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How to Avoid Becoming a Controlling/Disrespectful Wife


A newlywed posed this question to me,

“How can I avoid becoming a controlling/disrespectful wife?”

Goodness, this topic could be a book in and of itself. I have many posts about respect that will be helpful.

Spiritual Authority  – God’s design structure for spiritual authority in our lives in marriage, business, government and the church
A Husband’s and a Wife’s Authority in Marriage
Biblical Submission
Submitting Under Protest

What Is Respect in Marriage?

This post is primarily for women who tend to be Type A personalities, go-getters, leaders who like to be in charge and who feel very strongly that they know what is best and they are “right” all or almost all the time.  If you are a more passive wife who has trouble speaking your mind and knowing your own heart, some of these ideas may be counterproductive for you. You will have to approach things from the opposite angle and learn to speak up more and share your heart, ideas, feelings, emotions and personality more. Many of the ideas below would be for all of us. I hope this might bless you, especially the newlyweds!

In my view, some of the greatest ways to prevent becoming a controlling, disrespectful wife would be to:

1. Stay as close to Christ as possible. Abide in Him. Be Spirit filled. You can’t be a godly wife without your power source!!!!!

2. Focus on God’s sovereignty. Trust God. Trust God to lead you through your husband. Realize that even if you don’t get your way, or even if your husband makes mistakes, God is able to use your husband’s good and bad decisions to accomplish His will. This is the greatest test of faith most wives will ever experience.

3. Do not ever allow a little decision to become more important to you than your obedience to Christ or the unity of your marriage or your husband. There is no issue that is that important.

4. If your husband asks you to blatantly sin, then you will have to respectfully refuse to submit to him. But check out the post Spiritual Authority to be clear on what this means. Many wives assume things are sin that really aren’t, and resist their husbands’ leadership to the destruction of the marriage over things that are not sin.

5. Watch your motives every day all day long. Pride and self-righteousness can easily creep in.

6. Watch your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself? Are you putting your husband down or criticizing him in your heart? Repent and turn to Christ right away! Replace those accusations and assumptions with the truth of God’s word and truth about your husband.

7. Maintain your time with God, His Word, prayer, worship and praise daily. This is your only source of power!

8. Guard your heart and your marriage from other men. None of us are above adultery. Set up healthy boundaries to protect yourself and do not seek to be close friends with other men.

9. Realize that God can and will speak through your husband to you. Be accepting and prayerful about correction. (Unless he is asking you to blatantly sin or condone sin or there are extremely major issues and your husband is not in his right mind – uncontrolled mental health problems, addictions, infidelity, severe sin issues, etc.) Prayerfully consider your husband’s comments and ask God to help you see what is true and what He might want you to work on.

10. Study your husband to know what speaks respect and disrespect to him in particular and learn to speak his language.

11. Give unconditional respect and honor even when he doesn’t “deserve it.” (This doesn’t mean you trust him if he has broken trust. Trust would have to be rebuilt.)

12. You will be most tempted to sin when you are sinned against. (Gary Thomas “Sacred Marriage”). Be on your guard in those times and seek to respond in the power and grace and mercy of Christ not in your sinful nature. More sin will only cause more damage.

13. Learn to share your feelings, your heart, your desires and personality in a vulnerable, respectful way.

14. Be a safe place for your husband to share. Let him experience the grace of God and forgiveness of God in you.

15. Be loyal, don’t share things that will hurt your husband with others. Speak well of him around others. Don’t criticize him in front of other people.

16. Assume the best never the worst about him. Give him the benefit of the doubt. That is what I Corinthians 13 love does.

17. Learn how he likes to bond and do things he enjoys just to bless him. That may mean going fishing, hunting, playing golf, sitting with him while he works on the car or watches TV. Most men don’t bond with words. Sitting together or doing something together quietly is often the way they like to bond best. That is not wrong! Show him that you are willing to do the things he likes to do that are important to him.

18. Accept him, don’t try to change him.

19. Appreciate and enjoy him as he is.

20. Share all of your emotions and feelings in a way that doesn’t blame him but be honest about your feelings. Don’t hide your heart from him. I like to share positive and negative emotions by simply labeling them. “I’m feeling so happy!” “I feel sad.” “I feel afraid.” “I am thankful!” “I love being your wife.” (Some of these ideas are from The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle.)

21. Share your desires in a non-threatening way. “I want X.” “I don’t want Y, please.”

22. Offer suggestions and requests not demands or directives.

23. Take his leadership seriously and his opinions and advice very seriously, and realize God may be leading you through your husband’s advice.

