Martyrdom in marriage


I have a dear friend whose husband has been more and more difficult in recent months. (And yes, this is really a story about a friend, not me! I’m single!) :slight_smile: I thought I would post here, first of all to ask for prayers, but also to get some perspective from fellow faithful Catholics.

My friend “Anna” has a deep faith that has been sustaining her through all this, but she doesn’t really know what to do. Her husband “Will” seems to show more and more signs of narcissistic personality disorder: selfishness, arrogance, lack of empathy, unwillingness (inability?) to see someone else’s viewpoint, resistance to change, strong defensiveness, and behavior that amounts to bullying. He has refused to seek counseling, with or without Anna. He has a son he favors above his daughters, and can’t see how hurtful this is. He blows hot and cold and no one knows what to expect from him, except that it won’t be consideration for them or their feelings. He goes his own way, doing as he pleases, joining the family for dinner if he feels like it, complaining that he “can’t eat this” and going out to get other food if the whim takes him. He spends hours and hours on the Internet, apparently unaware of anything going on around him. Though Catholic, he never attends Mass with his family and in fact rarely attends at all anymore.

He has always had a few of these traits but in recent years his behavior has gotten worse, and especially in the last several months as Anna has put her foot down and stood up to Will, his behavior has escalated. The latest incidents involve Will invading Anna’s privacy, searching her handbag and destroying her credit card. I suggested strongly that she think about getting her own bank account, checkbook, and credit card, and keep everything with her at all times.

But I don’t know what Will might be capable of next. And it really does seem that only a miracle from God would be able to turn him around. I honor Anna more than I can say for her rock-solid determination to keep to her wedding vows and not consider divorce - but where does this leave her? “In sickness and in health,” for sure - I really believe God seems to be asking her to live a slow martyrdom with this man. And I keep praying for a miracle of healing and conversion for Will, and patience, love, and wisdom for Anna and their children as they deal with him.

Does anyone have any experience that might speak to this? What can Anna do to make things easier for herself and the kids? I should mention, she has repeatedly confronted Will in love - both by talking and by writing letters - and it has only apparently made things worse. He does not and will not listen or understand. She is the farthest from a nagging wife you could imagine; in fact, her strongly adaptive, easygoing nature is what seems to have allowed their marriage to work for so many years - until Will took a turn for the worse, for no apparent reason. I could almost believe it’s Satan at work here, it’s all so inexplicable and bewildering. Anna has been to counseling on her own, but of course that can only take her so far without some kind of response from her husband. Things have reached the point where they basically don’t speak to each other anymore except for the most mundane things - Anna has learned to separate herself from Will in as many ways as possible, just to preserve her own sanity.

Many thanks if you’re still reading! I didn’t mean to go on so long, but I really wanted to make the situation clear. Anna is the first to admit there are two sides to any story in a marriage, but at least on her part, she has tried over and over to get Will to engage with her, to work things out - and she is stonewalled every time. What can she do, other than pray and wait?


It’s fine and very honorable that your friend doesn’t even want to think of divorce. However, for her own protection and the safety of her children, she would be very wise to consider separation. Depending on their finances, that may be really hard, because it sure doesn’t sound like she could kick him out and keep the house herself. She may need to find a way to get a place of her own for herself and the kids.

The Church is just fine with separation when you’re talking about health and safety!


Seperation does sound like the best option for her. She may even realize she is actually more comfortable and happy without him once she has had some distance for a while. Sometimes it’s diffiicult to sort these situations when you’re already trying to deal with the complications of co-habitating with someone all the time.


Thanks, EvelynEVF and apromisemade. I’ve mentioned separation to Anna and she sees it as being too disruptive to the kids. But it may come to that yet.

She’s not afraid for their safety - yet. Will can be bullying, and actually pushed her once during an argument, but that was the point at which she put her foot down with him (said he would have to own that behavior and apologize for it, which he didn’t do). Since then Anna’s decision to withdraw from all but mundane interaction seems to have headed off any physical aggression. She did tell me last night she thinks he’s reaching a breaking point, but neither of us knows what that might mean. I hope it doesn’t mean more aggression.

Anna does have family nearby, though none of them know the full situation - I’m the only one she has confided in.


Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I will pray for Anna - that the Holy Spirit will guide her through this and that she will be strong - strong in her faith, gentle, but not a pushover.

At times, my husband has gone through selfish phases like this where he wouldn’t attend church and refused to pray. He was also depressed and cynical about life. I believe that Our Lady’s intercession helped him through whatever interior problems he had. He now attends church again and is a more loving husband and father - praise God!

Prayer and fasting can and do work miracles…

Peace and Blessings,


You know, I stayed in my awful marriage until I almost went crazy, because I didn’t want the upheaval for my kids. When I left, they would have been thrilled never to see him again. We had to find our equilibrium in a new place. but they were so relieved not to be walking on eggshells all day, that they didn’t mind a bit.


Thanks, Terrysa. I’ve definitely neglected the fasting part - something I need to add to my prayers!

I’ll pass on everyone’s remarks to Anna. I really appreciate your prayers and thoughts, and I know she will too.


Your friend would be wise to set up conseling for herself, she can call her priest and sit down and talk to him.


That’s a really good point.

She needs to tell the priest everything, and maybe a couple other trusted friends, because she’s probably been doing such a great job of handling this that most people have no idea what is going on. They might be shocked and unsupportive if she makes any big changes, because they’ve been in the dark.


As mentioned before, she might need to talk to a priest, and then tell her to seriously consider her own safety. Marriage is important, but so is her personal health!


It’s one thing to be a martyr for something that is just and good, but it is a total waste to be a martyr for someone else’s selfishness and bad temper. I definitely would encourage her to talk to her priest and be very candid about what is going on. Yes, it is a hassle to separate from such a situation and it turns everyone’s life upside down. Once the dust settles though, it becomes very obvious that it was so worth it. I hope she realizes that it is the right thing to do for her children.

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