Real Conflict…What Do You Think?


I have the privilege of a number of close relationships where the intimate details of interactions are shared with me, often over coffee.

This is one of them.

Consent’s been given to share it with you. Discussion’s ensued. I’m sure there will be more. Just so you know, this woman has been actively respecting her husband for over 15 years. Her husband is also frequently angry and aggressive in communication with her and their kids, regardless of her calm approach. Some consider his behaviors verbally abusive.


The teen’s father walked in and caught the end of the conversation. She was finishing a chore from earlier in the day, that of folding the laundry. Their son sat on the couch.

“So you’re being contrary and disrespectful when you disagree that way. It’s one thing to ask a question to get more information, and another to be sarcastic and challenging when you do it. Does that make sense?” she gently said to the boy.

“Okay. I see that,” the boy replied.

“So he’s being contrary?” asked the dad.

“Yes,” she replied.

There was a pause. She kept folding clothes.

She sensed her husband chewing on the conversation he’d had with her earlier that morning. She had asked him a question and he’d responded aggressively, defensive. His response, like so many other times, was unnecessary, harsh, and unkind. It hurt. “I didn’t deserve that,” she had said softly.

“What are you talking about?!” he had quipped.

“Are you angry at me? I might be wrong, but you seem really angry at me,” she’d replied.

“I don’t know why you say that! I’m not angry!” he retorted.

The teen had interjected himself into the situation. “Then stop biting her head off,” he said.

“I’m not!” he replied, indignantly.

“You may not see it yourself, but everyone else around you does, and it hurts. I’d like it to stop,” she said, leaving the room and the clothes.


Back to the scene with the teen…

“Are you ever contrary?” her husband asked her, raising his chin, his tone challenging her.

Tell the truth…

“Yes, I am,” she said.

All of the truth…

“And it probably feels to you like I am increasingly more so lately,” she continued, gently.

“And why is that?” he inquired, scowling.

Stick to the facts… the truth…

“I’m tired of being disrespected. I’m speaking up sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. This morning was one of them,” she said.

“I spent all of last night and this morning doing things for you. Things you asked me to do. Doesn’t that count for anything? There’s no making you happy,” he said.

“Those things weren’t for me. They were for our family, specifically for the kids, too. It’s part of your responsibilities as a parent here. And I appreciated them and I thanked you. But just because you do them, that doesn’t entitle you to treat people poorly,” she responded.

“Nothing I do counts for anything,” he retorted angrily.


“That is not true,” she stated calmly. “The two aren’t related. Like just because I do your laundry as part of my responsibilities, that doesn’t mean I get off the hook for treating others respectfully or kindly. Doing my job and being kind and respectful aren’t related. One doesn’t negate the need for the other,” she said.

She sensed herself starting to get emotional.

Enough.

Another child came in the room, and the conversation was over for the time being.

She turned and started folding the laundry again.


I am thankful for this opportunity to dialogue with you. Even more thankful you are on the journey with us.

Love to you,

~Nina

What did she do right? What could she have done better? Is anything Biblical happening or not? Is it over?

Comments

  1. Nina Roesner says

    I need to apologize.

    It’s interesting how many different perspectives can exist from one story – one in which we admittedly have limited information from only one perspective. Our own backgrounds, experiences, marital status, histories, parenting status and maybe even level of abuse or lack of it in our past or current relationships certainly impacts how we interact with the above story.

    And that’s all it is, a simple story from someone’s life. I wonder how we would respond if all the details were present? I wonder if we would look at it differently if the man, or woman, had an arrest record for domestic violence, or if they were separated, or if the man had had an affair and was just at the house to pick up his kids for the weekend…I wonder if any of these details would impact our perspectives?

    I really had no idea where this discussion would go when I posted on Monday. I had thought of filling in the extra details that might change how we perceive the situation, but I need to end the discussion because it’s too much to ask of the person who generously shared the story with me. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, and I haven’t kept my license to do anything any longer, so perhaps I shouldn’t even be asking the questions! LOL :) But the reality is that we are often too quick to rush to judgment (myself included) and make assumptions and suggestions based on our own experiences and histories, instead of simply loving people in the middle of where they currently are, praying for them, and pointing them back to God.

    If I’ve learned one thing in the last week as a result of this dialogue, it’s been those three things, love, prayer, and Him are often the best answers we should offer up.

    Someone wrote me this week feeling awful because they’ve suffered the loss of several close family members in the last couple of years and people have told her she needs to stop sinning by being selfish by mourning, because these believers are in Heaven. I wonder how often I’ve been quick to speak, slow to listen, and vented righteous judgment all over someone who just needs compassion and time to heal? Perhaps too often here on my own blog.

    In dealing with this particular post and the pain of the one it is written about, I’ve learned much, at I think what is too high a cost, and for that I am really sorry. Some of the comments (my own included) deeply wound, and for that I am also sorry.

    The simple truth of the matter is that we can never fully know the FULL truth of what’s going on in a relationship, and we have to be careful to not judge or be prescriptive in how we respond. I wish I had known now what I didn’t know then, but I’m thankful for the learning and the grace and forgiveness that’s occurred. I hope you experience the same, and I am really sorry for opening a can of worms here.

