When a wife first begins this journey, it can be a very difficult time for her husband, many times, too. Let me see if I can pull the curtain back a bit on a husband’s heart and mind during these first few months (and maybe even years) when a wife truly repents and begins to seek God and wants to become a godly wife. Maybe some of the husbands will be willing to help us understand this better, too? Gentlemen, you are welcome to comment and share your masculine perspective on this issue!
If your husband happens to be extremely close to God – he may be able to help support you as you change. But most husbands (in my experience) – by the time their wives realize how much their disrespect/control hurt their husbands – are very deeply spiritually/emotionally damaged. By this point, they are often in self-protection and survival mode.
If a husband has felt extremely disrespected and his wife has been controlling for years – he may feel disconcerted and like the little tiny bit of stable ground beneath his feet is shaking if his wife starts changing a lot of things all the sudden. He may feel that this is another attempt by her to manipulate him into changing to be what she wants him to be. She has probably spent the last X number of years trying to change him. He is probably very tired of not being accepted and her attempts to make him her project. He may want to just do anything he can to try to re-establish “normal” and to try to feel like things are as stable as possible – even if it means things are still very tense.
Please understand, he is probably afraid and deeply wounded. But most men are not going to say that. Most men feel they have to just “man up” and bear their pain alone and try to make the best of a difficult situation and not talk about how much they hurt. Greg NEVER told me how hurt he was – not for the entire first 14.5 years of our marriage. A husband may feel that he has been burned over and over again for a LONG time. He is afraid to trust that this could be real, because what if he gets his hopes up and then his wife doesn’t change? What if he has the faith to expect that she will become a godly, respectful wife with a gentle, peaceful spirit who does what is right and does not give way to fear, who does good and not evil to him all the days of his life, a wife he can trust and be safe with – and then she turns on him and emotionally/verbally/spiritually destroys him after he opens up to her again?
He may not feel like he can endure that. It may be easier to try to sabotage her now (or call her out on her “manipulation” now, from his perspective) so that he doesn’t get his hopes up only to be crushed again. If he believes she can’t really change – better to prove that to himself and to her now than to torture himself with the “fantasy” that maybe he actually could have a wonderful marriage. (I am not justifying this approach, just sharing that this is my understanding of how husbands may feel at times.)
Also, most men HATE change. Even good change. It is scary. Right now, he is reacting out of fear and hurt. Eventually, as God continues to change a wife – many husbands will change over from skepticism/negativity/insults to confusion. In time, the confusion will give way to curiosity. And then, eventually the curiosity will give way to wonder, appreciation and gratitude. Usually. And – in a VERY, VERY long time – when God continues to change a wife, a husband may eventually feel safe enough to trust his wife and let his guard down with her again. It took Greg 3.5 years into my journey to get to that point (he shared with me last year).
A wounded, disrespected husband’s dreams of a beautiful marriage were already crushed before. Just like his wife’s were. He may be terrified to go through that kind of pain again. That’s ok. We aren’t doing this for him. He will benefit, eventually from our obedience to God, yes. But we are doing this for Jesus. Not for our husband’s reaction.
- If we are doing this just to change our husbands, then our motives are sinful. That would be manipulation, not total devotion to Christ. This long time of waiting when our husbands don’t change is necessary, in my view, for God to refine our motives and purify our hearts so that ALL we want in the end is to please Jesus and bless our husbands. Nothing else.
So, my precious sisters, don’t take the “really big bait” as Laura Doyle calls it in The Surrendered Wife. He may try to get you to react. He may try to push your buttons. He may try to get you to do the old familiar “song and dance” because then he will feel like he knows what he is dealing with and be assured that things are the same and he can go back to “normal.” You don’t have to go there anymore. You have God’s power now!
Even if he doesn’t believe in you right now – that is ok. He’s very hurt. It is understandable. He is human. He is looking at the past X number of years as proof of your “true identity.” That’s ok. You are now about to create a new history with the power of God’s Spirit transforming your heart, mind and soul. The longer the new history goes on, the more safe he will eventually feel. You are tearing down everything you built before and rebuilding from scratch on Jesus.
