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Handling "External Pressure" on This Journey


A Wife’s Questions

I just wanted to start off by saying thank you and God bless you so much for your labor of love in creating the wonderful blogs that are blessing me and so many others.  I was thinking to myself this morning that ever since I discovered your blog about a month ago I have been so inspired and so relieved!  So many of the things I felt God speaking to my heart over the past few months are so well covered in there as confirmation, and it is amazing to see you and others describe walking through this journey. I feel like I am not alone in learning some of these things that can be difficult on the flesh, especially after being a certain way for so long.
Something I have deeply struggled with relationship-wise is what I view as great “external pressure”.  The people around me have always been very much involved in every aspect of my life.  But in this season, I find it so difficult to talk to the people around me even about minor things because I worry about their judgement and comments, especially as I walk through this respect journey.  Its hard enough dealing with my own expectations, but when I focus on my family and friends, its unbearable! So I have a hard time opening up even as I am learning awesome things and see God moving in the midst of it. My attitude right now is that I have been listening to the wrong people for so long; others opinions, the devil’s lies, and my own flesh. Now I am doing something different, which is listening to God and obeying Him alone for a change, leaving whatever the outcome will be to Him, and I just want to stay focused instead of being so stressed that I feel I need to avoid people sometimes. I just want to be able to be honest about my growth journey while at the same time not letting their opinions bother me too much.
My question is what is the best way to deal with all the questions all my well meaning friends and family members constantly have about my relationship?  I don’t want their comments to get in the way of how God leads me, but I feel weak in this area. When they notice I’m not talking about my man very much, because they are so used to me being an “open book” they harass me and ask why I’m not updating them on things, then I feel guilty lol! I almost feel like I need to establish new ground rules, because I feel like this is a delicate period.  I just wanted your take on the best way to go about this.