    Love to you all,
    ~NIna

    • Linda says

      Nina, thanks for doing a great job on moderating things here. I have learned a lot just reading through these perspectives and comments and thanks to you bearing the burden of moderating things, I’ve been spared reading anything hurtful or crass. I love this community of smart and intuitive women!

    • says

      This principle of taking these confrontations into private has been amazing and life-changing for me. I didn’t realize how often I display my dissatisfactions with my husband in front of my children and in public. My kids shouldn’t see their mum doing that. Bobbie Houston gave an amazing message on this that I was fortunate enough to attend in person. I would have sworn my husband would never change. After a few months of some sincere work on this, he became a new man. My kids behavior also changed!

  2. says

    As a licensed therapist that’s practiced in both secular and Christian counseling circles, I don’t feel that this played out in an ideal way for either spouse. I’ll start from the basis of secular psychology and then add some spiritual truths into the mix.

    This situation starts with a choice to re-enter a prior conflict. It doesn’t matter what either person says their motivation was or how harmless they intended their words to be, that’s what happened.

    “She sensed her husband chewing on the conversation he’d had with her earlier that morning. She had asked him a question and he’d responded aggressively, defensive.”

    Few leaders or counselors are going to promote assessing the internal thoughts of one’s spouse as a healthy activity. There’s no way of knowing this is what was on his mind. In fact, his response was “what are you talking about?”. Looking at male cognitive patterns and studies, it’s more likely he was thinking about the Son’s behavior in this situation and trying to bring some male authority to the table. That being derailed by a critical comment from a previous conflict would more explain the defensive behavior by the husband.

    PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT saying the prior conflict or the husbands behavior should have been ignored. I am, however, saying that in the professional opinion of myself and most of my colleagues, this was a very ineffective way to address any of that.

    I have read over the comments to this post and have gleaned the extra information that I could from the follow up comments. I fully understand that we aren’t here to discuss the behavior of the son. It’s natural for any child to behave within the boundaries he or she has been taught. Even the boundaries they test are defined by the boundaries they have been taught to respect. Because of this emphasis on parent behavior rather than child behavior, I don’t think his behavior reflects poorly on him as a child in this home.

    When whenever I sit down with a new family, couple, married individual, or divorced individual with children with the intent to discuss marriage or other committed relationships, my primary objective is to first discuss and observe their interactions with their children. Those interactions between parent and child speak volumes about the marriage. So, I agree with a previous comment here that this interaction is hugely important. I also tend to agree with those points of concern.

    I thoroughly disagree with the view’s that were laid out by the author on conflict visibility in front of children. The reasons for my disagreement on this topic are grounded in considerations of cognitive, psychological, spiritual, and statistical principles. I don’t want to spend too much time here because I think, while important, it’s more a symptom of the problem here than the actual problem. The principle that conflicting in front of teens causes them to choose sides nearly 100% of the time is absolutely correct. Teens can be aware that conflict is happening and even be present in the final stages of resolution, but they should be spared the dialogue of the conflict itself. This might seem trivial to some, but the statistics on lifelong patterns affecting marriage, divorce, violence, anger, and crime with regards to their knowledge of the details with the conflict of their parents are astonishing and compelling.

    The healthiest adults with respect to success in marriage, career, and spiritual health all fall into a general category that they knew their parents dealt with conflict, knew that they were conflicting, did not know what specifically they were conflicting about, did not know the points of offense/defense each parent held, and were aware of how their parents came together in the resolution of conflict. Both the children who fall into the more sheltered end and the kids who fall into the less sheltered end of this spectrum had serious and chronic problems with conflict in adulthood.

    To ground this in scripture, I’d like to use Matthew 18 which I wholeheartedly believe applies to all believers regardless of gender as well. Matthew 18:15 says “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” I think that the Bible is very clear that these types of discussions are to held just between the two involved. Yes, this even applies to the “correction of the hug” that was mentioned. Let’s not let a man’s poor choice of words and communication style nullify his feelings. We wouldn’t nullify a woman’s feelings simply because the husband said something to her gently and she reacted poorly. Her feelings would still matter and his feelings do too. The fact is that he displays clear signs to me that he’s frequently coached in public, in front of his children, and over sometimes very trivial things. If these things he does are worth speaking up about, then they will be memorable enough to have the conversations in private.

    Another issue here that primarily comes into play in a Christian setting is the labeling of any behavior one’s spouse exhibits as sin. In my world, I’d apply Matthew 18 to things like infidelity, physical abuse, sexual immorality, illegal behavior, etc. Certainly, a chronic lack of verbal gentleness MUST be addressed. But progress will never be made there in scenarios like this. Depending on getting that neutral perspective we simply can’t attain here, the husbands behavior could quite likely be sinful, and that’s why the Bible gives us a blueprint for addressing it… “just between the two” of them.

    Regardless of a client’s religion, I’d steer them away from making the contend of the conflict to the visible stage in their home. It’s not what’s best for the short term or long term needs of that child. In addition, this decision to approach this in this sort of setting is very emasculating to a man. His son, who has just gotten corrected for his behavior is present and now its dad’s turn (based on the assumption that mom knew what dad was thinking about). Even in the secular world, we’ve establish that for boys, their father’s status as a strong and respected member of the home is crucial.

