Joe Beam: Addictive Behavior In Marriage Requires “Tough Love”


Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailJoe Beam , chairman of, advises a Family Savvy reader who asked his advice regarding her husband’s use of marijuana. Joe’s answer may seem harsh, but it is based upon his understanding of how to effectively deal with addictive behavior in marriage.

QUESTION: I recently found out after confronting my husband that he has been regularly smoking marijuana behind my back. We are both Christians, but he states that he doesn’t have convictions about this being wrong.  He wants me to just leave him alone and let God convict him on this issue. He wants to have the freedom to smoke as long as it “doesn’t interfere with our marriage.” We have been married a little over a year and have a baby on the way. I am at a crossroads and feel like I can’t just “get over this” and pretend it doesn’t hurt me. I don’t believe in divorce unless on biblical grounds, but how do I live with something like this? My husband knew my convictions on this matter when we married, so how is it fair that I be put in a position to tolerate it when it makes my heart unsettled?

ANSWER: He wants to continue “as long as it doesn’t interfere with your marriage,” but you make it quite clear that it affects your marriage very strongly now. Therefore, I interpret what he says this way: “I will continue as long as you allow me to continue.” Not only does he not view his actions as interfering with your marriage, he does not register your broken heart and dismay as interfering with your marriage, either.

To avoid arguments anyone might want to make about the pros and cons of marijuana, we will leave the long-term effects of this drug from this conversation. Instead, we focus on two things.

First, the effect his smoking marijuana has on you

Any action that one party does that causes the other person consternation has to stop if a relationship is to continue. Even things that are legal and acceptable in and of themselves must cease when they cause disruption.

For example, in the book of Romans, Paul discussed an issue that people there had about whether or not it was right to eat something that may have been sacrificed to a false god. Paul indicated that buying food in the marketplace that may have been used for this purpose had no negative connotation (but pointed out that this was not the issue). Paul went on to explain that the real issue was how that person’s brothers or sisters in Christ perceived and were affected by the Christian’s actions. Paul states:

“…make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.” (Romans 14:13-15, NIV)

Paul stated that although a person may have a “right” to do something, he or she could actually demonstrate love by NOT doing it for the sake of the person it bothered.

In your situation, your husband’s actions are neither a right or a privilege; illegal marijuana use violates God’s law and the law of the land. Moreover, he does it even though he knows it hurts you. Therefore, his actions are not love – they are selfish.  He knew your convictions before you married; he knows your feelings now. His denial of the issue and its impact on your marriage are without excuse.

In short, the problem is not your wanting him to stop; it is his continuing to do so even though he knows how it affects you.

Second, the effect his smoking marijuana can have on your child

Your husband’s violation of the law, if it continues, will ultimately influence your child’s beliefs and values.

It may be that your husband can hide his smoking for a while, but as kids get older, they become savvy. Most parents would be shocked to realize how quickly their children discover or figure out their secrets. Children hear what we teach, but they measure this against what we do. Our actions have a stronger influence on them than do our words. As your child grows and inevitably discovers that your husband breaks the law, it will impact her. It may cause her to disrespect her Dad. It may cause her to disrespect the law. It may cause her to disrespect you because you tolerate his lawlessness. Either way, it will cause a consequence in her life.

So, what do you do?

Your husband will continue to smoke marijuana as long as you allow it to occur. It will not just taper off and end on its own.

He said he wants you to leave him alone about this and let God convict him. You need to remember that God convicted people throughout the Old and New Testaments by having His people confront them. God can convict him, but God uses you and others who care to do the confrontation.

You must insist that he stop and that he stop now. But be prepared to be tough minded and resolute. This type of intervention is not for the faint of heart. To effectively use tough love to deal with addictive behavior, you must be comfortable with confrontation and establishing and enforcing consequences if necessary.

Before you confront your husband, present him with a written set of actions and consequences that you develop with the help of wise counsel. Put into writing what you will do if you catch him smoking marijuana again. If you catch him, you must follow through and do what you said – no matter how much he begs or pleads. If you offer grace or mercy, he will manipulate you. I know, because I am a recovering addict. We are great manipulators.