- Jesus will reward you for your obedience and faithfulness to Him. That is enough. More than enough, really.
The only “benefit” you gain from giving into that awful fleshly voice that tells you to lash out at him when he lashes out at you is that you would be able to tear into your husband and rip him apart even more, causing more destruction to his soul, your soul and the marriage. That will set you behind even many more months or years.
IF A HUSBAND IS EXTREMELY WOUNDED AND/OR SHUT DOWN:
Please picture him as being in the ICU in a hospital bed. Right now, he is barely breathing on his own. Right now, he is barely spiritually conscious. If he is not a believer, he is spiritually dead. Yes, you are hurt, too. Maybe you have a broken leg and a lot of scrapes and scratches. But right now, he can not get up out of that hospital bed and take care of you. He is that spiritually and emotionally critically wounded.
You may have to set aside your needs, even though they are legitimate, and tend to him first. Strangling him spiritually and emotionally will not make him better. It will not make him get up and be strong enough to serve you and take care of you. He’s not doing well right now. Please let Jesus take care of your wounds, and you do anything you can to tend to your husband’s wounds. Or, at the very least, stay out of God’s way so that God can heal him. Sinful words from you right now would just slash his soul apart even more and cause more internal bleeding. I know that isn’t what you want to do. Sometimes, when people are wounded, they lash out.
Please focus on your own walk with Christ and allow Him to work in your heart and get things right with Him – that is the only way any of us can get things right with other people. We need Jesus desperately first and foremost!
Understand that he doesn’t realize what is going on with you right now. He probably doesn’t know how difficult this journey is for you and what a complete overhaul of your entire emotional/spiritual existence this will be. He doesn’t know that this is a long journey. He may think you should just be able to flip a switch and be respectful and understand him. But – this is a process that takes time. It doesn’t come naturally to women! He is hurting and in great pain and distress emotionally and spiritually. He can’t just flip a switch and be more loving either. He has just as long of a journey to learn to become the man God desires him to be as you have to become the woman God desires you to be. He can’t be Christ to you. He can’t meet the needs that only God can meet in your life. Now, I encourage you to set self aside, and cooperate with God to bless this precious brother in the Lord for whom Christ died. How does God want His dear son, your husband, to be treated by you?
(If there are SERIOUS issues in the marriage, and a wife is as wounded as her husband or more so – she may need outside help. They may both need outside help. I am not addressing situations here where there might be infidelity, drug addictions, uncontrolled mental health disorders, abuse, etc… As always, if you are in such a situation, please seek godly, experienced help ASAP!)
FROM A HUSBAND:
- George says in response to “Why isn’t my husband more supportive of me as I seek to change?” –
Because he wants it to be true change even if he fails. He has to be able to count on it, even when he is tired, or forgets, or is sick, or confused.
- Please check out Rookie Writer’s post that he wrote in response to the post yesterday – it is in the comment section of this post today.
- From PaulC:
I find it hard to avoid shutting down. It’s harder to trust the change that I might be seeing. And even harder to know that I am called to be forgiving and to love my wife no matter what is happening.
I know that I have given up on certain things. I think that men will withdraw from their wives to avoid being hurt or to avoid feeling like you have no value to her. And it doesn’t sound manly…but it can be very difficult to drum up the courage to share how you are feeling if you’ve been degraded or beaten over the head for your feelings. Eventually….it is easy to keep quiet rather than put yourself out there. If you don’t have a voice, then you lose confidence that you are important to her. I believe that men like to feel like they have a purpose. And while our greatest affirmation comes from what God say about us….it is important to know that our wives believe in us. So, after being hurt, I think anyone’s natural reaction to be not be trusting of a change. I guess that I would encourage wives to be open with your husband about where you struggle, what you are learning, why you want to make a change and how you are doing it. It makes it a conversation. It will helps us understand what is going on which ultimately helps us take down the walls. I know that I appreciate when my wife shares with me how I can love and support her.
I think with many things in marriage….it is important that we let our spouse see that God is working through us. It all takes times, but the journey toward the marriages that God has planned for us are worth the effort.