Are You Causing Problems in Your Marriage?

To think that we might be causing some of the problems in our marriage should shake us to the core. Like I said to my two teenagers yesterday, “Both of you are contributing to this.” I’m not off the hook, either. I know I am responsible for my share of the problems in my own relationships.

Let’s go there. I know, scary, right? First, watch the video.

(But also know the good news is if we’re causing part of the problem – we can STOP.)

It’s legit. The main point is simply this – when we argue, unless the other person is uber-mature and humble, we force him to become MORE deeply entrenched in his position, instead of considering what WE want him to be open to.

The video is just the science behind this:

Instead of arguing, if we will have but empathy and compassion for another’s opinion or behavior, and give voice to our understanding of their position, we can then ask a thoughtful question that can turn others toward a completely different way of thinking so much so that they will even convince themselves their own position or behavior is wrong. 

Bet you can come up with a bunch of verses on empathy and compassion, listening, being patient, kind, etc….

After chewing on those for a bit, you might want to read this to understand why defensiveness matters in your relationship with your husband, your kids, and even yourself. The video adds another “how to make someone defensive” tip to the list.

And if you find that you make others defensive a LOT, then you might want to read this to learn a quick way to stop. Read this to find out why it’s happening in the first place. If you are angry and resentful a lot yourself read this – because maybe, just maybe, you’ve stopped being his wife, and are acting like his momOr maybe you are just too critical and not compassionate enough toward yourself.

Or maybe you have a guy who is just plain angry all the time.

Causing Defensiveness- (1)

How do you know someone is defensive? 

Easy. They are justifying their behavior.

They aren’t taking ownership about something they should not have done, should have done, etc., and are explaining why they did or didn’t do what they did or didn’t do. You bring a complaint to the person and suddenly there’s a bunch of defending going on, hence the word, “defensive.”

As my husband likes to say, “All excuses just diminish one’s character.” So as a result of the defensive response, you then feel even more resentful, bitter, critical, angry, hurt, whatever. So yeah – no empathy or compassion for you, only justification.

It’s toxic to relationships.

Toxic to the relationship you have with yourself, too. Seriously – think about it. If you are critical of yourself, then you shame yourself, you aren’t behaving in healthy ways. Don’t believe me? Check this post. Then start taking every thought captive – even the ones about yourself.

Today I’m wondering… and I have three questions for our deep thinkers here who want to respond….

1) What is the thing you want to change about someone else who doesn’t want to change?
2) Is what you are currently doing making them defensive?
3) If yes, what can you do instead?

So many times I see this with about 1/3 of women – the woman tries all the things… follows all the experts’ advice… but her husband? He thinks life is just great – and takes advantage of the situation…takes her respect, takes her love, takes her care, takes her effort, takes and takes until she finds herself depleted, hurt, and angry. Even if she knows God, she’s still not as mature as Jesus. She’s spent. Poured out. She’s ASKED for what she wants, and he still just takes from her.

So what happens?

She checks out. Letting him have her heart becomes too risky. So she puts her heart in a jar and chooses apathy instead. He might notice. If she separates, he notices and might try. If she’s emotionally distant, he tries harder.

Why? Because we are wired to pursue things we can’t have. We are easily disatisfied creatures.

And then, if she doesn’t respond, he often gives up, too – but sooner than she did. The hard thing is that by this time, her heart is hard. If it doesn’t soften, the marriage dies.

So today, I want to ask YOU a question.

Think in terms of the people you make defensive. Tweens and teens and husbands coming to mind…???

How often do we lecture others or “give information” as “help” … and is that actually helpful? If the point of that communication is to encourage change, are we effective? With them? With ourselves?

So for today, after you watch the video, I dare you to think of the last time you made someone defensive, including yourself. Were you giving information? Lecturing even? Did they (or you) start justifying or making excuses or explaining?

What question(s) to put them on the other side of the issue could you have asked instead?

  1. What do you want to change about someone who doesn’t want to change?
  2. What could you be doing to make them defensive?
  3. What question(s) could you ask instead?

And for extra credit, how is that respectful?

Think about this… have you ever argued anyone into the Kingdom? Or “won an argument” with your husband? If you win and he loses, you BOTH lose. 

