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Winding Country Road through autumnal Landscape

A Wife's Learning Curve

 Winding Country Road through autumnal Landscape

Here is a comment from a deeply wounded husband that I posted on FB this week.  And then there is a wife’s email to me after that about what the husband said.


Enlightened by your messages. I really question myself when dealing with my wife, which nearly always resulted in very harsh very mean words from me to her for years. I have cried my woes to several in utter frustration, that the meanness is reactive, that this was not the wife or life I desired. What was I doing wrong?? I really questioned myself, was I really this monster with such a mean streak. I was convincing myself that I was mean, which is in total conflict of where my heart is for my wife (my relationship with the lord has codified that). I have lived in total conflict internally and externally. 
Then I saw your posts and lists, and I saw my life with my wife in print. WOW. I feel disgusted by my words, no justification, but having read your lists and posts I could clearly see what extracted such a relationship. My story sadly is ending in divorce, BUT to the wives who read your posts give them credence. We husbands are a delicate breed, though very rough and rugged on the outside, not so on the inside. As a husband I can only wish my wife had seen this list, and gave it credence, I truly would have laid my life for her, as any husband would do. The power and destruction of the list is very real, and any God-loving husband given the respect outlined in this post, will return it in kind to an unimaginable degree. Ephesians 5:21
(the post the husband was talking about was a list of things husbands find to be disrespectful here)


Hi April,

As I read the post from the husband who (commented on the) list of disrespectful attitudes and behaviors, I’m struck yet again at how foolish I have been in the past.  I find that I’m doing better with recognizing things as I’m doing them, but sometimes it’s not until after I’ve done it “wrong.”  (FROM PEACEFULWIFE – this is REALLY normal in the first few months of trying to learn respect/biblical submission!  It is a long process, not an instant light switch flip. It is more of learning a brand new language, or learning to walk after being paralyzed and bedridden for many years.)
For instance, yesterday I allowed my fear of something to interfere with agreeing with what my husband thought was best.  I wasn’t argumentative, but I voiced my concern in a way that didn’t allow for his way to be right.  After church, I briefly apologized for allowing my paranoia and fear to challenge his suggestion and that I knew that whatever he chose to do would be good because I know he desires to keep us safe.  I have found that I am apologizing for particular things individually as they come to my mind instead of rehashing a widespread apology again (after the initial time he shared his heart with me).
What blows my mind is that the lists the you have composed as well as others’ contributions are verbatim what I have done (and 99% of other wives, I would imagine at some point). It’s frightening and comforting at the same time. I am not unique in my struggle, but it’s so sad that it’s so common.  It’s scary to think what could happen to my marriage if the Lord had not opened my eyes…or if I didn’t seek Him now that I see my sin.  I just pray that there will be continued growth and change for the better and that we never see the cliff of a crumbling relationship as some sadly have.

I can’t wait for my good reactions and responses to outweigh my disrespectful knee-jerk responses.  I just pray that as I am learning, that my husband will continue to give me grace through my apologetic missteps along the way.  I’m thinking about telling him what I’ve been learning, but can’t decide if it’s right, yet.  I’m mainly thinking that I want him to know that I’m trying to change, so he can have “knowing” patience.  It might not be time…I’ll be praying about it, though.  At some point, I would like for this topic to be open with him, so I can approach him about items on these lists to find out even more about how he is wired.
I like what this wife is doing!
  • After the initial apology for her disrespect and controlling behavior – she then just apologizes BRIEFLY (that’s good!) for specific things.  GREAT JOB!
  • She sometimes doesn’t see her disrespect or lack of trust until after she does something disrespectful.  That is NORMAL!   When you’ve been disrespectful and controlling for decades, it takes some time to learn what is respectful and what isn’t and it take time to learn to stop yourself BEFORE you do and say things.  You will need to have plenty of grace for yourself.  You are human.  And you are a sinner.  And this stuff is all brand new information.  I pray your husband will be able to give you grace as you learn, too.
  • Only God can open our eyes to our sin.  And once our eyes are opened to our disrespect and controlling behavior – YIKES!  Then we wonder, “How on earth did I not see that all those years!?!?”  But most of us didn’t see it.  Most of us didn’t do this stuff intentionally.  We were reacting in our pain to feeling unloved – and unknowingly deeply wounded our husbands.
  • Over time, learning to trust God, seeking Him above everything else, dying to self, being aware of sin, repenting, being humble, understanding what disrespect and respect are, understanding our particular husband’s needs, and committing to submit first to God and then to our husbands – eventually becomes “normal.”   At first, it takes severe emotional and spiritual contortion.  But, in time, with prayer, with God’s Spirit’s power and with practice – our faith and trust “muscles” grow stronger.  And eventually, God changes our hearts and minds.  Eventually, we don’t even think the disrespectful and controlling stuff anymore.  And that is a VERY PEACEFUL and JOYFUL place to be!
  • Some wives don’t talk with their husbands about what they are doing.  Laura Doyle, “The Surrendered Wife” (not necessarily a Christian perspective), talks about giving up unnecessary control and learning to respect our husbands and the good things that result from that.  But she suggest wives NOT tell their husbands what they are doing for 6 months.  Why?  Because when you are first learning, you still don’t have a good grasp on what is disrespectful, and some wives will actually say things like, “I’m not going to tell you how stupid your ideas are anymore.  This book says I need to be quiet about that.”  YIKES!  She says that after the 6 months, most wives have changed a lot and most husbands are very happy and don’t really ask about what exactly their wives are doing differently, they are just glad things are so wonderful!
  • Some Christian wives DO talk to their husbands about learning to biblically submit and respect their men.  IF your husband is a believer in Christ, and he is fairly strong in his walk with God, he may be able to help coach you through some of these things.  And it may help him to know what you are doing.  So some Christian wives will apologize at first by saying:

