Who Should Leave in YOUR Marriage?

This morning I had the privilege of participating in a conference call with a group of women learning to respect their husbands. The ministry that sponsored the call is the Annointed Wives Ministry and they hail from Chicago.

They are awesome. You should totally check them out above.

During the call, (and OH IT WAS EARLY… I was only half caffeinated, so I know any good came from God!) I was asked the most common question I get, which is, “How do I respect a man who doesn’t deserve it?”

coffee life changed

The short answer is simply: you can’t.


But the Holy Spirit within you, can.

And before we get our judgment on, we need to remember that we’re as sinful as they come – we don’t deserve our husband’s love, either.

Both men and women crave intimacy in relationships, and while the way we go about it is different (proof God has a sense of humor, IMHO), we’re all pursuing that intimacy thing. We were made to crave relationship – but the relationship we crave is with Christ, and instead of filling ourselves with Him, we try to glean love from our husbands and our kids, and sometimes even our friends.

And the one who should leave? It’s not our husband, even if he’s behaving in a way that’s unloving or feels disrespected. It’s not us, even if we’re behaving disrespectfully, or if we feel unloved.

It’s the enemy.

The accuser.

And he’s playing a part in your marriage you are probably not even aware of.

The culture (and satan) would have us believe that we are a second-class citizen for choosing to respect and submit to our husbands – but if we will treat an employer or a traffic light with respect (submitting to the governing authorities in our lives) we should treat our husbands with that same respect – God holds him accountable for our families – check Genesis 3 for more on that.

Doing this doesn’t make us “less than” and no, I’m not saying your husband is your boss – rather I’m talking about how you choose to interact respectfully with someone else – why not choose to do that in your most important relationship?

Our husband also needs our help in doing marriage and family life – but we often get in the way of him receiving that help by setting up an environment where he is defensive.

Through criticism, we create an environment that fosters the exact opposite of what we’re looking for.

If we also buy the lie that to be respectful we have to be a doormat and we are not equally precious to God, then we foster resentment within ourselves, as well, which breeds contempt into the marriage, and according to research, this contempt is part of 100% of divorcing couple relationships.

What % of happily married couples have contempt?




So what does the Word say about criticism?

Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I’ve been studying criticism and defensiveness thanks to the research by Gottman, and have come to the conclusion that at the core of disrespect is criticism, the execution of the sin of judgment.

Since satan is known as “the accuser” and “the father of lies,” it would do us well to pay attention to this for a moment.

Criticism is accusation.

I’ve been reading a book by a PH.D. psychologist, Daniel Wile, (After the Fight – it’s full of meta-communication, so it might not be your cup of tea) and he explains that there are 5 levels of criticisms:

  1. Criticizing behavior: “you never do this,” or “you always do that,”
  2. Criticizing feelings: “you should feel this way instead of feeling the way you do”
  3. Criticizing character: “you’re irresponsible/unreliable/not worthy of respect/unloving/lazy/a bad listener,” or “that’s just an excuse,” etc.
  4. Criticizing personality: “you’re like this because your mother is like this,” “you have a personality disorder,” “you’re subconsciously trying to undermine me,” etc.” deciding we know why someone is the way they are
  5. Criticizing motives: “you don’t really feel that way,” “you’re just saying that,” “you’re trying to control me,” etc.

These are different than simple complaints, like, “I feel taken advantage of when I have to keep picking up your clothes off the floor, and I’d like you to try to do this yourself,” or even, “I feel afraid and nervous about our financial situation when I see charges on the credit card for things we didn’t agree to buy – I would like us to stick to the principles we set.”

Know that these behaviors fall into that category, and are what we see as the most common:

  1. eye roll
  2. lip purse
  3. eyebrow raise and a head tilt
  4. combined with statements that are about what WE think should happen or how the other person is. just. wrong. criticism-style.
  5. tone of voice that has a “you idiot” sound to it
  6. sarcasm (yes, I know, but MOST sarcasm is critical or disrespectful and is humor at someone else’s expense)

All of these things apply to conversations with ourselves, too. “I’m feeling nervous because I don’t like my teenager’s behavior and don’t know how to influence it,” versus, “I’m a terrible mom.”

The accuser is really good at what he does, isn’t he?

All of the above begins the cycle of defensiveness. We attack with criticism, or our husband does, and we respond defensively, which is often also another criticism.

Dare you today to STOP. Pray. Ask God, no, BEG GOD to help you stop being useful to the enemy.

ALL of those behaviors are disrespectful and the sin of judgment.

As I’m studying this, I’m becoming more and more aware of how often I criticize. I didn’t think I was a critical person, and honestly, haven’t ever been called that, but I think I might actually be.

I also used to think that because I also encourage people tons, that it was okay if I sometimes gave feedback that was a bit sharp – God’s revealing something different as true here for me.

How about you?

Know it is REALLY important to be able to influence your husband – of the cases studied by Gottman, of those who divorced, 81% of them had a husband who could not receive influence from his wife.

Understand that this is partly his issue and partly yours. 

The natural response to criticism is to be defensive. If he’s consistently defensive, you will have little to no influence in your home.

And understand as well, that some men are just overly anxious and hyper-defensive, but you can still influence if you are respectful, even with them. I happen to think respect matters even more with them. And one criticism or emotional outburst will set you back years, so know that, too.