    I completely agree with the author that mom’s should and must tackle serious matters of correction with a child and that this isn’t a “dad’s job” only. However, I don’t think anyone here has made a point contrary to that. The fact is that it seems to me that the dad was home and available to tackle this. The research has shown dozens of times that when a male child is corrected by an authoritative father figure, that correction is nearly twice as effective as when a mother makes the same correction. Sorry, that’s not only Biblical truth (all through Proverbs), but that’s just a fact of science.

    Secular psychology is embracing natural gender roles more than ever, with amazing results. Secular psychology is even developing a concept of respect for male authority. This evolution isn’t Bible based, its results based. Males don’t respond well to certain styles of communication, certain forms of correction, and certain delegations of authority in the home. This isn’t because men are mindless, grumpy, and despondent jerks. It’s because we’ve understand more about men than ever genetically, and can trace these behaviors back to the most ancient histories we posses.

    What else amazes me is that in following many secular forums and blogs on relationships completely absent of the Bible, these cases (often much worse) come up all the time. Random women with no specialty in these areas are sharing their testimonies of great success with other women. It usually amounts to “You might not realize that you’re doing this to him and this is how it affects him as a man”, “when I started treating him more like a man, it took a while, but he started treating me more like a lady”. Ladies, if random secular strangers out on internet forums are figuring this out, we have some catching up to do.

    No client is permitted to come in to a counseling setting and bring assertions, character witnesses, or sincere claims to their historical behavior towards their spouse. When we give advice on this sort of thing, we start with a clean slate and work from there.

    So, here’s my point and summary that I’d go “all in” for as a recommendation for this couple to make true shift in trajectory towards peace and harmony for this couple. The only way any of this will get better is if a great effort is made towards the two things which I truly believe are in jeopardy in this marriage: the lack of friendship between the two, and the loss of a sacred status of the couples relationship above that of every other human relationship in their worlds. Another comment here completely hit a home run by also making that diagnosis. The most effective way for these two to resolve that is to actually follow the Bible’s guidance for conflict completely and comprehensively. Second, they’d need to begin some emotionally focused therapy. This form of therapy is almost twice as effective as conventional therapy. What’s even better is that a couple doesn’t have to go visit a therapist to do this. There are some incredible books available on the topic and the results are amazing.

    We can’t take the unfortunate symptoms of deep problems in a relationship and base our assessments of the actual problems on those. That would be like assessing the temperament of the wounded dog that is lying on the side of the road having just been struck by a car. He is snarling, biting, and refusing any kind of help or kindness, therefore he must be “that kind of dog”. Frankly, I think we’d all have a bit more compassion for the animal in that situation.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to weigh in on this.

    Love all of you ladies — your hearts to be daughters of Sarah and women of God.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Thanks, Kaitlin, for sharing your opinion here. And I’m really glad you shared the bit about how current psychology is weighing in on gender roles – there are (generally speaking) differences between men and women, and it always cracks me up when science finally confirms God’s design.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

    • Judy S. says

      I think this group of ladies is a breath of fresh air!

      I, too, as a licensed and practicing therapist just want to say to the wife involved in this situation, this is so so common. I talk to many women who will recite interactions just like this. So, definitely don’t feel like you’re alone or this is a rare thing!

      These principles are right on! Take these ‘confrontations’ (though I’d rather just think of them as heart-to-hearts) to a private place, put aside any multitasking for a moment, and look into his eyes and talk about it. This is so important for a man. Regardless of what we grow up being told about men, be willing to listen as well. Regardless of what the prior scenario was or his history, or her history, or whatever, that’s the most beneficial and positive way to handle it. It also just the right way to handle it. He might not live up to that standard of kindness, but it’s important to do it anyway… because its right. I also love the fact that these principles ‘just the two of them’ are in the Bible. Too cool!

      No matter what, EFT is going to help and it’s the best starting place I can recommend as well. Getting back to that one on one quiet place of building a friendship… the foundation for a lifelong marriage that is a good thing for both husband and wife.

      Good luck to you ladies!

      Judy

  3. Jenna says

    Like most of us, I’ve been through similar situations of conflict before in my marriage. I’ve been through long seasons similar to this with my husband. However, there are a few elements that disturb me about this.

    If my child, especially any of my sons, got in between my husband and me and began to reprimand my husband for “biting my head off,” we would have problems. There are several facts that raise the bar of my concern about this.

    First, this interaction was seen as tolerable. This teen has done this before, which means he has a very specific view of his father and his father’s role in the home (that didn’t happen overnight).

    Second, neither parent felt they needed to respond to this teen for what they said (which really supports my take-away from my first point).

    Third, conflict arises at inopportune times. It’s inconvenient and its unpleasant. However, there’s almost always an option to avoid these things in front of children and teens (moving elsewhere, postponing the discussion, or just sending the teen from the room). Conflict is emotionally stressful for young children. With teens, if they are allowed to witness it, they will always pick a side (its almost impossible for them to remain neutral at this age). That, no matter what the situation between me and my husband is, is not something I want facilitate by allowing their presence in our conflicts.

