You’ve probably heard the saying, “If mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Although the primary message of this saying is that mom’s attitude affects the whole family, I think a secondary message is just as significant. If a wife conveys to her husband through her constant complaints and criticisms that she’s not happy, her husband begins to feel like a failure and starts to close his heart to her.
Unfortunately, many wives get stuck in this dynamic. We tend to point out one disappointment after another to our husbands. We remind him that we notice he forgot to take out the garbage. We point out that he hasn’t communicated in our love language recently. We remind him that he hasn’t played with the kids in a while. In short, we can’t seem to resist pointing out his flaws. Adding insult to injury, we then get really upset that he seems emotionally withdrawn from us!
Perhaps it’s time to pick our battles more carefully. Maybe we should let the small stuff slide. Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” Let’s ask God to help us affirm what our husbands do right, overlook the small imperfections, and only confront our husbands if they are truly sinning against us and/or the children. EVERYBODY in the family will be happier!
I’m on a journey of learning how to do relationships in a healthier, God-directed way! I don’t know about you, but, in the past, when I got really disappointed in my husband or anybody, I tended to go in one of two unhealthy directions. 1) I avoided the potential conflict entirely by clamming up, putting up an ice shield, and then spiraling down into toxic resentment or 2) I let my tongue run wild and blasted the person with both barrels! Neither one of these options yielded good results.
God’s way is so much different and better! He says in Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Gentle words. Gentle words. Gentle words. I need to remind myself of this! God is saying that we can avoid a nasty argument if we speak gently and kindly and maybe even assume the best about the other person instead of giving full vent to our anger.
I vividly remember when I put this into practice about a year ago. My husband was really stressed as we were on a long-distance drive. I was attempting to help with googling a gas station, but my phone ran out of data. Ugh. Then he started getting really sharp with me in his tone. I mean…REALLY sharp. I felt disrespected. And oh boy, I decided that I didn’t deserve that tone and that I was going to tell him what a jerk he was. Yeah, pastor’s wives don’t always have gracious thoughts apparently. Sigh.
Anyway, somehow God got my attention before I blasted him and God reminded me of Proverbs 15:1. So, I bit my tongue until we got all the way home, and as my husband was about to exit the car, I turned to him, laid a hand softly on his arm and said gently, “I know you love me and you would never intend to hurt me, but the way you talked to me back there was not okay. Please don’t talk to me like that again.” And that was that. No big blow-up. He didn’t feel condemned because I affirmed that I know he loves me. With God’s prompting, I was able to defuse the nasty argument before it could start. Gentle words. Gentle words. Gentle words. Let’s all remember that!
Conflict and disagreement is inevitable in marriage. However, conflict need not lead to the formation of two enemy camps! Here’s something that can greatly change the dynamics during conflict and actually move you closer to resolution. Pause and ask God to help you see the situation through your husband’s eyes. Ask the Lord to show you what is truly prompting your husband to say what he’s saying or do what he’s doing. Is he stressed? Is he discouraged? Is he still affected by emotional wounds from his childhood? Does he simply have a different idea on how something should be done, and could his idea actually make sense?
When we intentionally pause and try to consider the vantage point of our husbands, we begin to have compassion, or at least an understanding of why he is thinking or acting the way he is. Instead of only focusing on our desires, Philippians 2:4 instructs us, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When you truly stop and try to look at the situation from his perspective, you may see some actual merit to your husband’s point of view! You might also start to realize how your husband’s past hurts in life (or current fears) are playing a role in his actions or reactions.
When we ask Jesus to help us see the situation through our husband’s eyes, we start to soften and feel compassion. As we have compassion and understanding, it will be much easier to compromise or find resolution. Try it!
There is a particularly vicious cycle that can start in a relationship. It’s super common but also super subtle. Trust me. You don’t want to enter this cycle. The cycle goes like this:
My husband does something wrong, so I feel completely justified in my critical and disrespectful response. Or my husband does something that really annoys me, so I feel totally justified doing that certain thing that I know really annoys him. In both cases, of course he responds with his own counter move, and the vicious cycle has begun. We give into the subtle, destructive temptation to “hurt him just like he hurt me”. We feel justified in our reactions, but we’ve just escalated the war. Unfortunately, in this war, there are no winners…just losers.
I know! Here’s an idea! (yes, you noted some sarcasm there). How about if we decide not to play the justification game anymore? How about if you, as your husband’s helper, decide to respond to your husband with grace, love and respect, even when he annoys you? How about if you choose to stop trying to punish him every time he upsets you? Romans 12:18-19 directs us to live this way…”If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean you should keep totally quiet all the time and tolerate abusive or harmful behavior. You may need to establish boundaries on sinful behavior. However, even if you’re confronting your husband or establishing boundaries, you can do so with love, compassion, respect, and gentleness!
There’s a golden phrase I discovered many years ago. When I started using it, I found it helped prevent my husband from getting defensive when I was upset or frustrated about something he had said or done. Instead of accusing him of doing something wrong, I learned to kindly and sincerely ask this question: “Help me understand why…”
This simple question prevents the monster of defensiveness from raising its ugly head. By asking your husband to “help me understand”, you’re communicating two things to your husband. 1) You really do care about his perspective and feelings, and 2) You’re acknowledging there may actually be a legitimate reason for why he did or said whatever. At least, you’re giving him a chance to explain himself before you start arguing with him or condemning him!!
By asking your husband to help you understand his behavior or perspective, you’re avoiding a foolish argument. Proverbs 18:2 says “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” By asking your husband to help you understand his perspective, you’re pleasing both God and your husband by living out the instructions in Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should consider not only your own interests, but also the interests of others.”
Try this phrase when you sense a potential ugly argument is headed your way. You can not only use this phrase with your husband, but with your children, your in-laws, your co-workers, your boss, and more. Again, the phrase (actually a question) is….”Help me understand why…”
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 – 27, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Well, over the years of my marriage to Raul, I didn’t always obey that instruction and my disobedience was almost disastrous! One occasion comes to mind as a good example. My husband had acted in a way that really bothered me. I was steaming for hours and couldn’t even bring myself to talk to him about it because I feared we’d get embroiled in a huge conflict. So, I went to bed early, by myself. I went to bed by myself, wrapped in a blanket of resentment, bitterness, and ugly thoughts about my husband. As I lay there steaming, that resentment started morphing into thoughts such as “I’d be better off without him” and “He’s such a jerk. I’m going to be cold as ice toward him from now on.”
I am so thankful the Holy Spirit finally broke through and prompted me to get out of bed and go speak with my husband. I sensed that I was giving the devil a “foothold” in my marriage through me stuffing the issue and letting resentment grow. So, I went and found my husband in the living room, knelt by his side as he was sitting on the couch and told him that I truly do see so many good qualities in him. I also told him why his behavior had bothered me.
I know you’re thinking he agreed with my assessment, but he didn’t!!! However, a good thing did happen. We calmly acknowledged our difference of opinion, and I was able to go to sleep in peace. There was no wedge between me and my husband. Don’t allow the enemy to gain a foothold in your marriage. Resist the temptation to go to sleep with simmering anger and resentment.