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 we, as our husbands’ helpers, decide to respond to our husbands with grace, love and respect, even when they annoy us? How about if we choose to stop trying to punish them every time they upset us? 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 we keep totally quiet all the time. 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!
When the kids are fighting with each other and you overcooked the dinner and you shrunk your favorite new sweater…it’s pretty natural to get a bit grouchy. In those moments, we usually need to “vent”. Unfortunately, our husbands often get the brunt of our “venting”! In fact, the men whom we promised to love and respect can become our scapegoats. The tragically funny thing is then we wonder why our husbands don’t seem to enjoy being around us very much!
One husband once told me that encountering his wife as he walked in the door at the end of his work day was like walking into a buzz saw. She was wired and churning and her tongue was sharp enough to slice right through him. Yikes.
Yes, ladies, we all need to vent sometimes. Some days are incredibly challenging. But let’s pick the correct scapegoat. If we need to talk to someone about our stress, anger, or exhaustion, let’s turn to God. He has really broad shoulders and he’s not afraid to hear what’s on your mind. Psalm 40:1-2 says “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Jesus is the correct scapegoat. In fact, if you study the origin of the word “scapegoat”, it was the term used by the Israelites for a goat that symbolically carried their sins away. Wow! Jesus really is our scapegoat, and he perfectly carries our sins away, as well as our anger and frustration on a really bad day.
So when you feel the frustration mounting and you can tell you’re about to snap at a family member, mentally give your irritation to the Lord. Just picture handing it over to Him. Then take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and chuckle at the enemy’s pitiful attempt to make you lose your temper! Hah! His stupid plan is defeated once again. You are victorious through Christ!
We’re all going to have moments (or weeks or months!) that we’re disappointed with our husband. No man is perfect, and your husband is bound to frustrate you, annoy you, or fail to meet your expectations from time to time. The question is: How can you keep from being seriously discouraged or resentful during those times? I have found 4 things to be really helpful:
1) Clearly communicate your expectations and desires! Our men are not mind-readers, yet often we expect our husbands to “just know”! So, think about the areas in which you’ve been frustrated or disappointed. Then calmly and clearly tell your husband what you desire or need, as well as how much you’d appreciate him making an effort to meet those needs and desires.
2) Be grateful for what he does right! Isn’t it strange how we tend to gravitate to focusing on what our husband is doing wrong, but barely give a second thought to what he’s doing right?! Stop right now and ask God to help you see the many good things about your husband and the positive things he does. This is the essence of Philippians 4:8… “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thing.”
3) If your husband is actually sinning against you, it’s time to stop wringing your hands and it may be time to take action! In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us to confront the person who sins against us, and to even get others involved if necessary.
4) Pray, and never give up! Prayer truly can move mountains, and Jesus tells us in Luke 18:1 that we “should always pray and not give up“. So go to battle in prayer, and ask God to reveal His love to your husband and to mold and shape your husband’s heart.
There’s a golden phrase I’ve discovered. It prevents my husband from getting defensive when I’m upset or concerned about something he has said or done. Instead of accusing him of doing something wrong, I have 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 my husband to help me understand, I’m communicating two things to my husband. 1) I really do care about his perspective and feelings, and 2) I’m acknowledging there may actually be a legitimate reason for why he did or said whatever. At least, I’m giving him a chance to explain himself before I start arguing with him or condemning him!!
By asking my husband to help me understand his perspective, I’m avoiding a foolish argument. Proverbs 18:2 says “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” By asking my husband to help me understand his perspective, I’m pleasing both God and my 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…”
Are you feeling weary, discouraged or burdened? Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated with others or even yourself. This remedy might seem strange, but God says that when we meditate on His principles and begin applying them in our lives, our souls will be refreshed! Psalm 19:7-8 says “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”
Maybe your soul is weary or discouraged because you’ve been trying to handle difficult people and circumstances with your own wisdom. Maybe it’s time to search out God’s wisdom instead. For instance, if you are depressed about your husband’s continuing verbal abuse toward you and your children, maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for dealing with someone who is sinning against you. You might want to read Matthew 18:15-17.
Perhaps you’re dealing with a rebellious child who isn’t responding to your explanations about why he or she should listen to you. Maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for molding your children into people of character. You might want to read Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
If you find yourself disappointed with your husband, ask yourself this question: Is he sinning against me or am I just disappointed with him? If he is actually sinning against you (looking at porn, being abusive, drinking excessively, etc), then consult with God and perhaps a godly mentor to determine if you should respectfully confront your husband and establish boundaries, using the Biblical model laid out in Matthew 18:15-17.
However, if you’re simply disappointed with your husband because he’s not meeting your expectations, then try these two things: 1) Simply and clearly let him know what you desire….because he is not a mind-reader! It’s so funny how we expect our husbands to meet all our needs and desires because “he should just know”. Lol Well, guess what? He doesn’t “just know”. Sometimes, you need to actually tell him what you’re hoping for and what your expectations are.
2) If he still doesn’t fulfill your desires and expectations, take a moment and remind yourself that he can’t be perfect and he can’t perfectly meet all your needs! Now, if someone were to ask us if we expect our husbands to be perfect, we would answer “of course not!”, and yet, at a subconscious level, most of us DO expect our men to be perfect. We pretty much expect them to be Jesus! It’s time to let them off that hook. After all, God makes it clear in Psalm 53 “there is no one who does good, not even one”.
So, maybe it’s time you stop expecting your man to be perfect in every way. How about, instead, you decide to be thankful for the good things about him? In fact, every time I start to get disappointed with my own husband, I try to stop and begin to list the things that he does right. Let’s see. He works hard to provide for me. He doesn’t drink or drug. He has stopped looking at porn. He reads the Bible every day. Wow! I’m not so disappointed anymore!
In every marriage, there will certainly be times where you find yourself disappointed or frustrated with your husband. The question isn’t…how can you and I avoid those challenging times? The question is…how are we going to respond to the challenge?
I’ve met many wives who allow themselves to sink into self-pity or get all riled up with anger toward their husband. Neither one of those responses is helpful! In fact, a crazy cycle begins in the marriage. The wife lets her husband know how disappointed she is in him…he feels like a failure so he either responds with mean words or withdraws…she gets even more disappointed…and the cycle continues! Please allow me to suggest a couple of new ways to look at those times when your husband has frustrated or disappointed you:
Instead of focusing solely on what he’s doing wrong, choose to rejoice in what he’s doing right. This is the essence of Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” In other words, instead of developing a sour taste in your mouth by dwelling on his every fault, choose to look at your husband as a work in progress. God doesn’t transform a person overnight (including you!). So, choose to relish in the sweetness of every good thing your husband does and every good choice he makes. For your soul, it will be like sipping on sweet lemonade instead of sucking on bitter lemons.
P.S. You’ll look a lot more attractive to your husband when your mouth isn’t puckered up like you’ve been sucking on sour lemons!
P.S.S. If your husband is WAY out of bounds with his behavior and actually sinning against you, you may need to establish some firm boundaries, while at the same time choosing to remind yourself of his good qualities as well!
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!