How to Change Your Husband…

“You won’t believe this,” she says.

“Oh?” I ask.

“Last night, he asked me questions! He actually tried to understand my point of view!” she exclaimed.

“This is a good thing,” I smiled.

“I’ve been at this for 7 years, and I’m finally starting to see something this side of heaven,” she replied.

My friend, married to an accountant, spent the first 26 years of her marriage responding to his criticisms and pursuits of perfection with her own defensive and sarcastic remarks. Once, after receiving “feedback” about how she was dicing onions, through tears, she asked me, “Am I not worth more than perfectly cut onions to him?” Starved for a positive word from him about anything, much less a simple “thanks for making dinner,” she told me she thought she was literally dying inside.

“I can’t live like this another day,” she said. “There’s no kindness, gentleness, or compassion from this man. He cares only for perfection, and I’m incapable of achieving it. It’s like things have to be perfect before he’ll say something nice to me, and I’m never going to be “deserving” in his mind.”

I listened to her, empathized with her, and validated her feelings. “This must be very hard for you. I’ll be you feel like no one notices you in your own home,” I said.

She wept.

I wanted to reach through the phone and put my arms around her.

I told her that, and then I asked her, “Did God make you this man’s helper?”

She sighed. “Yes,” she reluctantly replied.

“And you have children with this man, right?” I asked.

“Yes.” She sighed again.

I gently suggested to her that she might be the only one that God would be able to use to teach her family how to love well. Who else could teach them these things? Her husband had no male mentors in his life, and wasn’t involved in a Bible study…

“But what do I say? What do I do? I serve my family, and daily I do what he asks without complaint. I have been “submissive” for years and still he is cold and uncaring about anything I do,” she said.

“It takes time to learn to love well,” I replied, reflecting on my own journey of loving others…still having a long way to go. “Ask God for help communicating with your husband. Apologize to Him for the hurtful curt remarks you have made in response, and then stop doing that – because it’s not working. He probably doesn’t have a clue that he’s hurting you, or if he does know, he doesn’t know what to do differently. And God’s not wasting this – He is teaching you how to be patient, to wait, to endure. Many have suffered much worse for less of a reward.”

We had many discussions over the years, and she came to realize the absolute most important Truth: God isn’t so concerned with our happiness, but rather, our holiness. Being focused on another’s imperfections, like her husband was doing to her by nit-picking and not pointing out any positives, was not what God wanted. There was also a plank in her eye. She realized, over time, that she could only directly impact HER behavior. And most importantly, that she needed to focus on HER obedience, instead of trying to change her husband. But she didn’t need to lie about how she felt, either. (More on that thought here. 🙂)

She also realized she was being as judgmental and negative as her husband was. (Her words, btw, not mine. 🙂

So while we start out thinking it’s HIM that needs to change, God uses the context of marriage to change both of us.  And the healthiest realization we can have is that we simply cannot change someone else – that is the job of the Holy Spirit.

So she stuck it out. And started gently, kindly, telling him the truth about how she was hurting. She also focused on what was right, speaking about the good things around them on a daily basis, and pointing out his strengths as a man. She also realized where she was being selfish. And she accepted that she had unrealistic expectations of her husband. Growing up without a father, no one was there to model him how to love his wife. Having to work from a very young age to make ends meet for the family, he learned the harsh realities of life early. Even if his dad had been around, there still might not have been any positive teaching going on there, either.

“It would make me feel appreciated and loved if you would thank me for keeping the house clean or any of the other things I do for you. It would also teach our boys how to show appreciation to their wives someday if you modeled this for them,” she said one night. She waited a few more weeks, and said the same thing again. Then she waited several weeks more, and said the same thing again. All the while, making sure she was being appreciative and affirming to him.

And then, suddenly, he started thanking her for making dinner. Not every night, but every few days. And she beamed, and gave him a kiss. “Oh, thank you for noticing! It’s my pleasure.” And the truth was, at this time, it actually was her pleasure. She had gone from doing it with unmet expectations resulting in bitterness, resentment, and discouragement to doing it for the Audience of One, Whom she began to realize she was delighting. It no longer bothered her as much that her husband didn’t notice verbally the things she did for him or the family.

And the funny thing was, little by little, the grumpy guy started letting her know what she was doing right.

And then their sons started being appreciative.

And then, recently, she called to let me know he was actually interested in her thoughts, and was asking her questions.

Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” All too often, we try to change others by talking at them. Instead of simply focusing on what God would have us become in our own lives, we focus on the failings of those around us.

