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Could Your Husband Be Trapped in Shame?

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My husband, Greg, has a new site for his blog – he changed the name to Peaceful Husband. 🙂 You are welcome to check out his new look and his posts. He writes for men, many times – but, he has more women readers than men, so sometimes he also writes for women from a man’s perspective. Lately, he has been doing a powerful series on shame for men.

I believe that for our husbands, shame is often a very serious issue.

Shame can deepen and become entrenched in a man’s heart to the point that it becomes extremely toxic – total imprisonment. When a man is feeling shame, he will generally retreat into himself to protect himself from exposure. Sin is always progressive – it all snowballs and gets bigger and more destructive. As Greg shared with me the research he has been doing about shame in a man’s life, I was struck by how many men probably experience shame and by how paralyzing and isolating shame can be for a man.

Greg said that when a man becomes increasingly trapped in shame, other men generally do not reach out to them – because that would be “unmanly” to imply to another man that you think he needs help. Men tend to wait for other men to ask for help – but to ask for help is seen as “weakness.” And then there is the issue that there are not too many men who are well-equipped to help a man through the healing process for shame even if they did want to help someone. So – many men feel completely trapped by shame over their sins, shame over not being “man enough” at home, at work, at church, or shame over their failures (real or perceived). 

A number of our men feel shame simply for being men in our culture today. They are told they should feel, think, and act like women. And when they don’t – they hear a clear message that they are “wrong” or “evil.” What an incredibly awful place to be! To think that just by existing and being masculine as God designed them to be – they are seen as being “wrong.” (I am not talking about sin here, but just masculinity in general.)

This absolutely breaks my heart!!!!! I don’t want ANYONE to be isolated and trapped like this, feeling that they are completely alone in the world and unable to break out of that snare.

Interestingly, the cure for a man’s shame, in Greg’s research – is vulnerability.

THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT FOR WIVES IN THIS POST:

If a man can become vulnerable and open with someone he trusts who is safe – he can begin to heal from his shame and find hope. The place a man is most likely to look for help and healing is his wife. But the clincher is – a man will NEVER be vulnerable with someone who disrespects him. Why would he share the deepest parts of his heart with someone who seems bent on doing him harm? Greg told me,

“a man would rather be unknown than to be known for his weaknesses.”

We wives long for our husbands to be vulnerable and open with us. We long for them to share their hearts. But – if we are disrespecting them (even unintentionally) – we are communicating a clear message that we are not safe and that they cannot open up to us. Unfortunately, our disrespect can block one of the best paths to healing a man might be able to find. If a man believes that his wife is not safe and no man will help him – but there is another woman at work or somewhere who admires him and accepts him – what a recipe for disaster.

Most men do not have close guy friends. We may be the only one who could offer them a ladder to get out of the deep hole in which they find themselves. Will we throw a rope to them to help them, or will we shovel in more dirt over them and bury them alive? When a man feels completely trapped in shame over a long period of time, he may eventually “snap” and  lash out in really destructive and sinful ways toward himself, his wife, and others (sometimes this comes as something like a “mid-life crisis”).

Ultimately – men need the same thing women need – a relationship with God through the healing that only Jesus can offer!

(How to Have a Saving Relationship with Christ)

Ways We Can Make Things Worse and push our husbands deeper into the mire, deeper into hopelessness/despair, and further away from Christ:

BOTTOM LINE: if we are sinning against our husbands or against God – we may inadvertently compound our husband’s pain and shame.

Ways We Can Be Part of God’s Plan to Bring Healing, Hope, and Help to an emotionally/spiritually wounded husband:

  • abide in Christ and be filled with His Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
  • know our identity in Christ
  • extend grace
  • extend forgiveness
  • share the good things we see – the things we truly admire and respect (usually briefly – i.e.: a sentence or two per day or per week)
  • if our husbands are open to us talking about spiritual things, we can share the hope that is in Christ – that He takes away all of our guilt and shame – and that in Him, there is abundant spiritual life available. There is a fountain of Living Water. They can have God’s Spirit and the fruit of His Spirit. They can have wholeness, healing, purpose, godly power, and God can transform them to be more like Christ and make them mighty warriors in His kingdom for His glory!
  • be vulnerable ourselves – sharing our feelings, desires, and needs – softly, respectfully, humbly, gently
  • be honest but in a respectful way, considering our husbands’ needs and feelings
  • refuse to build walls ourselves
  • be able to hear hard things – even when we don’t agree
  • not demand perfection, but accept our men are human – just like we are
  • be willing to be flexible and try to understand our men’s very different perspectives
  • receive any wisdom our husbands may have to share
  • appreciate anything our husbands do for us to show their love – even if it is nor our favorite way of receiving love
  • keep our husbands’ faults, failures, and weaknesses to ourselves and be trustworthy and loyal by keeping confidences (unless there are really serious issues going on, then we must reach out for help, but only to appropriate, trustworthy counselors and sources)
  • choose our closest friends/advisors wisely (to be sure that they will honor and respect our husband and marriage and point us to God’s truth in the Bible, not worldly wisdom)
  • tear out every root of bitterness
  • accept them (not to say we accept sin, but we can accept our men and not try to change them)
  • affirm them and build them up (in sincerity, not in a fake or manipulative way)
  • give them the space they need to process and grow
  • trust and begin to follow their leadership, understanding that it will take time for them to learn to become strong leaders (unless there are really serious issues like abuse, unrepentant infidelity, uncontrolled mental health disorders, etc.. where trust would need to be rebuilt first)
  • trust God’s sovereignty in the marriage
  • smile that beautiful smile that lights up the whole room – and makes him feel like a million bucks

