Are we trying to control our husbands?
I had another impromptu interview with my husband. I’m so thankful he is usually game for answering my questions! He is able to express a masculine point of view very clearly now – I learn so much from him every time we talk! My husband may not be speaking for all men as he answers these questions. I hope other husbands might be willing to share their perspectives, as well. But I think it is possible that other husbands may look at things the way my husband does – and this may be something to prayerfully consider for us as wives. (If you have SERIOUS issues in your marriage – your husband has uncontrolled mental health problems, major addictions, major unrepentant sin, physical abuse, infidelity, etc… this post may not apply to your husband. Please seek godly, wise counsel ASAP!):
I was talking with my husband about a situation that – I would guess – probably happens in almost every marriage at some point, maybe MANY points:
The wife feels disconnected emotionally. She feels like she is not a priority. She feels like work, the TV, hobbies, the kids or friends are bigger priorities for her husband than she is. She is feeling unloved. So she begins to say things like:
- Why don’t you ever sit with me?
- I want us to sit together/cuddle. We never spend time together.
- I’m not a priority to you.
- If you really loved me, you would make time for me and you would want to sit with me on the couch (or cuddle with me in bed) instead of sitting by yourself at the computer/in the recliner.
- I want to be with you, but you never want to be with me. You wouldn’t care if we never spent time together.
- You need to sit with me right now!
- Oh, no! Where do you think YOU’RE going????? You can’t go out with your friends. You’re spending time with ME!
- Why can’t you turn off the TV and talk to me????!?!!
- Why did you even marry me if you never want to be with me?
- You obviously love the TV more than you love me.
- I have felt disconnected from you for weeks! All you want me for is sex. I feel like such a piece of meat to you.
- You care more about football/hunting/sports than you do about me. You need to spend some time with me right now!
- I feel like we are just roommates. You don’t love me at all. Why don’t you ever just cuddle with me and talk with me?
The wife just thinks she is “sharing her heart” and saying what she needs.
She thinks she is being totally reasonable – because any woman would feel the same way she does in her situation. She fully expects him to drop whatever he is doing RIGHT THEN and come lavish attention and affection on her. In all likelihood, she probably believes that her husband has the same emotional need to verbally connect that she does. If we assume our husbands think just like we do – we can get ourselves into HUGE trouble because it is VERY EASY to assume that our husbands have evil motives toward us based on their behavior and our assumptions that our husbands’ motives must be the same as our motives would be if we were behaving the way they are behaving. I hope you were able to follow me on that last sentence!
ASSUMING THE WORST OR THE BEST?
Unfortunately, our assuming the worst about our husbands does not promote a healthy marriage. It brings out the worst in our husbands – and in ourselves – when we make these kinds of assumptions.
We end up sabotaging ourselves and preventing ourselves from getting the very emotional intimacy we really long for!
If we can take the time to realize that our husbands and men in general often have VERY different ways of thinking, feeling and processing life than we do – that their masculine perspectives are totally different from our feminine perspectives – we can offer grace, understanding and empathy – assuming the BEST about our men instead of the worst. This is the kind of environment healthy marriages need in order to flourish.
Another issue is that in each of the examples above – the wife was approaching her husband disrespectfully. She was either giving him a directive (telling/ordering him what to do), making a demand or unfairly assuming that her husband is being unloving. This is NOT the way to motivate a husband to do what we want!
Men don’t like to be controlled. Honestly, who does?? Husbands respond to RESPECT – sincere, genuine respect that is completely free of manipulation.
I would suggest something like:
- “Honey, I’m feeling lonely today. Would you please hold me sometime when you have a few minutes? Thanks!”
- “Honey, I really miss you.”
- “I can’t wait to get to be in your arms soon.”
- “I’m really looking forward to have a chance to just talk and relax together soon.”
I would say this with a smile and a pleasant tone of voice. And then – be gracious no matter how he responds. This is a respectful way to share our feelings and needs WITHOUT pressuring our husbands, making them the bad guy or making demands. If he feels pressured, he will not feel like he has the freedom to delight you. He may feel like he has to wait a day or several days to be able to really give you what you say you desire.
HERE ARE SOME OF MY HUSBAND’S THOUGHTS (I hope some other husbands will also share their thoughts on this important issue, too!)
“If a wife demands attention/affection/discussion immediately, a husband is in a terrible predicament.
- If he immediately does what she says she wants, he and she both know that his actions are not genuine. He feels he has no choice but NOT to do what she demanded right then.
- If he does not do what she says she wants, she will think he is a total jerk and that he is being extremely unloving. He knows this. He doesn’t like it. But he MUST know that he is acting because he wants to, not because she is ordering him to do something.