Peacefulwife’s Response

WHAT I DID (I am not saying this is what everyone should do – this is just what I personally did)
I was controlling and disrespectful towards other people in my life, too, before I learned this stuff – AND I had awful boundaries, or no boundaries, and was always an open book as you describe and also allowed other people to control me before.
When I realized my sin – and WOW – was there a lot of it – I wanted to hide in a cave and never talk to another person again.  I knew I would sin if I opened my mouth.  And back then, I would have.  Everything out of my mouth was criticism, control, disrespect, gossip, bitterness, pride… yep.  Sin.  
I actually immediately backed away from everyone.  I practically disappeared as I began studying respect and biblical submission and realizing my sin and repenting and asking God to take all the evil out and rebuild on His foundation alone.
I was afraid to talk to anyone.  I knew I would say something disrespectful and I did NOT trust myself with words to anyone for a long time.  I am not sure that this is necessarily the healthiest thing ever – it would have been better if I had a godly mentoring wife, probably, or a women’s study group or a godly girlfriend or two, but I didn’t at the time.
I became a bit of a recluse, praying, studying and trying to apply what I was learning just to my marriage.  I could only really focus on that one thing at first.  So I apologized to my husband and my young children, and began to try to set a godly example of respect and submission for them, too.
I spent hours studying, praying, reading and taking notes almost every day.  I was SO DETERMINED to learn this stuff and do it God’s way.
Backing away from my family and friends actually ended up being good in several ways for me (again, I am not saying this is what everyone must do):
– it kept me from temptation with MY MOUTH
– it forced me to develop new and stronger boundaries and hedges to protect my marriage.  I had not properly “left” other relationships to “cling” to my husband.  So part of backing away helped me cement in my mind, and probably in their minds, that I was leaving all others and cleaving to my husband.
– I wasn’t trying to explain what I was doing to other people
– it gave me time to  work through all the new things I was learning and time to try to process all the new information I was studying before I had to apply it in more difficult situations
You may not have to back away as much as I did. I don’t know!  But I had to take some BIG STEPS BACK emotionally and even time-wise for a long time as I learned.  Later, I was able to re-enter some of those relationships and only speak highly of my husband.  But it took time.
Some people did not take kindly to me backing away.  But I didn’t single anyone out, I just backed away from everyone but God, Greg and my children.  I focused on those relationships and was loving and kind to others, but didn’t do a lot of talking with other people for awhile.
If people ask questions, only say POSITIVE things about your husband and your marriage.
** For wives being physically abused or who have SERIOUS problems in their marriage, please find godly, experienced help ASAP!  Those issues go far beyond the scope of this post and this blog** 
First of all, the unfortunate reality in most cultures today is that  there are almost no women who will be supportive of your efforts to truly become a godly wife – not when you talk about respecting your husband and honoring his leadership.  And if you use the word, “submission,” you may have rotten tomatoes thrown at your head.   If you don’t have super godly friends, even Christian women will get upset about respect and biblical submission – some of them become downright hostile.
Many times, we have learned our disrespectful and controlling ways from our own mothers and sisters  – so sometimes they can be the most difficult to deal with. (My own mother was not at all controlling and was very respectful – but I guess I learned the control thing from being a dominant twin).  And if you talk about what you are learning with them, they may take these new ideas as a huge threat and try to control you even more than ever.  The HARDEST place to break dysfunctional relationships is in our family of origin.  That is usually where we learned our messed up ways of relating to people, and we can quickly revert back to those old ways when we are around our family because that is what is expected and it is hard to buck against the usual old “dance” that everyone does in the family.
Right now, I am not sure I would do much explaining.
You can smile and say, “Thanks for asking.  I’m doing well.  God is working on my heart.”
And if they pressure for more, “I am not at liberty to discuss any details right now.  Thanks for praying for me. :)”
People probably don’t mean to cause angst and trouble and pain, but sometimes the questions they ask are just not very polite!  Definitely don’t expect anything from your man right now (for Valentine’s Day).  Thank him if he does something for you.
But you can just nonchalantly say something to those who ask what you got for Valentine’s Day like, “That’s my little secret.”  or “I have such an amazing husband, he is a gift from God in and of himself.”  Or “God has given my husband to me.  I’m really thankful for him.”  Or, “I hope I get to spend some time with my favorite man in the world tonight.”  Something that promotes your admiration of your husband and expresses your gratitude.
YES.  You will need new ground rules and boundaries.  Here are my goals:
  • I don’t talk negatively about my man or anyone else’s marriage or their relationship
  • I don’t gossip (about my husband or anyone else)
  • I only say positive things about husband
  • I don’t ask other people for advice about my husband – only godly mentoring wives
  • I build a hedge of protection around my heart and marriage – “guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs)  Being a Christian does NOT mean we are total open books.  I used to think it did!   We are honest and open to a degree, but there are some things we must guard as sacred and precious that are not available to public view.  Our marriages are one of those things.  The most important thing!
  • I may need to say something like, “God is working in me.  I can’t talk about it much right now.  Thanks for understanding.”  Or “God is teaching me so much.  It’s too personal to go into right now.  I hope I can share more one day.”
The way God-given authority works is like this:
Also there are God-given authorities we must submit to like the government, church leaders, our bosses, the police, teachers, etc.  Children must submit to their parents.  But once a child is grown, God commands us to honor our parents, but not to submit to them and obey them.
You answer to God primarily and also to your husband.  Your goals are to please THEM.  First to please God – and then your man.  If your husband asks you to sin or condone sin, you must respectfully resist him to obey God.
Other people’s opinions and ideas are nice, but you do not answer to those people.  It is no longer your job to please other people.  (That can quickly become idolatry – seeking the approval of men over the approval of God)  You answer to God and your husband.  It helps to clarify that, I think!

The Wife’s Response Back to Me

Thanks so much!  I think the thing that gets me the most is when people seem to think I’m “suffering in silence” since I am being so quiet nowadays.  Mind you he is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person, not mistreating me in any way, but the emotional distance I feel right now is the thing that makes it difficult. Is my flesh suffering as I learn to walk this out? Absolutely!  And sometimes the repentance I feel is so thick and the lessons and realizations and remorse hit me so hard that I feel heavy.  But I don’t know that its for me to necessarily share with everyone. I think that since females are so used to sharing our feelings with eachother that it seems natural that that would be the case, but for some reasonthese feelings seem sacred as I am going through my process and allowing God to show me things.  I hope that makes sense, just venting.  It can be hard changing so much in a short period of time!  But I know its all for a great purpose.

Here is a post about healthy boundaries and controlling people that might help, too.
All wives struggle on this path!  It is the most difficult and wonderful thing most women will ever do in their lives, in my view!  Please share your struggles or your story if you would like to.  MANY sisters in Christ are on this same walk and we are stronger when we hold hands and walk together side by side!