BOTTOM LINE: if we are seeking to allow God to transform and regenerate our souls and we are living in the power of God’s Spirit and walking in holiness and obedience to Him – we can be an instrument in God’s hands to bring healing and hope to our men.

SHARE:

Gentlemen, we welcome your insights on this issue – and how you believe wives might be able to reach and bless their husbands who may be caught up in a terrible abyss of shame.

Ladies, what are your thoughts? How can we pray for our men and our brothers in Christ? The enemy wants to take them down and destroy them – because if he can destroy our leaders, everything else will crumble. He is attacking them with everything he has today. Sisters, let’s close ranks to surround our brothers in Christ with fervent prayer!

PRAYER:

Lord,

We lift up our husbands and our brothers in Christ who are trapped in shame and who can’t see the way out. Open their eyes to You! Open their eyes to what Jesus has done for them. Let them turn to Him and be healed and bring them up out of the pit! Let them fully submit themselves to Christ as Lord and become the godly men, the holy generation, that You call them to be for Your glory!

Amen!

SCRIPTURE:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Galatians 6:1-5

Wives Share What They Have Learned – Part 1

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I think that most of us have realized, this approach does NOT work and is very unattractive to our men – understandably so! 

Wives share what they have learned about how to approach their husbands when they want their husbands to spend more time with them. From our discussion last week. Thank you to all the wives who shared! I don’t expect today’s post to be as big of a trigger for as many wives as hearing from the men was.

WIFE #1

This was a huge area of discontent in my marriage. I realize that it was too many expectations, my need to control the situation, and selfishness on my part.

When I look back my husband always spent time with me, but it wasn’t always the way I wanted.

Also, being a stay at home mom, I felt like he owed it to me to spend time with me when he was home. When he didn’t I became resentful and bitter. I didn’t always enjoy the time we spent together, there was more than one occasion that I ended up in tears because things didn’t work out how I wanted when we were together. I would be hurt if he went to the store by himself, let alone go do something fun.

  • I didn’t really consider how he felt after a hard days work, how he needs much more quiet time then I do.

He is an introvert while I’m an extrovert. I didn’t think about how much he hates being around large groups of people because I love it. That he just doesn’t talk much, and I can talk forever. Or even that he doesn’t like to be touched, but that he will put his arm around me and snuggle with me on the couch because he loves me. How the things that didn’t mean much to me, made him feel so connected.

I was so worried about making sure my needs got met that I missed so many opportunities to connect with my husband.

Once I stopped trying to make him meet my needs, I was able to let go and enjoy. This summer, for example, we went camping with some friends, he spent most of the time fishing by himself, or with the other husband. I could have been bitter and angry, but I had a really great time playing with the kids in the water, getting to know his friends wife, and just being outdoors. Then on the way home, a 3 hour drive with 4 kids under 7 he decided he wanted to take a scenic drive, just to see where it led. The old me would have wanted to control the situation, say, “Um, no thanks, 3 hours is enough,” but instead, I said sure let’s do it. It ended up being an extra 2 hour loop that brought us almost right back to where we started. But we had such a good time. It was so worth it.

Trips like this didn’t happen a few years ago, I would have been angry he wasn’t spending time as a family, and missed the time he did spend with us joyfully around the camp fire, I would not have added 2 hours to our drive, or enjoyed it if we had. And we would have both been bitter and I can say for sure, he wouldn’t have wanted to take me anywhere for a while.

The biggest change was for me to start looking at thimgs from his point of view not mine.

I still get a pang of jealousy when he goes somewhere with his friends without me, but then do something for myself instead, and he ends up coming home to a happy, refreshed wife which makes him want to spend more time with me. And it’s so freeing to not feel angry.

It took a long time to get here, though. There was a lot of healing to be done. At first, when I asked him to spend more time with me, he felt frustrated,  like I was saying he wasn’t doing enough. Now it looks different. I just ask him if he wants to do something with me. Most of the times he will.

 

WIFE #2

My husband and I have struggled with this.

My husband is not a big talker and over the years I know that I have made spending time with me not a safe thing for him.

I’d want to talk over everything during any and all activities, and I’d complain about situations and tell him what he should do, etc. We’d regularly end up fighting. He likes clear, concise, non emotive talks. I’ve seen his face light up when I talk to him in this way. It’s a language he can handle and he feels safe. He loves getting together with male friends and chatting to them. Sometimes I feel envious of this, but I think it’s the way that males talk. He feels safer and I know I have to work on how I talk to him. I am so much better than I was and I really can’t believe it took me so long when he was telling me all along. In my pride I thought I knew better.