24. Don’t put your parents, friends, children or anyone above your husband in priority.  God commands us as spouses to leave our father and mother and cleave to our spouse. So many marriage problems come from not leaving our parents or not cleaving (becoming one with) our husbands. The only One who can come before your husband is God.

25. DEFINITELY put God way above your husband as a priority! Don’t idolize your husband and expect him to be responsible for your happiness.

26. Be responsible for your own emotions and find all your contentment in Christ.

27. Do not give way to fear.

28. Be aware of Satan’s strategies to attempt to destroy you, your husband and your marriage.

29. Forgive quickly. Realize that you are married to a wretched sinner and you are also a wretched sinner. Be prepared to extend grace generously!  Do NOT hold on to bitterness or unforgiveness – that gives Satan a huge foothold in our lives!

30. Repent quickly! Keep short accounts with God. Repent DAILY or as soon as you realize you have sinned.

31. Be quick to respond to God’s Spirit, His conviction and His nudging.

32. Embrace humility and shun pride. Do not be wise in your own eyes. Do not lean on your own wisdom and understanding but on God and His truth.

33. Realize that your husband is different from you, but that does not automatically make him “wrong.”

34. Approach marriage with the assumption that your husband is “good willed” towards you and that you have a lot to learn about how men think and how your husband thinks.

35. Rest in your husband’s love and God’s love. He married you. He loves you. Most men view their love as pretty permanent and stable. It seems very odd to them that a wife would keep asking over and over again for assurance of their love. It is unnecessary to be needy and desperate. We are daughters of the King of kings. In Christ, we are accepted, dearly loved, forgiven, seated with Christ in the heavenlies, more than conquerors, cleansed, empowered, Spirit-filled, full of joy, full of peace, full of purpose, etc…

36. If your husband is like my husband, his “neutral state” in the relationship is to feel “connected” to me. I used to think we were always “disconnected” unless we were actively “connecting” (emotionally and spiritually and physically.) What a revelation to learn that my husband always feels connected to me, unless I begin to attack him. This helps me rest in his love. Maybe your husband is a lot like mine?

37. Realize that your sinful nature contains the power to destroy  your husband and marriage. If you try to do marriage in your own power, you will speak death to the relationship.

38. It is only as we die to self and live as living sacrifices for Christ daily that we live in the power of God. When we live in His power, then we have the power to heal, build up, encourage, inspire, affirm, honor and breathe LIFE to our husbands and our marriages. Yes, if we die to self, we lose our sinful power to destroy, but that is a GOOD thing!  And, praise God, the power He gives us to give life is so much stronger than our sinful power to destroy.

39. Commit to obeying God’s Word even when it is hard, even when you don’t understand, even when you disagree. There is great blessing in living in obedience to God! Make your decisions based on God’s Word, not on feelings! God answers the prayers of those who walk in His Spirit and live in obedience, not the prayers of those who are disobedient and rebellious against Him.

40. Don’t argue or complain – but focus on developing a joyful, thankful, peaceful spirit that is fully dependent upon Christ.

41. Smile at your husband just to bless him!

42. Do things for your husband just to bless and honor him, expecting NOTHING in return.

43. Lay down expectations.

44. Recognize and put to death any idols/sin in your heart – desires you have that you tend to put above Christ – the desire to have control, to have romance, to feel loved, to change your man, to have children, to have your way, beauty, food, perfectionism, people pleasing, the approval of others, pride, self-righteousness, greed, unforgiveness, bitterness, unbelief, fear, etc…

45. Stop and listen to him when he talks.

46. Learn not to trust your feelings when you are hormonal, stressed, exhausted or sick. Depend on God and your husband’s wisdom during those times much more than your feelings.  Your feelings can and will lie to you and can quickly become the playground of the enemy to attempt to sabotage your marriage.

47. Be willing to let go of toxic friendships that undermine your husband or your marriage. Seek to surround yourself with godly friends who will support and bless your marriage and your obedience to God.

48. Treat him like a grown man, not a child!

49. Enjoy him sexually! Make yourself available to him sexually whenever possible. (A Precious Example)

50. Be flexible. Be able to roll with whatever God brings your way.

51. Don’t look down on him and think you are better than him. We are all on equal footing before the cross of Christ. None of us are good on our own! We are all desperate for Christ Jesus.

