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What Is Disrespect in Marriage?

UPDATED 6/24/2016

I am going to share about things that cause men to feel disrespected by their wives. (Many of these things would feel very disrespectful to wives, as well.) Every man has his own list of what feels disrespectful and respectful to him.  Some things are almost universally one way or the other to almost all men.  Some things are particular to your husband.  So – what matters most is what is respectful and disrespectful to YOUR man. That’s why it is important to ask him about his preferences and what bothers him and what speaks respect to him.  When things are not tense – you could ask him about some of the things on this list and get his take on the different items.  I wouldn’t ask him about all of them at once – but maybe ask about a few at a time every few days or so and REALLY pay attention to his answers.  Maybe print this out and check the ones that bother him so that you don’t forget.  You’ll need to custom-tailor your respect to your husband for best results!

Keep in mind, too, that a lot of the things that really feel disrespectful to our men are things God labels as sin. Sin is destructive, even if we think it is a “small thing.” Ultimately, the greatest goal is to please Christ and to bless our husbands. We have so much power to destroy our husbands or to build them up.  How I pray God will convict us and open our eyes and that we might learn to be respectful, cooperative wives who value our husbands’ leadership and who honor Christ with every thought, attitude, word and action!

Some of these things will seem like small things because we have been desensitized to disrespect in our culture. Disrespect for men is mainstream now. But just because this is how all of the other women at work or even at church act – that doesn’t mean that is how God desires us to act. The way I treat others is about my character and whether God’s Spirit is in charge of my heart and life or my flesh is in charge. And honestly, most of the things on this list of sin in one way or another – either with our attitudes, motives, words, or actions. As believers in Christ, we are called to live in holiness – not for our spouses, but to please God. And He gives us the power we need to live in victory over sin and in obedience to Him in Christ.

NOTE – I am not writing this post for wives whose husbands have severe issues like major uncontrolled mental health problems, is involved in an active addiction, is truly abusive to you or your children, or is involved in unrepentant infidelity. If you have really serious issues in your marriage, please seek godly, one-on-one, appropriate counsel from someone you can trust.

A GENERAL LIST OF THINGS THAT TEND TO FEEL DISRESPECTFUL TO HUSBANDS/MEN:

– constantly questioning him
– having a critical/judgmental spirit toward him about many things
– acting like he can’t handle his life and responsibilities
– treating him like a child
– using an “angry mama” tone of voice
– scolding him
– frowning a lot
– lots of negative emotions almost all the time
– making demands
– giving directives (bossing him around) rather than polite requests or suggestions “You should,” “You better,” “You need to…”
– freaking out rather than trusting God and trusting him (whenever possible – men tend to respond much better to our trust than to our worry or fear)
unhealthy boundaries where we try to be responsible for things for which they are actually responsible (their spiritual choices, their emotions, their decisions) or we try to make them responsible for things for which we are actually responsible
– humiliating him, especially in front of other people
– being very negative about him in private, but especially in public
– biting sarcasm that is meant to cut him down
– using our words to destroy
– bringing up things from the past that were supposedly forgiven
– keeping a record of every wrong thing he has ever done or said
– attempting to be his conscience or his Holy Spirit
– telling other people negative things about him (If we really have a problem, we should go to God first and then to our husbands. If they are involved in serious unrepentant sin, we may have to involve a trusted counselor, mentor, or pastor. But this stuff doesn’t generally need to be shared with our coworkers, family, friends, church members, neighbors, or Facebook friends.)
complaining
– arguing rather than respectfully discussing
– forcing a very important conversation when he is not ready yet and still needs a bit of time (minutes, hours, maybe days) to process his thoughts or strong emotions
– leaving the room in anger
– criticizing him to the kids
– rolling my eyes
– sighing in exasperation
– undermining his authority to the children
– jumping in to help him when he didn’t ask for help
– giving unsolicited advice
– pride/self-righteousness – looking down on him, thinking I am so much more spiritual than he is
– labeling his sin/temptations as much worse than my sin/temptations
– bitterness
– insulting him
– playing the martyr
– trying to put him on a guilt trip
– manipulation
– refusing to believe him when he is actually trustworthy
– making plans without checking with him (especially big plans)
– spending a lot more money than you had both agreed to, blowing the budget, being irresponsible with money
– not appreciating his contributions to the marriage and family
– demanding sex when they are sick, hurt, exhausted, or feeling extremely disrespected
– withholding sex as punishment
– doing nothing to show respect for our own appearance
– acting like things that are important to him are not a big deal
– taking over and making decisions without giving him a voice
– sharing nothing ourselves and giving up all of our thoughts, opinions, insights, and wisdom – giving up our personhood and expecting him to handle absolutely everything as if he is the dad instead of the husband
idolatry of him, the marriage, happiness, or romance
– expecting him to fail
– expecting him to be perfect and to meet the deepest needs of our soul that only Jesus can meet

REALLY SERIOUS DISRESPECT:

– screaming
– cussing
– throwing things/destroying property
– threatening physical harm
– actually trying to physically harm him
– purposely alienating his children from him
– lying (especially about really big things)
– flirting, infidelity
– total refusal to cooperate with him
– initiating a divorce (unless I have biblical reasons)
– very public extreme humiliation
– comparing him to other men sexually
– insulting his abilities sexually/his manhood
– insulting his abilities to provide financially

RELATED:

What Is Respect in Marriage?
My Husband Shares What Really Speaks Respect to Him
25 Ways to Respect Myself
25 Ways to Show Real Respect to Your Husband
Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin
Abuse
Signs Your Husband May Be Feeling Disrespected and Unloved
23 Signs Your Husband Is Beginning to Trust You Again

If you have a really difficult husband, please check out Nina Roesner’s Strength and Dignity eCourse.