16 thoughts on “Handling "External Pressure" on This Journey

  1. From Anonymous:Hi, April. I love this wife’s question. I struggled with this in the beginning of my respect journey too. For me, what worked was just keeping quiet about my journey. I read Love and Respect a good year before I ran into your website. I was open to my friends about my attempts to treat my unbelieving husband with respect in hopes that I can get some helpful advice from them… in truth, if I am being brutally honest, it was to also vent about how DIFFICULT it was be respectful. (I’m not saying that’s the agenda of ALL WIVES- I’m just shamefully admitting this was MINE. And I didn’t realize that until, NOW!) Anyway, I ended up just going back to my old ways. My heart wasn’t ready to change, I guess. When I ran into your website and I decided to give it another go, I decided to not “vent.” I decided to not even tell people about what I was doing. Like you, April, I had to back away BIG TIME. And yes, people did not like that I have backed away. God, however, knows my heart, and is holding my hand in this journey. He is slowly restoring a few relationships that have fell by the wayside since my respect journey. I am confident that He will restore whatever relationships that He deems is healthy for me and my family and sever the toxic ones.
    Again, every wife’s journey is different. Every wife’s circle of friends and family is different.
    ONE THING I WANT TO SAY: EVEN THOUGH I KEPT QUIET ABOUT MY JOURNEY TO THOSE CLOSE ME I DID HAVE SOMEONE “MENTOR” ME SO TO SPEAK… that was YOU, April. I think it is important to have at least one person to be able to talk to about all this. JUST IN CASE, you may be in an actual controlling relationship that borders abuse! And also to make yourself accountable! I am still praying for a mentor that is local and I can speak with face to face, but even with my schedule and my current situation, I am unable to do that. April has been amazing and everything she advices is straight from Scripture. 🙂

  2. I have been on this journey for quite some time now and yet still haven’t explained or talked about my choice to respect my husband and surrender to him. The reason being is that with our relationship history i know my friend’s and family do not thing that highly of my husband, (some of it my fault, some of it his) and so i know i would get a lot of negativity. Also majority of the women i know are very much into the modern women or feminist idea of women doing whatever they want and no man telling then what to do etc. When they do notice things they tend to make remarks or comments like there is something wrong or weird with me so i just try to ignore that. The first thing i did as suggested by peacefulwife was to stop saying anything negative about my husband to others no matter how bad i was feeling at the time or how angry i was with him, i spoke to God instead. I still make sure not to say anything negative only positive. I guess everyones situation is different but i would be prayerful about who you open up to so that you don’t get discouraged or allow the devil to put doubt in your mind.

    1. Pinkangelgirl,

      Wise advice!!! There are so many women who would exert a toxic influence on us in our marriages. So this can be a lonely road sometimes. But I believe God is raising up for Himself a new generation of godly wives! And I pray that there will be many godly wives to mentor the younger wives in following God’s beautiful design.

  3. Another anonymous wife writes:Things have been stable, have been focusing on God and on his needs rather than mine and its been getting easier to push away resentment and self pity. Having had no expectations for V Day he blew me away by surprising me with a present, which was particularly loving bcos he needed to take time off his intensely busy schedule to buy it! I made sure I showed how pleased I was. He’s still clammed up emotionally and there are other issues but I now know better than to whine abt what is missing in the marriage, when I hv so much to be thankful for.

    I wanted to respond to today’s blog by saying I’ve been feeling that same awkward inability to talk to anyone abt what’s happening in my life! Even godly friends. Becos we just came out of a visibly bad patch in our marriage where he was ostensibly the one at fault, everyone sees me as the victim. So when I say that things are fine, they look skeptical. And they think I am saintly and godly to be so forgiving and if I shared what I truly felt — how hurt I continued to be and how distant he still is — they wld totally not get it! So I hv indeed clammed up almost totally regarding what’s going on in my life, and that’s why its been great to be able to write to you 🙂

  4. hey April! just been reading your blog and i love it. so often as women we focus our energy on talkin about what our husbands are not doing right. then we forget that we also have our shortfalls. today i make a committment to myself not to talk about my man negatively? i pray that God wil help cause am so guilty of doing this. thanks so much April!

    1. Faith,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I spent the first almost 15 years of my marriage completely focused on what my husband needed to change – in my view. The results were miserable for both of us. There is so much power in focusing on our own responsibilities, sins, and our own walk with Christ. I love your commitment! You will need God’s help. But as He changes the way you look at your husband and renews your mind – and as you take every thought captive for Christ – the old sinful self will die and you won’t even think a lot of those disrespectful things anymore. You will truly begin to look at your man with REAL respect as you concentrate on what is good in him. I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you!