  • If I stick to facts, lose the emotion and the complaining and keep it pleasant and positive, he responds. I was the wife in Proverbs 27:15. No wonder he didn’t want to spend time with me!

He was sick with chronic fatigue for many years and as a result can’t handle too much loud noise and being touched actually gave him pain and still does at times. Being a teacher, he comes home from work and wants peace and quiet. I have had to alter my expectations and realise that the world is not going to fall apart if we don’t talk. I’ve got better and keeping myself occupied and learning to be content. There has been a lot of sitting with him while watching tv, but just being in the same room with him makes me quite happy now. He is a musician and will play one of his instruments and sing while I cook or clean and that’s really nice.

The more pleasant I am the more he ventures out of his office to seek me out, to share something with me or hug me.

 

WIFE #3

I have had success with changing my approach. If I say, “you never talk to me,” a man can feel criticized. So I try to say, “I love it when you talk to me. I love the way it makes me feel all warm inside. And I really love the sound of your voice. ” (and I really do love the sound of his voice!). This approach, coupled with the right timing, has gained me some satisfaction with Conversation Hunger.

 

WIFE #4

Hi April, I know we’re all at different stages in our marriages (and feel free to edit this comment if it may be a trigger for others). I’m so blessed, usually my husband wants to spend time with me! (I don’t think this is anything I’ve done – I’m sure it’s the transformative work of Jesus in my husband’s life.)

But when my husband does pull away, it’s always because I was rude – selfish, snappy, condescending :(.

I’ve been married almost three years, and I didn’t know men were so sensitive! But I’ve learned some of them are. Nothing drives my husband away faster than when I talk to him like he’s a child, or get a disdainful tone in my voice! Or when I embarrass him by disagreeing with him in public, or trying to boss him around, even in small ways, like, “Honey, you should tell blah, blah, blah story.”

Funny how good manners and the fruit of the Spirit are really similar :).

On a different note, I’ve found it’s important for me NOT to get my feelings hurt if I feel he isn’t listening. Early in our marriage, I’d be chattering away (usually while he was driving) and he said to me, “Sorry, all circuits are full.” He meant he had to focus on driving and couldn’t give me his attention at that moment. His simple communication helped me understand I couldn’t have his attention at that exact second.

 

WIFE #5

I think having your own hobbies/interest outside of your hubby helps a lot. I know when I am busier and doing things- (out shopping, errands, spending time outside the home with the kids, other people, visiting family, etc.) I am not nearly as focused on my hubby and how much time “we” are together. Most all my friends have moved, so that leaves me a lot of time; however, his few good friends are still in the area so he likes to visit with them for sports, etc.

I know I can’t hold that against him just b/c his friends are around and mine all moved. Also – learning how men relate differently and consider “shoulder-to-shoulder” time the same as we consider girlfriend talk time. (from “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs). So I try to sit with him and watch his sports, etc. and if you change your mindset and realize that is HIS bonding time, then it helps.

Also, saying it in a non-confrontational way so as not to accuse him or come off like you’re saying he doesn’t spend any time with you. I know my hubby likes to be out and is not a homebody so if I just suggest, “Hey, would you like to go to X this Saturday maybe for an hour or so?” He’s usually down and wants to go. If I ask, “Hey, do you want to watch a movie together Friday night?” He usually always says, “Ok.”

Now if I start off complaining and whinny saying how we never spend time together, he’d rather be with his friends, etc. (which sometimes seems true to me) he will automatically go in defense mode and it starts a bickering session.

I think the best approach is to gently let him know, and if he does not respond at all, wait another week or more and gently suggest it again, maybe even suggest doing something with the kids together as a family if he never ever spends time with you alone. And then pray about it daily. Also changing your mindset on how men like to “hang out” and what they consider “spending time together”. Then, when he isn’t, you won’t take such offense to it or take it so personal.

What was a turning point for me, is your blog (of course!) and learning how men relate, etc… – but what was really an eye opener was recently when my hubby had plans to watch a football game with a friend and I myself had something I reeeeally wanted to do on my own. I realized I could care less at that moment what he was doing and that we wouldnt be spending time together- all b/c I had something important to me I wanted to do and not having to “tend” to my hubby during those hours (for lack of a better word) was great b/c I had things I needed to do.

So the lightbulb went off and I realized how sometimes it bothers me when he is busy with others, such as friends, and then when I am busy myself it doesnt bother me at all. Which is not fair to him. but its funny how if your feeling the slightest bit lonely or needy that if he’s busy with others or he’s just not busy with you, it will aggravate you way more. So I try to stay prayed up about this subject ahead of time now- and what I do is if I am not busy at all and I was hoping in my mind to spend “quality time” with him and it does not happen for whatever reason, then that’s God’s cue to me to break out his Word and study, spend time in prayer that I wouldn’t have otherwise, read a good biblical book, or listen to praise music. So those are my suggestions!

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