Posted in theology

What if my marriage is to a difficult man?

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

This week I’ve been looking at marriage. I wrote about what submission is and isn’t, I posted a sweet testimony about persevering in marriage, and I recommended a site called Confidently Called Homemakers that has a lot of encouragements and resources for the women who work at home.

Today we’ll look at marriage to a difficult man. I know what you’re thinking, lol, ‘They’re ALL difficult!’ And they are! And so are we women. As part of the curse, God said that the desire for women would be for their husbands, and the husbands in turn would have a tendency to rule over us. This is ripe ground for conflict. Before the fall, Adam and Eve’s was the only perfect marriage. All of them since have had difficulty. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve started blame-shifting and bickering. (Where do I get the bickering from? I am supposing…the leaf-sewing went something like this: “You’re not doing it right! That leaf isn’t big enough! Just give it here!”)

The first polygamous marriage was soon after, Genesis 4:19. Lamech married two women, Adah and Zillah. We see throughout the Bible that men make it hard on themselves by their bigamy. Hannah was beset by Penninah. Sarah was bitter against Hagar. David had wife trouble. Solomon’s wives led him to a spiritual desert. And so on. The natural tendency for men to rule and women to usurp is compounded by extra wives in the mix.

Even in today’s times where polygamy isn’t as prevalent or accepted, the original sins of Eve and Adam’s relational difficulties are still there. Blaming, pointing fingers, men being passive, women who don’t listen…

Some marriages are harder than others. It’s just that way. The personality of the man or the woman, or both, instead of solidifying toward each other over time, are like gears that grind. In the Bible, Abigail had a hard man for a husband, Nabal. He was rich, but as we’ll see, money doesn’t bring happiness. He was harsh in his dealings. The neighbors all around knew of Nabal. He was a brutal, angry, cheapskate drunkard.

There came a day when David was on the run from Saul and living in the hills and caves, that he sent some of his men to ask Nabal for food. He said that their presence had protected Nabal and environs from marauders, and in return they politely requested some sustenance. Nabal harshly told David’s messenger to go pound sand.

When the messenger reported this to David, David became angry and told his men to mount up, for on the morrow they would raid Nabal’s place and kill every male. One of the messengers reported this to Abigail, Nabal’s wife. She considered what to do. She was married to the man and duty bound to do her best to be his partner and to protect him. She probably also had a lot of experience over the years in smoothing things over because of her husband’s brutal personality. She loaded donkeys with food and set out to meet David’s raiding party. When she saw David, Abigail humbled herself, apologized for her husband’s ‘stupidity’, and noted that the Lord had restrained David from taking revenge into his own hands. (This was a little premature, but she got the point across). It was enough to puncture David’s anger and make him see straight.

David lauded Abigail’s sense, her intelligence, and her discernment. For her part, Abigail was honest with Nabal- when he came-to out of his drunken stupor. The shock of her words put him in a coma, and he died ten days later. David soon married Abigail.

You can read the story in 1 Samuel 25. You can also read the exposition of Abigail’s character as a discerning and humble wife here at Bible Gateway. It is noted that Abigail had charm, humility, tact, wisdom, and piety. These qualities did not just appear in Abigail. They are gentle fruits of a spirit aligned with God’s ways. She pursued righteousness despite her husband’s opposition to everything good and this was the result. One of her pursuits was fulfilling God’s vows as wife, even when the husband obviously didn’t deserve it.

If you are married to an unbeliever, 1 Peter 3:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 7:13-16, give some instruction regarding marriage to an unbeliever. If married to a believing but difficult man, the advice is to persevere in humility, trying, trying, trying is the way to go. I know it is not easy. Life on a sin-cursed world isn’t easy. Don’t look around at other marriages and speculate that they are all better than yours. Some might be, but you never know what goes on inside the home, and sin’s flesh rears up in all of us. All marriages go through rough patches. If another woman’s marriage seems tranquil to you, it may be they have just come out of a rough patch, or are about to go into one.

What if you’ve tried everything and nothing works? Here from Crosswalk, we have an essay “Thriving despite a difficult marriage” and the following question:

“Doesn’t it make sense to admit my relationship can’t be fixed and it’s better to cut my losses and run?”

We have talked with hundreds of couples who have struggled in difficult marriages. This is a tough, sincere question many people ask us on a regular basis. As Christian psychologists, we believe in a tough, though often unpopular, answer: unless there is a pattern of abuse or unchanging immorality, the answer is "No, it's not better to give up on your marriage." 

Read more at the link above, especially the encouraging answer to this question: Q: “Okay, if I can’t give up on my marriage and trying harder to fix it does not change anything, what options do I have?”

Tomorrow, a couple of practical ideas, one from the Bible and one from an excellent woman Bible teacher.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.