Do Wives Live by a Double Standard, and Is That Okay Because They Are Vulnerable Victims? Part 2
In part 1, we discussed the double standard that exists in society today that basically allows women to proclaim loudly their desire to be strong and independent in marriages while suppresses and defeats men trying to lead their families. This same double standard also confuses our young boys when they see the same attitude in men and women reacted to in completely opposite ways. But it’s not enough to simply acknowledge that this double standard exists.
The question remains: Where do we go from here?
The Double Standard Deflates and Defeats Men
First, I want us to be aware of this apparent double standard since our young sons will be totally confused by this message. Truly, some young men and husbands are seeing women as the favored species, and this discourages them. Gals can say and do things that men are not permitted to do and say. This feels unjust and dishonoring to men, and when men feel unjustly treated and dishonored in the process, this deflates and defeats them. Discouraged, they feel at a loss to know what to do. They wish to end the marriage since there was no teamwork, oneness, togetherness, companionship, or future planning as a couple. To them the marriage had no purpose. Their wives didn’t need them, and they actually appeared to resist and resent them.
Wives Who Misrepresent Themselves Will Be Misinterpreted
Second, when women misrepresent their deepest hearts, the result is that their husbands misinterpret them.
For this reason, may I challenge such wives?
Some of you are seeking to prove something to yourself, that you can be strong and independent. And, you are seeking to gain your husband’s love and respect by declaring, “I am strong and independent.”
The message is not wrong in and of itself. Your husband will probably die before you, leaving you as a widow. You will need to be strong and independent then, and need to assure yourself of these capabilities now. In this scenario, your desire to be strong and independent now is more about your fears than your rights.
And, your husband ought to love and respect you as strong and independent at many levels. After all, no husband wants a cowering and co-dependent spouse.
However, here’s my concern. In sending the message, “I am strong and independent” many husbands hear, “I don’t need you as a man or as a human being.”
In seeking to compensate for her fear that she could end up being unhealthily dependent on the man, and not be able to survive without a man, she overcompensates by sending the message, “I can get along fine without you.” He feels he has no significant role in the relationship. To a man this undermines companionship and team play. He feels hugely disrespected (Ephesians 5:33).
He does not decode her words to mean, “I have a need to know I can make it on my own as a person and woman. This isn’t against you but is more about me discovering if I have what it takes.”
If only she’d reassure him of this. Depressingly, in her attempt to prove this to herself she does so at the expense of her husband’s goodwilled desire to provide and protect, and to feel needed.
For the woman who is innocently testing the waters to see if she can swim, she needs to make sure she does not send the message to her husband that she is learning to swim so she can swim far, far away from him. When she misrepresents her deepest heart, her husband will misinterpret her deepest heart. If she is building up her self-confidence, she must not do so at the expense of her husband’s confidence in his place in the marriage and in the marriage itself. She needs to clarify what she means by being “strong and independent."
1 Peter 3:7
I recommend that every wife who follows Christ hear what Peter tells husbands about wives.
We read in 1 Peter 3:7, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."
How is she weaker? She is vulnerable to her husband when he refuses to understand her womanly heart and when he refuses to show her honor as his equal.
This is the essence of the challenge, and is a universal reality. Every wife feels this vulnerability no matter the culture.
For this reason, I recommend that a wife word herself this way to her husband based on 1 Peter 3:7: “I need to be strong and independent around you at various levels since I will probably be a widow. I need to handle finances or learn household repairs, or whatever.
"But also, based on what 1 Peter 3:7 says to you as a husband, I have two takeaways for me. One, I need to be stronger because I feel weaker at times when you overlook my womanly heart and needs. This burdens me and de-energizes me. When I brace myself at those moments, please do not see that as my attempt to make you feel weaker or to shame you but as my belief that I need to be less vulnerable when you do not appear to understand me. When I confront you about not appearing to understand my vulnerabilities as a woman, please know that this is my attempt to get you to understand me, not put you down for failing to understand me.
"Two, I need to be more independent in the sense of finding my identity in God’s view of me, not your view of me. If you fail to honor me as an equal, as Peter instructs you to do, I still must find my worth as your equal from God’s image of me. My image of myself must rest on God’s image of me, not you. That puts way too much pressure on you. That’s unfair to you, though do know your opinion matters more to me than you can ever imagine. Even so, if I point out my need to be honored as an equal, I have no intentions of dishonoring you. That would be a double standard. It is wrong for me to expect you to honor me while I dishonor you!
"Bottom line, when I talk about being stronger and more independent, I hope you understand that my meaning revolves around 1 Peter 3:7. I am seeking to be less vulnerable, though I will always feel a bit weak when you do not understand my womanly heart, according to God’s Word. And, I am seeking to focus on being a fellow heir of the grace of God and appropriate God’s image and honor of me more than your image and honor of me. I certainly welcome your prayers for me on this. Does this make sense?"
Are All Wives So Noble?
Are all wives so virtuous? Unfortunately, some wives are sending a different message: “I am strong and independent in this marriage because I am smarter and better than you. I will be in control and call the shots because my way is the right way.”
For instance, the wife described by the husband who e-mailed me in part 1 was communicating to her husband: "I am in charge of my finances. What I have earned is mine. And, half of what is yours is mine. As the man you must be the primary protector and provider. Half belongs to me. So, I have set up a separate financial account. I have a right to be strong and independent. And, by the way, quit asking me where I am going. I am not your employee. And, disengage from my kids. You don’t know how to parent my children.”
I don’t know if this was the message his wife intended to communicate. But this is not the way to be understood as a woman and to prove equality with a husband. This only sends the message, “I intend to treat you unjustly and dishonor you in the process.”
Does Anyone Care about the Double Standard?
But one wonders how many would be bothered by her sentiments?
Yet, what if he said such things? He’d be verbally lynched. He’d be labeled emotionally and verbally abusive. He’d be described as treating his wife as a doormat and forcing her to walk on eggshells. He’d be seen as a potential wife beater.
A double standard.
Questions to Consider
- Why is it discouraging to young men to hear society’s message that women are the favored species? Do you think it’s because they want to be the favored species, or is it something else?
- How can a husband misinterpret his goodwilled wife’s message of “I am strong and independent” as actually saying to him, “I don’t need you”?
- What did the apostle Peter mean when he wrote that the wife is “someone weaker, since she is a woman”? How have you seen this verse get misinterpreted and taken out of context?
- As a wife, could you communicate to your husband in the way Emerson presented above, using 1 Peter 3:7? Why or why not? As a husband, what would your reaction be to hearing your wife say something like that to you?