The Restored Wife Shares some of the most difficult parts of her journey with us (by the way, her husband’s response is pretty common):
When I started this journey, I had no idea how to be respectful or submissive – our biggest issue at that time was the way both of us reacted any time there was a disagreement or conflict. Things had been the same for so long, neither of us knew how to imagine a world where we didn’t argue.
What really stopped me in my tracks was a term from my previous career as a therapist – “unconditional positive regard.”
That means I treated my therapy clients in a positive manner no matter what I might think about them personally (or their actions). I was very ashamed one day to realize I did that for complete strangers with no problem, but didn’t do the same for my husband! I was failing at the Golden Rule, the most simple way to treat other people, and it really upset me that a small child could do better than I had done.
I started thinking about the things my husband and I argued about – almost always the tiny, insignificant day-to-day things – and how I’d react if a guest in our home did the same things my husband did. For instance, my husband seems to have an “allergy” when it comes to replacing the toilet paper on the roll. It used to drive me crazy! When I asked myself what I would do if a guest used the last of the toilet paper and didn’t replace the roll, I thought, “I’d just replace it and not say anything at all.” So that’s what I did! I had to go back to basics and consciously treat my husband the way I would treat someone else, because my disrespect for him had seeped into every part of my brain and I didn’t know another way to stop it.
Doing this actually made things worse for awhile because I found that, when I wasn’t nagging or pushing to get my way, I really didn’t have a lot to say about anything! It was very eye-opening. My husband had no idea how to react. Often he would go out of his way to do things he knew would upset me – he says now he was in total disbelief that I had changed, so he put me in situations where he thought the “real me” would come out. He knew how to deal with the arguments but not with the silence.
I remember many, many moments when I shut the bathroom door, cried quietly for a few minutes while I prayed, then wiped my eyes and went about my day. It was HARD to sit back and remain silent while my husband was angry and seemed determined to push all my buttons. Sometimes I would get so emotional I couldn’t think about the mission I was on; I would bite back and a fight would follow. This was good for me in a way because I began to see how MY reactions fueled his – the only way to make it stop was for me to control my own reactions and words.
We spent the better part of a year doing this dance… I would try to treat him like I would treat an acquaintance to force myself to be polite and respectful. He was angry, sometimes downright rude, and sarcastic. In the moments I lost control of myself and acted like I did in the past, he seemed almost triumphant, like he was saying “See, I told you nothing has changed!” I would retreat and pray and read my Bible. Rinse and repeat. I thought it would be that way forever and I had to make peace with it.
I told God, “If this is as good as things ever get, I’ll keep going. Not my way but yours!”
Slowly, my husband began to soften toward me. I can’t emphasize how slowly this change took place – I thought I would lose my mind.
- It became more natural for me to respect and I didn’t have to pretend my husband was a guest in our home anymore.
- He stopped trying to provoke me as he realized it seldom worked.
- He had to learn to deal with the “new me” and respond to my respect instead of my disrespect.
- It was a learning process for both of us!
As April mentioned, doing this alone is impossible. I leaned heavily on God to give me wisdom, patience, and to remind me why I was going through this valley in my marriage. I prayed to be reminded of my own sins against my husband when I was tempted to focus on his sins against me, and it worked! Every time my mind would think, “Look what he did. He doesn’t even care about you,” I would be flooded by memories of moments when I didn’t act like I cared about him. It was very humbling and refining to finally see all the things I had done wrong.
Stopping the cycle is so difficult but it’s possible! I’m the last person I ever expected to be posting on a site like this, talking about learning to submit to my husband, but our lives have been changed for the better. I pray the same for you and your marriage!
This is a pretty common pattern. The wife begins to change. The husband can’t believe it and is confused. He pushes to try to get her to go back to the “old familiar destructive dance” because change is scary for a lot of husbands, even good change. Husbands sometimes think that if their wives slip at all, it means they aren’t really changing, even though we really are making progress at times. They are afraid to get their hopes up, afraid that things will never get better. They are afraid their wives might be manipulating them or that this will be a temporary phase that won’t last. It can take a LONG time for many husbands to truly feel respected and safe and like these changes are for real.
I had a similar experience. Greg didn’t attack me. But he stayed very distant and unplugged, watching to see if this was for real. It was a very slow journey of progress. From my perspective, the progress was often imperceptible. But after 3.5 years into this journey, Greg began to truly feel safe with me again. Of course, I had no clue what I was doing the first 2.5 years. It took years for me to get rid of all of the unintentional disrespect and for me to understand what respect even looked like to Greg. That is why I cherish this ministry and the camaraderie we have here so much. My prayer is that my experiences and the experiences of other women might be a blessing and a help to others as they struggle, wrestle, and seek Christ above all else in their hearts.
A Divorce and Reconciliation Story – by The Restored Wife
“I Will Not Be a ‘Second Class Citizen'” – by The Restored Wife