My hope is to point women to Christ and His Word. I don’t write for men because Scripture admonishes women not to teach or have authority over men. This does not mean that the Bible doesn’t apply to men or that they are off the hook with God. Husbands are more accountable to God for their love and godly leadership than wives are for their roles in marriage.
I write especially for wives who tend to be dominating and controlling with passive husbands. If you have a very dominating husband – this blog may not be a good fit for you. If your husband is abusive – please don’t read my blog in that case, but seek godly, experienced, wise counsel ASAP or check out www.leslievernick.com (specifically for emotional abuse)! Sometimes women with abusive husbands tend to think they hear me say things I don’t say. Please be safe! Don’t stay and take abuse – get out and get help if you are truly in trouble!
And if your family or your husband’s family is seriously hurting you or extremely toxic and your husband is not acting, please get somewhere safe. Don’t stay if you are in danger. There are times you may have to take action even if your husband is not on board – but my prayer is that you would seek God’s wisdom and do what He clearly prompts you to do.
This is a question I hear a lot. MANY wives are upset because they feel their in-laws (or sometimes their own parents or family members) disrespect them or try to control them and their husband does nothing to come to his wife’s defense. I talked with Greg about this issue. Here are some of his thoughts:
A husband who feels respected probably will try to protect his wife – but she has to be willing to stay under his covering and protection. If she lashes out at his family members, insults them or disrespects them and creates a lot of hurt feelings, she will be on her own. Her husband can’t protect or defend her if she creates a lot of problems for herself. At that point, a husband will allow her to lie in the bed she made for herself.
Most men HATE drama. They don’t want to be put in a tug of war between their mom and their wife. Yes, he should always choose his wife over his mom. But he doesn’t want to hurt his mom. He would rather not be forced into a position where he has to hurt the feelings of a woman he loves. But if his wife is honoring his leadership, genuinely respecting him on a regular basis and he knows she trusts him and admires him – he probably will be willing to stand up for his wife against someone else if he sees someone insult his wife – particularly if she didn’t do anything to instigate the attack.
WHY ARE THESE RELATIONSHIPS SO DIFFICULT?
In-law relationships can be very tricky. We don’t have the long history of unconditional love with in-laws that we do with our own parents and siblings. Each family’s culture is unique and it is easy for people from different families to have widely differing expectations about lots of topics. Plus, attempting to navigate the new boundaries of a new marriage can be difficult for families who are used to being very involved in their children’s decisions.
Also, it is difficult for some parents to let go of control of their son (or daughter). They love him. They want the best for him. But it is difficult for them to release their son to be his own man when he becomes an adult. Some parents want to continue being the authorities in their children’s lives and don’t embrace God’s design for the authority structure of the new marriage. If they think the have the right to be in charge and that they are still God-given authorities over their child, they can be quite controlling – and this is VERY destructive to the new marriage.
- The new wife NEEDS to know that it is her husband who is in authority and in charge now, not his parents or her parents.
- The husband NEEDS to know that his wife will follow his leadership, not her parents’ or his parents’.
CREATING NEW BOUNDARIES THAT PROTECT YOUR MARRIAGE
It is critical for the husband, in my view, to set healthy boundaries with his family or with his wife’s family, if they are attempting to exert improper authority over the marriage – because he is the authority in the marriage. Sometimes, it may be appropriate for the wife to do the boundary setting with her own parents. Please pray for God’s wisdom on this! (some suggestions):
- I love you Mom and Dad (and siblings)
- God has placed my husband in charge of me now in my new marriage.
- I want to honor you and respect you. I’m so thankful for all you have done to raise me right.
- Now it is time for my husband to be responsible for the decisions in our new family.
- I welcome your ideas and suggestions when I/we ask for them.
- Please pray for God to give my husband wisdom to lead me and our family well for His glory.
WHAT CAN A WIFE DO?
(My suggestions, for whatever they are worth. The most important thing is for us to listen to God’s Spirit and obey His Word.) As a wife, you can’t force your husband to set healthy boundaries with his family or your family. But, you can support, honor and respect his leadership. You can close ranks with your husband and not allow family members or friends to divide you and destroy your unity. (Only say these kinds of things if you can say them sincerely and genuinely!)
