Psychologists will tell us that the “parent-child” or “mothering” style of relating is extremely unhealthy in marriage.
What IS healthiest is “adult-adult.” Unfortunately, we don’t always do that. Both men and women can be “parental” or “mothering” in a relationship and “childish.” This manifests itself in ranges of varying levels of controlling behaviors to rebelliousness, respectively.
I have a number of women in a class I’m teaching who are married to men who are extremely defensive. Whether they got this way because their wives were controlling and parental, or because they have their own issues from childhood is irrelevant. Today I’m interested in what YOUR believing husband would say about some of the issues these women are dealing with.
While the men are 100% responsible for their own behavior, it IS true that women can create environments where it is easier or harder for their husband to be defensive.
When we are critical, contemptuous, and disrespectful, this makes it easy for him to act the same way back, dish sarcasm, or be defensive. When we are respectful and gentle, most people respond in kind. For some, however, it is due to the husband not being raised in a home where he was parented well, if at all, and he’s just repeating what he knows. His wife may be also, for that matter. So know I’m not dishing blame today. I’m honestly curious.
Some of these women have been respectful, however. And their husbands are still uber-defensive. The wives dealing with this are at a complete loss as to how to communicate with him when he hurts their feelings or is mean to their kids or them in public. They’ve tried everything, or at least they’ve tried a lot.
Some of these men are Christian.
Got advice? What would you tell a wife in this situation?
I’ve told them all sorts of things that I have seen help others, but some of these men truly seem to not care about their wives or their kids’ feelings.
One wife’s husband started making loud derogatory comments about a disabled man in a sporting goods store. She didn’t know what to do at the time, but when they got home, she said,
I know you probably weren’t aware of this today, and I’m sure you wouldn’t do anything to offend or hurt someone else intentionally, but I felt embarrassed when I was in line at the check-out today and I’m concerned about what the kids learned about how to think about disabled people. I know you were in a hurry and that guy in front of us was taking a long time to get his check written, and I would like it if we could just ignore that or be kind.”
Stop being such a whiny baby! That guy was completely pathetic.”
She’s dealt with issues like this regularly. He’ll be with her and their kids and berate her or other people to her.
Another example would be the husband ridiculing his wife’s choice for dinner in a restaurant.
She ignores his criticism and orders her gluten-free meal anyway. He keeps making sarcastic comments about “real women” eating bread, and mocking her “wheat-free sappy supper.” He tells her she’s a “lame excuse” for a person because she is afraid of real food. When she asks him to “please stop,” he gets irritated and tells her to stop being a child. She eats the rest of her dinner in silence, then the next day, says,
I know you love me and you don’t mean to hurt my feelings, and I’m still a little uncomfortable about how you treated me in the restaurant last night. I felt mocked and I’d like you to respect my choices without teasing me.”
He took the opportunity to mock her further and things escalated and she left the conversation. And then he wanted sex that night.
She didn’t deprive him, but she said she feels like a piece of garbage.
Another issue some of these guys have is that their wives don’t put clothes out for them in the morning. Or bring beers while they’re watching sports, etc.
Another husband expects his wife to deal with many issues for him (little conflicts with store personnel or neighbors, making dentist appointments, cleaning up after themselves, etc.) At our house, we teach our kids that they need to own what is theirs to own. If they have a problem, they need to be the ones to address it. Should that behavior belong in marriage?
Should a wife deal with things her husband is clearly upset about? Is that “helping” behavior on her part? Should she talk to a woman blocking the aisle in the grocery store?
I don’t have an issue telling women to serve their families, but mothering adult men seems unhelpful in marriage.
Or maybe I’m missing something. It seems like there’s a difference between “taking care of the affairs of the household” and “doing things others should be doing for themselves.” When we do this for adults, whether it is the husband or the wife, two things occur:
Good: small sweet acts of kindness build relationship and when both people in the marriage do them for each other AND take care of themselves. They communicate to the kids and the world how to love well.
Bad: if only one person is doing small sweet acts of kindness, it communicates that one person is worth serving, and the other is not. This does NOT reflect the relationship between Christ and the church – both are supposed to serve the other
Got thoughts? Can I trouble you to ask your husband what HE thinks a wife should do if she is dealing with a man who claims to be a Christian, yet behaves in these ways? I’d LOVE to hear what he has to say. Feel free even to forward this to him and ask him to share his thoughts.
Interested in growing in this area? Try Shaunti Feldhahn’s new Kindness Challenge!
If you have tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings you should totally follow Debbie. If you enjoy storytelling, read Dare to Respect, the novel about 6 women who take the Respect Dares. Like us on Facebook follow us on Twitter as @NinaRoesner. Come join the discussion!
Love to you,
If you want to explore ways of getting your tweens, teens and twenty-somethings to share in the household responsibilities, read With All Due Respect
Women who’ve read Dare to Respect can’t stop reading until they reach the last page!