The issue of prodigals affecting marriage can truly be a difficult problem. When we think of a prodigal, we think of a wayward person. It’s someone who lives life contrary to the way God would have him or her live.
H. Norman Wright, gives this definition in his book, Loving a Prodigal:
“A prodigal is someone who goes against the family’s value system. A prodigal says, ‘I’d rather go this way, and I choose to reject all this over here.’ In a sense, it’s going counter-culture to the way the person has been raised. Prodigals have an intensity in their rebellion that is missing in the actions of other highly disobedient kids.”
Prodigals Affecting Marriage?
This of course, affects other relationships—especially marriage. Whether you are married to a prodigal or you have a child or a close family member or a friend who is a prodigal, your patience and the boundaries of your love and grace are stretched and challenged. Eventually, your home and relationships can become feeding grounds for conflict to arise. You can be in conflict with the spouse who IS a prodigal, or in conflict with your spouse BECAUSE of prodigal; and both can affect your marriage.
When this prodigal turns on you in an opposing direction, your heart and emotions become tied up in knots. You aren’t sure what you can and should do. As a result, your emotions take you places you don’t want to go. And that is especially challenging! How do you keep it together and live peaceably?
As it applies to a prodigal child:
Norm Wright addresses prodigals affecting marriage this way:
“It’s not a given that the parents’ marriage will be damaged. But the effects can be devastating if the parents aren’t in agreement on how to deal with this child. Maybe a wife makes decisions with her head. She thinks their child has done a wrong and therefore needs to experience the consequences. But the husband makes decisions with his heart. He thinks, ‘We’ve got to cut this child some slack. Maybe with love and empathy and concern we can bring him back.’ So, you’ve got that clash, and the child knows it. Kids are experts at pitting their parents against each other. And so, the child’s behavior becomes a divisive force within the marriage and polarizes the husband and wife.
“It’s hard enough for parents of cooperative kids to agree on discipline. How can parents of a prodigal child keep divisiveness out of their marriage?
“If couples have built a solid relationship to begin with—one of good communication and solid commitment—you then have a source of strength to draw from. But if you’ve got a shaky marriage, any kind of crisis could throw you because you feel isolated. You feel like a married single. You have the sense that you’re suffering through this ordeal alone.”
One thing for sure, it’s important to recognize the dividing force at work. If your child is a prodigal —whether he or she lives in your home or is influencing it from the outside, you need to find ways to NOT allow it to divide you. If you haven’t done so previously, start building your relationship upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
And if your spouse is not a follower of Christ, dig in all the deeper so you, at least, have access to His guidance.
Pointing the blame
Caryn D. Rivadeneira makes an important point (in an article titled, “Married with Prodigals”) to prayerfully consider concerning this issue. She asks the question:
“What about blame? I imagine the urge to blame yourself or your spouse for your child’s rebellion is pretty strong.”
To that question, Norm Wright makes the point:
“Blame comes into play in a big way. Spouses throw around accusations like, ‘You weren’t strict enough with him. You didn’t teach her. You were never home.’ There’s also the self-blame: ‘If only I hadn’t done this. Why didn’t I handle things better?’ This type of exchange is usually inaccurate and never helpful. It amplifies the extremes and doesn’t lead to a constructive discussion.”
The questions are then asked:
“But what if some blame is warranted? What if a parent did or failed to do something that may have contributed to the child’s prodigal lifestyle?”
To that, Norm Wright answers:
“Because every parent is imperfect, we’re going to make mistakes. Inadvertently, sometimes parents choose to put in more time with one child at the expense of another. Or they pour themselves into their career and shortchange their children. But you need to remember that you could be the most perfect parent in the world. You could have done everything according to Scripture, and that child still could choose the wrong path in life. Look at God, the perfect Father. He created two individuals, and they both turned their back and rejected him.
“But if there is legitimate blame on our part, we need to resist the temptation to pass the buck. One of the ways we try to avoid accepting the blame is to turn it around and say, like Adam did, ‘Lord, the woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit.‘ We blame our spouse.
“If there is some failure on our part—and which of us has never made a mistake?—remember that parenting mistakes are like any other. We admit it. We accept the responsibility. There’s a passage in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that says, ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.‘ This means we don’t have to live with regrets in our life. We can be free from that. 1 John 1:19 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.‘ If we confess, we can be cleansed.
The other question I ask people is, ‘What good does it do to blame your spouse for his or her failings as a parent?’ That is the past. We can pour our energy into placing blame and condemning the other person. Or we can say, ‘Okay. What do we do now?’ Parents of prodigals must be present-focused and future-focused. It’s counterproductive to pick apart the past to try to determine who was most to blame.”