SO very glad you are here! 🙂 Can’t wait to chat!

Love to you,


Oh, and if you got this as an email forward from a friend who cares about you and your marriage, know we’d love YOU to join us on this journey. The road is long and hard, and often paved with tears, but worth traveling – and you’re not alone.

You can get marriage TIPS! articles and a free copy of my eBook, 101 Ways to Respect Your Husband, and other marriage info here. We promise not to share your email with anyone, ever. You’ll get just one TIPS! article a week, plus a blog post or two here and there.

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

18 thoughts on “Are You Causing Problems in Your Marriage?

  1. I love rereading my posts.. I’m still struggling to get right expressing concern and frustration with one particular thing. My hubby is already ready to be defensive when the topic comes up. I still lack trust in him with this thing.

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  3. Thought-provoking…thanks for posting this :). The challenge I face is to find a question that will actually get past the defensiveness. Things can be taken so may different ways–I’ve had sincere compliments taken as criticisms because the words I used had been *misused* by others in the recipient’s past. And I’m *not* good at thinking on my feet to figure all this stuff out on the spot. I need to remind myself that people come with an invisible sign that reads, “Fragile. Handle with care.”

  4. Thanks for the feedback, ladies. It confirms what I had been thinking. Thanks for the prayers, too.

  5. I know I am guilty of this. Just yesterday I called my husband out on something that I find very hurtful. He explained and defended his action, to the point of trying to make me feel bad and that his action is my fault. I need to learn how to not put people on the defense. I am a straight shooter and expect others to be also. It is hard for me when they aren’t.

  6. Nina,
    Thank you so much for taking your time to write this post, I find them so very helpful. I very much appreciate you doing this for all of us. (-I know you are doing it for the Lord; I understand that.) I’m sure it is a lot of very hard work. Thank you for being faithful as you keep showing up for and blessing us!

    “. . . – the woman tries all the things… follows all the experts’ advice… but her husband? He thinks life is just great – and takes advantage of the situation…takes her respect, takes her love, takes her care, takes her effort, takes and takes until she finds herself depleted, hurt, and angry. Even if she knows God, she’s still not as mature as Jesus. She’s spent. Poured out. She’s ASKED for what she wants, and he still just takes from her.”

    —-Well, that man is showing the signs of an unregenerate heart and he had better hope he does not die in that state (RE: your last post on Hell). So what do we do? God will hold them accountable, as He does us. -But I still want love and affection how do I get it? My job is to really forgive them, so God can forgive me. I take that bill I think they owe me (-They promised didn’t they?) and I tear it up in my mind because I want God to do that with my bill. More than that, I don’t want to be stuck, waiting for them to “get it” when I can just really forgive them and reach out and have God pour real love into me.

    —So, that’s forgiveness, but now I need to clean my heart so God’s love can flow into me. I think cleaning your heart is a way bigger deal than it sounds. Nobody else can give us a clean heart but God. Then God’s love can flow into us. I actually believe that’s the love I am always trying to bring into my life anyway in all kinds of ineffective, dramatic dysfunctional ways. -It is not because people are not important or good but they are just NOT adequately equipped to bring the kind of healing love that ONLY God can bring. Even when my husband is absolutely wonderful, he is just not equipped like Jesus (PURE Love) to heal me. He can’t read my mind or even totally understand his own. He has all of his own wounds and his heart is leaking love too. This is why it is so important to get this kind of love directly from God. I and the Lord are responsible for my own heart. Marriage is NOT: I will take care of your heart and you take care of mine. In a question it looks like this: How can you love if you only want love in return?

    Now, I would also say that anyone who sees all that effort from a women (as above) and does not respond, through sincere and ongoing affection (-an environment of affection, caring, protection, nurture and thoughtfulness where she will blossom), -that person, they know nothing of Christ. We all know someone who claims to be a Christian, but isn’t. What if that person is (me) us? We must obey the scripture that says “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). It’s better to find out now that we’re not really saved then to find out on Judgment Day! There is a way that leads to life, the FEW that find it never die (Psalm 84:5-7). Seek God’s wisdom for your life (Proverbs 8:36) correct and discipline yourself before God has to do it. You do not want God doing it!

