going to hide it all from you and then your marriage will get weaker and weaker. You said he was talking to other females, and that would make any woman sick. He is running from you. A wife wants to do whatever she can to get her guy closer to her and you do have that influence. You can use the same influence now that you used when you were dating or engaged.
Eric: Draw him in rather than condemning him and telling him what he is doing wrong. She can be justified in saying, “Hey you’re screwing up” but, if you look at the relationship, is saying that really going to draw him closer? If its not, you need to take another approach: draw him closer, make him your ally, become one with your husband then when you are one, you can have that relationship.
Jolene: Right, then iron can sharpen iron. You can’t sharpen him right now in the sense of holding him accountable because he doesn’t want you to hold him accountable. You can’t go there.
Because you are dealing with gaming (instead of something like porn), I would talk to him about the bank accounts. He will probably say he doesn’t want to spend more money on it, so I would ask him, “Hey, I know you enjoy this. I want to help you along, I don’t want to be the kind of wife who patrols you. What would you think if we opened a separate account that I can manage?” and then maybe put on some safe guards so he doesn’t have access to that money.
Eric: It is accountability of, “I’m here with you, rather than I’m against you. So let’s do this together.”
Jolene: You might even join him on the game to let him know that you are his friend and his lover. You are doing what you can to help him. But condemning him is not going to go well. For example, when you wrote to me, if I started to condemn you as a wife, saying you screwed up – you aren’t going to be drawn towards that. But I am saying, try these other things and do the best you can to win over his heart. Somewhere along the way, you lost it. Try to recapture it. The way you usually recapture a guy’s heart is through respect and being a gracious wife. Your guy is broken right now. When someone has an addiction, they don’t know how to get out of it. But since he isn’t letting you in, I would just try to be his friend in the process.
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