    Fourth, given the opening scene of the talk with the son about contrary and respectful behavior, it makes me wonder why, if the husband was home, he wasn’t giving this talk. He, as the primary leader of the home, would be the best authority figure to give such a talk. The parallel here with my other points is that it seems that the wife in this situation might feel that she is the supreme adult within the home and possesses more wisdom to parent these issues. I also think this is a great indicator that the husband feels parented.

    Respect is defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”. This does not mention any actions or behaviors, its about internal feelings regarding an individual only. Respectful actions might make us look victorious within a sea of earthly spectators, but that’s not what God’s after is He? Respect is a matter of the heart and soul. The behaviors and tangible evidence of it usually follow, but emulating these really has nothing to do with respect.

    I trust your enthusiasm and sincerity about the character quality of your friend and don’t doubt she has the kind of heart you describe. I’d like to believe I’ve always had a heart for God, respecting my husband, service, and raising healthy children as well. My heart, however, didn’t save me from creating a very unhealthy power dynamic within our home for a season.

    There are some very unsettling elements here in regards to the energy within the home. Again, these things didn’t arise overnight. We have to look at the whole picture when considering a conflict and not just the isolated window of dialog for a single incident.

    “She sensed her husband chewing on the conversation he’d had with her earlier that morning. She had asked him a question and he’d responded aggressively, defensive. His response, like so many other times, was unnecessary, harsh, and unkind.”

    We have received a line-by-line dialog of the entire event except for any detail on what this entire incident started from. The nature and transcript of this event may be more private than the rest of this very detailed dialog, but given the nature of this individuals anonymity, it seems like it is not only relevant, but imperative to understanding this conflict as a whole. Also, this introduction we receive to the husband is a bit biased.

    We, too, might be able to take sides by catching a glimpse of this marriage through the small window of this conflict, but that will undoubtedly not be the whole picture. Truly, even close friends of a couple don’t see a clear picture of their marriage. Rather, it’s often from the perspective of one individual within the marriage and the content is filtered by what that one individual chooses to share and even what they feel is relevant.

    We can certainly discuss the semantics of what could or couldn’t have been done better in this situation. However, that has little to do with the bigger issues in this marriage. These issues are largely related to a general loss of friendship between man and wife. In addition, the sovereignty of that relationship has been lost within the home.

    • Nina Roesner says

      I will get more info. :) You do raise some interesting questions!
      More later, and glad you are here!
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

    • Nina Roesner says

      Agreed, in that the whole truth is seldom what is seen. I don’t know about the teen’s response, because that wasn’t the emphasis of the post, rather, I was focusing on the interaction with the wife and husband. One thing I wanted to dialogue about was the notion of conflict in front of kids – I think we disagree on that to some degree.

      Where I do agree is that for young kids, yes, conflict should not be done in front of them, but with older children, maturity-wise, as there is no “magic age” some (not all, but some) conflicts should be carried out in front of them, as they need to see examples of conflict done well. I’m not saying the above was a perfect situation at all, rather I wrote the post to generate dialogue and interact with readers today.

      We might also disagree on another point – regardless of whether the dad was home, I have concerns for the father being assumed to be the only person in the home who should have coaching conversations or influencing the children. I don’t know what the conflict was in the above situation, and I realize there are many in the Christian community who believe wives and mothers should not have leadership type conversations with their children, but I am not one of them, as I do not see this edict anywhere in the Bible. I realize that some don’t follow the blog as a result of that thinking, which is fine by me.

      What leadership/headship looks like appears to be one of the many topics Christian theologians and pastors do not agree upon. I realize there are some who believe Matthew 18 is not for use for wives with their husbands, and I disagree (along with other theologians) about that, too. I’m not sure where you fall in those areas, but I happen to believe (perhaps naively) that we can all choose respectful dialogue, regardless of what the truth actually is. If theologians haven’t been able to land on the “right” answer for centuries, how could I expect to do so in a blog post? :)

      You are right in that there’s a lot to these type situations, and in dealing with women who are suffering, there’s so much to be taken into consideration. I know many Christian men who are leaders that ascribe to the notion that there is a difference between a woman “parenting” her husband and a woman holding her husband to a high standard of behavior in a respectful way – and some who would be appalled that God would ever use a wife to teach her husband anything, or have her confront her husband’s sin against her. I personally find submission, respect, help, and completing hugely important in marriage but also hold to the truth that our husband is also our closest neighbor, our brother, and I also believe wives can confront via Matthew 18 (and should, if God is leading them to), and should “overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16) if He’s leading there – and I take flack from both egalitarians and complementarians alike because I hold that combined view.

      I do discuss God’s use of people in “submissive” positions to direct those in authority in a post for abused wives: http://ninaroesner.com/for-victims-of-abuse/dare-18/ . I’m wondering what you think about those things, or my belief that God can and does use wives to confront a husband’s sin?

      The bottom line for me is that we need to really know God, and ask Him for confirmation when He leads us. While some would argue that the Bible contradicts itself, I do not agree – I believe the Word is alive, and sometimes leads us to different directions as a result of what God wants us to do in the midst of a moment.

