“I Thought I WAS Being Respectful! What Happened??”

Here is an email from a wife  and my response.  My focus here is not on what the husband could or should have done differently (Yes, there is plenty of room for improvement on his side).  I am writing for women, so I am only going to address what the wife could have done differently.  If we are married to a sinful person, and we all are… we WILL be sinned against.  
It is pretty pointless to focus on what the other person “should” do.  We cannot control other people.  We can influence them, but we cannot force them to do what we want.  I spent almost 15 years of our marriage focusing on what my husband “should do” and didn’t see the forest of sin in my own eye.  That was not productive at all!   
I believe we can and should voice our feelings, desires and perspective – in a way that speaks respect and a cooperative spirit.  Our power is to focus on what we think, say and do and our own responsibility/sin/accountability in the relationship:
Last night I messed up a bit.  My husband had moved some furniture for me.  And I was surprised to see that he didn’t put everything where I thought it should go.   I was (I think) respectful about bringing it up later.  Asking why he’d done that and did he agree it seemed a bit imbalanced now.
He was offended and mad, his voice escalated and he said something that hurt me. In some ways it reminded me of the lessons you’ve mentioned learning yourself. He was yelling and then he said that I was bullying him to get what I wanted.
I was so hurt, surprised and mad that I told him he’d ruined the night and I stormed offI actually re-did his work and put things where I wanted.  That was a big mistake I know, but I was hurt and so furious that he’d started yelling at me after I was respectful and appreciative.
He continued with the Sunday night things we’d usually do together, by himself.  I was so hurt.  By the time he came up to bed I was really hurt & fuming.  I tried to forget it, when he put his hand on mine in bed but I wasn’t able to.
I asked if that’s how he wants to move forward in our marraige now.   Just ignoring each other, blah blah.  Dumb, disrespectful things, I said.
He yelled at me that he didn’t know why I was “manufacturing drama” and he’d decided he “didn’t want to live his life like that” and he’d let it go hours ago.
What did he mean?  We got into going back and forth about it for a long while, but I was very respectful!! Trying to say to him that unresolved conflict is really damaging for me and I want to fix our argument sooner.   He blamed me for storming off.  Fair enough.  I was so respectful.  I was frustrated at times but never raised my voice. I worked hard not to interrupt.
We did make up finally and speak for quite some time about his future work goals, and hug a lot in bed.
I actually wouldn’t have bothered you with an email…
But today, he has changed his facebook profile photo from one of us both at our wedding, to one of him alone – a pic that used to have me in it, but as a favor I cut myself out and photoshopped myself out it so he could use it on LinkedIn.  It really stings and I have a lot of fear that he must feel the honeymoon is over?  Is our marraige is ok?  What did he mean he didn’t want to live like that” … scary for me.
I can tell you that many men bristle at the word “why” no matter what the tone of voice their wife has – for lots of men, that word implies that he made a stupid decision.  He may believe that you are questioning his wisdom, competency and abilities.  That one little word can make the difference sometimes between a man feeling respected vs disrespected.  Men tend to be quite sensitive to disrespect.  We don’t usually mean to come across disrespectfully, but sometimes that is what our men hear.  This wasn’t about moving the furniture – it may have been about your approach. 
You could say, “I would like to have this chair over here, please.”  with a smile and pleasant tone of voice and that would probably have gotten you what you wanted without a fight.  Problem solved.
I know you thought you were respectful and appreciative – that is GOOD! But what matters most is if HE is hearing respect and appreciation.  When he turns on you in anger like that (or some men suddenly stonewall and shut down) – he is probably feeling disrespected – whether the disrespect was unintentional or intentional on your part.
Later, in bed, he was trying to apologize when he put his hand on yours.  That was his way of attempting to begin to reconcile.  But more disrespect made him stop trying to offer you peace and intimacy. 🙁
He forgave you earlier.  He dropped the issue.  Men don’t always have to talk through things to forgive and reconcile – they forgive in their own minds sometimes and then want to just move on.  
Women usually do need to talk through things.  I totally understand if you feel like you need to talk more about the situation.  Let’s talk about how tell your husband your feelings in a productive way.  Most men will hear our feelings best when we calmly express them purely and simply with vulnerability (Laura Doyle – The Surrendered Wife):
  • I feel sad
  • I feel hurt
  • I feel upset
  • I feel afraid
  • I feel angry
  • I feel confused
  • I feel nervous