52. Remember that husbands have their own learning curve and journey to take, too. They don’t know everything from day one either. We can learn and grow together.

53. Be ok with not always getting your way. Seek God’s will WAY above your own will.

54. Realize that your husband is not always wrong and you are not always right.

That might be a start!

Remember to breathe. This is a LONG, lifelong process of learning and growing in our faith and walk with Jesus and learning to become godly wives. We will mess up at times. We can’t absorb everything at once. We have to take a day at a time and chew one bite at a time. We won’t be perfect. But God will lead us when we are willing to follow Him with all our hearts.

Other wives, what would you say to a newlywed who asked you this question? You are welcome to share what you have learned and are learning! 🙂

40 thoughts on “How to Avoid Becoming a Controlling/Disrespectful Wife

  1. If I could choose only one from among all these very insightful and wise pointers that April wrote, it is NUMBER 2. It is my godly wife mantra. 🙂

    I live by it, breathe it, rest in it.. God’s Sovereignty. I believe in my heart that I am being led by God through my imperfect God-ordained authority on earth, my husband Dong. When I decided to let go and let God, trusting in God meant submitting to Dong. That was when the Lord freed me from my three decades-long bondage of control.

    Thanks for this list, April. I would read it again and again. 🙂

    You feeling better now, sister?



    1. Nikka,
      I am feeling a lot better. Thank you! 🙂

      Yes – God’s sovereignty is the key to our ability to have peace! That was what I was missing for so long in my marriage. My lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty kept me in fear and thinking I had to make things happen myself.

      Much love!

  2. I too wish I had this list as a new wife. However, all of us who didn’t get the wisdom until now, can pray for a new beginning, or a new relationship with the husbands we have. I think from this point forward I will consider myself a “newlywed” since I’m becoming new each day! I hope you’re feeling better April!

    1. Catherine,

      I love your idea of considering yourself a “newlywed” because you’re becoming new each day. What a wonderful way to think of our journey to becoming godly wives. 🙂 Here’s to our new beginning each day! I am so thankful that God (largely through April) opened my eyes to so much wisdom, and that we can continue to encourage each other here. Blessings to you, dear sister.

  3. I agree, too, that this should be part of pre-marital counseling. How sad that so many of these have become a habit & not thought through about the impact on my husband, let alone the message I’m sending my daughter. Yikes! The messages in my head are my current challenge. To undo this one alone can change so much in my marriage. I’m wondering if you could pray that I stay focused on this today & not get too wound up in taking every thought captive? That I replace my thoughts with God’s truth? I would be so grateful. Thanks, April, for another heart inspiring & challenging post.

  4. April,
    I hope you’re feeling lots better today! My little three-year-old granddaughter just recovered from scarlet fever, a reminder of how fortunate we are to be living in a time when formerly deadly diseases can be cured with antibiotics. Please continue to get lots of rest. Much love to you!

    1. Elizabeth,

      Yes, I am feeling much better today, thank you! I am so glad your granddaughter is better. Scarlet fever can be scary. I am very thankful for the medical care we have today.

  5. This list is awesome! I really needed this today. Blessings to you. I have been married for 16 years but I am still learning, wish I had this list before we got married.

  6. Hi April, This list is also conducive to most passive wives. I am a passive wife with a dominant husband and this list is helpful to me also. Thanks.

    1. Tobiyah,

      I am so glad it was helpful for you. If there is anything you think would be helpful to add for more passive wives, please let me know! 🙂

    2. I agree, Tobiyah! I’m a passive wife who is controlling (yep – a weird combo, but I shut down easily) & has a dominant husband. The list was definitely helpful. 🙂

  7. I love your posts April, you have such wisdom and a blessed ability to word things so they are straight forward and easy to understand! Thank you!
    I would like to add that although premarital counseling can be very helpful, it cannot be expected to prevent or solve all problems. I the couple is not committed to getting to know who each other truly is and learning to communicate effectively it will do no good. I have known people who had lots of premarital counseling and still seem to know very little about themselves or their spouse! They have many communication and respect/control issues. It can be very effective, but is not a cure-all.