      I’ll get back to you about some of the details of your questions when I find out more – but having said that, it’s safe to say we’ll still not know all the ins and outs of any interaction. :) Only the Father knows that! :)

      Thankful for the dialogue,
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  4. says

    I think this is a very difficult situation and we often only get to hear the one side of it which there’s always three different truths in an interaction. Person A’s truth, Person B’s truth and then there’s the actual truth.

    I didn’t see any call for the teen to respect his father so I hesitate to wonder if her external respect really reflects internal respect and obedience. Kids can pick up on the internal struggles we are having and respect and obedience are an internal thing that create external habits.

    I don’t know what to make of the husband except it would be great to hear his side of things. Even keeping calm, she’s challenging him which isn’t respectful in nature. It’s prideful. Not all of this was challenging him, but much of it was. A lot of it is present in the not-so-obvious pieces of the communication.

    If he really is just a grumpy dude (though rare, they exist) due to some mega baggage, possible hormone issues, dietary issues, or just plain old spiritual issues, then the best tool to use is trying to see where he is truly coming from. She has quippy answers to his questions but no real desire to see his heart…at least not from this dialogue. “Well, I believe I can be contrary but I am interested to know how often you feel that I am?” She also used, “I didn’t deserve that,” as an indication that we as sinful humans deserve anything more than hell. “I deserve” in any interaction communicates a spirit of entitlement and that’s not respect. The Bible makes it clear that a gentle answer turns away wrath and while she may present her answers in a gentle manner, her raw answers are anything but gentle. I also would encourage us as leaders to never preface that a husband is emotionally abusive and let the readers make that judgement. It’s such a broad defined term and often is mislabeled for simply someone dealing with deep spiritual problems. We are also very quick to label men as abusive where women often get a free pass doing the same thing. If *unwarranted* conflict exist with name calling, degradation, threats of harm etc…that’s a more precise definition. Outside of it he’s just emotionally and spiritually disturbed and needs grace, prayer, and unconditional respect.

    A two way conflict can not exist when humility from one is present. We are called as believers to emulate the fruits of the spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

    This dear sister seems to have self-control down well. Love is…patient, kind, and not proud. If an interaction lacks the Bible’s definition of love, then it’s neither respectful nor humble. If any of the fruits of the spirit are lacking then the spirit of pride is present. If the spirit of pride is present then respect and obedience will not be an internal thing during that interaction.

    Sorry it took me a bit to come here. I can’t promise I could have done a better job, however, I wouldn’t have been able to label this interaction with my husband as anything successful in the respect area.

    • Nina Roesner says

      I went back and double checked with this wife. Knowing the couple, he fits the “grumpy dude” category when out with friends, and I believe her attesting that he is even grumpier at home is accurate. Her world is full of criticism and condemnation, regardless of how much effort she puts into things, and he criticizes her openly in front of others. I once saw her ask him to hug her with both arms as she hugged him and he angrily said to her, “You have to correct me,” which seemed a strange response to her gently communicated request.

      I asked about the “I didn’t deserve that” response. It is a communication “cue” they’ve developed over the years as a softer way of helping the other person see their behavior as harming the other. I can see how on the surface that looks like a disrespectful response (and quite honestly, I don’t really like the response, either, for the reasons you stated… I think the “perfect” response, at least for me, would have been something like, “I’m feeling threatened and hurt by how you are speaking to me right now,” instead as that would give more meaning), but in their situation it’s a “cue.”

      Knowing the couple, I don’t see the teen’s response as disrespectful, although on the surface, it might also seem so. Here’s why: I know them to be great parents who have a relationship with this kid such that both are willing to give and receive feedback from the other. If he had been an adult, he might have cushioned it with, “You don’t realize this, dad, and I’m sure you don’t mean to do this, but your tone is one of anger.” Given that this kid was calm and gentle when he said it, (and yes, he could have done better, but kudos to them for seeing his heart – according to her) one could be pleased with that dynamic, as God will often use our children (“Daddy, why are you being so mean to Mommy?” from a 4 year old said simply questioningly – while that would be considered a disrespectful response from an adult woman, in my book, it would be respectful if innocently asked by a 4 year old, if that makes sense.

      One of the difficult things we deal with in ministry is the fact that literally 25% of women in America right now are in abusive relationships – physically abusive. And that’s based on the ones reporting it and getting help. And literally 100% of these relationships include what is considered “verbal abuse” – the physical abuse always starts and includes verbal abuse. Always. When I visited Family Life Ministries, I was encouraged to see Christian leaders, men, who strongly encourage wives to “bring their husbands good” by gently and firmly not tolerating abuse. One of the reasons we have so many disrespectful kids today is the wave of “permissive” parenting, where children are not held to a high standard of respect, and this is not modeled in the home, even in too many Christian homes.

      We like to say that there’s a fine line between being a “doormat” and being “submissive,” and another fine line between being a “steamroller” and being “a woman of strength and dignity.” BUT once that’s understood, suddenly it becomes clear that the line is not so fine – it’s really rather simple. God will show us when to speak up, when to be silent, when to interject ourselves into conflict, when to create conflict (yes, I said that, because Matthew 18 is creating conflict), and when to avoid it.