Instead of blasting our men with blame and labeling them “the bad guy”  – which will make them shut down or defend themselves – we can simply ask for what we need and say how we feel in boiled down, basic terms with just a few sentences.  Flooding our husbands with an avalanche of negatively charged emotional words can overwhelm them!  If we can keep our message fairly brief, to the point and calm, we  give our men a chance to hear us better, be our hero and to delight us!

So, in this situation, in bed, you could have cuddled up to  him and said something like, “I feel hurt/sad about what happened this afternoon.  I was trying to be very respectful, but maybe I accidentally said or did something that came across disrespectfully?  Maybe that is why you sounded so angry at me?  I want you to feel very respected by me – I know I still have a lot to learn about respect.  Is there something I could do differently that would feel more respectful to you?  It hurts me when you yell at me.”

I’m really proud of you for doing many things respectfully and not raising your voice and not interrupting him.  GREAT JOB!
If you have not apologized for being disrespectful (if he says he felt disrespected) – then please BRIEFLY and humbly apologize for asking “why” he did what he did (and maybe there was non-verbal disrespect, too?  Tone of voice or body language or facial expressions?)  That one little word, “why” screams disrespect to some men.  Try to ask your questions without using why.  I like to say “I want this, please.”  “I would like this.”  “Would it be possible to do X?”  “I would rather not do Y.”  “What about X?”
The apology is probably only going to need to be about one or two sentences: “I understand now that if I ask ‘why,’ it sounds disrespectful to you. I am SO sorry that I came across as being disrespectful.  I will be careful not to do that again!”  And then DO NOT EXPLAIN or justify yourself!  End of apology. 🙂
My take on his FB pic is – don’t ask him about that right now.   It would be easy to say, “WHY did you change your FB pic?  You obviously don’t love me anymore!”    That may only exacerbate the whole situation!  I think it is best to just wait a few days, see what happens and focus on the things he actually does say to you instead of making assumptions about his motives and see what happens.  (Love always trusts, always expects the best – I Corinthians 13:4-8)  
If you absolutely must talk about the FB picture right away- my suggestion would be to say something like, “I noticed you changed your FB picture after our argument.  It makes me feel sad/scared/upset to see that you took the picture of us together down.”  But then let him decide what to do about it.  Bob Grant says “No one likes to be told what to do.  But men REALLY don’t like to be told what to do.”  The more you try to force your way – the less likely your husband is to do what you want.  But if you share your feelings and then let him think about what to do about them, most of the time, husbands really do want to make us happy.
My take is not the only way to handle situations respectfully.  I am just giving women some ideas of options that may be helpful.  
There will be misunderstandings like this in every marriage.  It doesn’t mean the marriage is in danger.  It means that there is more growing and maturing that needs to be done.  It means that you are both sinners.  God is using marriage to make you both more holy.  And it is a great opportunity to learn to practice extending forgiveness, grace and mercy.
Now, today is a new day – so ENJOY your husband.  Savor the moments you share.  Don’t hang on to the argument but more forward and ask God how you can most bless and honor your husband today!
I placed the chair back where he had placed it. When he noticed, he was really pleased and I told him I would rather live with it than have him think anything was more important to me than him.  He told me “you’re so sweet.” And cuddled me.  I used the opportunity to give the apology you phrased.
Thank you,  April. That was a really bad one for us. I really feel blessed you replied!!!
I LOVE how this wife handled the situation at the end.  GREAT JOB!!!!!!