One of the most popular posts on my blog is the one where a number of husbands share what they feel is disrespectful. Some women get pretty upset when they read that list and think that “men just have super-sized egos.” Some think that these men are “whining and complaining” about a bunch of “really small, unimportant things.” Some women think, “Every wife does a lot of things on this list. These husbands just want fake ‘Stepford Wives’!” Some wives think it is impossible for a woman to avoid all of these things because they have never seen a wife who wasn’t disrespectful to her husband in many of these ways. Some things on this list may not seem like a big deal to us, but if they are important to our husbands – I pray we might be willing to consider how they feel.
I have a similar list on my husband’s blog about things husbands do that make their wives feel unloved. It’s a long list, too. I imagine some husbands may think the same kinds of things, “No husband could avoid all of those things that women think are unloving!” Or, “Every husband does some of those things sometimes. Why do women make a big deal out of things that are so small?” These things may not seem like a big deal to our husbands, but if they are important to us – I pray that our husbands might be willing to consider how we feel. I know we would all greatly appreciate that kind of thoughtfulness and consideration coming our way. So would our husbands.
Our culture says that men and women are equal and therefore – the same in every way. Or if they are not the same, they should be the same in every possible way. This usually means – we think that men should change to be more like women in our current culture, by the way. I never realized how differently men think from women until I read some books on the issue (Shuanti Feldhahn – For Women Only, His Brain, Her Brain – by Dr. Walt Larimore MD, How to Talk So Your Husband Will Listen, and Listen So Your Husband Will Talk – by Rick Johnson)
God did make us equally valuable in His sight as men and women (Genesis 2, Galatians 3:28) – but we are very different and have different needs and roles in a number of ways. Those differences are GOOD! Let’s celebrate and embrace them!
I’m thankful to be able to share with you that in the power of God, He is able to change us and He is able to empower us to learn to stop disrespectful things and learn to interact in genuinely respectful ways with our husbands.
We don’t love or respect our husbands because they deserve it – we respect our husbands because Jesus deserves our highest reverence. The way I treat my husband is a tangible indicator of my level of reverence for Christ and my love for Him.
My level of respect isn’t really about my husband and what he does or does not do. It is about my level of reverence for and submission to Christ as LORD in my life. It is about the Holy Spirit being in control of my life, not my sinful flesh. The particular things I respect my husband for are about him as I look for the good things in him. But even if he is in unrepentant sin, I can still respect the position he holds as my husband. My level of respect for my husband is about my character and my walk with Christ.
I really appreciate the list [that husbands shared].
I would consider myself to be a respectful wife, and I’ve made conscious decisions to avoid certain behaviors that I know are disrespectful; for example, I don’t bash my husband to my girl friends and get uncomfortable when they do (which isn’t often–I have good girl friends). But anyway, I saw a lot of things on that list that I do. I just had no idea they were also disrespectful. I agree that those of us under 50 may be just misinformed and have never seen an example of a wife treating her husband with genuine respect. I don’t want to say I never have, but it’s not what was modeled to me growing up, and of course, we all know about feminism. It’s taken such root in society that you look at a list like that and question: Is that right? I think it’s neat that the book “The Surrendered Wife” is written by a self-described feminist (Laura Doyle). She does a great job of sorting out the issues of how equality in the workplace may be a worthy goal, but it doesn’t address marriage dynamics.
I also want to say that if I’d come across your blog a year or two ago I would have had a much more defensive reaction, and I can see myself in some of the comments that are more argumentative. I really never liked the phrase “Biblical submission” or even “submission” in reference to myself as a wife. I finally figured out the reason, thanks to the Surrendered Wife book (from April – please keep in mind that although The Surrendered Wife is a very helpful book, it is not written from a biblical perspective, and does not promote Christ, the authority of God’s Word, or biblical submission in marriage. There are some really great things in that book, and there are some things we will need to filter out as believers in Christ).
All along, I was sure that being submissive (giving up control) meant being stripped of my power (not so much by my husband but maybe by God or myself).
As a kid who among other things felt she had no power in her family of origin–I’d made requests and suggestions which in retrospect were very mature and assertive as a child and was massively shut down, getting the clear message that my opinion didn’t matter and I had no influence or power in that household and that feeling carried well into adulthood.
- The last thing I wanted was to also be powerless in my marriage.
I also made the mistake of equating power with control. Reading Laura Doyle’s book helped me realize the two are not the same–that in fact, relinquishing certain types of control actually was my key to more power than I ever imagined (I’m married to a good man).
It also hit me that I have an incredible amount of power over my husband right now.
My words and demeanor literally have the power to build up or destroy him (not immediately, but over many years). That’s very sobering. I’ve been married for close to fifteen years now and all this time I’ve been wielding my power in a very clumsy and often destructive way, mainly because I didn’t know how to use it properly–kind of like a ten year old driving a car without being taught to drive.
Another reason I probably wasn’t ready to get this information until now is that God had more foundational work to do with me first–much of it being of the healing variety. But I’m ready now, or at least I’m open to the possibility that this Biblical submission thing could also apply to me 😉 I mention this as a kind of suggestion for anyone out there reading this material and having a strong negative reaction to it. It may be that God has some work to do with you first… [and to seek to be]... open to God’s will for your life in general and [trust] Him to have your best interests at heart.
WIFE 2 (in response to WIFE 1):
I can so relate to your comment. A couple of years ago I would not have been able to even consider this list. I may have seen myself but would not have been willing to do anything.
Now that my marriage is at the end and my husband has gotten healthy enough to say that he will not tolerate my brokenness, my whole world has collapsed around me. now I am more than willing to change my disrespectful nature – yet my husband says it’s too late.
I grew up in a home full of disrespectful adults. I didn’t notice that what I was doing was hurtful. My behavior was almost automatic, and probably a way I have coped with stress and conflict.
I can only pray that the Holy Spirit continues to work in me and work in my marriage. I need His grace more than ever.
Please join me in praying for these wives and countless others who are realizing now that they may have hurt their husbands unknowingly for many years. Let’s surround them with pray for God to draw them to Himself, to restore them to fellowship with Him, and to empower them by His Spirit to become the godly women and wives He desires them to be. Let’s pray for healing for their husbands as they are deeply hurting and for reconciliation for their husbands with God if needed. Let’s pray for restoration and healing for these precious marriages that they might become strong, vibrant, and healthy and that they might bring great glory to Christ!