      I think we also have to reject the notion that “success” is defined by an absence of bad feelings or conflict. I found out when I followed up that the husband apologized and brought her flowers! Knowing and loving the two of them, I’m leaning on the “she brings him good and not harm” side of things in this interaction, although it wasn’t perfect – but far be it for me to pretend to be a judge on that, either, as it might have been exactly what God intended! :)

      Love the dialogue! SO glad you are here! :)
      ~Nina

      • says

        After much prayer, I am going to excuse myself further from this here. Whatever I would have said here, I wrapped it up in a post about conflict on Unbroken Woman.

        Love the discussion and glad to be here!

  5. Loretta P says

    For years my husband could not accept criticism, his self-esteem was so low that he saw himself as either all good or all bad. When confronted he would deflect the negative and try to block it out only hearing positive comments. When he was forced to face wrong he’d done, he would say “I’m just a bad husband, a failure.” He would not separate “I DID bad and need to change from I AM bad! It was only after God brought healing to his life that he’s been able to accept some criticism and not go to the “I’m a failure, I’m bad” state of mind.

    It was a difficult time in our marriage as he could never accept responsibility for anything, it was always the other person’s (driver, worker, spouse, etc.) fault. I had to come to a place where I realized that I couldn’t fix him and had to trust God to bring him to a place where he would begin to accept healing that things changed. I know that not all men will allow God to change them, but there is hope when we love and pray, but not accept the blame – it’s not about us, not try to fix – we can’t. In my case it was a very slow process that took years – about 20 or more before I saw real healing in him.

    Also it was only AFTER I started to work on my healing and changed that I could see God working in him. It seems that I’ve always lead the way to healing. I’d work on my stuff and then he’s start working on his at a much slower pace. It seems so much harder for guys to accept the need for change and work on their baggage.

    I hope this encourages some here on the blog. I’m sorry it was not a change over night story but that doesn’t seem to be the case very often and I’ve had friends who worked through much only to have the guy walk away or refuse to change. We can only change ourselves but when we change the dance steps in a relationship it does have an effect on our mate.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Thanks so much, Loretta. Your perseverance is admirable. Thank you for taking time to encourage others! :)
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  6. says

    A few things come to mind. Firstly they have been together and working on things for a long time. God bless them.

    Communication is both taught and learned. We teach how we want to be treated by how we treat, and if someone has learned another way of communication that is very different from yours conflict has a fertile place to grow. Those differences can be cultural, from being in different places in our walk with Jesus and they most often arise from how we were taught to communicate as children.

    I grew up in a house where sarcasm was expected, and being sensitive to verbal jabs and punches was looked down upon. Being a laughed at was expected. I married, the first time, a man who used his physical strength and intimidating silence to aid in his abuse of me. I left, fled.

    My husband, who blesses me daily, is from a VERY different communication style, culture and we are in different places in our walk with Jesus. This creates a layered communication culture to live with.

    I’ve done The Respect Dare twice. It changed our lives. Our marriage. I am communicating better. Working on less of a hair trigger response to things that are true survivor triggers. Progress is hard.

    For this woman I think she is doing a great job modeling respect to her husband and in front of her children. She is explaining things. She is being clear.

    While some see his comment as fishing for respect or acknowledgement, and I don’t disagree, I can also see it another way. With my own dear husband it is often a sign he is overwhelmed by something else, and that we need some time together just us two. Maybe not even talking, but engaging in our love languages and letting God move in our hearts.

    The times God moves deepest in us are the times when I love him for who he is. And I can remove any attachment to what he does, good or bad. Attaching respect to the doing, rather than the being, is poisonous to our relationship. It reduces us to human doings, instead of human beings. It takes our love and faith and puts them to work on things that they are not supposed to do.

    Words and tone can take us from an intimate space of love and respect to one of fear and mistrust, hurt and anger so quickly. The devil works hard to keep us on that edge, just about to tip over.

    Praying for those who have commented, and for the family in this post.

    Thanks for this blessing Nina! Love you girl.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Thank you, Shanyn. As usual, you have some insight into the situation that we might not have thought about otherwise. Appreciate you so much!
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  7. Kitty says

    Thank you for this. I am new to this blog. I’m glad to know I’m not crazy. This gives me hope. Especially when my spouse doesn’t use faith to guide Him in his life. And, doesn’t want to talk to talk to me without challenging or getting defensive, When I try to stand up for how I feel. Thank you. I’m not alone.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Glad you are here, Kitty! And yes, there is hope – and it comes through knowing the Father deeply enough to know when we are to be silent, to overlook an insult, to be truthful, or to confront. Many different choices, but only the Lord knows which at a given moment.
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  8. says

    Nina:

    The only comment I may make is that it is not our job to correct our husbands, as that job belongs to GOD alone. Men thrive on “unconditional positive regard.” Chances are if the husband was not criticized in any way for a month, and only “complimented and appreciated” things would change. On that note, I do believe it is important to talk with other women who are also trying to do this. Believe me, at times this is very hard. Especially if we have had a habit of correcting our husbands. (I know this all too well). Also, if our feelings ARE hurt, we can say: “that felt unloving”, and leave it at that. Hope this helps. Mari J.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Mari J –
      I agree with you that the “that felt unloving” is a better response IMHO, (see my very long response to Jennifer above :) ). I do, however, humbly disagree that “unconditional respect” even without a single criticism for a month, year or six years will result in a marriage changed 100% of the time. We’ve dealt with too many women who are getting this right and are still living in difficult marriages – because their husband refuses to grow.