Dare you today to take inventory in the criticism department. Do you ascribe motives to people? Do you start sentences with “you always,” or “you never” – neither of which are true? And how’s your self-talk? The relationship we have with ourselves is vital to the relationships we have with others – how critical are you of yourself?

Understand that if your self-talk is overly negative, your outlook toward others will be overly CRITICAL.

Dare you to subscribe to the blog and keep moving forward with us. Next I plan to talk about being defensive – my guess is we don’t often even see the criticisms and defensive responses we dish to ourselves and others.

If we can do better in relationship by not casting judgment (criticism) and not responding pridefully (defensiveness) we can improve our relationships and move closer to that 5:1 positives to negative ratio DURING CONFLICT (it’s 20:1 outside of conflict!) that is present in happy marriages.  Join me in this work? Would love to have you along for the journey!  And I hope you’ll comment today and share where you are in all of this at the moment. 🙂

Love to you,






titus 2 women leadership

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

9 thoughts on “Who Should Leave in YOUR Marriage?

  1. You say in your article, “And one criticism or emotional outburst will set you back years, so know that, too.”
    That’s putting a lot of pressure on a person to be 100% aware of their words/behavior in any given moment. God is greater than our sin and able to work things out, even if we do mess up. If the other person, who we criticize, is seeking God, then they will forgive our criticism and we can both move forward together, not be set back years! And if they aren’t seeking God, if we continue to work on how we communicate, then I don’t think it will be years to overcome that one outburst. If we ask forgiveness and then continue to work on our approach with that person. I think the previously mentioned statement leaves a person with little hope if they are just setting out on a journey to change their way of communicating. Why try if one outburst will set you back in your relationship and then you have to do so much more to move forward?

    • Chela – Thanks for the opportunity to clarify! I was referring to men who are overly anxious and have low self esteem – they are hypersensitive to criticism. They can even view a compliment as an underhanded attempt at manipulation, even if that’s the farthest thing from the truth. So the point is, just be aware of what you’re dealing with. I fully agree that we’re going to mess up. I also agree that forgiveness between people who are both seeking God is awesome. In our ministry, we’ve seen way too many of these men who behave the way I mentioned above. It doesn’t matter what the wife does, because the husband wouldn’t receive it anyway, even if he was married to a perfect woman (which doesn’t even exist). Psychologists say there’s an “all or nothing” attitude that some folks have, and that’s what I’m referring to – there’s no way to have it all be good, so it must all be bad.

      In terms of hope, our hope is always to be in Him, 1 Peter 3:1-6 style, because putting our hope in man or marriage will always disappoint, and then we’re participating in idolatry. We should continue to try because we are here to learn to love – and we’re most like Christ when we love the hardest to love people.

      Love to you, and thank you so much for being here!

      • Thanks for clarifying. My hope is in the Lord, not in man! My marriage is in a very precarious place right now. I don’t fear divorce, just death to the relationship that could be. My husband is rebelling against Truth. Although we love each other, there is a huge wall between us because of choices he is making. And when confronted, instead of turning to God, he chooses to turn away. Thankfully, God has been working in my life over the past several years, so that I am in a better place to respond with grace and I continue to seek the Lord for wisdom in all the moments of craziness. Both with my marriage and parenting a rebellious daughter. I appreciate your ministry. I did the Respect Dare a few years back. I could probably use a refresher at this point. 🙂

  2. Wow!!! This is just what I needed to hear today. I was debating how to tell my husband all the things he is doing that ticks me off, the negativity, the lack of affection and intimacy, the lack of time spent with family, the lack of caring for his physical health, and the list goes on. In seeing how defensive he has been for many of our married years, these conversations never go well, usually ruin the weekend, and we both can’t wait for Monday so we can get away from it all and ignore it. Now, seeing it from THIS perspective, I’ve been doing it all wrong. The criticism is part of our daily life, me being critical of him, him being defensive. I’ve always thought it was him that needed to change, but now I see clearly it’s ME! I have a lot of work ahead of me, for sure, but I’m thankful that I saw this before another conversation took place this weekend. Here’s to a judge-free weekend, filled with respect and lots of prayer. Thanks Nina, for speaking to my heart today!

    • The enemy is really good at what he does – and he’s had centuries to perfect his craft. We have to constantly take our thoughts captive and tame them into what God would have us see, Philippians 4:8 style. Any good you’ve seen here is all God, baby – I’m just trying to stay out of His way and be part of what He’s doing.

      Love to you!

      Hope you’re subscribed and will stick around. 🙂


  3. Sooo, did the dare. Left the list in an envelope, explained it was for mr, my homework, to help me. No discussion about his answers just an honest survey of my behaviors. He was timid about it, wondered if I’d be mad, upset, blah blah. He did it. It is honest, true. I am not surprised. I am ashamed of myself. I did get one good answer. So I’ll tuck that in my pocket and move forward. Oh, but I have a long journey, a very long journey ahead. I am thankful you all are with me. Him too. And my husband.

  4. Nina,
    I have been catching myself lately playing “mommy”. I picked up on the tone of voice the other day when I told my husband something.. I felt bad.. said sorry.. we moved on.. there was a time when “sorry” would NEVER have crossed my lips. My marriage almost fell completly apart. I have learned so much about HOW a man perceives love and respect through the book and this blog and a few other sources.. My husband’s eyes were re-opened to me and he can now FEEL the respect and love he thought I had abandond. I am so greatful that I found this and GOd was able to help me be better so my family could stay intact!

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