A good friend of mine revealed recently that instead of being a solid life partner to her husband, somewhere along the line, she morphed into his mother. As I re-read Dare#33 today from The Respect Dare book, I can see how these things occur if situations like the one in the story happen over and over and over again.
This intrigued me, so I asked her to share more. I deal with many women whose husbands respond to the dares by becoming better men, but I also unfortunately see men who take advantage of their wives’ efforts to improve the marriage – letting them do all the work in the relationship, and even in the family. It’s an interesting notion, don’t you agree? The implication is that at some point, the wife ceases being a person walking alongside and the person walking in front, but at the same time, is viewed as an object, by her husband.
“He just stopped taking care of things,” she told me. “First it was the bills, then it was work around the house, then it was the yard, then it was interaction with the kids. I literally had to ask him to do everything, and he’d only do it half the time.”
I asked her how she responded.
“At first, I did the same thing the woman in the dare did – I just let it go. Stayed out of God’s way. We went for days without electricity once. I responded really well, too. I literally said to him when he wanted to know when the power company was going to fix things, ‘I’m so sorry this happened – you work so hard at your job, I didn’t want to burden you with the electric, we can camp until the money’s there,’ and it made him angry. It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford the electric, but that he just wasn’t paying it. We both knew that – and for whatever reason, my flexibility upset him.”
I wondered if he had continued going to church, learning from other men, growing in the Word and his relationship with God.
“No. He slowly stopped doing that, too. He still goes to church with me and the kids, but he stopped hanging out with men older than him, more mature in the faith. He seldom reads his Bible, and we don’t pray together,” she replied.
So what did she do?
“I woke up one morning, realizing that though we had talked through who did what years ago, he’d stopped holding up his end of the bargain, and I was covering for him. I had begun to fix things around the house – and I did that thing you suggest about talking to him first, finding out what he thinks I should do when he doesn’t keep his word, and he said, ‘remind me,’ so I reminded him. Nicely. Like ten times for simple things, and I was respectful, and asked like you say, ‘as if it was the first time,’ and he STILL let the water get shut off, still let things stay broken until they were expensive to repair. I got tired of dealing with it. So I started hiring handy men. I’d leave the bill, and when he wouldn’t pay it, so then I started paying the bills, too.
I woke up one day, and realized that I wasn’t in a marriage relationship any more, but I’d morphed into his mom. I don’t need a 40 year old adult child, I need a man, a husband. So I gave him some ‘good.’”
“The Bible says in Proverbs 31:12, ‘she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.’ Proverbs 18:22 says, ‘he who finds a wife finds what is good and finds favor from the Lord.’ I was reading my devotional one day, wondering how to be a good wife, why my life was so exhausting and lonely, and Psalm 106 and 107 were on the schedule – and I was floored by how the passages both said that God is good, then went on to talk about all the consequences Israel suffered because they didn’t obey Him. I don’t think I need to be obeyed by anyone, especially my husband, okay, my kids, yes, but what I realized was that I was standing in the way of the consequences of his behaviors. The truth was that his lack of wisdom, his lack of maturity, his foolishness, negatively impacted his kids and me.
I had hid that from him in the name of being a ‘good’ wife. I protected him from it because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. And he took advantage of me, and I let him, and I realized I wasn’t being good, but rather NICE.”
If we read Proverbs (a book of the Bible on wisdom) we learn that there are basically 3 types of people:
We all have all 3 within us – so don’t get on a high horse and start dishing judgment towards your husband and realize I’m not either.
I have areas in which I am extremely foolish – being organized is one of them. I also have areas in which I’m evil – I can be seriously selfish about certain things. God has also grown me in wisdom, but only because I’ve asked Him to and He’s chosen to do so, and then I’ve put forth the effort necessary to become more wise by studying the Bible, listening to Biblical teachers, and choosing more Christ-based inputs in my life than worldy ones. I still have a LONG way to go, btw.
The Bible also tells us how to deal with each person (so you have to know who/what you’re dealing with before you take action):
- Wise guy: respectfully dish truth
- Fool: avoid the argument but allow consequences
- Evil: turn the other cheek
It’s easiest to see if you are dealing with a wise guy or a fool by gently being honest about how the person has hurt you – if they respond favorably with apology and empathy, then change their behavior, they are wise.
So if you are respectful, kind, gentle and loving when you let your husband know how his behavior hurts you and he actively apologizes in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7 style) then changes – he is wise.
Note that WE are wise also, if we respond to his concerns in the same way. 🙂
How are we doing in that department? Are we trying to meet his needs? Or is our marriage all about us?
If he gets angry, defensive, and argues with you when you discuss issues, understand you are dealing with a fool. Sometimes it is hard to discern between a fool and an evil person, especially if s/he claims to be a believer.
Remember that we are all 3 people – so we may be wise in one area, and foolish or evil in another.
What does this mean?
While there’s learning that occurs and none of the experience is wasted as we learn to “die to self” and “live for Christ” it also means that being a “doormat” doesn’t need to be a destination for you as you do The Respect Dare. If you check, there are a number of instances within the dares you’ve read already that describe wives interacting with discernment, dishing truth, and handling evil and a fool. Dare 18 comes to mind as a great example of truth telling. There are more.
Here’s the thing – if you have been married a while, been respectful for a while, and your husband is taking advantage of you, it may be that he is not wise or worse.
Stop mothering him, and be his life partner. If he is a believer, that means gently speaking to him first, and if that doesn’t help, escalate things Matthew 18 style. You might need to separate, whether inside your house or outside, depending on how bad things are – and know that if you do, the purpose is for restoration of the marriage.
And this doesn’t give you license to be disrespectful in the way you treat anyone – including your husband. ALL people are worthy of respect, but God commands us in Ephesians 5:33 to respect him in particular. So remember that a gentle answer turns away wrath and we are not to sin in our anger, and we are to be kind, gentle, loving, and good. NICE didn’t make the list. Know the difference. Sweet words are a honeycomb and strength and dignity does not need to shout.
I’m also NOT suggesting that he is no longer responsible for your family, that he is no longer considered the “head” – but rather, having a different dialogue about what real help and good can be nurtured in a marriage relationship by a wife.
What’s interesting to me (and I think I need to ask Shaunti Feldhahn if she’s researched this at all – you should totally follow her if you don’t already!!) is that literally 100% of the women I personally know who have marriages over 35 years have reached the point where they 1) realized they were enabling, and 2) actively chose to STOP. These are God-loving, Bible-reading, WISE women. Don’t you find that interesting?
What’s also interesting is we’ve had several pastors and two Christian psychologists that we work with say basically that some men need this to occur for them to act like men toward their wife and family.
What do you think about these things today? What wisdom or stories do you have to share?
Would love to hear from you on this one…
Love to you,
PS – Couple things you need to know NOW:
- The fall eCourse is filling up, so I know it doesn’t start for two more weeks (September 15) but if you want a spot, grab it while you can.
- If you are doing The Respect Dare in a small group this fall, we have some very casual videos (no where near the production of Daughters of Sarah, but the content is good) for you now.
- Also, Daughters is just 2 more weeks away from being available for you!! We’ll have Part 1 (sessions 1-7) access for you then, and Part 2 available 7 weeks after that. Be sure to sign up for the TIPS! and subscribe on the side to the blog – we’ll let you know when it’s available.