I am answering some FAQs I hear from wives as they begin this journey to become godly, respectful wives with gentle and peaceful spirits who do what is right and do not give way to fear. (I Peter 3:5-6)
A little bit about me – I am a pharmacist and a mom of two. I have been married 19 years. The first 14 years of our marriage, I took control and my husband became very passive and unplugged. God revealed to me that I had actually been quite hateful and disrespectful toward him for most of those years when I read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in December of 2008. Since that time, God has radically changed me – then He radically changed my husband and my marriage. Almost 3 years ago, Greg asked me to teach other wives what God had shown me.
I write for wives. I don’t talk about what husbands “should do.” We can’t control anyone but ourselves. I spent 14 years focusing on what my husband should do and focusing on his failures – all the while ignoring my own sin. That left me a powerless victim, always demanding that he change. He never talked about that I had hurt him – so I thought he was fine. I had no idea how much my criticizing, scolding, bossing him around, dictating to him what to do, arguing, complaining and thinking I was right all the time and he was wrong all the time – had hurt him. All I knew was I was stressed, worried and lonely. Obviously, that was not a great recipe for a loving, wonderful marriage.
Now we have the marriage I always wanted to have. My power was in looking at my own end of the relationship and what God commands me to do as a wife and as a believer in Christ. My husband has a site for husbands that discusses a husband’s responsibilities and what God commands husbands to do. www.respectedhusband.wordpress.com.
- This seems like more than I can handle (yesterday’s post)
- When do I get to the “peaceful” part? (yesterday’s post)
- I don’t want to lose my voice and my power in my marriage.
- I feel like I am losing myself.
- I feel so lonely. (Part 3)
- I don’t know how to say things respectfully to my husband, so I am just not saying anything at all. (Part 3)
- My husband isn’t changing at all. Respect doesn’t work on my husband. (Part 4)
- My husband doesn’t love me and is not on board with this marriage. (Part 4)
- But I’m right! (Part 5)
- I’m so scared to give up control! Everything will fall apart if I don’t take charge! I am the better leader! (Part 5)
- He doesn’t deserve my respect! (Part 6)
- Why can’t HE change first? Why do I have to change when he’s the one who is so far from God and so unloving? (Part 7)
Let’s address some more of these FAQs and concerns today on that list from yesterday.
3. I don’t want to lose my voice and power in the marriage!
Many wives are concerned that if they obey God’s Word to respect their husbands and to honor their husbands’ God-given leadership, that it means they will become “doormats” or that they will lose all power in the relationship. God’s wisdom ALWAYS contradicts the world’s wisdom. He asks us to do things like:
- humble ourselves – not “look out for number 1”
- die to self
- forgive others
- love our enemies
- pray for those who mistreat us
- bless those who curse us
- overcome evil with good
- not take revenge but do good to those who are our enemies and trust God to take vengeance in His way and His time
- give up the things that mean the most to us in this world in order to have treasure in heaven
- be a servant to others if we want to be “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”
So, it is no surprise to me that what God asks wives to do is completely counter-intuitive, counter-culture, politically incorrect and totally against our sinful nature. I know that going into this, many wives think, “If I don’t criticize, cut down, boss around, belittle, yell and scream at my husband – he’s going to become a selfish, abusive tyrant and I will have no power in my marriage at all! I can’t afford to stop telling my husband what to do. And if I trust him to lead, he’ll just mess everything up and destroy our family.”
There are some husbands who are abusive, cruel tyrants. And there are some husbands who would destroy their families. Thankfully – they are the minority. And, really, the ones who are abusive, cruel tyrants are probably that way whether their wives attempt to respect and submit to them or not. These are the men who demand respect and “submission” (total, unquestioning obedience is their definition) from their wives but ignore God’s commands for them to love their wives as Christ loves the church.
The only verse in the Bible they concern themselves with is “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Eph. 5:22. They do not respond in humility to the charge God gives them to lovingly, selflessly lead their wives. They do not submit themselves to Christ or God’s Word or the church. They defy God’s Word themselves. A wife’s godly respect may reach them – God’s RX in such situations is 1 Peter 3:1-6. But…
** If your husband is abusive and you are in danger or there is extreme control and emotional/spiritual abuse going on, or there are uncontrolled mental health disorders, addictions or infidelity – please seek godly, wise, experienced help! This post is not for you! You will need a lot more specific help than I am able to offer. It may not be safe or responsible for you to stay if you are in danger. And this post may not be helpful for you – if you are wing abused, you may read much of what I say from a very unhealthy angle. I don’t want to damage any abused wives. This post is for women who tend to be controlling and disrespectful, not for those who have controlling or abusive husbands.
Most husbands who are anywhere near decent human beings will not respond to their wife’s respect and honor with abuse. Not at all! In fact, most men, even some generally angry and critical ones, when they feel truly honored and respected over a significant period of time (many months/years) respond by wanting to love and serve.
That is why men tend to love being in the military, or being fire fighters or police officers. Men are wired to respond WELL to honor and respect and to desire to protect and serve those who treat them with honor and respect.
Interestingly, as you learn to stop all the disrespect (both unintentional and intentional) and as you learn to speak this new language of respect and as you begin to understand this whole new world of masculinity and how differently men think, feel, process emotions and look at life – you will actually gain power.
