(Note – this post is not written for those with severe issues in their marriages. Please see note at the bottom of the post.)
Marriage was designed and instituted by God to represent the very profound mystery of the relationship between Christ and His beloved church.
The roles of husband and wife are not interchangeable!! The Church does not provide for Christ. The Church is not stronger than Christ. Christ doesn’t submit to the will of the Church. Of course, He submitted to the will of His Father in dying for her, and what He does is always out of love and for her best interest even if He must sacrifice Himself. The Church does not have authority over Christ to tell Him what to do. But she can entreat Him for help and mercy. She can ask for what she needs, knowing He has all the wealth of the universe at His disposal to assist Her in accomplishing His will. He is the Prince and She is His Princess – and He will share His royalty and paradise with Her!
LIVING OUT THE MYSTERY IN REAL LIFE
The mystery of Christ and the Church does fall short in human marriage. Marriage is HARD!!!!!! And PAINFUL!!!!! Sin hurts all of us- our own sin and our spouse’s sin. Marriage, after all, has two sinful human partners. Husbands are not infallible like Christ is. Husbands make mistakes. Husbands have shortcomings and sin natures. Husbands lose their temper wrongly or can be selfish, unloving, dishonest, hateful or even cruel at times. And wives definitely can be hateful, bitter, unforgiving, unloving, vengeful, disrespectful, and cause a world of pain and hurt, too.
Right now, though, let’s focus on those inevitable times when our husbands sin against us and hurt us, when they lash out at us, and purposely or accidentally hurt us… when things go wrong (which they WILL!), what are we as Christian wives to do?
I’d love to hear your feedback- what you have learned over the years, and, with your permission, I would love to share your insights and wisdom with the group.
THE CHURCH AND CHRIST
If there were somehow a problem between the Church and Christ, how should she approach Him? With screaming, tantrums, pouting, name-calling, guilt, nagging, accusations, bitterness, pride, arrogance and a holier-than-thou attitude? That would be extremely inappropriate considering Who Jesus is as well as the royal position of the Church in relation to Christ and all He has done for her. She has much more dignity and self-respect than that. She has her faith in Christ and also in God. She doesn’t need to resort to infantile methods to get her Husband’s attention. She may boldly approach Him for help and mercy in Her time of need. But she always approaches with great reverence, knowing how powerful He is and Who He is. She has a meek, humble attitude. She has poise, dignity, grace and self-control. She seeks His best and has a disposition to be agreeable to His will and to say yes to His desires.
WHY RESPECT MY HUSBAND WHEN HE SINNED AGAINST ME?
Even if a husband sins against his wife, he is designed to respond to respect. His sinfulness does not negate God’s command to the wife to respect him.
In fact, when a man is disobeying God, it is his wife’s very respect – and peaceful and gentle spirit that does not give way to fear – that will draw him back to God and help him see the enormity of his mistake and his accountability for her well being.
Any HINT of disrespect will generally push a husband put up his protective wall to keep his wife out of his heart – or will tempt him to lash out against her in more anger. If she lashes out and sins in her pain, she will alienate him further- not entice him to return and to reconcile. And if she sins against him in retaliation, she will give him plenty of ammo to hold against her and then he’ll be thinking about what she did wrong, NOT what he did wrong.
Her gentle, peaceful, respectful way of confronting him to say he hurt her will cause him to only see his own wrongdoing and to have his own hateful words ringing in his ears and will make him want to scoop her up and protect her and make things right. I implore all of us – when dealing with a husband who is hurting us – tread carefully here!
Yes, he has wronged me (the Bible promises us that all people sin and stumble in MANY ways- there are no perfect people here!), but if I retaliate or handle this situation wrongly, I will create a much wider chasm than he did.