If we spent all this energy delighting in understanding others, instead of challenging them, criticizing them, taking the things they say personally, or pointing out where they could be wrong (in other words, revealing our own minds), we would find ourselves with less conflict and richer more positive relationships.

Dare you today to seek to understand others better – not by disagreeing with them, but by saying things like, “Oh? Tell me more about that,” “That’s interesting. How did you come to that perspective?” or, “So if I understand you, you’re saying…can you help me understand how that fits with…?” (and take the sarcastic, “You idiot” tone out of the communication).

We reveal much about ourselves by how we respond to others.

In Daughters of Sarah® and The Respect Dare, we see the above pattern change marriages. It’s truly miraculous what can happen. We don’t guarantee it will happen for you this side of heaven, but it’s frequently what God does. His ways are just not our ways. Sometimes it takes 3 months, sometimes 3 years, sometimes it’s 3 decades. Sometimes it’s not this side of heaven. But like the man who was born blind so that God’s glory would be revealed, there is always purpose in our pain, and He doesn’t waste anything.

Double-dog-dare you to respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control to the people around you today, allowing the Spirit to work through you.

Triple-dog-dare you to share, “subscribe,” or comment! 🙂

Thankful to be on the journey with you,

~Nina


titus 2 women leadership

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23 thoughts on “How to Change Your Husband…

  1. Love the RE-posts… I needed this one today… Lost it a bit on my hubby for something dumb.. and he acted in turn.. now I am hurting.. and I know its my fault for being rude to start.. I appologized, but no response yet.. and I am going to let it sit all day.. which is VERY hard for me.. I will be prayerful today about how I will speak this evening so we do not continue the squabble

  2. Nina, Your material is brilliant! I’ve been at this Respect Dare since last December. At times I’ve been greatly disappointed in myself-relapsing into old patterns of complaint and begging.However, there have been dramatic changes in how my husband and I are relating. He still wants to go to Amish country with me once a week.And we talk tough stuff quite often. I share with him the contents of my journal at times and get his feedback, which is not always easy. We are still hitting the wall over his relationship with a female employee of his, though he is beginning to see the why of some of my insecurity/jealousy. I am still constantly asking Jesus to heal my heart and free me of all that does not please Him. And it is happening. This current post that you have sent out is going to help significantly. It acknowledges a genuine need within me, but restrains me from harping or complaining, Will use repetition of a truthful statement, but not frequently. And will help me focus on blessing, encouraging and expressing a heart of gratitude for all he does Right! Which is a ton! He has really felt my heartfelt gratitude when I’ve done the various assignments. When I re-started the book a month ago, I asked him for his assessment of my assessment, and he gave me some of the most significant encouragement I’ve ever heard from him in our 35 years of marriage! I wept because he is definitely seeing change in me. And yesterday he prayed with me for our 5 kids and our marriage with more depth than we have ever experienced. I have begged for this for 35 years. Today he kissed me on the top of my head, tenderly…just because…and I don’t remember that ever happening before. Well, not since dating anyway:)
    May God continue to meet you at every turn, show you how to walk alongside your husband in this season of your lives, and strengthen you for every good work. Gratefully, Ruth

    • Ruth – Any good you see here is 100% God. He is good, all the time, even when we’re in the midst of suffering. I’m praising Him for what He’s doing in your marriage, and asking Him to share that blessing with many of our readers – they suffer and need hope. I’m excited for you, baby!

      And the most amazing thing to me from what you’ve written is not the changes in both of you, although those are worthy of our praising the Lord over, but most of all, the perseverance you showed. The tenacity with which you have chosen to NOT. GIVE. UP. 35 years is a long time to wait for what you have now, but we have seen the power of the wait, the end result of tenacious living, trusting in God for His timing, as He, not we, are on the throne. 🙂 (notice the plural there – I’m smiling 🙂 ) (confessing pride now… 🙂 )

      LOVE that you wrote the above – and I plan to share it with my readers if you are okay with that, as a reminder to not give up. Bless you, gorgeous!

      Love to you!
      Nina

  3. Thank you for posting this today. I was very much in neurotic self pity.. My husband and I seperated last year. I discovEred He has come home but is still very distant. I have been gradually falling back into old thinking giving up hope of my husband ever changing and not blaming me for everything that goes wrong and not leading in the way I expect him to lead. I must keep my eyes on God. The suggestion that I ask God to help me with clearer and more respectful communication is fantastic. Thank you

  4. Blown away…i am praying that I would give my whole self as an instrument of holiness so that i would be saved from sowing into the flesh through my tongue

  5. this is so awesome and I can see this in my own life as well as God has tranformed me and how that has affected my husband and thus our relationship. Praise God!

