If you are feeling worthless or alone in your marriage…
If you are feeling worthless and alone in your marriage, I want to give you HOPE today.
Even if your marriage is “okay.”
Especially if your marriage is “awful.”
And really if your marriage is “full of conflict,” “mean-ness,” hurt, or even verbal/emotional abuse.
And I hope that if you understand what I’m about to say, and aren’t offended by it (please hear me out – don’t judge!), that you’ll share it wildly with others.
There’s something we haven’t been aware of.
There’s a trend in our culture to label everything – and to espouse answers from positions of the extremes. If you are in a marriage where you have some of the signs but know your husband doesn’t want to hurt or dominate you, then there’s something you should know.
Here it is: if you ONLY do the Respect Dare, you may be teaching your husband to take advantage of you – especially if you have some of the “signs” mentioned below. He might get complacent, take you for granted, and add to your burden. If he’s a God-fearing, God-loving, spiritually mature man who lives to delight God, however, and you do the Respect Dare, he will likely respond like Toni’s husband did:
Twenty-three years ago l married my high school sweetheart. And I grabbed the reins of our marriage and never looked back. We have a good marriage; he is a kind, loving, caring man. He understood his part of Ephesians 5:25 (Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her). I did not understand my God-given role as his wife. As I began to search for help in becoming a more godly wife, I found Nina’s blog and her book, The Respect Dare. I ordered it and then signed up for the e-course. I am so glad I did! I don’t want a good marriage- I want a FANTASTIC marriage, and to have that I need to follow God’s plan.
Respecting my husband is part of that plan (Ephesians 5:33). As I worked through the 40 Dares I began to take a hard look at myself. Each Dare helped me to learn about what God wants for me, and then helped me think about how I behave in our marriage. I never realized that how I communicate with my husband is often viewed as disrespectful to him (and other men). The Respect Dare gave me a daily reminder to stop and think about my words and actions. As I began to change, I noticed that my husband was responding to me differently (and he had no idea I was doing the Respect Dare, that was my little secret). He became even more affectionate, helped me with kitchen chores so that I could join him for time together sooner and talked to me more (because I was finally truly listening!). Our relationship became a cycle – I acted more respectfully and found ways to support him, he in turn acted more loving and found ways to provide for and protect me, making me respect and support him even more. As I have worked to trust God in all areas of my life, my marriage included, I have seen my marriage grow and blossom and my heart has become calm. Thank you!
Praise God with me? 🙂 So in honor of good marriages working toward GREAT! and struggling marriages working toward GOOD – and ALL marriages working toward glorifying God, we’re going through the dares again. Last week we did Dare 1: Expectations. Today we’re on Dare #2:
So I’m going to suggest today that we fear GOD, instead of fearing our husbands.
I know too many of you know what I mean. I’m sorry. I might be able to help you. Check the following “signs” below – if you have those in addition to a bit or a lot of fear, join the Strength & Dignity course. (check the sign up button to the right of the blog—-> 🙂 ) I can’t take a ton of time here on this blog for those issues, but they need to be addressed. (also, if you are already a strong woman, maybe dominating in your marriage, you might read this for Dare 1, too)
Sign #1 –
If you have emotional control and you go to him and say something like, “I know you love me, and I know you didn’t mean to, but when you did ‘A’ it made me feel ‘B’ and I’m really struggling with what to do about that,” and he responds by discounting your feelings, arguing with you, defending what he did, minimizing or mocking you, and then maybe turns the discussion into how you’ve hurt him and you’re the one apologizing, and this is how it goes most of the time? Then guess what? You have some REALLY unhealthy stuff going on – things that can damage a person’s soul, things that are labeled as “abuse.” Strength & Dignity can help you overcome that.
Sign #2 –
If you are excited about something good that happens to you, or you have an interest that feeds your soul and you are met with degrading, mocking, put-downs, name-calling, or other remarks that make the clear point that there’s something wrong with you or what you like or the good thing, this is also unhealthy and harming to another person. Ideally, BOTH spouses should be enthusiastic and supportive of the other – regardless of how different or similar or threatened they personally feel. If yours is not, there are things you can do to thrive anyway.
