I just read the article, “My husband is immature, how can I help him.” I want to thank you for this article. I could be that wife. Every statement and comment made is a mirror image of my marriage. It helps me feel less confused and it’s so good to know someone sees and understands this issue, and the pain and struggles I have. Especially today when I was brought so low and to tears. – [Reader]
Member Mailbag: Would you be willing to write something about living with an immature husband and how to biblically respond to him?
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Fictional Case Study – Bill is immature and insecure. If Mary says anything that relates to him, their marriage, or his need to change, Bill takes it personally and usually sulks for a few days. Mary doesn’t feel as though she can be completely honest with him because of his insecurities. She chooses guardedness over openness whenever she is around him.
Rather than speaking honestly about what is going on in her life, she reluctantly treats him like a child. She does not want to do this, but she is all-to-familiar with his infantile attempts at interacting with her concerns (John 16:12).
Every word has to be measured and weighed before it is shared.
Mary is left to care for her soul, while gingerly caring for Bill’s. It is as though she has to grow him up before he will be able to contribute to her sanctification in an appreciable way. She tries not to be self-righteous about their interactions, but it is hard. Bill is a weak, immature, and insecure husband.
In order to move forward redemptively, I am going to suggest seven things for you to consider and apply to your life and marriage. (These things can apply to either spouse, not just for an immature husband.)
1 – Is Bill a Christian?
One of the first things to consider is whether or not Bill is a Christian. I would not assume that he is a Christian just because he says he is. That is not an uncharitable judgment on him, but a common sense starting place when trying to understand why someone is not changing.
You will need to carefully assess him, while holding your assessments loosely because you could be wrong. Even your best assessments will be subjective because none of us can really know if someone is a believer.
It is a normal assumption to think a person is a Christian if he attends a local church, hangs out with other Christians, or speaks the Christian vernacular. As you try to discern whether or not he is a child of God, here are three things to think about.
Growth – I’m assuming you have known him for a while. If you could plot his spiritual growth on a chart, would you see a steady upward growth? Has he been changing and maturing over the past decade? Let’s say he has been changing. If so, here are some questions for you.
- Has his growth been because of his interaction with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit or because he has been learning Christian behaviors?
- Is he changing at the heart level–the control center for his behaviors or is he merely learning new ideas, best practices, and valuable tips?
Illumination – Does Bill get spiritual things? Does he have discernment? I’m not asking if he is always right in his assessments because none of us are, but does he have spiritual insight?
The Spirit of God illuminates our minds, which is how we are enabled to see and discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). There is a difference between interacting with a spiritually dense person and a spiritually discerning person. What I am talking about here is biblical maturity, regardless of age.
Is he regularly illuminated and directed by the Spirit of God?
Hunger – Does Bill thirst for God? Is God in his thoughts? Does he gravitate toward the ways of the LORD? Does he talk about what God is doing in his life? Is he learning things because he has spent time thinking about doing life in God’s world?
Is there a progression in his thoughts about God, life, and others? I’m asking if he is always stuck on the same old thing or is he maturing–progressively moving forward in his sanctification.
Does he like to talk to God? Are his prayers fresh, evolving, and alive? A divining rod gravitates toward water. What does Bill gravitate toward? If the Spirit is inside of him, then he should be compelled to gravitate toward things that are spiritual. Describe his hunger for the things of God.
Caveat: you are not looking for perfection in any of the three things that I have mentioned–growth, illumination, or hunger. You’re looking for presence. None of us have perfected our walk with God, but there should be a presence of them.
We are all responsible to love and encourage one another. This site is a great tool to achieve this work of the Spirit. So much wonderful biblical content and ultra discipleship help. A must! – Kathleen, Supporting Member
2 – Is Bill in sin?
There are only two reasons a person will not mature in Christ according to his God-given capacities, competencies, and abilities. Either (1) he is not a Christian or (2) he has some kind of sin in his life.
If he is a believer, then you are left with a sin problem as to why he is not changing. And if he is caught by some kind of sin, then the Spirit of God cannot cooperate with him to help him mature (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; James 4:6).
Typically with a man, the most common secret sin is pornography. I think most women would be amazed to know how many men are looking at porn or some other form of sexual lust, on the side. Do you really know what he is looking at on the Internet? Do you have access to his phone, passwords, and other portals where porn can be accessed?
While I don’t want to set-off unnecessary alarms, I also don’t want to assume everything is okay when dealing with a person like Bill. Something is wrong and you must consider all the options.
The simplest way to discern hidden sin is to ask him, and if you do ask him, how does he respond? His response will more than likely tell you what you need to know.
If he is defensive, angry, resistant, or seeks to avoid your inquiry, then you probably have your answer. A humble man will respond humbly. If there is no porn or other secret sin, then there is no reason for him to be uptight regarding your queries.