  6. thank you for sharing story and comments this as I too needed it and will print it out to re-read and be more mindful, especially when I know a difficult topic of discussion is coming up. I am working on keeping the fruits of the spirit present and researched the signing of them to help me in the moment of challenge..i.e. the sign for patience – thumb drawn down the nose tip, lips and to the chin reminds me to button up and pause for now in patience.

  7. You are right. I need to walk in the Spirit and seek to get praise from God. My relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important. As I keep learning to respect my husband and respond femininly (not “man to man”) when something’s bothering me, I know he’ll respond favorably. This world messes with our gender roles and Christ is helping me overcome and learn to be my real self in Christ i.e. a feminine, respectful, and submissive helper to my husband – one who is compassionate and understanding, not critical and judgemental. I see now how my feelings of superiority have blinded me to my own faults. Just because my husband’s sin struggles are different than mine doesn’t mean mine aren’t just as problematic to our relationship.

  8. I have been reading your blog for awhile, and have often been blessed and challenged, but didn’t let you know. Today tho, I have to tell you how relevant this post is to me and just to say thank you for doing what you do.
    I too will be printing this and rereading it frequently to remind myself. I can relate so deeply to what she felt. I know what it feels like to be starving for words of life instead of the constant barrage of criticism, fault finding, and blame. To wonder if I was perfect, would he be happy? And yes, to feel like you’re dying inside and finally crying out to God, “Father, what do YOU think about me???” To have that prayer answered in a most unusual way, when a brother from church the very next Sunday, came to me with a big wad of cash and said that God told him to empty his wallet out and give it to me. What he didn’t realize was that, as desperately as we needed the money, the words of encouragement he shared was the bigger blessing and the answer to my cry to God just several days before.
    I’m challenged to change my response, and thank you for the reminder to do what I do for my Lord, who loves me implicitly. I have done that before, and it changes the perspective (and my happiness) completely, but I slip out of that thinking far too easily. I have already just walked away when I sensed that I was going to be “chewed up and spit out”. (Is that wrong?) Or I’ve answered yet another angry question “WHY_____?” with a half bitter, half flippant, ” So that you have something to complain about.” (Oh, that sounds so disrespectful when I write it down here!) I have so much growing to do!
    I could go on, but this is supposed to be a comment and not a blog. 🙂 Some times are much harder than others and some times are actually good, but you have given me encouragement to keep going through the tough times….. thank you!

  9. I completely relate with every single one of these women. Before reading this article, I had a deep conversation with God this morning asking Him to help me communicate more clearly and more respectfully with my husband. I realize that I need to look within and pray for His Grace to walk righteously and not sit in judgement of my spouse at every turn. The problem is in the condition of my heart and can be solved with the condition of my heart, if I continue to listen and obey the Voice of The Holy Spirit.

  10. Boy I wish I had seen this article 6 yrs ago. I believe it woild of spared us alot of heartache and possible divorce. Praying God will give me another opportunity to be the Helpmeet described in the above article.

  11. I could relate to this post as we’ve been through some similar things (i.e. I want my husband to be a man of influence and example for how my boys will treat their future wives) but I need to meet him half-way…he shouldn’t have to do it all on his own.

    This paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks: If we spent all this energy delighting in understanding others, instead of challenging them, criticizing them, taking the things they say personally, or pointing out where they could be wrong (in other words, revealing our own minds), we would find ourselves with less conflict and richer more positive relationships.

    Doing these things has to be a priority for us…thank you again for the timliness of this post!!!

  12. The man above perfectly describes my husband!! The woman describes who I was BEFORE GOD allowed us to separate for a time. Thanks for the reminder. I needed to be reminded again.

  13. I usually file these away to read at another time. God knew I needed to read this today… Like Marisa, I need to print this and read it each morning.

  14. Oh, yes, may we all keep our eyes on Jesus and fill our thoughts, and subsequently our speech, with His grace! 🙂

  15. So much was said in this post that I just needed to hear. I am still working on changing the things in me that God is nudging me about. Oh how I fall when I take my eyes off Jesus and start looking at my circumstances. Praying for others dealing with this in their marriages.

  16. My husband and i are both very sarcastic and witty people, which comes out in our disagreements ten-fold. I think if i could bite my tongue and respond with more grace, he would follow suit!

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