“What if a husband was raised being constantly put down and does the same to his wife?”
I received this question the other day, here is my response:
If a husband really is constantly insulting his wife, I think a wife can provide a beautiful example by refusing to stoop to the level of reacting harshly, herself. Her respectful example and godly attitude may have a powerful impact on her husband’s soul to draw him to Christ and repentance (1 Pet. 3:1-6).
Begin with a Self-Evaluation and Spiritual Check-up
First, she may want to be sure he really is insulting her. Sometimes we may hear an insult and take offense, but that is not what our husband intended. If we are feeling overwhelmed, sick, tired, in pain, or hormonal, sometimes things can seem worse than they really are.
If it truly is an insult, a wife may need to address her own approach and repent to God and to her husband before she attempts to address the issue with her husband’s insults toward her. (This is a biblical principle for all believers in Christ. )
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
If she is using verbally abusive language or is sinning against him, it’s going to be difficult for him to receive her concerns about his treatment of her.
A wife will want to repent from clear sin in her own life before addressing her husband’s sin, if possible:
- Insulting him or verbally tearing him down
- Criticizing him (a critical spirit)
- Bossing her husband around
- Undermining his authority as a dad
- Complaining a lot
- Arguing a lot, being contentious
- Looking down on him with a self-righteous attitude
- Treating him with contempt/bitterness/resentment/malice
- Operating out of a spirit of offense
- Disrespecting him
- Purposely withholding sex as a punishment or out of apathy
- Trying to control him
Once she has addressed any glaring sins she has been committing against her husband and is willing to treat him with honor and respect, she will have a great influence in her husband’s life. He will begin to develop more respect for her.
He also needs to see that his wife treats herself with respect. If she often puts herself down, that needs to stop, as well.
Respond to Your Husband’s Insults with the Power of the Holy Spirit
The goal is not to tear him down. He’s not the enemy. A godly wife will want to build up her husband and marriage, pouring the healing, love, and truth of Christ into the situation.
She can remember that what comes out of her husband’s mouth reveals what’s in his heart. It is not necessarily about her. She doesn’t need to receive anything he says that is sinful or out of alignment with God’s Word
Then she may respectfully address his insults toward her by saying something (in a friendly, calm way) like:
- “Yikes, that was harsh. Are you okay?”
- “That hurt. Have I done something to upset you? Are you alright?”
- “You know what, Honey? I know that in some families, insults and put-downs are normal. But I don’t think it should be like that. I’d like us to have a different kind of family culture. I want everyone in our home to always feel respected and emotionally safe. Maybe we could decide together that from now on, we will speak to each other with kindness.
- “Those kinds of words hurt my heart. I’d like for us to treat each other well and speak respectfully to each other.”
- “Those kinds of words feel unloving to me. I want to hear what you have to say, but without the put-downs, please.”
- “Ouch! That was painful. Please don’t insult me.”
- “I’d love for us to build each other up with our words, not tear each other down.”
- “I have to assume you have a lot of pain and scars in your heart for you to use those kinds of words with me. I want you to feel safe with me emotionally and I would like to feel safe with you. What can I do to help you heal?”
- “I know that you experienced a lot of pain growing up because of the insults you received and that breaks my heart. I believe you are a better man than this and that you may want to help me create a different kind of atmosphere in our home where we use our words to bless each other not hurt each other.”
- “That felt unloving to me just now, have I done something recently that made you feel disrespected?” (by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs)
- “I’d like to ask you to do me a huge favor, Babe. Would you please help me build our marriage up instead of tearing it down with insults?”
- “It seems like you may be hurting a lot emotionally or spiritually for you to speak to me like that. What can I do to help you heal from these painful wounds?”
- “I choose to repay that insult with a blessing. I’m praying for the Lord to richly bless you today.”
- “I think you are a better man/husband than that. I know you know the sting of insulting words. Maybe we could start this conversation over in a healthier way.”
- “It sounds like you are in a bad mood. How can I help lift some burdens off of your shoulders?”
- “Are you feeling unloved or disrespected by me? It sounds like you are hurting about something.”
Or, a wife can pray and the Lord can certainly give her wisdom and prompting about exactly what to say.
- There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
- And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31
- Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Pet. 3:9
If your husband is abusive and you or your children are not safe or he is not in his right mind, please reach out for experienced help from a godly counselor, medical doctors, or police, if needed.
If the Lord has given you wisdom about how to respond to a husband who tends to put his wife down and how a wife could respond in a godly way, we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
Much love! <3
If you are dealing with a really toxic guy, please check out this resource by Leslie Vernick.