Marriage was designed and instituted by God. 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!
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. Husbands lose their temper wrongly or can be selfish or unloving or hateful or even cruel at times. And wives definitely can be hateful, bitter, disrespectful, and cause pain and hurt, too- but right now, 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. (If you are being physically abused, or have a husband who is an active addict, mentally
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, a holier-than-thou attitude? That would be extremely inappropriate considering the 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 reverences Him, knowing how powerful He is and Who He is. She has a meek, humble attitude. She has poise and self-control. She seeks His best and has a disposition to be agreeable to His will and to say yes to His desires.
Even if a husband sins against his wife, he is designed to respond to respect as she confronts him about it. (Matthew 18 is how we are to respond when we are wronged). His sinfulness does not negate God’s command to his wife to show him respect. In fact, when a man is disobeying God, it is her very respect and quiet 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 often make him put up his protective wall to keep his wife out of his heart. If she lashes out with anger in her pain, she may 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 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)
** If you are in an abusive relationship, or your husband is actively involved in an addiction/alcoholism/infidelity or you are in danger – PLEASE get godly, experienced help immediately! Those issues go way beyond the scope of this post.**
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 God-given authority over us, like a military commander has authority over those who are under him. There are many kinds of God-given authority – the government, bosses, parents, church leaders and husbands. We can still show respect for the position of husband in the marriage even when our husband doesn’t lead well and even when he makes mistakes. A husband who sees his wife still respects what is good in him and has faith in him as a man and sees the man he wants to be 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. We are all equally wretched sinners in desperate need of Jesus. 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.”- will likely get better results than screaming, name-calling and throwing things.
A few things to check first before deciding to talk with him about things (I am not talking here about serious sins against you – if your husband has deeply wounded you, please talk to a Christian counselor, a godly older wife mentor or consider pastoral counseling):
– 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.
– 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? 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 was rude- then you have something you need to deal with.
We can calmly, sadly and 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. 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. 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 7 more hours to process highly emotionally charged information than it does for women. 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 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! 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. 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!
We are responsible on our end to treat others with love and respect. But the ultimate goal is not to please people or have their approval, but to please Christ and have His approval.
I also talk often about that we are each responsible not to respond in sin to others, but we are responsible to respond in the power of the Holy Spirit and His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). God never gives us a “free pass” to sin even if we truly are being sinned against. We are responsible to love all other people with the love of Christ:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
But we are not responsible for the way others respond. Sometimes people may feel upset or feel unloved or disrespected, when we are actually truly loving them in a God-honoring way. We are only responsible for ourselves, our emotions, our sin, our obedience to God, loving God with all our hearts, and loving others in His power. This will require wisdom and discernment from God’s Spirit as we seek to live in obedience to God for ourselves.
For anyone who wants to read more about this issue, please search my home page for these posts:
Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Happiness?
Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Relationships
I Am Responsible for Myself Spiritually
I Am Responsible for My Emotions
Where Do Hatred, Rage, and Violence Fit into Our Lives?
Some other good key words to search:
– needy and clingy