    So, a man like that is ripe for the judgment of God, so keep loving him but learn to guard your heart well (-Guard, NOT wall off). Discover God’s majesty. Get really good at hearing His voice. Fully experience His love. I really believe getting in touch with God’s affection and love is what we are all missing. Spouses, children, friends, family, (we need them) but they are just NOT adequately equipped to give us God-style healing love. We need to be loved-on by God so we can heal. I would guess that all wounded personalities came from God’s pure love not being adequately applied to all the various areas of our lives.

    I believe we CAN be totally healed, it’s just our parents, our spouses, our children cannot heal us. They never could, right? Only the Lord God can do that. He is LOVE and gives this LOVE freely. We just don’t usually experience it the way we should so we walk around thinking it’s our spouse’s job, or that we are meant to just live on scraps or be empty the rest of our lives, absolutely NOT. Have you really trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior? I mean are you all in to the point where if Jesus Christ is just a Legend or a Lunatic or a Lair you have lost absolutely everything (All in)? There is no value in seeking to demonstrate the symbolism of the gospel (a good marriage) until you have first really received of its substance—Christ Himself.

    Again, if we can get and keep our hearts clean, God’s love can fill us to overflowing. . .If I was filled daily with pure, real love, I could see and drop dysfunctional actions while still loving and helping husband, family, friends -to a point (remember we are guarding our hearts NOT walling them off). God wants to fill me with His love but His love can’t live in my covetousness, envious, idol-filled heart (marriage as idol, children as idol, career as idol, etc.) I want comfort, ease, etc. but a clean heart is the one thing I need above everything else and if my heart is clean God’ love will flow.

    —-Finally, I notice no one really commented on your last post. You are doing something right! You started off your last post saying: “What parent doesn’t lie awake at night sometimes wondering (or freaking out) about whether their kids will end up in hell?” –Nina, young lady!, I don’t know what glorious bubble of true Christian fellowship you are living inside (-which you should thank God for each day!) but out with the rest of the Billions (-out where Satan dwells) VERY FEW would ever have that thought keeping them awake at night. Precious few are horrified of their sin or terrified of God’s holiness and that should galvanize us to pray and work without ceasing.

    Again, thank you for being faithful as you keep showing up for and blessing us and for giving so much of yourself to the Lord. Again, it is incredibly encouraging and inspiring!

    . . . . I also I like your comment: “. . . have you ever argued anyone into the Kingdom?” ––no, no I have not and that is a really important point. We must realize that all of our evangelism is nothing more than a fool’s errand unless God moves upon the hearts of women and men. He has promised to do just that if we will be faithful but how utterly dependent we are upon God!

    • Thank you for sharing this! I have gleaned a lot from it. I pray the Lord will help me to live it out! And yes how true re our children. It’s a fear of mine, thankfully I know God is sovereign and I’m doing my best to train them up in the way they should go and trusting His will to be done.

      Thanks again for sharing, really there’s a lot of wisdom there and I’m just so in need of this tonight sisters! You can’t imagine what a blessing you are to me.

      • Tara,
        Good! I have been praying for you every since we interacted x posts ago:)

        Ensure you have the Holy Spirit witnessing to your spirit that you are born again -this is no small matter RE: “Examining ourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5) and then let the Holy Spirit lead you. That is the safe course. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and leave the navigation to the One who knows the way. Our lives are very complicated and unique. -I’m praying for you!!! . . . .Pray for more desire. Pray for greater faith. Ask God to take you much deeper. Seek God with all your heart. Continue this passion and hunger for Him and His presence. Allow Him to transform you. Hold nothing back. Be willing to obey Him no matter what the cost (-I know all about COST, unfortunately) –but don’t you dare let anyone abuse you: verbally, physically, emotionally, et. al. Allow Him to take and give things and people into/ out of your life according to His timing and wisdom. Seek Him far above everything else. Ask Him for live godly mentors and live godly believers to sharpen you. Much love to you Tara and I send you a huge HUG!:)

  7. Thank you so much for your post. Hubby and I have had troubles for years over his lack of employment. I’m tired of doing it all. I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work. Now we just found out that our anxious eleven year old most likely has an ulcer. It seems that the next step is for me to separate because we keep going further into debt with a maxed out card even though I work full time has a teacher. However, I don’t want to stress out my son even more by separating. When I try to implement consequences, he yells at me and scares us both. I know that I am disrespectful to him at times and I’m working with a grace life counselor on that.
    1. I would love to see him find a part time job to supplement his at home sporadic graphic design work and stick to a budget.
    2. I’ve shared information, complained about all my work, nagged him to do more and been sarcastic towards him, which has made him defensive.
    3. This question I need help with. Maybe ask him what he would do if something happened to me? That still sounds accusatory though.

