Should my spouse and I help our adult son deal with his financial struggles? This is becoming a serious disagreement in our marriage. He's moved out of the house, but he simply isn't making it. I'm really worried about him. When I suggest that we offer him some monetary support, my spouse calls me a "softy" and says that he needs to learn a few lessons in the school of hard knocks. What do you think we should do?
Before doing anything else you need to work through your marital issues. It's pointless to talk about the difficulties you're facing with your adult child until you've first addressed the foundational problem in your marriage. Your son's welfare is important, but it's even more crucial that the two of you find some way to achieve a meeting of the minds.
We suggest you begin by sitting down and talking about this situation openly, honestly and methodically. But don't do it when you're hot under the collar. Instead, arrange a time to discuss your differences rationally – perhaps over coffee or after dinner at a nice restaurant. Approach the situation as equal partners and work out a plan that's acceptable to both of you.
It's worth mentioning here that some of the difficulty you're experiencing may be due to male-female differences. Men tend to use language to transmit information, report facts, fix problems, clarify status, and establish control. Women are more inclined to view language as a means to greater intimacy, stronger or richer relationships, and fostering cooperation rather than competition. In other words, when it comes to communication between the sexes, it's often a matter of "debate vs. relate." So keep these differences in mind as you tackle this issue together.
We're also aware that many Bible-believing Christians would solve a problem like yours by leaving the decision entirely with the husband. We respect their point of view, but we also beg to differ. Ephesians 5:22-30 doesn't give a man free rein to dominate his wife in an authoritarian manner. Instead, he's supposed to act as a wise "team captain," recognizing his wife's strengths and using them for the benefit of the entire family. That's why it's so important that you try to forge a partnership in dealing with this situation.
As part of this process it's crucial to take time to pray together. Most disagreements turn on 1) a missing piece of information, 2) a timing issue, or 3) both. There's probably no "right" or "wrong" answer to the question before you, so we'd urge you to take as much time as you need to seek God's mind on the matter. Discuss, dialogue, and wait on the Lord in an attitude of humility and expectancy. Our God is a God of order, not of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He has promised His help and guidance to those who seek Him diligently and with all their heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
Meanwhile, you might want to consider enlisting the assistance of some objective third party. Is there anyone you know who might be able to come alongside your son and speak God's truth and wisdom into his life? A family friend, perhaps, or a relative, or a pastor or member of your church? An older male acting in the role of a mentor – a man your son trusts and whom he doesn't perceive as a threat – could be of great help to you in this regard. It's important to respect and maintain appropriate boundaries in relationships with adult children, and this could be a good way of maintaining a healthy measure of distance and perspective.
If you'd like to discuss these suggestions at greater length with a member of our staff, please feel free to give our Counseling department a call.