Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Sophia says: For the past 18 months I have gone to training three nights a week in order that I can get a job and help with the finances. I have now been offered a position that will give me an opportunity to assist with our finances, which frequently fall short of paying our bills. I very much would like to participate in the family fiscal planning. At this time, I do not have a say in how our money is being spent, and any money I need to purchase food or items for myself or the children, I must go to my husband, Kevin, like a beggar with my hand out.

I rarely go out, but at times I would like to have lunch or dinner with friends, but Kevin says we cannot afford such extravagances. In the five years since we were married, I have begun to feel more and more alone and have lost contact with many of my high school friends. I know that Kevin loves me and I love Kevin. I am not a flirt nor do I desire to get involved with anyone else.

He says:

Kevin says: I manage the finances in our family because our budget is very tight and we must be careful not to overspend. I provide a weekly allowance to Sophia for our household necessities which should be sufficient for our needs. For any worthwhile “extras,” Sophia only needs to request from me. I disapprove of this recent job opportunity offered to Sophia, and I believe that she should stay home with our two children. Sophia is very nice-looking and somewhat naïve, which could easily attract people that could cut into our relationship. I need to limit her outside social activity to protect our family and avoid any problems.

What do they do?

Clearly, this situation involves control and financial limits that are domestically abusive. While no physical abuse is present, Kevin may not realize it but he is being psychologically and financially abusive to Sophia. He has been aware of her efforts to complete a certification for a job for a year and a half, yet he is now trying to prevent the employment this certification could provide.

Kevin also does not allow Sophia to be informed nor to give input into how their money is spent. Kevin appears to be jealous and insecure by the possibility of Sophia showing interest in someone else, and his limiting of her time spent with friends outside of the house is evidence of this.

Sophia and Kevin need to take a step back and get some counseling with regard to their relationship. Seeking marriage counseling together is preferable, but if Kevin refuses, Sophia should see a counselor on her own.

Kevin also would benefit from participation in a group that educates men with regard to their role in domestic abuse, to enable him to understand his contribution to the abuse Sophia is suffering. This is not an easy road to travel because, often when domestic abuse is present, there are usually deep roots in childhood that produce such behavior. It is not a problem that can be immediately solved because it takes recognition of the abuse, and then time spent learning how to modify behaviors.

Marriage is difficult in today’s times and culture. Successful Christian marriage is almost impossible without the presence of Jesus Christ in your relationship. Together, as husband and wife, Sophia and Kevin need to call upon the Lord to help them to heal their marriage. “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt. 21:22).

If Kevin becomes obstinate and inflexible with regard to changes and counseling, Sophia will need to make a serious decision about whether or not she will take that job, and perhaps, a separation from Kevin until he realizes the consequences of his abusive inclinations.

This too is a difficult decision but can be a wakeup call to Kevin … just the thing to get him to really think about their relationship and how important it is to him.