    1. Monica,

      Great point!!!! There are no guarantees in life or marriage and there will definitely be many surprises that we are not prepared for even if we try to prepare well. This forces us to rely on God and His Spirit and to realize we are totally dependent on Him. 🙂

  8. First, I hope that you are feeling better and recharged!! I do have a question ( a million but we will start with one. Regarding #12 How do I respond in the power and grace and mercy of Christ (example may be helpful for me here) when my husband is behaving in sneaky ways and being disrespectful to me…example this past week he has been extremely snappy with me and blaming me when he can’t find his own possessions and being rude to me at times. I am trying hard not to withdraw and become cold but he is hurting my feelings and I have ideas where the frustration lies and it isn’t likely with me or my actions but his own issues… I just don’t know how to respond. I calmly ask is everything okay and when he acted especially frustrated with me yesterday over a misplaced item (he put somewhere a month ago and was frustrated he couldn’t find it). I apologized but I didn’t remember anything about this item (a cd) from a month ago?! I helped him look? What else? In the past I would have snapped and responded in an equally sinful manner but I didn’t and 92% of the time I don’t anymore over the last year…

    1. Prayingwife79,

      It sounds like you handled things pretty well. If you know you didn’t misplace the CD, you don’t have to apologize, but offering to help him look and empathizing with his frustration and responding calmly sound like very grace-filled responses.

      If he is attacking you, you can say very softly, “Please don’t talk to me like that.”

      Or “Ouch.”

      Or “I don’t recall moving your CD. I am so sorry you are feeling frustrated. I’d be glad to help. What can I do?”

      Or, depending on your husband, just getting out of his way could be wise.

      I think also, in a situation where you know you didn’t do anything wrong, it can be helpful not to take his attitude personally and realize that he is just frustrated.

      Of course, the Holy Spirit can give us much guidance in specific situations, ultimately, it is my hope that we will listen to and obey Him about whether to say something or not and what to say and how to say it and when.

      Does that help? 🙂

      Much love to you!

    2. Hi, Prayingwife79 – A similar scenario happens at our house sometimes & what April & other wives here have taught & encouraged me is to keep going, keep being respectful, etc. My husband has 17+ years of disrespect to deal with & he’s a little gun shy on coming around. In fact, the more respectful I get (& I’m not totally consistent yet, so this is just a baby step for me) the more intense his response gets. This afternoon I didn’t hand the camera to him right (the strap was still on my wrist because I wasn’t finished passing it off to him before he grabbed it) & was told that I’m such a pain to work with on things, that nothing is ever simple or easy with me. It hurt, but I know that’s about him & not me. Just remember that God knows what’s going on in your heart (& your sisters here!) & is doing the happy dance for how far you’ve come. 🙂

      1. Sally,


        You know what? One of the most interesting parts of this journey is to see wives respond in the power of God’s Spirit in situations like this and then to see how the husbands will often come back and apologize because when the wife doesn’t sin in return. eventually, most husbands will begin to realize that the only words ringing in their ears are their own sinful words. That can be pretty convicting for a man.

        If you haven’t seen it before, you may want to search “Portia’s Story”. On my home page. Really good. And there is another one where a husband was so harsh and his wife was quiet. He yelled at her for not responding to him as he berated how she was handling the children and she said gently, “I am listening, I was quiet because I was just thinking about what you were saying.” He went off to take a shower. When he came out, he said, “God told me to apologize. I am sorry I yelled at you.”

        I think it is necessary at times to express that what they say hurts us. But there are other times when silence is even more powerful. And sometimes, an act of sincere kindness will make bring major conviction on a husband in a moment like that. This is why we need God’s spirit to know what He wants us to do in a particular situation.

        It is good to be able to realize that sometimes something is your husband’s issue and not to take on that weight on yourself. I can tell you that when a wife does better with obeying. God, many husbands get more angry at first, there are a variety of reasons for that. I have a post about it (I’ve been trying to be respectful but my husband has been more unloving than ever – what is going on?)

        This is when a lot of husbands will try to get their wives to engage in a fight and go back to the old pattern. But when the wives keep responding in a godly way, husbands begin to get really confused. That is a good thing. Eventually, they will begin to see that their own harsh behavior is sinful and unnecessary and that their wives aren’t doing anything that justifies this kind of sinful behavior in their minds. God convicts them without a word from their wives many times.

        But even if your husband never changes, I pray you will continue on obeying God and growing in Christ because God will reward your obedience in heaven. 🙂

        Thank you all for sharing! This is the kind of support I believe wives need on this journey… Sharing struggles, challenges, prayer requests, victories and joys. Love it!

