Joe Beam , chairman of www.MarriageHelper.com, 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.”
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.