I have sinned against God and against you by disrespecting your God-given leadership and by trying to control and be in charge in the marriage.  I realize now that I was so wrong.  I want to learn to respect you and to cooperate with your leadership.  I pray that you might be able to forgive me.  I know it is going to take me some time to learn how to do things right.  You are always welcome to tell me when I am disrespectful or controlling.”  (and whatever you do – keep it BRIEF and DO NOT EXPLAIN OR JUSTIFY YOUR DISRESPECT AND CONTROL FROM THE PAST!!!!  Just these few sentences is probably adequate)

Each wife will need to decide what the best approach might be for her marriage.  But I will say this – husbands value ACTIONS and BEHAVIOR much more than words.  They will be watching your behavior in the coming weeks and months to see if you are for real.  And it may take many weeks or months before they feel safe enough to open their hearts up to you again.  That will have to be ok.  This is primarily about us obeying God.  The results and timing of what happens in the marriage and in our husbands are up to Him.

19 thoughts on “A Wife's Learning Curve

  1. I love this and ALL you & your husband posts. Sadly with my wife like many others,she doesn’t have biblical parents. But when she had told me she want to be a proverbs 31,Titus 2, biblically submissive wife I thought great!. I supported her by buying her Debbie pearls book”how to be a helpmeet” after a few chapters and saying she really liked the book.her mom read a couple pages and my wife quickly gave up reading it.

    We we’re married last July and she felt The Lord call me to be the head of the house. We at this time live with her parents(I moved in with her and parents November of last year from ky to va)She lives god’s law of “honor thy mother and father” so much so that she can’t and won’t live her own life for our 10yr old son(not my bio son) and me. WHATEVER her mom needs/tells her to do she does it.period. Even when it hurts our son and me.

    I understand living with her parents and doing it there way. But I just shutdown and back away because her and her family has said on MANY occasions since the moment i got there we don’t need you in our lives. I have told her and my in laws MANY times that really hurts me. But now she want to be a biblical submissive again. But her way(talking to me like I’m a child,telling me what I need to,allowing our son to talk to all crazy,etc. all with the “blank You” tone.


    1. Michael,

      I don’t know if it is possible for you to move your wife and stepson out to your own place… but what is happening is that she is not “leaving her father and mother and cleaving to ” you. That is a recipe for disaster! She has kept her parents as the authority instead of you. Upon marriage, the couple is to break away from their parents and cling to one another. As long as she looks at her parents as her authority – she is going to honor and respect them instead of you and that won’t work. We are called by God as adults to honor our parents. But we are no longer under their authority as adults. She is under your authority now.

      I would be glad to talk with her if she is willing to communicate with me. 🙂

      I believe that if you can move her out that would be a HUGE step in the right direction. And I believe you may have to gently show her scripture about marriage and God’s design and gently call her out on it when she disobeys God’s Word. However, be sure you take care of any sin in your life first! Then it will be much easier for her to accept your correction and instructions.