In the document that you present to him, list increasing consequences if there are repeated failures. Again, no mercy or grace. You must do what you say you will do.

For example, your document may say something such as, “If I catch you, you will leave home for one week. I don’t care where you stay, but you cannot stay here. At the end of that week, you may return if you give me your word you didn’t smoke marijuana that week. If there is a second infraction, you must leave for two weeks. If there is a third infraction, I will file for legal separation.”

Sound harsh?

Only tough love works when someone is caught up in an addiction such as smoking marijuana. If you do not practice tough love, things will get worse than they are now.

If you fear that standing tough may lead to divorce and that you will be alone the rest of your life, that does not have to be the case. I will delve into this further in another article. For now, understand that if you allow fear of being alone to deter you from stopping his illegal actions, the situation you are in now will likely continue to deteriorate. If you want to save your marriage, act now. Do not wait until things hit rock bottom.

If your marriage is in trouble, there are many who will help. If you wish my organization to assist you in getting the help you need, please call us toll free at 866-903-0990. We will listen, and we will help if we can.


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  1. I am so sorry for the situation that you are in, Anne. My advice to you is that you begin looking for a way to support yourself if this continues to worsen and you find yourself alone. Work on yourself. Get a new skill. Join a small group. Become as strong and capable as you can and be able to show him that you are moving forward and moving on and will not go down with him. But let him know you will help him IF he will listen and make true effort to rehabilitate his life and y’alls marriage. I may not have given you the best answer, but I know that I would focus on who/what I could change if I were in your shoes. And the only thing you control is yourself. Prayers and blessings to you.

  2. My husband and I are both Christians and are coming up on our 32nd anniversary. He smoked pot before we were married, but then stopped. He then took it up again when our children were small because he was hanging out with friends who were a terrible influence. He refuses to stop smoking, citing that God said it was ok for him to do so – even after I have communicated to him repeatedly that I don’t like it, that I am offended by it, that the Bible talks about not offending a brother or sister. He gets angry when I discuss it.

    I have asked him not to smoke it in the house. He does it anyway. I have asked him not to spend money on it. He does it anyway. I’ve asked him not to smoke when we are in the same vehicle. He does it anyway. He DOES NOT CARE ABOUT WHAT I THINK. He is lazy and belligerent. Depending on the strain he smokes, he can become obnoxiously loud and talkative.

    None of my concerns are any of his concerns, and he talks about other people judging pot smokers. He is always defensive about it, but will be the first to tell you that what he is doing is just fine.

    I am resentful of him and his laziness. He went from being someone who took serious care of our home to someone who no longer cares about taking care of our home. He can’t remember one conversation to the next. I am sick of him. I no longer respect him. I lost respect for him years ago.

    I have been praying about this for many years, and I feel that God is silent on this. I do not have a job so that I can separate and live somewhere else unless or until this is rectified. I live in a metro area where housing prices continue to skyrocket.

    I cannot give ultimatums. He ignores them.

  3. Hi Geena, I agree with you that your situation is different. Although smoking is harmful, it is not illegal. I think you should just lovingly encourage him to stop, telling him that you love him and want what is best for him and his health. Beyond that, I don’t feel pressuring him would be helpful for your marriage. He will only quit if he decides for himself. I hope this help; thank you for writing!

  4. I don’t know if I would go to this extreme for my situation b/c my husband is smoking cigarettes, which are not illegal. However, it breaks my heart, especially b/c he was doing it for several years w/o my knowledge. He didn’t want me to know, but I found out accidentally. A Christian friend counseled me and told me that the Bible is silent about smoking, and if he wants to do it, leave him (just to ask that he be honest). But I find this difficult to follow b/c if I am silent about my concerns, he will continue smoking seven cigarettes a day, maybe to his death. However, by addressing it, I think he is forced to face his weakness of relying on cigarettes to “relieve his anxieties” at work instead of leaning on God.

  5. Lucy, I am so sorry to hear how badly you have been treated. I so hope you find your true worth and beauty in God’s eyes. You are precious in His sight and I am sure loved by many. Bless you, my friend.