Sign #3 –
When you are sad, sick, discouraged, etc., and demeaned or dismissed instead of being treated kindly, or when your spouse behaves in an unkind way toward you regardless of how you are feeling – the absence of kindness (If anyone knows the good he should do and does not do it, sins James 4:17) or the presence of unkindness is also damaging.
Here’s the problem with labeling these things as “abuse” – the culture we live in recognizes “abusers” as people of heinous motives. The linked “sign” posts above assume he’s trying to control, trying to coerce, trying to manipulate.
I don’t believe the majority of Christian men are doing that. I really don’t think they intend to do that.
This would never fly in a marriage, but how often have you seen men work out their issues with each other by physically going after each other in basketball, etc.? I don’t get it, but it’s a thing. They don’t naturally do conflict the way we do. I’m not excusing their behavior in marriage, nor am I intending to discount abuse victims (I’ve been one, remember? This post barely skims the surface of the torture of my school years, nor does it cover the rape…) but I’m asking us to be wise enough, afraid of God enough, to see the whole picture, not just see what things look like from only our own perspectives. That is also mature, healthy behavior.
Sorry. I digress.
What needs to also be said is simply this: there’s another category of behaviors, a continuum, where unhealthy behavior exists at a high enough level (and often absent of enough positives to over-ride the negatives) that have the effect of abuse on the person experiencing the relationship that way – even if the abuser isn’t intending to do harm.
In other words, esteem is destroyed – as is the case in the traditionally labeled “abuse” case – and the behavior may be classified as “abusive” BUT – the motives of the abuser aren’t evil, and too often, the “victim” (and I’m using quotes out of respect for those women who truly are victims, ones who are being beaten on a daily basis and those women who are raped in their homes, etc.) the “victim” in these other situations is actually contributing to the high levels of conflict and abusive behavior by responding in kind, AND by lacking healthy boundaries.
In other words, if we will learn how to stop responding abusively back (did you know that “silence” and “lack of affection” – natural responses to being screamed at – are also abusive behaviors?) and set healthy boundaries for ourselves, not as a parental and punitive response to our husband, if we’ll do those things, we can change our marriages. I know this to be true.
Want more proof?
I personally know women who have been in these situations, some which classify as legitimate abuse, including some with husbands whose motives were even questionable – and they’ve overcome these situations and God has healed them and their marriages!!!
The other thing we need to remember is that Shaunti Feldhahn’s research in “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” shows that “thinking the best” and “giving the benefit of the doubt” are MAJORLY important. (I don’t get any benefit by telling you this, but if you haven’t read her work, you should get your hands on “For Women Only,” at the very least, plus the above book, plus “The Male Factor.” If you don’t understand how men think, reading anything Shaunti’s written will help.
So know this: if you label your husband as an “abuser” and yourself as the “victim” but he really does NOT MEAN TO BE DESTROYING YOU – even if his behavior IS – you are adding an element of toxicity to your marriage that will infect it like a plague. Seriously. What will keep you going if you believe he is determined to destroy you? I’m betting he’s not. Most of the men I talk to who have hurt their wives have done so unintentionally. (know that if your husband DOES intend to hurt you, control you, destroy you, then you are dealing with a sociopath, and that is way beyond what the scope of anything we do here will ever be able to cover – get professional help)
So what I’m saying is there’s actually something we can DO about unhealthy behaviors – including the ones from others that destroy our esteem.
So that brings in serious HOPE. That’s what the Strength & Dignity course is about. (I’m sorry if this feels like an “advertisement” – it’s not. I’m simply trying to help us all understand the difference and segregate my audience so I can best serve my audience – the vast majority (and I think this includes those in unhealthy relationships) want info on respect. That’s what this space is for. Let’s get healing and help on the other items in the S&D course! 🙂 )
There’s also this whole new “victim-hood” biz on college campuses with “safe-zones” for those who are feeling abused because the school cafeteria’s cultural food isn’t authentic enough … or all that other stuff that actually demeans people who are REALLY abused. Granted there are issues, but I’d prefer the term “discrimination” or “culturally lacking” instead of “abuse victim” because it carries with it an assumption of motive.
