Help! My husband is spineless

You might be able to find a family therapist who might be of some help.

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Our two children do not respect my husband and both abuse drugs to spite him. I think he is spineless and indecisive. What should I do?

Some years ago, we saw a young man who was brought to us by the police after he and his father had been involved in an altercation that had led to serious injury. The mother told the story of the happenings of that day without emotion, just as a passerby might describe an accident scene. It was impossible to detect any sign of emotion in her.

One day (she told us), on his way from choir practice, the father had found the young man smoking cannabis on a street corner, with his friends. The group included a girl from next door, whose parents did not go to church and who were known to drink alcohol in excess. They also went out dancing on Saturday nights and sometimes fought! These were the families that had come to mess up their estate.

In front of his friends and clearly filled with the Holy Spirit, the father had admonished the young man telling him how he would end up in hell, but worse still how hot hell was on a cold day. He spoke as one who had been to hell and was an eyewitness to the suffering one might encounter there. Nobody had seen such fury in the little man he called father.

Under the influence of the cannabis but fueled by the embarrassment of being told off in front of his friends, the young man had hit out hard at his father. Two quick blows to either side of his head and he came tumbling down with a loud thud. It was the head injury that he sustained when he fell to the hard ground, rather than what the young man called “gentle slaps” that did the damage. He had bled into the brain and the neurosurgeon evacuated a large blood clot from the outer lining of his rather age-shrunken brain. He recovered fully on the surface, but his fear of his son, and indeed of any group of young people became worse. He was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Like your husband, the father was always a soft-spoken man of few words, who often needed a few beers before he could make his view known on any subject. The shrill voice he spoke in, just made a bad situation worse. On the fateful day, the admitting nurse had recorded “smelling of alcohol”. A son and father had collided under the influence of different substances.

In family therapy a few weeks after the compulsory admission of the young man, all was laid bare, and we were able to help the family navigate a very difficult time in their life. All were surprised at how little each knew the other. It was like they were meeting as a family for the first time.

The father had grown up in a rural village under the care of a grandmother who brewed chang’aa and who sometimes entertained her male clients at home at night. Fellow schoolboys knew their life situation, and often made it known that he had a grandmother who was cruel and who drank and slept with strange men. He was, all his life been teased and was called the son of a drunk grandmother. To escape this torment, he had learnt to make himself invisible in society, and the best place he found to hide was inside the church where he had served as an altar boy all his life.

The family is still a work in progress and although not perfect, the dynamics within the family are much improved because each understands the other better. You might be able to find a family therapist who might be of some help.

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