71 thoughts on “What Is Disrespect in Marriage?

  1. Anna and Ronfurg,

    I think this list is phenomenal. I know it will help a lot of wives understand disrespect and respect much more clearly.

    Thank you to the husbands for your willingness to help the ladies out here!

  2. Marie,

    Yes – I pray for you daily, and I see God doing HUGE things in your soul. I see Him creating that gentle, peaceful spirit that does not give way to fear. I know it is tough to stay still for the chisel and hammer that God uses to shape us – but it is so worth it! Hang in there and cling to Christ, my dear friend. As you are able to eliminate all the disrespect – and begin to figure out how to show respect instead – God has so many miracles in store for you!

  3. Emily,

    You are SO right! That was my problem for 15.5 years in our marriage – I didn’t know! It’s hard to fix something you don’t know is a problem.

    Thanks!

  4. Mr. E,

    I LOVE your list! I wonder if you might allow me to include it in a post anonymously. I want to be sure all the wives see it. This is very good stuff. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights! I think this will help wives be better able to understand how they come across sometimes to their men. Well done!

  5. Jenny,
    My view is to mention it from the perspective of “I can’t do this anymore.” “I’m overloaded.” “I’m overwhelmed.” “What do you want me to do?” “What can I cut back on?” “This is too much weight for me.”

    AND – I would be sure that paying off the debt is not a bigger priority than God or your marriage. Easier said than done. Debt is scary. I would want to cut it down as soon as possible, too. But if you succeed at paying off the debt in 2 years and destroy your marriage and relationship with God – that is NOT success!

    Do any of the husbands have any suggestions?

    Thanks, Jenny!

  6. April — I believe your response is the right one. Just as a husband, or wife for that matter, can go to our LORD with our cares without being disrespectful to Him, a wife can, and I believe should, go to her husband with her cares and concerns and our “overwhelmedness.” The heart attitude is the all important factor. When we ask for God’s guidance or help it is in no way disrespectful. However, there should be no accusatory tone or, as the question states, any sort of insinuation.

  7. So basically, a wife cannot express one iota of dissatisfaction with anything whatsoever, fantastic.

    1. Yes, that aspect of it is infuriating. Most of the list, however- the parts about not making fun of the husband’s looks, or acting as equal parents in front of the kids- just seem like being a decent human being to me. So as long as both parties in the marriage are paying attention to these things, I see nothing wrong with that. I’m not religious at all, I just found this list through a link.

      1. Yes- if we would treat our husbands with decency, kindness, thoughtfulness – we would certainly have stronger marriages no matter what our beliefs about God were. His design works regardless of what culture or religion a marriage is in. Thanks!

    2. Hello Evelyn,

      A wife is well within her rights to express dissatisfaction to her husband.

      Sarah did with Abraham (Gen. 21:8- 12).
      Rebekkah did with Isaac (Gen. 27:46).
      Hannah did with Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:4- 8).

      But they did so respectfully (Col. 4:6), as should be the case with both husband and wife. In fact, Sarah is a very fine example of a godly wife (1 Pet. 3:1- 6) that is worthy of imitation.

      Oftentimes we husbands pay more attention,not to what wives are saying, but HOW it is said- the tone of voice, disposition, demeanor, attitude. I myself have been known to say, “babe, I can’t hear you over your tone of voice (or attitude, or sarcasm, etc.).”

      So, express yourself freely.

  8. Sure, you can use whatever comments I make on whatever post you choose. It is, after all, your blog.

    Also, as I think of it, you may add:

    – making accusations based, not on facts, but on emotion, and allowing this to guide subsequent actions/speech.

  9. oh how this list reminds us that we are only human & we fall short daily in many aspects of our walk with The Lord and secondly our spouses. I think it’s a great idea to make a check list of weak areas and make it a point to pray on these areas and select a few a day to work on and then move on down the list…. By the end of week two we will have become accustomed to the change on the right direction and it will become second nature to us! Even the best of the best fall short daily and needs to now the knee and ask for forgiveness and guidance. Noone is perfect. What a great list…..maybe wives need a list of husbands weaknesses? Maybe it would be of help for your male readers? Or even for us wives to see our weak areas from it is about the guys that irritate us….& we can improve the entire situation and stop the vicious cycle that’s stuck on repeat.

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