  2. I can sympathize with this area of inlaws as my husband believed in respecting his parents to the degree that he put them in 1st place over our marriage and me as his wife. It hurt tremendously as he listened to what his mother said and let her control things and disrespect me. I felt worthless and like there was no point me even being around. I tried to submit but it was so difficult as submitting usually meant his mother and family walking all over me. I would then rebel against them all and it would end up in horrendous fighting. We separated last year and things changed. I am still fearful of submitting to him but i am learning to trust the Lord and let him work with my husband. Things have been a lot better and i felt him putting us (our daughter and i) 1st place and leaving his family. Not that i want him to leave them physically but as it was mentioned the leave and cleave verse that needed to be done so that we could have a healthy marriage. I really pray things will get better for you Michael as it sounds as though your wife does desire to be a godly respectful wife but as Peacefulwife has said, she needs to be under your authority now. Btw love your blog peacefulwife!

  3. I appreciate all of your wisdom and advice to christian wives. I wish the Lord would open my wife’s eye’s to how many different ways she disrespects me and how it sucks all of the life from my soul. She likes to tell me how lucky I am to have her because every other christian wife she knows brags about how they mistreat and control their husbands and it is worse that how she treats me. When I told her that they were not Godly wives if they treated their husbands that way, she looked shocked. To make matters worse, our Pastor often blasts men from the pulpit blaming us for all of the problems in our marriages.

    I wish that you and your friends would start a movement for Christian women similar to Promise Keepers. Men needed to hear the message of loving our wives. Sadly, it has been an unbalanced message. Men were told that if we just love our wives correctly that our wives would respond by submitting to us. Sorry, that doesn’t work if you are trying to love your wife and she is trying to control and manipulate you. Me loving my wife became an opening she could exploit and gain dominance over me. This led to some very bad decisions that cost our family financially and emotionally. I learned my lesson and now keep an emotional distance from her so she can’t dominate and manipulate me.

    1. DJB813

      I pray that God might open your wife’s eyes. I did the same thing to my husband the first 15 years of our marriage, and thought I was the best Christian wife ever. I didn’t seem disrespectful compared to people around me. I had no idea my husband even felt disrespected. He never told me. And I just continued on with my controlling and disrespectful ways. 🙁 I read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and that opened my eyes.

      I have some posts at the top of my home page about what is disrespectful to husbands and what is respectful to husbands and also a post about biblical submission.

      I’d be glad to talk with your wife – but I understand that she may not be receptive right now.

      I LOVE the idea that you have about a movement like Promise Keepers. Please pray that God might use me and raise up other women to do something like that according to His will and for His glory and for the healing of marriages in His church. Hmmm… That is an awesome idea.

      I have a lot of posts about things that contribute to wives’ disrespect and control – and it goes DEEP. It is ultimately about her disrespect and attempts to control God – or put herself in the position of God as being sovereign. A controlling, disrespectful wife treats her husband the same way she treats God. Her behavior towards her man is a good indicator of the level of rebellion in her heart towards Christ. It is also so deeply rooted, that it cannot come out easily. It takes changing her entire view of herself, of God, and throwing out everything she thinks she knows about being a godly wife and woman and rebuilding on God’s Word alone. Even once her eyes are opened, it often takes YEARS for a wife to really learn this stuff. It is like learning a foreign language. Most wives aren’t even aware that men need respect or that they are being disrespectful. They think they are being helpful. And they are trying to keep things from happening that they are afraid of – and they think that only by “being in control” they will be “safe.” But when we have idols in our hearts, we can’t have God’s power and peace! We don’t have the fruit of His Spirit. We don’t have the ability to forgive. We are cherishing sin in our heart – usually PRIDE, idolatry of self/being in control/our husbands (expecting them to be 100% responsible for our happiness), unforgiveness, resentment, gossip, etc. Those are the sins that generally are at the heart of a controlling/disrespectful wife.

      She NEEDS your godly leadership. She needs your love! Ignoring this problem will not make it go away! She doesn’t need you to crush her or dominate her. But your passivity will only further fuel her disrespect and her mindset that she “must” take over and that you “can’t” lead. I pray God will give you great wisdom about what to do from here. Please check out my husband’s site The post he put up today is one of the most amazing examples of a godly husband handling this kind of situation I have ever seen. He also has posts about passivity and about leading as Christ does.

      Please let me know how you are doing!

      1. Your words are very profound and insightful. I called her out on her rebellion recently and she did not take it very well. She prides herself on her obedience and submission to authorities. It never occurred to me that her rebellion is ultimately against God and she is trying to control Him.

        I do struggle with passivity. I have a difficult choice to make: either passivity and peace not to mention feeling emasculated; or taking the lead and having major conflict My wife is very oppositional to anything I initiate. I will check out your husbands blog.