- Look to your husband when family members want to make you make a big decision and allow him to answer if he is there. If he is not there, you could say, “I need to talk to my husband about that. I’ll let you know what we decide.” or “I’ll check with my husband.”
- “You can talk with (my husband) about it if you aren’t comfortable with his decision.”
- “My husband asked me to do X. I’m going to honor him and do what he asked me to.”
- “That is a decision my husband and I will be making together. I’ll be sure to let him know about your concerns.”
- Don’t speak negatively about your husband to others!!! This is REALLY important! This protects your marriage and enables your husband to trust you and to know that you are loyal to him.
- Talk about your husband’s strengths and the good things you admire about him to family and friends.
- “This is the decision my husband made (or my husband and I have made), and I support him.”
- “I know you are concerned about what we are planning to do. Thank you for sharing. We appreciate that you love us very much. We will be sure to take these issues into consideration when we talk about our plans.”
- “I trust my husband.”
- “I have every confidence in my husband.”
- “Yes this is a big decision. We will be sure to be careful and thorough as we decide what to do.”
- “Thanks for telling me your concerns. We know you love us very much.”
- “That is an issue I am not at liberty to discuss right now. Thanks for understanding.”
Also – it may be best NOT to talk to extended family members about every little decision – or the big ones. It may be best only to talk with your husband about them, and pray about them and possibly speak to a godly mentoring wife who is living out respect and biblical submission in her own marriage (if your husband is ok with that). Then, when you have made your decision together, you may be able to talk about it with other family members – follow your husband’s lead on that.
Once you are married, you answer to God and to your husband. You don’t answer to extended family and friends and coworkers. It can be very wise, in my view, to not share all the personal business that goes on between you and your husband but to keep most of that private. If you are in serious danger – you may need to reach out for help – or if there are some HUGE issues like drug addiction, alcoholism, infidelity, physical abuse, uncontrolled mental disorders – but understand that family and friends may not be as willing to forgive as you are when the crisis is over. Please pray that God might show you the healthy boundaries you need to have with your families and for your marriage to be strong and vibrant.
HOW TO TREAT HIS FAMILY (some of my suggestions, but be sure you do what God calls you to do)
- ALWAYS be respectful
- don’t criticize them to their faces or to him – he hears criticism of his family as criticism of himself
- don’t raise your voice
- use a pleasant, friendly tone of voice
- Don’t tear them down to other people
- don’t try to change them
- Accept them the way they are and that they are different from your family. That is ok!
- Be sure they feel included with seeing your children if at all possible
- Allow your husband to be the one to deliver difficult news to them if possible
- Respect the way your husband decides to relate to his family – Don’t try to make him do things your way. Trust him to handle his family members and let him be the one to speak to them if there is conflict going on or if you are trying to avoid conflict. His family can hear from him much more easily than they can hear from you.
I don’t ever intend women to hear “stay and be abused.” Or “if your husband won’t stand up for you, you have no choice, just take it.” My first prayer is that wives might be able to work on their end of things if that is needed (as per Matthew 7:1-5) and then she will see clearly enough to address sin issues with her husband.
Sometimes just a wife working on her own issues may bring healing to the husband and marriage and inspire a husband to take the lead as he should if he is not leading properly – not always, but sometimes, depending on the situation. If he continues not to lead or a wife or children are seriously in danger – a wife may have to refuse to see her in-laws and keep herself and her children safe.
If a husband won’t protect a wife who is walking in obedience to God’s Word, that is a big problem and it is not okay. She may need godly, wise counsel from a trusted counselor one-on-one. She may need to involve the police if she and her children are extremely unsafe. The goal, in my mind, is for each of us to listen to God’s Word and His Spirit and to seek to do exactly what He prompts us to do with right motives in our own hearts – so that ultimately He will be glorified.
RESOURCE for those with very difficult husbands, Nina Roesner’s “Strength and Dignity” eCourse
The Peaceful Wife book
Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sins
A Husband and Wife Handle a Controlling Mother as a Team
Dealing with Financial Stress in Marriage
Handling External Pressure on This Journey
Healthy VS. Unhealthy Relationships
You can also check out my Youtube channel – “April Cassidy” – I have a lot of videos about these topics and more!