Gary Thomas in “Sacred Influence” says that the time I am most tempted to sin is when I am sinned against- HOW TRUE! God’s goal is unity. I am called to speak the truth in love to my husband. I do need to RESPECTFULLY and BRIEFLY bring up wrongs when I am sinned against directly to the one who hurt me, but with the goal of reconciliation in my marriage and between and my husband and God. This frame of mind can help us be respectful, peace-loving, patient, gentle and keep what is best for our husband in mind if we do need to bring up an attitude or action or words of his that were hurtful. (“A gentle word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” Proverbs 15:1)
WE MUST HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT’S POWER AND WISDOM
I pray that we might each prayerfully go to God first when there is a problem. I pray that we might reverently approach His throne and appeal for His aid, respecting the authority our husbands have over us, even if it is being misused or we are being wronged. Our husbands have authority over us, like a military commander has authority over those who are under him. The authority remains in place even if the commander is wrong. The person over him will determine his punishment if he is found to have mismanaged or abused those he oversees. We can still show respect for the position of our husband in the marriage even when our husband doesn’t lead well and even when he makes mistakes. A husband who sees that his wife still respects him and has faith in him as a man is powerfully motivated to do better.
I would encourage us to approach our husbands only after a great deal of prayer, maybe even fasting (depending on the nature and severity of the situation) and with a great deal of humility, knowing we could fall just as easily and that we are in need of forgiveness by God and by our husbands daily ourselves. We are not “better than” our men. Sometimes it can feel like we are when we only look at our husbands’ weaknesses and compare our strengths to their weaknesses and ignore their strengths and our weaknesses, but that prideful attitude will only keep our husbands far away and will kill any opportunity for intimacy with them. Spend some time writing down your husband’s strengths and your own weaknesses before confronting him. Thank God daily for your husbands strengths and pray to God daily for help with your own pridefulness and sinfulness.
I would encourage all of us to approach our husbands calmly, and to approach them with only this one recent event (not a litany of the past 20 years of their faults- they will give up and not even try if it looks impossible to please us) and a very concise statement of how we are hurting. I believe most husbands are much more receptive and responsive to our pain than they are to our anger. Anger will often scare a husband away. Pain will draw him near- especially if he sees he can do something to help make the pain go away and bring back his wife’s beautiful smile. And a woman who can gently, lovingly, firmly tell her man- “I know you are better than that.” “I know you are a good man, and you don’t want to do X.” “I know you want to honor Christ with your life.” – will get serious results that would never come through anger and screaming and throwing things.
A few things to check first before deciding to talk with him about things:
– Be sure that it isn’t hormones that are really having you feeling angry!!!! Maybe even wait a few days if it’s around that time to be sure, if you can. They can be SO sneaky! Sometimes the more urgent you believe a matter is, the more likely it is hormones that are driving your train at that moment!
– Be sure you are taking care of yourself! Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you sick? Are you irritable? Are you in pain? Are you overwhelmed and overworked? Being exhausted and spiritually/emotionally/physically spent can make every situation look a lot worse than it probably is. Take care of yourself first and then you will be in a much healthier frame of mind to consider what the real problem is. Be sure you have been having your quiet time with God and that you are caught up with repenting for any sins that you need to confess to God!! This alone takes care of a lot of issues!
– Be sure you aren’t expecting something unrealistic from your man. He isn’t God. He isn’t your best girlfriend. He can’t meet all your spiritual and emotional needs. Maybe you need lunch with a girl friend. Maybe you need more time with God. Is what you are upset about actually something that is realistic to expect from a husband?
– Have you done something disrespectful that upset him? What is there that you might possibly need to apologize for? It is so much easier to feel the pain others cause to us than it is to notice the pain we cause others. Be as open as possible to the idea that his hurtful actions may actually be a reaction to something you said or did that hurt him and made him feel disrespected.
– Is this really a big deal? Really? If it is small – it may not be worth mentioning. Love covers over a multitude of sin. (I Peter) If it is just that he left a wet towel on the bed again – does that really require a confrontation? Now if he insulted you or made a hateful remark or is putting your life in jeopardy – then you have something you need to deal with.
SOME BASIC SUGGESTIONS
We can calmly (although tears of pain/sadness don’t have to be repressed), quietly, respectfully say things like, “I am upset.” “That hurt me very much.” “I am scared.” “I am hurting.” “I feel sad and angry.” “When you said X, it hurt my feelings.” “Did I just come across disrespectfully? Because that felt unloving just now.” (Dr Eggerich’s favorite line from “Love and Respect.”) If right at that moment, our husbands say something hurtful, we can say, “Ouch” like Laura Doyle suggests and leave the room and let him think about “how he hurt the woman he loves most in all the world” and leave him with his own hurtful words ringing in his ears, with no ammunition from you being fired back at him. And we can briefly (probably about only 1-5% of all the things you have thought about saying!!!) tell our husbands that we are hurt and how we are hurt. But we must be SO CAREFUL not to BLAME them. We can say what we feel without blaming, judging, condemning, criticizing, yelling, screaming and character assassinating! Truly. We can with God’s help!