        1. That is the reason so many men choose passivity. I have a post about this exact issue. We Put Our Husbands in a Lose/Lose Situation She is NOT going to handle criticism or rebuke well – so, it’s easier not to say anything. That seems “more peaceful” at first. But then she continues on in her disrespect, control and sin – and ultimately – there is more pain this way – sometimes marriages don’t survive the continuing disrespect and control.

          I believe your power is in your gentleness, your tenderness, your humility, your kindness, your Christlikeness, your selflessness, your servant’s heart. If you come across as “lording” your authority over her. It won’t go well. But if she sees that you truly love her in spite of her sin, and that you are not seeking your best but hers, that will make things easier. If you do need to confront her, you will want to be sure to address any sin in your own “eye” first. Repent of any sin in yourself – or she will focus on your sin instead of her own. And maybe hold her gently and whisper the words and offer to pray with her about it. This is going to be LIFE CHANGING, EARTH SHATTERING stuff for her. It will be extremely hard for her to hear. You may want to pray first that God opens her eyes and brings women into her life and resources to help her see. And you will need to be prepared to be infinitely patient once her eyes are open as she learns. This is a LONG, LONG process. It is not linear – it is often 2 steps forward and 3 backward.

          Even unintentional sin is sin. I didn’t connect the dots for 15 years. Our culture helps us not connect the dots whatsoever. And our own pride and idolatry, too. 🙁

          She may need you to gently lead her and teach her about God’s sovereignty, about forgiveness (which most controlling/disrespectful wives are REALLY awful at), about grace, about how everyone is an equally wretched sinner in the sight of God – about hidden sins – like pride and thinking we are more spiritual than other people and setting our hearts on things other than God.

          I think that if you pray a lot first – maybe for weeks, I don’t know – whatever God leads you to do. And you gently teach her about the truth about Who God is and what His character is like and how much BIGGER He is and how tiny we are, and maybe teach her about the ramifications of idolatry and cherishing sin and unforgiveness, about what it means to grieve God’s Spirit, about how we are filled with anxiety and fear when we trust ourselves or an idol instead of God – that God may open her eyes.

          She needs to know how HUGE God is. She needs to know HE is sovereign, not her. She needs to see the sin she is blind to – I have a lot of posts about these things! The expectations posts this week may be helpful. you can search my blog for posts about idolatry and bitterness – those are very helpful. The post “My Demon” on 9-23 is extremely eye-opening for many wives.

          I will get you any resources I can to help you and I will completely support your God-given authority and leadership and CHristlike love for your wife and will pray for healing for your marriage covenant and for God to reconcile your wife to Him. You are both believers, correct?

          1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I have read several of your blog posts and they give great perspective from her point of view. I will definately seek the Lord on how to proceed. I can see all of the battle lines that will have to be dealt with.

            1. Dave,

              God may do for your wife what He did for me – He has given me a ministry to disrespectful and controlling wives – to teach them the very things I didn’t know or understand or practice the first 14+ years of our marriage. My husband laughs at me as now I get a taste of my own behavior as I work with women. Disrespectful/controlling women can be extremely challenging to work with! What can I say? I feel his pain!

              I can’t open their eyes – only God can.

              But just think that one day she may get to be on the receiving end of dozens, hundreds or thousands of women’s comments. And God may use her to lead them to Himself and to restore many marriages. “Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord.” 🙂

    2. PS
      I hope you can see – her disrespect and control has nothing to do with you – and everything to do with herself and her lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty and her belief that she must make things happen and turn out “right” or she and all those around her are in danger in her mind. She would act this same way no matter what husband she had.

      And most likely, she is completely unaware of what she is doing. It is usually unintentional. Usually she is reacting to what she perceives to be a feeling of insecurity or feeling unloved. Her disrespect means she is afraid and hurting. It means she NEEDS you!

      It is MUCH EASIER for wives to submit and respect when they feel loved, safe and cherished. So please don’t give up! GOd may well use your love and tenderness and kindness to draw her to Himself! I pray that you might pray for God to speak to her soul and to open her eyes. you cannot open her spiritual eyes, but He can! And He may use you to help in that process because you are her God-given authority, leader, provider and protector.

      1. You are right, she is completely unaware of her behavior. However, she thinks that if it is unintentional that I can’t call her on it.

        I know the Lord has been dealing with this in her life for close to 20 years. He has to keep turning up the heat but she doesn’t connect the dots.

        Thank you for the encouragement to not give up. For the sake of our children, I am hanging in there. However, at times the tension and conflict are unbearable.