Here’s my point:
Interactions with your husband may leave you feeling worthless, suicidal, damaged – BUT he may or may not be intentionally “abusing you.” If he claims to be a Christian man, there are things you can do about this – and it’s not what you think.
It’s a combination of healthy boundaries (by first understanding what they are and knowing how to implement them) AND respect for him WHILE respecting yourself.
I started the Strength & Dignity course to deal with this topic in a meaningful and life-changing way. I see too many families being destroyed by good people who mean well who are missing some healthy alternatives to interaction AND are being coached in all the defensive ways to deal with being “abused” or “get control” of their families – these tactics “work” by getting them to safety, BUT – the marriage is destroyed. I want better options than that for you and I know they are out there…
I don’t want to take blog space for the majority of my audience who just wants to learn how to respect their husbands and talk about Biblical marriage issues covering what we can do if we’re feeling like a doormat. I REALLY believe that it’s a situation where BOTH self-respect and respecting our husband is important.
That’s a lot, right?
Sorry if it’s too much. Got thoughts? CHIME IN!!! 🙂 I can’t wait to discuss this with you today!
Love to you,
I HIGHLY recommend doing the Strength & Dignity course with it -that part is free. 100% of the tuition for the RD eCourse goes to the ministry.
When A Husband Verbally Assaults His Wife
One Way to Calm Down an Angry Husband (one of the most popular posts)
As I am working through the S & D ecourse, here is my response to your post….
This post really hit home for me. I have experienced all three of the “signs” you mentioned in my marriage as I shared in a previous comment. My husband is a God fearing, Christian man. And yes, my husband was very upset when I labeled him an “abuser”. Yet the comment you made, “If you label your husband an abuser and yourself the victim, but he really does not mean to be destroying you even if his behavior is you are adding an element of toxicity to your marriage that will infect it like a plague” really made me stop and think! Because I have already done this! It was both enlightening and validating to discover this past year that my husband was and is an emotional abuser. It helped make sense of my tumultuous home life. It brought some credibility and clarity to what I had been experiencing for years, yet not understanding! I felt validated and understood for the first time in years…but can I make a confession? I like being labeled the victim and he the abuser. He has caused me so much pain and anguish over the 19 and a half years we have been married. I don’t want to relinquish that because I want him to pay for the grief he has caused me. Furthermore, I get a lot of support from friends. I don’t want to give that up. But then you challenged me Nina, to take a good hard look at myself and what I am contributing. And I have to be honest, I can see how this mindset is toxic and can be deadly to my marriage. I am still not convinced that boundaries and respect will drastically change things in my marriage, only God can change hearts. And, I am curious to see how it is possible to respect both myself and my husband. I am committed to doing the S & D ecourse and will be spending this week working on the evaluation.
I appreciate your candor and transparency. You are brave. And I love the opportunity to walk through this with you. You are right – you may see absolutely NO CHANGE. But you’ve followed the Bible – and the rest is left to God.
I am praying for you, beautiful. And you are not alone in your experience. It IS empowering to learn that it’s not been all our fault! BUT – those labels are man-made and disrespectful and do not honor God, nor our husbands as creations precious to the Creator. You are wise to confess here and be ready to move forward. I make n o guarantees, but then, when you have God’s promises, you don’t need mine! 🙂
Love to you! SO VERY: GLAD YOU ARE HERE!!
I can’t wait to hear what you have to share Nina. This kind of thinking (it’s all him…he’s abusive) has seriously contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. First, I became overly submissive….a doormat…and I got so much sympathy for labeling my husband’s behavior. I couldn’t see how I was contributing at all, and I certainly did not “believe the best” about him, nor did I have any real boundaries. Wow. I was so blind. This does go completely against the norm, but I have already seen God change things (mostly me) as I follow His way COMPLETELY and choose to love. I need a lot of help in setting boundaries. Thank you.