3 – He has limited authority
As the wife, you must understand your husband does not have absolute authority over you. If he is sinning and you guys can’t work it out, then you need to find help. This is the point of Matthew 18:15-17.
It would not be love to let him stay in his sin. You can humbly appeal to him to seek help through your local church. Again, if he is a Christian and is stuck in a bad habit pattern, he should be willing to get some help and you should not be passive in trying to help him.
Be careful here. Each situation is different. If you can talk to him, then try to talk to him. If you can’t talk to him, then ask the Father about next steps. If you’re in a good local church, go to your pastor.
Do not walk this path alone. If you have no church, then join our community so you can build biblical relationships in a safe place.
4 – You can’t change him
Ultimately it is God who grants the gift of repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-26). I’m sure you know you cannot force righteousness. You cannot make anyone change. If Bill changes, it will be because God has done a work in his heart (Proverbs 21:1). The hard part for you is not knowing when or if that will ever happen.
If he does not change, then there will be a need for significant work to be done in your heart. This kind of “clunky” marriage may be your cross, as you wait, pray, and seek to serve Bill, while hoping that God will change him.
5 – Examine your log
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Jesus
This next point may be the hardest: No matter what you are dealing with regarding your husband, from your perspective and how you understand what Christ has done for you, you know there is no stratification of humans–for all have sinned (Romans 3:10-12, 23; 1 Timothy 1:15).
I do not say these things lightly. I’ve had to deal with them from the most acute vantage point with an abusive dad, two murdered brothers, and an adulterous wife. Probably the most effective means of grace in guarding my heart from bitterness and other forms of anger was understanding this basic truth: My sin against Christ was worse than anything done to me.
If you do understand and apply this truth correctly, then you’ll be positioned to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. If you are tempted to look down on him (Luke 18:11) because of what he has done wrong, then your heart will take you to a bad place (Matthew 7:3-5).
Every conflict that comes into our lives has somehow been ordained by God. Knowing that he has personally tailored the events of our lives and is looking out for us at every moment should dramatically affect the way we respond to conflict. – Ken Sande
Your attitude about someone will be your first clue as to your thoughts regarding that person, which will determine your actions toward them.
6 – Model the Savior
Whatever it is that you want Bill to be, then you must become a representative of that for him. It would be disingenuous to insist for Bill to be a mature person when you are not being a mature person.
Your modeling of Christ must always precede your teaching about Christ. Be careful about telling Bill how to behave when you’re not behaving according to your own instruction. If you are not doing this, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
- Do you want Bill to be humble? Then you show him humility.
- Do you want Bill to be honest with you? Then you be honest with him–as much as you can while wisely appropriating the content of this piece.
- Do you want Bill to encourage you? Then you encourage him.
You get the idea…
7 – Lead your husband
One of the most profound demonstrations and motivating examples of the Gospel in a marriage is when a spouse will set aside his/her desires for the greater good of the other person. You must be motivated to practically serve your husband so he can become Christlike. Isn’t that what the Savior did for us?
- Though he was in the form of God … [He] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
- He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-11).
Jesus set aside the life He enjoyed with the Father in order to come to earth to help us to become what we couldn’t become on our own. His example is our call (1 Peter 2:18-25). We are to emulate this kind of setting aside for the redemptive good of others (Philippians 2:3).
It is easy for a wife to lose this kind of Gospel focus and application in her marriage. Instead of working toward maturing the marriage through Christ-mirrored-humility, she lowers herself to anger by making demands.
What makes it even more challenging is when her desires are not bad desires (Luke 22:42). This is one of the hardest things for any of us to apply. The call to die to ourselves is impossibly hard (Luke 9:23).
Call to action
These questions throughout this piece are hard questions, but necessary ones. They come with a prayer for God’s soothing mercy to caress your soul as you take your soul to task. You’re in the hardest spot in your life, and my soul is sad for you and for your husband. As with all hard places comes challenging questions. I trust you can receive these truth-directed questions from a spirit of love.
- Jesus set aside His desires for the greater good of you and me. In what ways you can you model the example of Christ in your marriage?
- Do you know how to serve your husband this way? Do you want to do this for him?
- What needs to change in you in order to cooperate more effectively with the LORD in the sanctification of your immature husband?
- Will you seek help from the body of Christ?
I am sad for the wives in our world who are married to men who won’t lead well. What they are called to do is one of the hardest things any of us could do–submit to someone who does not want to biblically care for them.
It’s a painful place to be. The best you can do is model the things that I have outlined in this piece. If you do, though imperfectly, I promise that you will experience a persevering grace from the LORD. He provides grace for this kind of humility, which is your best course of action in an unchangeable situation.
Thank you for asking your question.