When Your Spouse Won't Pull Their Weight In Marriage

Keren Kanyago

March 6, 2024

You are doing all it takes to build a thriving godly marriage. Your life’s priorities are in a neat row with your relationship with God taking the lead, your marriage follows, then your children, your extended family, your career, etc. You are intentional about meeting your spouse's needs besides being respectful, committed, and loving. But there is a problem. You seem to be the only one keen on seeing your marriage thrive. Your spouse does not pull their weight and it makes your heart sink.

There are many ways through which a spouse can fail to play their part in marriage. They may dodge responsibilities/chores, mismanage finances, slack at parenting, nurture harmful addictions, or simply fail to prioritize their relationship with their spouse. The Bible expressly warns against us neglecting our families. Paul taught that anyone who does not provide for their relatives and especially for their own household has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).

We owe our families our time, care, affection, finances, gifts, and talents. We cannot be deemed as followers of Christ if we are not carefully nurturing our families. This is with the exception of those unable to care for their families due to various reasons like illnesses or loss of jobs. Paul here is addressing the attitude of care towards our families rather than the circumstances we may find ourselves in. Having said that, what do you do when you feel as if you are the only one bending over backwards for your marriage? Here are five thoughts to consider.

Communicate your needs and expectations

Communication is a key pillar in marriage. It enhances trust, shows respect, and keeps the couple bonded. Regular communication is a great way of keeping misunderstandings at bay and increasing marital satisfaction. On the other hand, poor communication is a recipe for perpetual conflict.

When your partner is not keeping their end of the bargain, it's important to sit down and talk about it. Each spouse should accurately spell out their needs and expectations. We all have varying assumptions on how marriage and family should work based on how we were nurtured, our values and beliefs. Communicating with each other helps bring these assumptions and expectations to the fore. Couples can then identify any harmful childhood patterns they may have hauled into the marriage and work towards building a healthy connection.

Stipulate boundaries

In their book Boundaries in Marriage, Dr. John Townsend & Dr. Henry Cloud define boundaries as the "property lines” that define and protect husbands and wives as individuals. Boundaries are limits or rules that spouses agree upon to avoid exploiting and manipulating each other. They define what a spouse is willing to accept from their partner. They are not meant to be restrictive but they instead accord each spouse the liberty to state their needs and values while respecting those of their partner.

In setting boundaries, each partner should stipulate the things that they value in the marriage on one hand and the things they frown upon on the other. They then need to communicate these things clearly to their spouse and agree on the consequences whenever boundaries are crossed. One partner can for instance state that because they value healthy conflict resolution, they will have to walk out of the room whenever their spouse raises their voice at them. Other areas in which couples can spell out boundaries include:

  • Interaction with family and in-laws
  • Use of technology
  • Sexual intimacy - eg what each spouse is comfortable with
  • Fidelity
  • Relations with the opposite sex
  • Use of time
  • Scope of sharing about the marriage - how much and with whom.

Though we love our spouses dearly and sacrificially, we do not allow them to abuse and mistreat us. We are created in the Image God and he dispenses justice morning by morning without fail (Zephaniah 3: 5). He sent His son to die on the cross to set us free and does not want us to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, not even by our spouses (Galatians 5:1). Enforcing a boundary honors the image of God in ourselves and invites our spouse to live into their God given identity. 

Talk to someone else

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Mathew 18:15-16).

Perhaps you have clearly articulated your expectations to your spouse but they remain indifferent. It may be time to reach out to a third party. You may consider talking to a couple that both of you respect, a spiritual leader, or a professional counselor. Any of these people may succeed in helping your spouse see their failings. If your spouse is not willing to talk to a third party, you may still consider undergoing therapy by yourself to help you cope with the situation better.

Set an example for your spouse

“Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)

In the above passage, Peter addresses wives who are married to unbelieving husbands. He implores them to desist from trying to win their husbands over through words. He instead asks them to model their newfound lifestyle for their spouse to see. Peter assures them that modeling their lifestyle in Christ is a potent tool that may stir up change in their husbands.

Admittedly, this is not an easy command to heed. We naturally want to whine, rant, and vent at our spouses whenever they let us down. But Peter introduces to us a different approach- modeling change without words!

Though it's a far from easy approach, God's grace is always available to help us keep his commands. Setting an example will mean that you still keep your end of the bargain despite your spouse's indifference. You still seek to respect, love them, and meet their needs even when you have no reason to.

Scripture exhorts us to feed our enemies when they are hungry and give them water when they are thirsty. This is likened to putting hot coals on their heads (Proverbs 25:21-22). Though your spouse is not your enemy, doing them good when they don't deserve it is like putting hot coals on their heads, making them uncomfortable. They can allow the coals to linger on their heads for only so long. With time, they will want to shove away the coals by keeping their end of the bargain. As believers, we are not to be overcome by evil but we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Depend on God for change

“The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

Only God can redirect a human heart. And while it's okay to encourage your spouse towards change, only God can cause true lasting change. He is an expert even with the most obstinate of hearts. He flipped around Saul's heart and turned him from the chief prosecutor of the early church to one of the most revered apostles.

In Ezekiel 36, God complains against the Israelites who had become rebellious, practiced idolatry, and profaned his name. God, however, decided to deliver them from their uncleanness for the sake of his own name. In verse 26, God promises to yank out their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. With sensitive hearts of flesh, they would be able to keep his statutes. In the same way, God can give your spouse a heart of flesh. Depend only on him and pray to Him. In the fullness of time, he shall perform it.

About the author — Keren Kanyago

Keren Kanyago is a freelance writer and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, and the Christian Faith. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram and/or shoot her an email at [email protected]

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