  6. I had breast cancer in 1998 .my husband basically threw me away then .he stopped sleeping with me even after a week in the hospital and me almost dieing .never once did he check on me in the night . 17 years later he left me for an old girlfriend .I felt like for years I wasn’t wanted because I only had the one breast no longer whole in his eyes . After 30 + years of marriage I don’t know if I could let another man get close to me . Fear they too would make me feel like a monster with a deformed body.

  7. The answer is in your question and concern. You said it hurts you deeply. And your husband said he will not do it if it intrudes on your marriage.

  8. Simone, thank you so much for sharing your experience. Praise God that through your difficult journey, He restored your marriage. I know He can use you to minister to others going through similar situations. God bless you, my friend!

  9. This is good advice. May I respectfully make a suggestion? From my own personal experience in a similar situation it is important to have a back up plan. If you confront your husband (or wife) with this ultimatum, they can easily say, “I’m not leaving for a week. This is my home and I’m not going anywhere.”
    That’s what happened to me, and I had to scramble to find a place to go with my three children. And I was very resentful that I had to leave MY home because of his marijuana use. That was 27 years ago, and through Gods grace we restored our marriage. It was the worst time of my life. I love your website. Thanks so much and God Bless!

  10. Hi Trina, I didn’t post your comment but I did read it. You and your husband will be in my prayers. Please know that you are not the cause of this nor can you be the solution. Only submitting to God will enable him to find freedeom. If he doesn’t see this now, he will eventually. I hope that is before it is too late. Blessings my friend.

  11. PLEASE continue to pray for me and my husband. We’ve been married for 29 years and have 4 adult children and 1 grandchild.
    My husband is living in deception and smoking marijuana. He refuses to get help or stop. He states that he’s doing fine and is fine with his choices. I KNOW this is a lie and pray for his spiritual eyes to be opened and the hardness of his heart to be broken to receive the LORD’s will for his life. He has cut himself off from me completely.
    I am devastated and am seeking the grace to forgive but stand firm as well. I need God’s protection, courage, and strength to move forward.
    I am also asking for His provision to do it. I feel very rejected and lonely. Please pray for God to make a way through this trial.

  12. I am so sorry for your painful situation. Hopefully your husband will have a wake up call before it is too late. Continue to lean on God, and He will sustain you no matter what your husband decides. Blessings to you, friend.

  13. Thank you so much for this article. This is such a tough thing to deal with.. Especially when you have an 11 year old boy who thinks his dad is everything. My son would never understand if I made his father leave the house. I don’t know. Maybe he would, because I had him leave the house before. He says he quits, but always sneaks behing my back and does it. He is going ro get arrested or lose his job. The whole situation makes me angry. We attend a small solid church, and he has everyone fooled, except me and God. All I can do is pray, but often feel I should divorce because he has told me repeatedly that he enjoys getting high and he will never completly stop.

  14. Hi Yvette,

    I can certainly understand your frustration. Although your husband does need to change some of his behavior, I encourage you to let God work in his life and you try your best to simply love him and inspire him to do better and be better. You may not see immediate results, but you will win him over more easily by being his best friend and encourager rather than by being angry. I know. I have been there.
    I encourage you to get into a small group with other couples in a solid church where you can grow in faith and have accountability. Marriage is hard, as we are all sinners and bring our sins to the table. But it is worth fighting for.
    I will pray for you and your husband. Stay strong!


    Jamie Tarence

  15. I’m in the same situation and in need of help. My husband is saved but I feel need to be delivered. He needs to make up his mind that he’s living for God no matter what….and he hasn’t done that. Others are an influence that the devil uses and he falls prey to it everytime. Smoking marijuana really hurts and upsets me and we have a child on the way as well. I’m at my wits end. I’m thinking of telling our pastor to get counseling but I know he wouldn’t like that. I’m praying but it disgusts me and tho isn’t the man of God that I thought I was getting. I don’t know what to do at this point. He gets upset when I bring it up and just says that he’s changing but it doesn’t happen overnight. I feel like that’s just an excuse. I cry so much that Im tired. Please help.

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