There are predictable phases that wives go through as they begin to learn to be godly wives and begin to identify disrespectful and controlling behavior and start to replace that with respectful and biblically submissive behavior that honors God.
Nina Roesner, author of The Respect Dare, shares the way the process usually goes – I have a link at the bottom of this post.
The first few stages that I have seen usually go like this:
Something triggers in our souls and God reveals to us that we have actually NOT been the wives He desires us to be. We suddenly see our disrespectful, prideful and controlling behavior – and it isn’t pretty. It’s strange how we can be so blind to it for years – and suddenly – it is a MOUNTAIN of sin smack dab in our own laps.
To see a list of things that husbands often find to be disrespectful and controlling, please read here.
It is overwhelming at first. This stage is excruciatingly painful. I personally wanted to run away and live in a cave for the rest of my life when I actually came face to face with what a HUGE sinner I am!
But God uses this guilt to turn our hearts to Him and to help us to repent – first to Him and then to our husbands. That is what godly sorrow does. Worldly sorrow leads to death – but godly sorrow leads to a turning away from my way and a turning to God’s way – repentance. The key in this phase is to have a broken, humble heart before God and to be open to all that He wants to say to us, and to be willing to lie still on the operating table while He removes all the diseased and dead old sinful heart and replaces it with a new Christlike heart.
2. THE FRUSTRATING QUIET PHASE
This is where you get rid of the negative stuff your mouth has been spewing.
This is the time when you know that you have been disrespectful and controlling in the past and you are trying to learn all the unintentional ways you were being disrespectful, but you still don’t really know what being respectful means.
You’re not sure yet how to replace the old constant negativity, lectures, criticisms, contempt, sarcasm, complaining, arguing, etc. with something helpful. It is CONFUSING! And it is frustrating – but necessary.
We often go very quiet as we begin to learn to have some wisdom, discretion and self-control and not just blurt out every thought and feeling anymore.
In this phase, I focused a lot on I Peter 3:1-6.
At first, not saying all the negative stuff is awkward. And the silence seems deafening. And it is also very convicting to realize that when I stopped all the negative stuff – I had almost nothing to say. YIKES! HOW AWFUL WAS THAT!??!
3. THE STARTING POSITIVE STUFF PHASE
At first, learning to praise our husbands for what they do right and learning to express appreciation and gratitude feels like we are speaking a foreign language.
In fact, learning respect and learning to step down out of the driver’s seat in marriage to let our husbands begin to lead is very much like learning a foreign language. It is a long process. It takes time.
We won’t be perfect at it, especially at first. But it is so worth it – we get to become the women of God we have always wanted to be as we learn to obey God’s Word!
This is the pathway to intimacy with Christ and it may also lead to much greater intimacy with our husbands in time.
In this phase, we feel VERY unsure of ourselves, our words and I know that for me – I felt like I was walking blindly through a minefield because I had NO CLUE what was respectful or not. I did a whole lot of asking, “Is this respectful?” “Would that be disrespectful?
4. TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK
Learning respect and biblical submission is HARD! Many wives are dismayed when they start changing for a few days or weeks and they see “no response” from their husbands. Some days they do pretty well – but then they backslide and mess up. It’s discouraging and frustrating.
We want to do this RIGHT and be perfect. It takes SO MUCH emotional and spiritual concentration and effort at first. The intensity doesn’t stay this high – it does get easier and more natural in time until it is second nature. But it takes TIME and practice!
It is a cross-country journey – not a sprint. It is a commitment to doing things God’s way no matter what the outcomes and trusting Him with the results. Sometimes the progress is painfully slow. That is ok!
We are human! We will not be perfect. We will have to learn to give ourselves and our husbands grace in this process.
THERE ARE MORE STEPS AND PHASES … BUT LET’S STOP HERE FOR NOW
A BIG ISSUE MANY WIVES HAVE IS THAT WE REALLY WANT OUR HUSBANDS TO TELL US WE ARE DOING A GREAT JOB
There are some temptations here that we have to deal with, and if we don’t handle them correctly, we can get very stuck!
WE WILL BE TEMPTED TO WANT:
- our husbands to affirm us, encourage us, pat us on the back, tell us what an awesome job we are doing by not constantly ragging on them, criticizing them, making fun of them, tearing them down, disrespecting them, telling them what to do or being mean and hateful.
