Sometimes, no matter what you do, it seems you just keep running into a defensive husband. If that’s the case, know this – part of this is because your husband hasn’t had his emotions validated as a child. When hurt, he’s been told, “tough it out,” and “big boys don’t cry,” and “don’t be a crybaby,” instead of being given the healing salve of empathy.
What’s not modeled is not repeated easily.
You will want to be super-gentle with him, even if he is a grumpy bear to deal with over the smallest of things. Don’t see his anger as anger – remember it is a secondary emotion, covering up the hurt underneath that’s from his childhood. Remember that love is patient, kind, gentle, and not self-seeking, and keeps no list of wrongs. If your guy is defensive, you’ll learn so much patience!
Husband is upset. Angry. Furious. She lets him vent – a while, if necessary. Then, choosing to be interested, she says, “So if I understand you correctly, you are feeling (insert hub’s negative emotion here) and (more – yes, elaborate), right?”
“Yes,” he says.
“Can you tell me more about that?” She says.
At this point his eyes become dazed and confused. Puzzled. No one ever wants to know more about why he feels the way he feels, especially when it’s negative.
“Please? I want to understand,” she says.
So maybe he trusts this and gives more. But as he does, he’s calming down, which is what she was looking for – calm discussion. NOW she can work through the issue – because until the emotions are dealt with and validated, the issue isn’t the issue – the emotions are.
“So you feel… and… right?” and she gets a “Yes.”
She then says, “So you feel like I understand you?” and again he says, “Yes.”
Then she asks the magic two-part question: “So I had a thought, but I’m not sure you’re going to like it… maybe it’s a bad idea for me to share it with you…”
He is curious. So he presses her, “No, no, it’s fine – I want to hear it.”
Her moment of influence has arrived.
“Well, if you are sure…(she waits for an approving glance)… okay… so I know you feel (restates his position again)… and I think we agree I understand that, right? What I’m wondering and honestly struggling with is how (her thoughts that are different) … fits with that. I’m concerned that (outcome of his idea or plan that is negative) might occur if we don’t (her idea)… What do you think?”
He hears her.
Deal with the person first, then the problem. Even if the person IS the problem.
If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. Galatians 5:1
“Where are you going?” he demanded, after yelling at his wife – and this time, raised his hand to hit her, then caught himself.
“Somewhere I feel safe,” she calmly replied.
This one comment stopped him in his tracks. She entered the bedroom, locked the door and put a chair against it. She heard him stomp back into the family room and return to his newspaper.
Twenty minutes of deep breathing and prayer later, she returned downstairs. She walked over to his chair, kneeled down next to him and took his hands in hers, and began to stroke them as she spoke.
“You are a good man,” she began. “I admire how hard you work. I love your strong hands and all these deep callouses – they show your efforts in providing for us.” Her fingers traced the deep caverns and creases in his well-worn palm. “Because you are a man of great strength, I need to deeply know that you will never hurt me or the kids with these hands. I never want to be afraid of you again. I’m learning to be a better wife, and I know I fall short often, but I can’t stay here if you are going to act like you did tonight. I’ll try to listen better, if you’ll try a little harder to be patient while we are working through our issues. Deal?”
“Deal,” he replied. She kept praying, listening, responding. They kept working. She didn’t bring it up again. Until he lost control again, this time he broke a vase. She left him for a few days. And she kept praying, hearing, responding. They continue working. It’s slowly getting better. She’s encouraged. Her faith is great.
Bottom line: Respect yourself, respect others, and gently and respectfully stand firm, unafraid, for what is right.
You are her daughters if you do what is right
and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:6
What about you?
- Is it for you to validate someone else’s ideas when you disagree with them? How often do you do this?
- Is it important for you to be heard in conversations where you are in disagreement? Are you willing to try this method to help your husband hear you?
- If you are afraid of your husband because of his outbursts, anger, or physical behavior towards you, what have you done to deal with that?
- Have you cut off pieces of yourself to deal with your husband’s anger, to keep from upsetting him? How has that left you feeling?
Have you found these ideas helpful? You might consider joining our dynamic community of wives changing their marriages through applied respect. Find more on our website at www.GreaterImpact.org/ecourse-sign-up/
If your esteem has been damaged by your marriage relationship and you are afraid of the man you married, be sure to check out our free Strength & Dignity eCourse.
Want to read the novel of wives who improve interactions with angry and defensive husbands? Visit Dare to Respect blog for more.
Want to learn how to handle your defensive or angry tween / teen?