      2. Thank you ladies so much. Yes I do respectfully say, “you seem to be getting irritated with me, is it something I have done?” And usually it is something else but occasionally he is ready to point the finger. I apologize because I am notorious For putting up things and not remembering where they are 8 months later?? But if it were up to my husband everything would stay on eyesight and we would likely end up on the show hoarders 😉 a slight exaggeration but only slight. God has definitely been working on me and through this wonderful blog and Christian advice, my ways are changing. Baby steps are good!

  9. My advice would be to choose one or two of these things to work on at a time. Be patient with yourself.

  10. I waltzed into marriage fully expecting to get love, protection and provision with nothing but my charming personality in exchange. My grandfather was rather possessive and I was his little princess. I didn’t know what it took to help a man become a success. My grandpa was already a success when I was born. He seemed to have so much confidence (I now realize he was insecure and had many fears) and my grandmother was very passive. I also became passive and passive-aggressive and compared my poor, young husband to my wealthy grandfather. Both dominant types. This did not bring out the best in my husband! I now know I had an obligation to give submission, protection of his manhood, and empowerment to succeed both with my cooperation and my influence/perspective. My husband has gone without these things for years and became quite beastly. My grandfather made it seem that he was a self-made man. I now know all too well all that my grandmother gave to help him become so successful and a few things that would’ve helped their relationship and also honor her dignity. They were married 53 years. I now focus on my relationship with Christ especially for my marriage and what I am giving, rather than getting. Your list of books is awesome. I just finished ‘what’s submission got to do with it?’ After reading so many, one certainly gets a sense of the bigger picture. My husband has been really thoughtful the last few days even saying that he wanted to hold my hand and just look at me for awhile. I found myself thinking he must be pulling my leg. When was the last time he looked at me? Then I thought, just go with it! I find I may go through that same process he is going through to readjust to his kindness. It doesn’t feel real. But here we are.

    1. Refined,
      I love the insights you are experiencing!!!!!! This is beautiful!!!! And wow! I’m glad you just enjoyed your husband when he wanted to hold your hand and just look at you. That was unbelievably sweet!!! I vote to accept his kindness at face value and savor what he gives you in each moment. 🙂 Beautiful!

  11. My FIL also married us, and guess what…no pre-marital counselling!

    The pastor at our new church with whom we are counselling said that he will administer pmc to us since that could help us to see where we have gone wrong.

    Pre-marital counselling is a must!!! Those honeymoon feelings of bliss only last so long. PMC helps you to realize that and sets up a realistic perspective for those early years.

  12. Two thumbs up! You nailed it in your #1 point…abide in our Messiah! It is in Him that we learn what true submission looks like. Once we grasp that concept, transferring it to our marriages is so much simpler! Thanks you for a great post, I’ve been sharing this page with all women (and a few men) who are truly seeking a marriage to last a lifetime. Bless you, sister!

  13. how do i attract a woman like you peaceful wife? what should i be looking for? i’m 23 and i’ve been reading this blog for a while and i think i’ve found god in a sense through my own research and reading your personal revelations on relationships. i’ve been a very jaded person concerning relationships, but reading about the kind of wife you chose to become fills me with this warm sensation, dare i call it hope.

    i’ve yet to meet a person who truly embodies the word of god, only those who use his name in vain. i’d like to learn what i can do to find the right kind of people and bring them into my life, so i can grow into a stronger version of myself.

  14. Not long ago, I posted on this site using a pseudonym, thinking that that would prevent hurt. I let loose a lot of my thoughts, frustrations, etc. in the hope that I might learn from the wisdom of other ladies. But, I left my log-in in a place where my husband found it. He knew my pseudonym from there and read all that I had written about us and specifically about him. I hurt him deeply. Thankfully, he is a gracious man and he initiated a process of reconciliation. I’ve never been more proud to be his wife.

    It’s hard to find help in seeking a biblical marriage and I’m grateful for this site, but I just want to share this to urge my sisters to be careful. I wish I had guarded my words and had been more fair in what I shared.

    1. I am thankful for his response. My regret is not so much that he found my words, but rather that they hurt him. My intention was to get help, not to cause him pain. I just thought I would share so that others would be careful with what they say to avoid causing hurt.

      1. This is wisdom, Lucy! I try my best to never say anything (or write) that I wouldn’t say if he was standing next to me. How we present our spouses to others says a lot about our level of respect for them. This isn’t a journey about their short-comings, but our own. Blessings to you ~Terrie C

  15. Hello, Peacefulwife. New wife, here. I just wanted to say that number 38 had a profound effect on me. I always knew that dying to self was the Christian thing to do. I did not think about it being a gateway to being filled with the power of God.

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