BRIEF IS MORE POWERFUL WITH MEN!
And I would suggest that this process of telling him that you are hurt should probably not be more than a few minutes in most cases. (A few minutes being 2-3 minutes should probably be plenty of time to cover it! Maybe even just a few sentences.) He is going to check out if this discussion goes on for 20 minutes or 2 hours. That is overload for him. He may need to think about things for a day. It takes men at least 8 more hours to process highly emotionally charged information than it does for women (His Brain, Her Brain). Let him mull over what you say without trying to force him to apologize immediately.
I would suggest not taking the bait if he throws it back at you, “Well, YOU, have done X, Y, Z wrong!!!” If you have done something wrong, it would certainly be wise to apologize ONE TIME, sincerely and without explanation. “I apologize for being disrespectful to you. I don’t want to do that. I’m sorry.” And leave it there. No “but you should have…” or “it’s just that you did X” No explanations or excuses. Just a simple single apology. That will speak volumes. And we need to apologize to God and forgive ourselves. If you really haven’t done something wrong, then just don’t answer the accusations and maybe wait quietly for him to think about what you have said to him.
AFTER THE APOLOGY
If he is able to apologize and come towards you to hug you, GREAT!!! Reconciliation is occurring! If at all possible, forgive him right then and then if you need him to do something to make things right, you can calmly, quietly let him know about that. And then the situation needs to be dropped. Like – forever.
If not, he may need some time- I am talking hours or days possibly, to think about what you said.
It might be that moving away and giving him space for awhile is a good idea- not for us to pout, but for him to have time to process. Men aren’t nearly as verbal as we are and a lot of words and emotions can be overwhelming and takes a long time to digest. Really! And the more emotional words you use, the longer it will take for him to process. Later, if he hasn’t apologized, and he tries to act like things are fine, you can say, “I am still upset.” And that is all you really need to say. (Bob Grant’s ideas).
But then, I would also suggest following Jesus’ ideas about blessing those who curse you, bless and do not curse them. Be kind to those who insult you. Repay evil with good. Pray about how you might bless your husband. I know God will give you some very creative ideas! When he sees you bless him after he knows he was wrong towards you, he will have a huge crushing load of guilt to deal with. And he will be in a much better frame of mind to see your pain and to hear God’s voice and repent.
This is certainly not an exhaustive work on handling conflict with our husbands. And I am not infallible. PLEASE always weigh everything I say or that any person says against Scripture with guidance from the Holy Spirit!!!!! But I hope to give some healthy ways and maybe fresh ideas to handle difficult situations that might bring about reconciliation a lot faster and that might bring unity to our marriages and glory to God! If you are dealing with a really serious problem: infidelity, abuse, drug addiction- please seek help from our pastors at church and the resources we have available! Seek godly counsel.
I pray that we might all become more and more like Christ, more holy, set apart to accomplish His purposes in our lives, in our marriages and families. I pray that we might be open to His Word and that He might make us the godly women He desires us to be!
With love and great anticipation of all that God is going to do in each of our marriages!
Jesus commands us to forgive those who sin against us so that God will forgive us. Here is a video of me speaking about this REALLY important topic! (10 minute video)
“The Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas
“The Excellent Wife” by Margaret Peace – has MANY biblical and practical examples of handling conflict in marriage.
IF YOU ARE DEALING WITH ABUSE OR SERIOUS ISSUES:
Please seek safety for yourself and your children and appropriate help ASAP from church leaders, qualified counselors, the police, and legal assistance if necessary.
http://www.thehotline.org – The National Domestic Violence Hotline
If you have serious issues in your marriage – unrepentant adultery, uncontrolled mental illness, drug/alcohol/gambling addictions/sex addictions, please seek qualified, appropriate, experienced, godly counsel one-on-one with someone you trust.