- Yes, you will lose your sinful nature’s power to destroy your husband and your marriage. But that is a GOOD, GOOD thing! You will no longer emasculate him verbally or crush his soul with your words.
- You will GAIN the power of heaven and the power of Christ to use your words, attitudes and actions to build up your husband, to bring healing and LIFE into his soul and to your marriage and family.
At first, you may go through the Frustrating Quiet Phase which most formerly controlling/disrespectful wives do. That is where you realize that almost every word out of your mouth before was sin of one type or another. And you stop your words before you say them and before they can cause damage.
During this phase, you learn what is disrespectful and you begin to stop all of that. You will stop criticizing, arguing, complaining, making fun of your husband, putting him down in private and in front of others, dictating to him what to do, etc… You may be extra quiet for awhile because you don’t know what is respectful that you could say, yet, and you are learning wisdom and discretion.
Then you will begin to figure out what is respectful and you will start adding words that are encouraging, full of sincere admiration, praise and genuine respect. It is awkward and foreign at first. That is normal. It feels like emotional and spiritual contortion to do what God asks us to do at first. God has to completely renovate our hearts, souls and minds. All the old sinful ways have to go. New ways have to come in. This takes time.
Eventually – you won’t even THINK the disrespectful things anymore – but focus on the good things about your husband. This happens as we take every thought captive for Christ, focus on our own sin and obedience to God and allow God to work in our husbands, and we focus on things to thank God for about our men.
Once you understand what is disrespectful and what is respectful and you stop the old destructive ways by God’s power and begin to learn to speak respect – you probably won’t talk as much as you used to. I don’t. But I used to talk constantly, saying every thought that popped into my head and doing a lot of worrying, “what ifs,” talking about my fears, complaining, arguing, being prideful, thinking I knew best, gossiping, criticizing, etc. There will be a calm in your heart and mind when God’s Spirit is in control and all that sin is gone. I am now trusting God’s sovereignty to lead me through my husband. I smile a lot more now – real smiles. And when I do talk, I share my feelings, desires and things that are interesting to me. But God empowers my speech to be a blessing and wholesome now.
I DON’T LOSE POWER IN THE RELATIONSHIP WHEN I DO THINGS GOD’S WAY
For myself, and for many wives who have walked this journey with me – what we have found is that as our husbands see that we seriously respect them and that we are willing to trust them and honor their God-given leadership, our husbands begin to care MUCH MORE about our feelings and desires.
A man doesn’t allow someone he doesn’t respect to influence his behavior or decisions.
But as we become godly women, our husbands begin to genuinely respect us. They also see our respect and honor for them. In time, when they become sure that this is for real and that they are now safe and won’t be attacked, they usually begin to soften toward us and begin to care about our feelings so much more. This is not a guarantee. We cannot control our husbands. We must wait on God and trust His timing and trust His Spirit to work in our husbands and wait on Him for the results.
Now – if I am upset. All I have to do is look sad or say, “I feel sad about X.” And Greg wants to know what he can do to make things better for me. This is the same man who used to not look at me and ignore much of what I said and who barely touched me for a long time earlier in our marriage.
I have SO MUCH MORE “POWER” NOW than I ever had before!
Husbands LOVE for their wives to be happy. If they see that it is actually possible for us to be happy and content, they tend to want to do things for us that delight us.
But with God at the center of my heart – I can now be content no matter what my husband does. That is VERY KEY!
Over and over, I have seen husbands blossom and become much more thoughtful, kind, gentle, loving and generous as their wives meet the masculine needs of their hearts for respect, trust and honor.
Submission doesn’t make me weak when I do it God’s way – it is a key to peace, joy, and fulfillment as a godly woman. It means I find shelter and protection under my husband’s authority over me. It means I trust God to lead me through my husband. It endears me to my husband and brings out his protective, loving, gentle side. I am no longer in competition with him. So he can let his guard down and open up his heart to me in time. I have power and influence in my marriage. Much more than I ever had before. My husband allows me to influence him now instead of shutting his heart to me because he trusts me and I am a safe place for him to be real.
The key here is to keep my motives pure – not to think of respect and submission as a way to “change” my husband or “control him” or “get what I want – so I can feel loved.” I must do these things only to please God and bless my husband. Motives are HUGE with God.
4. I feel like I am losing myself.
You will lose your old sinful self. That is true. You will put on your new self in Christ.
I promise you, that as you go through this process of sanctification – becoming more and more like Jesus – God will radically change you. But you will not miss the person you used to be. You are giving up garbage in order to receive the riches of heaven. It is scary at first and hard to see that the sinful, worldly things we were clinging to are actually destructive and worthless. But as God changes you – you will realize that what God asked you to sacrifice was actually no sacrifice at all.
Find your identity, purpose, fulfillment and contentment totally in Christ alone. He is able to meet your spiritual needs in ways your husband never can.
It is important for you to say what you want and how you feel – and you can say these things in respectful ways. You do need to bring your personality, gifts, talents, perspective and all of yourself to the marriage. Being a godly wife is not about having zero opinions or feelings. That is going too far to a sinful extreme the other direction! If there is something you want to communicate and you need ideas for how exactly to say it – let me know and we will brainstorm together. 🙂