Willing But Unable

Willa Williams - December 26, 2017

Dear CMR,

How do you handle marriage when your husband is disabled to work but wants to provide?

Signed, 

Willing But Unable


Dear Willing But Unable,

This situation you find yourself in is no doubt frustrating.  However, I am glad to hear that your husband has not lost the desire to provide. Often times, when we become unable to do the things that we desire or enjoy doing, it can bring feelings of depression and a total lack of motivation. With that said, I have a couple suggestions for you:

1. Focus on your spouse’s strengths and what he can do.  You can help your husband by consistently pointing out his strengths. These can be practical strengths like (i.e., organization) or personality strengths (i.e. patience with others).  Doing this will make him feel more supported by you and will encourage him to focus on what he can do despite his debilitation. 

2. Look at ways that your spouse can provide for the family using his strengths. Providing goes far deeper than money.  You and your household also need practical, emotional, and spiritual provision. Is your husband able to be available at a moment’s notice when your kids need to get picked up early? Is he able to calm you down after a stressful day at work? Does he guide you into a closer relationship with God?  Imagine life without these things...now go thank him and let him know how valuable that provision is. 

3. Be proactive about resentment. When one partner is incapacitated for one reason or another, stress and fatigue can build which is a breeding ground for resentment.  Resentment often grows slowly and silently but it is extremely toxic to a marriage.  To address resentment, you must be honest about two things: your ideal expectations and limits to those expectations.  You must choose to release the ideal and to accept the limits.  This does not mean you are giving up or settling. In fact, it will actually help you to set more realistic expectations for what your husband can do and what you can do, which will make you both feel more accomplished and capable.  

"To address resentment, you must be honest about two things: your ideal expectations and limits to those expectations."

4. Seek counsel when feelings of helplessness begin to intersect with longstanding struggles with self-worth.  Both you and your husband might find yourself experiencing helplessness throughout this situation. Helplessness is often more difficult to tolerate when our confidence and importance lies in things that are tangible or external. For example, if your husband found much of his identity in his job or you found identity in being able to keep yourself and your house in order, it would not be a surprise if you felt unlike yourselves or unsure of yourselves. Speaking to a therapist can be very enlightening and help to relieve a lot of tension (which can make it easier to do the previous three suggestions).

It is my hope that instead of allowing this situation to drive you apart, you and your husband are able to use this time of stress to grow towards to each other.


Willa Williams

Willa Williams is a licensed marriage and family therapist and serves at the Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships as a consulting therapist. She has been married for 30 years, and has two teenage children. Willa has a passion for healthy relationships and enjoys working with couples as well as individuals. She has a Master of Arts in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), and a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL).


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