  4. My wife just returned from going seeing a broadway show with her mother. Her mom has been a corrosive substance to our marriage. Her Dad and step mom warned me about moving so close to her mom. The past week my wife has been out 3 to 4 times without me and sometimes comes home past 3am. Since my father is visiting, he sees first hand how horrible my wife is. She thinks nothing of it. She comes home today and goes on and on with My dads wife about how her mom takes, her, her sister and brother, yada yada, and no were mentions me going to the shows. I try to always put others above me and have had her mom go to shows, which I obtained the tickets. The disrespect continues when her mom doesn’t even come into the house to say hi or anything to me. Last night she could have offered and encouraged her daughter to do something but she dooes nothing. It makes me angry because my wife skips church today, leaves the house a mess, for me to clean up, and I don’t get to spend much time with my kids. She is rotteness to the bones for sure. Her mom is one of those jerky christians who you don’t want to be around. My wife once won tickets to a football game, and invited another guy to go with her. Did her mom, tell her this was uncoothe, nope. This is after she had an affair and completely gutted me. The main thing we argue about is her being a slob, which she says she is. My house is not a refuge, calming and tidy. It’s a huge mess, and she says I just need to accept she is a lazy slob. She says I should just accept it. I have put up with alot. My wife is not a friend, she is not comforting. She is frigid cold, and denies me affection.

    I just feel convicted by god that I’m supposed to take care of her.

    Through it all I continue to pray and be faithful she will see the light.

    1. Sad Husband,
      Your story breaks my heart!

      If you are interested in some suggestions –
      What happens if you gently say something like, “Are you feeling loved in our marriage? Is there something I am doing that makes you want to not be home and not take care of your family and marriage?”

      Then listen. And if there is sin on your side of the relationship – I believe that showing humility and repentance could be very healing.

      After she is done, maybe you could say something like:

      “I feel very abandoned, unloved and hurt by you. I want our marriage to change. I want you to please be home by X time from now on. Our children and I need you here. I need a plugged-in loving, respectful wife and they need a plugged-in, loving, attentive mother. I want to see you helping with chores, please, and treating me like I matter to you. I want you to spend more time with us and not go out unless you and I talk about it first and we both agree about where you are going and for how long, please. I want to take good care of you and love you. I want to know that you love and honor me. I want us both to put Christ first in our lives and to obey His Word. I want us to have a healthy marriage and a healthy family. I am not at all happy about where things are right now. I need your help to heal this marriage and this family. I would like you to read X book please, and maybe we can talk about what we can both do to make this marriage honoring to God.” Then maybe ask her to hold your hand and pray with her for your marriage – not in a preaching way that condemns her, but in a humble way that seeks God and His glory first.

      I pray God will give you wisdom, direction and the words you need to lead your wife and family in a godly way.

      1. Thank you April for sharing and caring,

        I am starting to sound like a chronic complainer! Well here is what happened this evening. My wife leaves with 2 older children for practice in a play. I disagree, that oldest went because she didn’t go to school. She also disobeyed my request to not be on Facebook after 8pm. I told me wife this morning and there is a extreme disconnect. I worked harded at my job, and came home at 5. My wife spent the day at her mothers house. That is fine, no harm, but her mom could be more helpful if she drove the 30 minutes to our house to help out and visit. That right there would drive my wife mad, she would go into a profanity laced tirade. I made dinner for the 2 youngest children and had them in bed, clean by 8pm. Now my wife has now done something extra, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and now Tuesday. I just work, and return home, but I’m desperate for some time, quality time, with my wife. She comes home, I’m really hoping for nice hug, some sort of affection and love. I get none, now I confess I did spend 20 minutes after she got home on computer getting work done. I believe I have said I own my own business. I head to the bedroom, and she is watching tv. Doesn’t say anything, look up and smile, no, just tuned into the tv. I lay in bed and I’m feeling pretty down, lonely, depressed. She then starts into me about telling lie’s about seeing the counselor. I have finally opened up to christian mentor, who’s wife is a marrige counselor. We talked and I decided the counseling wasn’t working with another person, and I was going to really devote my time to bible study and spending time talking with God. My wife ripped me apart, beyond disrespect and I just calmly listened.

        I still love my wife, wish I could figure it out.

        1. I wonder if your wife might hear you if you explain that you feel “unloved and hurt” when she does these things?

          And what if you ask her to be prepared to spend some quality time with you – and tell her that you love her and want to cuddle together and enjoy each other tonight?

          Wives sometimes believe that if a husband stops counseling, it means he doesn’t love them. I hope you can explain that you do love her and want to work on the marriage.

          Your power is in your gentleness, tenderness, selflessness, forgiving heart, kindness, humility and love here.

          Praying for wisdom for you! ANd for God to show you how to love her right now and how to pray for her in His power!

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