He has to wait a certain amount of time so that he can act in his time, not her time.
It may be that later that week, if his wife asked respectfully and doesn’t blast him with criticism/contempt/disrespect – he will try to make some extra special time to hold and cuddle her and show her affection. But it will only be when it is HIS idea and he knows that she knows that it is not because she is forcing or coercing him – but that he wants to give her his attention on his own.”
A FEW OF MY HUSBAND’S THOUGHTS ABOUT “EMOTIONAL CONNECTION”
Greg says that – from his perspective – when I feel emotionally disconnected from him, it is MY emotional disconnection, not his. He says that a husband “is feeling very connected to his wife until she says she feels disconnected, then he feels like she is saying he has failed her.”
Most men are not motivated by feeling like failures.
I know that wives don’t intend to communicate, “I feel disconnected from you, so you are a failure in my eyes.” But, maybe that could be what our husbands HEAR? I don’t know if this is how every husband feels. Maybe some husbands feel this way?
Greg says, “When a wife wants emotional connection, if he thought things were fine, it is a slap in the face to him. If he was gone on a trip or very busy with baseball or kids or work, then he can understand her feeling disconnected. If he is unaware of her disconnection, it is like wife has a hole in her bucket, he can’t fill it fast enough. He feels he can never do enough to satisfy her.”
“Wives need emotional connection, husbands don’t need nearly what a wife would need. Most men have very few emotional connections outside of their wives.”
“If the family has a very hectic schedule, a husband would be fine without talking all week, and would understand that this is what we have to do to get this done. It’s not that I don’t love her or am not connected. My love doesn’t change because of that.”
I asked Greg, “What makes a husband feel connected or not?”
He said, “Disrespect can make a husband feel disconnected and for some men, not having sex with their wives in a certain time frame can make them feel disconnected. But
usually, a guy is going to be connected, and will not lose his connection unless his wife disconnects from him.”
MY THOUGHTS AFTER OUR DISCUSSION:
My feeling is that as a wife, many times our “neutral status” is feeling disconnected. We feel we have to do something actively to feel connected (talking, cuddling, affection, time together, praying together).
Greg said he believes that “A husband’s ‘neutral status’ is feeling connected and they have to do something actively to feel disconnected.”
WHAT AN IMPORTANT CONCEPT!
When I learned that my husband thinks of his love for me as unchanging and constant, regardless of what he says to me or our time to talk in a given week, that was a HUGE burden lifted from my shoulders. Now, I am able to rest in his love and know that he feels connected to me, even if we don’t get to have the time together I would really like. That helps me feel very connected to him – even when we can’t talk as much as I would like. Of course, I am also resting in my Jesus’ love that is unending and never failing, knowing that nothing can separate me from His love.
“For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn talks about this – that most Christian husbands see their love as unchanging and solid. Many of them have no idea why their wives constantly want reassurance of something that, to them, is steady and constant. One man said (this is my paraphrase), “my wife needing constant reassurance of my love seems as unnecessary as if she were to ask every day ‘Do we still own the house?’ Of course we still own the house! We bought it! And, of course I still love you, I married you!”
Men do not always express love verbally. For a lot of men – words aren’t worth much. But that DOES NOT mean they don’t love their wives. They tend to show their love in action. They often show love by going to work everyday and providing for their families. They show love by running to the pharmacy in the middle of the night when the baby wakes up sick, or by putting gas in their wife’s car, or by lifting burdens from her when she is overwhelmed. They show love by remodeling the house, taking the family to church, taking out the trash – by the things they DO. And when they do these things, they do them out of love, not because someone tried to force them to do them.
A NEW APPROACH
I think if we approach our husbands as if they live in this mysterious (new to us) world of masculinity that we know nothing about and that we would like to explore his world with him – and ask questions with eyes of wonder and amazement and friendly, genuine curiosity – continuing to see the best in him – our husbands will be able to eventually open up to us more and more.
I would like to see us as wives assume that if we don’t understand why our husbands are doing something, that they have good motives towards us. Unless they have definitely proven to be evil and untrustworthy, let’s assume the best about them, instead of the worst. Let’s assume they love us (if you have SEVERE issues in your marriage, this may not be true – but most husbands do love their wives – especially if they are still with them.) And let’s assume that they don’t have evil motives towards us. Let’s assume maybe we don’t understand how they think and maybe their priorities are different from ours. But let’s not assume they are ill-willed towards us and that they are our enemies.
An Interview with My Husband (Understanding a passive husband’s mindset)