Are Husbands Hyper-Sensitive or Just Highly Sensitive to Disrespect? Part 1: The Hyper-Sensitive Husband

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Is the following example a disrespectful wife toward a good-willed husband or a hyper-sensitive husband falsely claiming excessive disrespect from his wife?   A wife wrote, "It's mainly the tone of voice I use he says [that is disrespectful]. Or [for example], when we have agreed that the garage needs to be cleaned out but he doesn't make the effort to start the project, so I go in and start it, [and he tells me] that is disrespectful. [Or], he asked me not to trim the bush because he will be filling up the trash can with grass, but I let him know that there won't be much from the bush. He doesn't say anything so I go ahead and trim, then he tells me it is disrespectful to go against him like that. [Or] at the restaurant he let me know what he was going to order, which is what I was also going to order, so when the waitress came to our table and I said we will take two of these. Later he told me that was disrespectful to him, that I was treating him like a child. I am trying so hard to think before I speak, but it always seems no matter what I say or do it comes out wrong to my husband."

 I think we’d all agree this is an illustration of a hyper-sensitive husband. He is taking the message of Ephesians 5:33, where God commands husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands, and demanding that she obey her side of the equation while ignoring God’s command to him to love his wife.

What about the next example? Is this a disrespectful wife toward a good-willed husband or a hyper-sensitive husband falsely claiming excessive disrespect from his wife?

A man e-mailed, "I am a pastor and that we have such a terrible marriage is horrifying. I have just asked her to read Love & Respect. Please pray that she will and will do so with an open mind. She feels she has done nothing wrong, and that I am to blame for everything. This attitude has stifled us. I just know she is going to read the book and say she has never shown me disrespect. When I say I feel disrespected she blames it on my interpretation or my insecurity. She says the way I feel is not her problem. I asked her to attend your conference in our area. She said she would read the book but probably not go to the conference. We are desperate.”

Most would find his teachable heart and yearning to face their issues with outside help evidence that she is dismissing his need to feel basic respect for who he is as a man.

THE HYPER-SENSITIVE HUSBAND

What Is the Issue with a Hyper-Sensitive Husband?

Some husbands are hyper-sensitive to anything that strikes them as disrespectful. They overreact to their good-willed wives who do not intend any such disrespect. Sadly, these men read disrespect into her every question, concern, or disagreement. They see their wives disobeying Ephesians 5:33, which commands wives to respect their husbands, and he points this out to her every time he deems her in violation.

A wife e-mailed, “Yes, my husband accuses me of disrespect. Even though I try to guard my tongue, I step on eggshells. Even though I praise and cheerlead, and take a backseat as I let him lead . . . I try to do everything I can correctly according to the respect issue, but I still fail. He tells me I'm to help him decision-make because I am a helpmeet. Then I offer my own opinion as to whether he should quit his job, take this financial opportunity, do this discipline with the kids, and I'm accused of being a Jezebel wife and I have to wear the pants. So then if I say, ‘Honey, you decide what to do and I'll support whatever decision you make,’ I’m accused of leaving him to not only work two jobs but do everything else too. I have yet to find the balance."

Why Is the Hyper-Sensitive Husband an Issue?

Hyper-sensitive husbands need to be called out on attacking their good-willed wives who seek to be truthful, not disrespectful. These are caring women who now walk on eggshells for fear they will say or do something that he claims is rude and un-submissive. Some husbands are hurting their wives deeply by falsely claiming contempt.

How Should the Hyper-Sensitive Husband Move Forward?

Hyper-sensitive husbands need to honestly face themselves given they love God, truth, honor, and meaningful relationship.

They are using the message of disrespect to silence their wives and advance their own selfish agenda. Such men discredit the message of Ephesians 5:33. What a sad day when for his own advantage a husband twists the truth revealed in the Word of God. Instead of hearing God’s Word to love his wife as Christ loves the church, this husband peeks over at the other half of the verse and claims his wife fails to respect him. How convenient to shut down all discussion and debate by claiming her disagreement proves she is disrespectful.

But this man needs to know that silencing a good-willed woman who does not intend to be disrespectful is depriving her of the very respect he demands from her. This hypocrisy violates the very honor code that he argues she violates.

In time, such wives pull back from these husbands. A wife who routinely hears that she is disrespectful will feel unloved, and she loses all motivation to meet her husband’s need for respect. His tactic never works.

One husband wrote me to tell me about his awakening to his tendency to be hyper-sensitive to what appeared to be disrespect from his wife because he failed at his business. "Over the past seven years when [my wife] would bring up the 'business failure' I would react very defensively and would tell her to 'JUST DROP IT!’ I had no idea that she NEEDED to talk about it—I thought she was just showing her contempt for me and that she thought I was a failure.” The good news is that he began to see her need to feel loved and she was not trying to be disrespectful. As an honorable man who loved God, he backed off his hyper-sensivity.

But the hyper-sensitive husband is not always to blame. In part 2, we will discuss the flipside of the coin—the disrespectful wife to the highly sensitive husband.

Discussion Questions

  1. FOR THE HUSBAND: Do you believe you are more of a hyper-sensitive husband or simply highly sensitive to the issue of disrespect? Why do you believe so?

  2. FOR THE WIFE: Do you believe you are married to a hyper-sensitive husband or is it more likely that he is highly sensitive to your disrespect? Why do you believe so?

  3. How does a husband hurt his goodwilled wife when he falsely claims contempt?

  4. How does a husband silencing his goodwilled wife actually deprive her of the very respect that he is demanding of her?

-Dr. E