      I agree that it is God’s job to correct our husband, we cannot be his Holy Spirit, but I also know from experience that there are many women who think that bringing “good” means they should never say anything and allow their husbands to do all sorts of things that are damaging, including abuse their wives and children and commit sin against them. That is utter nonsense – but there are those who believe that women are subservient to men, and teach that because of that, Matthew 18 is “unsubmissive” and not for wives. I disagree and am not alone in that. But having said that, understand that I do feel a woman (and a man) must learn to “die to self” and those times where we do are not wasted. That’s not what I’m talking about above. The Bible is clear about a husband not being harsh – and also that we are to bring him good all the days of our lives. But having said that, I also know that God will have us not rescue our husbands (sometimes defined as “help” even) and allow circumstances to teach him. Other times, He will have us help him avoid failing. This is why the Bible seems to contradict itself to those who don’t know Him. The truth is that He will lead one way one time, and another way another time, and we just need to know Him well enough and the scriptures well enough to be able to listen and obey. I talked about these things here: http://ninaroesner.com/for-victims-of-abuse/dare-18/ and included just a few of the Biblical references.

      So glad you are here – I love the dialogue! :)
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  9. eva says

    we are on a journey with this as well. Very good insights, especially about not owning it(the disrespect)

  10. Jenn McGuire says

    I think one of the key issues here is the verbal abuse. I struggled in a marriage for over 10 years where he was verbally abusive and manipulative. It takes a lot of mental energy to endure and rise above, while still staying in faith. When that spouse is a non-Christian, the battle increases. I do respect her endurance and devotion; my marriage ended over infidelity. I later found a husband who open worships with me, and is respectful in his actions and words. Not all stories end that way.

    One thing we did (my current husband and I) – we went to the marriage convention held here in Cincinnati (usually in February). It can be a wonderful catalyst to open the minds and hearts of couples struggling. I would suggest they seek out mentor couples or therapy – but would venture to guess getting him to something like that would prove difficult.

    God Bless and much love

    • Nina Roesner says

      Which conference was it, Jenn? And I knew someone would be able comment and relate. So sorry for all you’ve endured. Difficult things, indeed. Glad you are here!
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

      • Jenn says

        Hi Nina,
        It is called “Weekend to Remember”. It is a little costly, but I would say worth saving for. Also, many churches will sponsor couples.

        • Nina Roesner says

          Ah! Family Life Ministries – as far as marriage conferences go, they are top notch and inexpensive, comparatively so.

          Jim and I have been about 4 times – need to go back now and again for tune ups! :) Worth doing, totally! :)

          Thank you!
          Nina

    • Nina Roesner says

      Prayers for you, baby. Perhaps the difference is unseen for now. Glad you are here. We can’t change him or his behavior, but we certainly can wrap our identity up in God instead.
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  11. Laura G. Jones | Link to Yourself says

    Have you read the 5 love languages? (http://amzn.to/1chwjR4). I think that is a big part of the problem. It sounds like he thinks what he does should make her happy, and it doesn’t, because his words affect her too much. At the same time, it sounds like his love language is words of affection or appreciation, which she isn’t giving to him. As others have pointed out, this most certainly isn’t about her. The husband has some deep-seated insecurities and issues that he needs to deal with, and I think two things she could certainly do to help would be to verbally appreciate him and thank him repeatedly, whenever he does something for their family, and act happy. When a man sees his wife happy, he will feel accomplished because he feels it is his job to make her happy. What you quoted him saying makes me feel that perhaps she always seems a little sad instead of showing him that he does make her happy. Just my two cents. Hope this is helpful!

  12. says

    Have you read the 5 love languages? (http://amzn.to/1chwjR4). I think that is a big part of the problem. It sounds like he thinks what he does should make her happy, and it doesn’t, because his words affect her too much. At the same time, it sounds like his love language is words of affection or appreciation, which she isn’t giving to him. As others have pointed out, this most certainly isn’t about her. The husband has some deep-seated insecurities and issues that he needs to deal with, and I think two things she could certainly do to help would be to verbally appreciate him and thank him repeatedly, whenever he does something for their family, and act happy. When a man sees his wife happy, he will feel accomplished because he feels it is his job to make her happy. What you quoted him saying makes me feel that perhaps she always seems a little sad instead of showing him that he does make her happy. Just my two cents. Hope this is helpful!

  13. Eber says

    When he said “nothing I do counts for anything.” In my opinion, that’s when he wants to be told how appreciated he is, how much he “counts.”
    The wife calmly (that’s good) started explaining how one thing doesn’t negate another and she probably lost him, he was on a fishing exhibition for make me feel respected. Hopefully, if she expressed love & respect for him God would open up an opportunity maybe even a different day to explain to her husband how she was being made to feel & God may be working on that area with the husband also.