If you need encouragement, as you are trusting God for your prodigal and you want a resource that can help you to draw closer to each other in your marriage, there is a ministry called Prodigalchildministries.org. We encourage you to contact them to see if they can help you. They have a lot of resources and recommended resources you could tap into and use.
As a matter of fact, below you will find links to two web site testimonies you can read. Each of them explains a bit more about this issue of prodigals affecting marriages:
Also, to help you pray for your prodigal child, we HIGHLY recommend the following book. We are currently using it ourselves to help us pray for our prodigal and it is a tremendous help:
A Prodigal Spouse?
If your spouse is wayward, we have a topic on this web site titled, “Unbelieving Spouse,” which could be helpful. It may be that your spouse is/was a Christian (or you thought) at one time. But now you’re doubtful. Or perhaps your spouse never trusted in Jesus Christ. Whatever it may be, it’s as if you are living with an unbelieving spouse. That’s why we encourage you to read through that topic.
To help you further, below some additional linked articles to read:
First, have you been tempted, “to engage your spouse in a no holds barred debate, in the hopes that through your passionate arguments, they will come to a knowledge of the truth and at long last see the light? The following article addresses this issue:
And then, here are two articles to read while you’re on a waiting room journey on behalf of your spouse:
Or perhaps you were a prodigal spouse. Here’s an article that could help you:
Here’s one more important point: Even if your spouse is not acting in ways, he or she should, it does not justify your acting in ungodly ways. Your spouse will someday have to give an account of what he or she did wrong. Please don’t add to your own accounting by treating him or her in ways, which are not Christ-like. It’s important to note that throughout the Bible people (like Adam and others) tried to blame their wrong behavior on others. But God didn’t buy it. No matter what others say, wrong is still wrong.
Friends who are prodigals affecting marriages:
Sometimes friends who are prodigals are affecting other’s marriages. We see this a lot! Whatever you do, please don’t let your friends drag your marriage into conflict with your marriage partner. When you made your vows with your spouse, you acknowledged and then promised that you “are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). Even long-term friendships sometimes need to be sacrificed for the good of the marriage. It’s painful, (we’ve been there) but necessary.
We have a few articles, which may help you work this through in your thinking and your actions. Both are posted in the “Assorted Marriage” topic. They are titled, Friendships: How They Influence a Marriage; and the other is titled, Questions: Guiding Opposite Sex Friendships in Marriage.
Parents Who are Prodigals Affecting Marriages
For those of you who have prodigal parents, which are threatening the peace of your marriage (or Christian parents who may mean well, but are not acting in biblical ways to be supportive of your marriage), please go to the Dealing with In Laws and Parents topic. Read, glean through the info, and use what you find to be helpful.
Again, you may have to make some tough decisions for the sake of your marital union if they are being invasive in how they act with you and your spouse. We believe these articles could help you as you read prayerfully read them and ask God what tips you should apply to your marriage.
Lastly, concerning Prodigals Affecting Marriage:
This particular advice comes from the book, Parents in Pain, written by Dr John White. It deals with parenting issues. Yet, the following can be used in praying for any prodigal (including a wayward spouse).
We divided the advice into bullet points for your praying convenience.
With prodigals affecting marriage, what can we ask for in prayer?
- We may ask with every confidence that God will open the eyes of the morally and spiritually blind.
- We may ask that the self-deceptions, which sinners hide behind may be burned away in the fierce light of truth,
- Additionally, we may ask that dark caverns are rent asunder to let the sunlight pour in.
- Ask that self-disguises are stripped from them to reveal the horror of their nakedness in the holy light of God.
- We may ask that the glory of Christ shines through the spiritual blindness caused by the god of this world. (See: 2 Corinthians 4:4.)
All of this we can ask with every assurance that God will not only hear but will delight to answer.
However, we may not ask Him to MAKE a man, woman, or child to love and trust Him.
- To deliver them from overwhelming temptation: yes, we can ask.
- We can also ask God to give them every opportunity.
- To reveal His beauty, His tenderness, His forgiveness: yes, we can ask.
- But to force a man against his will to bow the knee: not in this life!
- And to force a man to trust Him: never!
Said another way, the Lord will not save a person against his will. He has a thousand ways of making him more willing. Our prayers unleash the power of God in the life of another individual. When we enter into intercessory prayer for our loved ones, we have been granted a privilege. We are able to hold their names and faces before the Father. In return, He makes the all-important choices crystal clear to that individual and brings positive influences into his or her life to maximize the probability of doing what is right. Beyond that, He will not go.
We hope and pray this helps in some way. There’s no doubt that there are many prodigals affecting marriages! Please fight against allowing the enemy of our faith to tempt you into allowing a prodigal to affect yours (to the best of your ability).
Our Prayer for You:
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 15:5-6)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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