  5. Okay, I know this is an old post, but I am just starting this journey over the last few months. I live very far away from my parents and most of my old friends and although I can tell my colleagues have wondered what was going on, most were too polite to ask me ( although interestingly, one did talk to my husband!) I just got back to my hometown today, and my mom eyed my headscarf disapprovingly, and made some remark. I said to get used to seeing it. She asked what it was about and I said I would talk to her later. Her best friend was there ( she is ALWAYS there) and is super negative, and I knew would have lots to say. Maybe have an hour later , my mom started up again. So what is with the scarf– is this a religious thing– you look Amish ( I don’t really– I kind have a cute 50’s retro thing going on, I think) I said yes it was religious. She said It’s not some sign you’re submitting to your husband, is it? ( oddy– she is the first person who guessed exactly why I was wearing the head scarf) I was stung, offended, embarrassed, and just wishing she would have respected my request to talk about it later. I snapped, Oh, God forbid. She said something to the tune of believing in
    “independent women” . Since she spent most of my early life telling me how she disagreed with Dad , but you have to do what the man says ( I realize now she was a funny contrast between being a “doormat” wife to being a controlling wife) I just couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t start a fight. I feel mortified that I answered that way, dreading seeing her tomorrow, and not sure how to answer her. I feel like a weakling for not being able to stand up better for my beliefs. Which is so not how people thing of me—- one of my big goals for this year, which actually led to me working on repect and submission was seeking God for how to be more gentle, as I feel like I come across so harshly to other people.

    1. Jill,

      I think that family of origin conflicts are some of the most difficult ones to deal with! Especially when it is often our mothers or sisters who taught us to be disrespectful. (In my case, my mom was actually super respectful of my dad – but many, many women here had moms who were controlling and dominating.)
      That is really interesting that your mom did both the doormat and the control thing. I’m glad you can see that now – because it will help you recognize things in yourself that you don’t want to keep.

      Before we talk about your mom and friend – what does your husband think of the scarf?

      Much love to you!

      1. When I first stumbled across, the head covering movement, I spent a lot of time reading pros and cons. But none of the arguments against it were very convincing. I brought it up with my husband, and we decided to try it based on the verse that states, if you do my will, you shall know whether it be of God. Well, we noticed an immediate change in our relationship. I didn’t have to struggle to be respectful– I just actually felt respectful. He felt like I wasn’t so quick to jump on him, and gave him space to think and make decisions without feeling rushed. There was also a lot of peace, where there used to be conflict.
        We debated whether to wear it all the time or just at church and devotions as some do– but as my husband pointed out– we are called upon to pray unceasingly, and in my job, as a teacher there will certainly be times where I will be praying during difficulty situations ( albeit silently) and not really any easy way to whip out a head scarf. He felt strongly that if we were doing this, I should be wearing it all the time. It was very hard at first, as I was very self conscious about it. But there’s been such a dramatic change in our relationship, it has really been a very visible symbol for both of us that I am choosing to submit to him now– which was definitely NOT the case for the previous years of our marriage- every time I tried , I now realize I just did the doormat thing and then exploded– I finally had a pastor’s wife explain that that was NOT what submission meant, but was more an attitude of the heart. When she said that it was like a light bulb went on. I went over today and my mom was able to be polite to me, without bugging me– I had actually spent about an hour, writing out 1 Cor. 11 and some of our understanding of it, in case she started up again– I think it helped me to clarify that I’m not just following some whim, but doing my best to follow Jesus. I didn’t actually end up showing it to her– but I felt a little more confident.

        1. Jill,

          I love the process you and your husband went through. And I think your decision along with your husband for you to cover all the time is beautiful! I pray for God’s wisdom about how to handle your mom and friend and others. I know that there will certainly be opposition. But I am excited about what God is doing in your heart and in your marriage.

          I am sure you can repent to God and seek His wisdom about how and when to set things right with your mother and friend and to apologize to them. I pray God will give you the exact words to say when you need them and that He might even use you to cause other women to really have to rethink I Corinthians 11. It is not your job to make them obey God’s Word. But you can share why you and your husband decided to do this – if they are open to it. If they are not, that’s totally fine. You are seeking to please Christ first, then your husband – not anyone else.

          Thank you so much for sharing!

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