    Please help!

    • Girl, I am so sorry you are hurting. I just read this (it’s linked above too) maybe it would help?

      Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe it is a woman’s place to bring in the income at all. I think we are to stay home, be keepers of the house, care for the children… I read the article above I realized just how much I have been doing this in my own life. I covered so much that I gave myself adrenal fatigue, I would. Go, go, go all day and do all my work and most of his. then I stopped, more because I could no longer do it than anything else and I read that article and wow, that’s what I had been doing. And I told him last month, I cannot do the budget anymore, I had been doing it at his request and he wasnt following it, which led to argument after arguement. Who knows I may be in the situation without power too,,,,time will tell. I stopped all the back breaking work (in addition to my own) shoveling out alone after every snow storm, and guess what? There’s a giant pile of snow on the front steps. And the garage door we were using to go in the house broke….but what a huge relief that I can now say “that’s not mine to handle” for so long I felt like a single mom, and now I know why, it was because I was really, I was being his mom and my children’s mom and I was bearing way more that my load required.

      I’m going to pray for you right now.

      • Haha just reread my post, when I said I stopped all the backbreaking work (in addition to my own) I meant I stopped doing his jobs. Not stopped doing mine lol just wanted to clarify that. I have told him I don’t mind helping him with his stuff Im just not doing it for him anymore……just a minute ago he checked the bank balance….$0 I’m not surprised at all, and you know I haven’t spent a dime, I have been home with sick children for 4 days and he keeps running out and spending money, but I am finally free of mothering him on it, he’s going to have to learn the hard way apparently, but I’m free to stop being a nag and it’s soooo nice!

    • I don’t pretend to know the answer here, baby. But God does. And we know from Scripture, that women shouldn’t leave, but if they do, the purpose is for restoration. Sometimes that can take a decade, but the work He does is amazing. And worth it. And awful in the middle. And He knows what you should do. I am praying for more time for you, Mary Lou, with Him, that He grants you discernment and wisdom, and that you obey. He is always up, so you always have someone to talk to! 🙂
      Love to you!

    • Mary Lou:

      Have you read the book “Love Must Be Tough” by Dr. Dobson? It sounds like you are being “taken advantage of” if he is not sticking to the budget. It might be time to implement some “tough love” by opening your own bank account and taking charge of the finances yourself. Or, phone Dave Ramsey and see what he suggests. If my child were wasting money foolishly, I would set some limits. A husband needs to contribute to the marriage. If he is not doing so, perhaps he needs some “tough love”. Sounds like he has had it pretty easy, and is enjoying the situation. Your son seems to me more respectful and even he knows it is not right. People will only take advantage of us if we let them. I now marriage is “give and take”. Sometimes, it also is “tough love”. Your anger, which, by the way, is righteous indignation, is indeed justified. Look at the choices you do have, and implement some of them. Perhaps talk to a pastor, or a counselor, with your husband first. (I doubt that he will go with you – because I am quite sure he is fine with the situation.) You are not, and rightly so.

  8. I needed titis badly today! In fact it’s a direct answer to prayer that I prayed last night. My question had been “how can I respect him when he doesn’t deserve it” imagine my surprise when I read the same question in the post you linked to this one…..will be studying hard and praying! Please keep me in prayer sisters.

    “She checks out” that’s been me, for a couple weeks, it’s all I felt able to do….as you say through the Holy Spirit I am able to do what God has commanded in His Word.

    Thank you!

      • You really are and I am so thankful you offer this freely, I have been so saddened by all the charging websites all over the place! Your advice really is helpful! So much so that I do hope to purchase your book at some point. I’m just so thankful for women like you who really desire to help us here in the trenches.

    • Any good you see is all Him. 🙂 I assure you I am quite the mess without Him. 🙂

      Love to you!

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