    • Nina Roesner says

      YES. Men who say this are frequently fishing for a compliment – and absolutely we should give it to them! :) As a side note, men who abuse their wives frequently disregard an issue they have and replace it with their own negative feelings about something else as a tactic to avoid dealing with her concern. Glad you are here!
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  14. says

    You can’t ask your husband for respect. You have to give it first and wait patiently until he decides to return it. The kids will treat you how your spouse treats you and they will respect the father to the degree the wife respects him. Kids learn how to respect by watching how their parents treat each other, although there is a certain amount learned by not allowing them to disrespect you, it is better to learn through example. It is obvious the teen is copying the behavior of the father towards the mom.

    My advice for the woman: Treat your husband with the utmost respect, not trying to gain any back for yourself. The statement of “I don’t deserve this” is a cry for respect. Who are you to decide what you deserve and don’t deserve? Lower yourself, instead of fighting for your respect, say “harsh words hurt me, what can I do to please you?” Bow out of the fight and accept the level of disrespect your husband is giving you, then give him the utmost respect.

    Meanwhile, dress nicely (worthy of respect), do your hair, and keep the house and kids in order. These are things that will slowly earn you respect in his eyes. He is unable to give you respect until he is confident you respect him first.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Ah! Agreed – if this was a “new” situation, and if God hadn’t led her to speak up. I fully agree with you – I think we wives need to get the respect piece ourselves 100% and to be consistent with it for a long period of time, and perhaps, then, if God leads, she can respond to his sinful behavior gently, without anger, herself. Unfortunately, this is a woman who has been respectful, submissive, etc., for 15 years – and she’s got a man that is angry, distant, and harsh. I forgot to add those details into the story – I’ll go back and do that. :)

      Glad you are here, Sis!
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

      • says

        At some point, I realized his harsh words were not about me. It is an outpouring of what’s in his heart. He needs healing, he needs to be made whole in Christ and this is something I cannot give him. What I can do, is step out of the way of his blame, not compete with him, and fill him with words of grace. Words that show him he is valued, loved, and respected in my eyes. Whenever my husbands gives me hurtful words, I try to fill him back up with grace words. I also trace his back with my hand and pray over him at night, for him to be made whole again.

        • Nina Roesner says

          Beautiful, Sis!
          You are wise indeed. The harshness is NOT about us – we should never choose those chains to bind us. We can’t do anything to impact them, because they are not ours in the first place. I love what you said about “stepping out of the way of his blame,” as if we catch it, we are owning things that are not ours to own. I love that your husband will receive your grace words – some men (usually the abusive type) argue with and become enraged when a woman reaches out positively in the face of their negativity. Interesting stuff. So thankful your husband receives them from you! And YES, your prayers make a huge difference! Without them, perhaps similar outcomes ensue. So glad you are here, love the input today! :)
          Love to you,
          ~Nina

      • Christine says

        Spekaing from my personal experience and still living daily with these type of responses, I feel that no matter how much respect you show your husband… (1) he must respect himself first (2) he must be willing to receive it.
        A wife cannot force him receive the respect or anything else she gives to him or does for him. If his perception of his wife is mostly through eyes of hurt, anger, unforgiveness, etc., then he is unable to see anything in a positive manner concerning her.
        Just my thoughts on it… all you can do… the best thing you can do is PRAY!
        Thanks Nina for all you do! You are a blessing!

        • Nina Roesner says

          Christine –
          And here, based on what I know about this situation and the couple involved, lies the rub.
          I don’t have a scientific explanation for all of this, but I fully believe that most men respond positively to respect – and are inspired to pursue God and being better men as a result. There are, however, men who do not. There are issues, ones that no matter what the wife does, she will never be able to impact, and it’s God’s work alone, and the Holy Spirit moving that helps the man recognize his value in Christ. That filter of anger, hurt, paranoia, distrust, fear, whatever, clouds everything for a small percentage of men and women alike, regardless of what their spouses do.

          And for what it’s worth, I agree – 100%. The BEST thing you can do is pray. Pray for him. Follow God’s leading in the midst of the moments, and you’ll know what to do. So yes, 1) deepen your own relationship with God so you know what to do, and 2) pray for your husband.
          Glad you are here – thank you for the comments.
          Love to you,
          ~Nina

  15. Naomi says

    Hmmm…this sounds like a scene from my own home growing up. It also seems like we’re missing something here. Not sure, but…why did he bring up the feeling of not being appreciated? There’s something there I think. I’m not excusing his behavior or attitude toward her though. To me, it looks like he’s upset about something else and it’s coming out in the way he talks to her…like there’s an underlying root issue here perhaps? That said, I do think she responded in the right way. She shouldn’t be treated with disrespect either, and it’s fair for her to respectfully point that out, especially if her teen is observing it and standing up for her as well.

    Whether it’s ‘over’ or not really depends on the two of them. It really looks like they have some larger issues that need to be discussed in greater detail. The issue at hand might be dropped for the sake of peace, since she’s already confronted, but it looks like there is more to discuss here. Perhaps he needs some time to chew on her confrontation though, and that’s not a bad thing.

  16. says

    Eeeesh! Not sure WHY there’s that idea of the trade-off between chores and attitude, OR why the baby has to get chucked out with the bathwater every damn time it comes into question…but I know that scenario.

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