I admire you to pieces.
Are your circumstances easy?
Is this against culture?
Is our God big enough to do something wildly wonderful with this – YES.
I’m so excited you are here!!! 🙂 You will be an encouragement to the women in that you’re already reaping benefits of what He’s doing – and WE really are the only people we can control…
Love to you!
What about if your husband is NOT a believer? He wants nothing to do with God and makes snide remarks at me for mentioning I’m wanting to read my bible more, makes insensitive remarks when I try teaching our kids about our faith (I’m the only hope they have for learning about Jesus at this point, they are both under 5) That is really just the icing on top. I am the woman you described who did the Respect Dare and nothing changed, if anything my became more complacent and I became more hopeless. He doesn’t have a belief system to keep him accountable, just himself, and I hate to say it but he is selfish and short- tempered. I dont think he intends to hurt me most of the time but when he is annoyed with me, which doesn’t take much, he says and does things that will hurt me. eg. “I’m not going to your parents for dinner tonite, you can take the kids yourself” etc.
“I don’t want to take blog space for the majority of my audience who just wants to learn how to respect their husbands and talk about Biblical marriage issues covering what we can do if we’re feeling like a doormat.” Dont worry about this! Its a topic that isnt discussed enough. If anyone’s not interested they can skip by, but I think more women will relate than you think
I’ve enrolled in Strength and Dignity, hoping it helps. Right now I just keep calm and patient but lose it on him every once in a while when his sarcastic, rude remarks hit a nerve & send me over the edge.
I already know that if I stand my ground and try to make my rights known, he won’t listen and things won’t be any different for next time. Bringing up situations in which he’s hurt me or offended me are fruitless and leave us both more angry with one another than if I were to just ignore it and let it eat away at me.
. If I use the sweet, calm method of suggesting he has upset me in some way, I get the responses you talked about above (defensiveness, blaming it on me, arguing etc). Feels like there is no winning… I sure wish living out the Respect Dare or being an excellent “help meet” would change him, but there is no motivation on his part. He is so self centered he doesn’t even know that he’s doing anything wrong. I feel like I’m treated like the dirt on his shoes. I don’t want to complain anymore… but there’s another scenario to ponder. Unequally yoked marriages and a husband thats resistant to change as the cherry on top.
Thank you for the new course. Look forward to it.
– Stephanie from Boot Camp
It’s hardest, Stephanie, when we’re unequally yoked. And my heart aches for you in this. I’m glad I know you, glad you are part of the Boot Camp tribe, because you’ll have to let me know how these things work out with an unsaved man. The Bible is pretty clear – we’re to turn the other cheek. God will use this, as He’s used similar things for women married to immature Christian men, to help grow you, if you are open to it. I pray for you, beautiful! It is hard, but there may be things you can do. “Standing up for your rights,” however, is always the wrong answer – it creates defensiveness, when what you want is the two of you on the same page. I’m thinking a number of things we talk about will help you, but I’m not sure how much. You’ll have to tweak them for your situation. And you’ll have to give up a lot – but you need to see yourself differently.
You are more than a wife, Stephanie, you are a missionary.
Nina, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We all bring baggage to a marriage and it takes effort to work through our messes to a healthier relationship. Labeling everything abusive makes that job harder and waters down our understanding of what a truly abusive situation looks like.
EXACTLY. It also damages the other person – when we put that label on someone as having mal-intent, it’s an assault on their character, their goodwill. I know a number of good Christian men – and their wives – who are in situations where they are BOTH abusing the other – and none of them want to intentionally hurt the other. Our human-ness is a mess, don’t you agree? 🙂 When we label our husband “abusive” the response is delivered with a tone and an encouragement that starts a war. Less than 2% of these marriages are saved – and I believe, by knowing the women involved and a few of the men, that if the word hadn’t been used, the lines would not have been drawn in the sand, sides would not have been chosen, and we wouldn’t be viewing each other as enemies.
How we view each other makes all the difference. As enemies? Or as equal heirs, and equal sinners. 🙂
Love to you!
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