- to tell our husbands every detail about everything we are learning (not always a great idea – if he is far from God, much of this will be between us and God – he can “hear” our actions much more than our words – and when we are first learning, we will tend to come across disrespectfully when we try to share what we are learning! BIG CAUTION HERE!)
- our husbands to love us more and to change quickly (like – NOW – this minute) because of the changes in us
- to make respect and biblical submission a way to manipulate our husbands or make these concepts an idol. Yes – we are able to even turn God’s commands into idols. Our hearts are “idol factories.”
- to become legalistic and measure our success and try to get an “A” because we are checking off things on a list – as if we can deserve God’s love or our husbands’ love if we can just be “good” enough.
The problem is that most husbands are NOT going to say, “WOW! You didn’t give me that evil look like you usually do. Way to go, Honey!” Or “You actually let me make a decision without trying to cram your way down my throat. Aww! I am SO proud of you!”
It is VERY hard work to learn to respect and to learn to cooperate with our husbands’ leadership. We do need affirmation and encouragement sometimes—but we cannot expect our husbands to get out the pom poms and cheer that we aren’t being hateful.
We are now just doing what we are supposed to be doing. Affirmation will likely need to come from a godly mentoring wife or godly girlfriend.
Laura Doyle “The Surrendered Wife” describes it like this – If you suddenly start coming to work on time after you have been late every day for years – you wouldn’t expect your boss to give you accolades. You would finally be doing what was expected – the minimum that was expected.”
I love “The Surrendered Wife” – it helped me learn a lot of practical nuts and bolts about respect and giving up controlling behavior – it is NOT written from a Christian perspective, necessarily.
Most of the book does support God’s design for marriage – but read it carefully and discerningly and weigh every piece of advice against scripture.
You may also want to ask your husband if certain things would be respectful to him or not. What matters most is not what a book says but what your husband says! Please always weigh what I or any other person says against God’s Word and what your husband wants, too!)
HOW HUSBANDS OFTEN REACT WHEN THEIR WIVES CHANGE
A husband’s response depends on a variety of things:
- how long the disrespect and controlling behavior has been going on
- how severe the disrespect and controlling behavior has been
- how deeply spiritually and emotionally wounded he is
- how close to God he is
Husbands usually respond at first by:
- saying nothing – that is ok! DO NOT FREAK OUT if he seems not to respond for a long time. He IS watching and waiting to see if this is going to last.
- accepting a wife’s apology and forgiving her
- being quiet and waiting to see if this is for real or not. MANY, MANY husbands want to see for months or longer that these changes are real and not just some fad. A lot of them won’t really begin to believe that this could be their new reality in marriage until they have seen the new attitude and behavior last over a long period of time. The more hurt the husbands are, usually, the longer amount of time it takes for them to trust the changes in their wives.
- letting out a flood of emotions, sadness and grief over how much pain they have been in for years.
- some husbands may become more vocal – and it can seem like they are more angry. Often, it is just that the wife is finally hearing how he has been feeling all along. Or it is that he finally feels safe enough to express how he has been feeling. For more about this situation, read here! Or, he may be testing her to try to determine how serious she is about her new commitment to being a godly wife.
WHY I THINK IT IS GOOD THAT HUSBANDS DON’T USUALLY AFFIRM US IN THIS PHASE
I am actually really thankful that it takes husbands a long time to decide to trust the changes God is making in our hearts are real. And I am glad that husbands don’t do a lot of affirming us and patting our backs at this point.
It is so easy and so dangerous for us to have the wrong motives in learning to respect our husbands and in learning to cooperate with their God-given leadership.
When I have been a disrespectful, controlling wife – the natural thing for me to do would be to try to use respect and submission to manipulate my husband and try to change him and try to MAKE him do what I want so I would feel more loved.
When husbands don’t give us the accolades we want – it forces us to examine our motives over and over again – sometimes multiple times per day.
This is a good thing! Then we have to look at WHY we are doing what we are doing and truly set our hearts on wanting to love and obey Jesus.
It is only when my motives are pure and I want FIRST to love, honor, respect and submit to Christ that God will really change my heart.
Then I can learn to respect and submit to my husband – but first I must have Jesus as my LORD and my motives have to be to honor and please Him. Period.
God may use my obedience to Him to change my husband. Or He may not.
My responsibility is to live for God, have my faith in Christ, repent of any sin in my heart, obey God’s Word and seek Him WAY above everything else in my life. Then I trust the results to God alone.