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Is Her Love Feeding His Grumpiness? - Part 5 Grumpy Husbands [Video]

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Women respond to a husband’s grumbling and complaining in the way they would want him to respond to their complaints. She wants him to move toward her, ask questions about what she feels, express sorrow when hearing this, apologize for any part he played, and offer to do whatever he can to correct the situation. 

But among men, there is less talk and less engagement. Actually, respectfully leaving the man to stew in his own juices can serve him best. Many men snap out of what upsets them. Truth is, cortisol, which contributes to the upset in males and females, takes around twelve hours to work out of a woman’s system, whereas it departs a man’s system after an hour. When a wife lets her husband alone for an hour, the whole affair ends. But if she moves toward him and tells him to talk to her about his feelings, and if he grumbles more, she is apt to mother him by saying, “You ought not to treat me this way.” She inadvertently shifts the focus from him to herself when he preferred not to be the focus in the first place. Often he says, “Just leave me alone and I’ll be fine. I just need some time to stew." Now he has to deal with her hurt emotions!

I once instructed a wife to keep her distance and then report back to me. "I would say around day ten, there was a turnaround. I just noticed him let go a little. You know, at first I was dying because I wasn't addressing issues, but as time went I worried less about that. I think initially I was going through withdrawals from the last 12 years of wanting to fix and change things every time there was an issue. But it has been good for me to be forced to let God be [his] teacher and not me. Of course there are times when I wish we could be more open, and he could trust me more to be vulnerable with his feelings about me. But I am not desperate to have the "talk" all the time like I used to be. A couple times when [he] would try to engage me in a fight, I would tell him that I wasn't going to go there with him. Now if I sense that he is grumpy or wanting to engage me, I just go on with my day and let him work through it."

This is why I say “love” can trigger more of his negative mood. Sometimes the most caring thing a wife can do is not act on her caregiving femininity. That is what she would want if the roles were reversed, but that’s not what a man needs in most cases. She cares more when she “cares less.”

Do not do what this wife did. She says, "I remember that you once advised me that my husband will probably get grumpy about something and to keep more distance and allow him time. My problem is that I have a temper and have a very difficult time controlling my anger when he does that.” Instead say to yourself, "This is his issue. I'm not going to let his mood create my mood. I'm going to get on with my life in the home. If he wants to be angry and upset, that is his problem before the Lord. I am not going to let him determine who I am. I'm going to be a friendly person because I'm a friendly person. I'm going to be a woman of dignity because I'm a woman of dignity. I'm going to act the way Christ wants me to act. This is really about my relationship to Christ, and my husband affords me the opportunity to demonstrate my faith and obedience toward the Lord."

The wife whose husband grumbled over his three-year-old’s mistreatment found that she fed into the problem. Though he was responsible for many things, she described herself by saying, "I always have just one more thing to add. Not because I am being malicious, but because the truth is I am obsessive/compulsive, and I am afraid I am not explaining something well enough. I always have to say one more thing in order to explain it better. My husband sees everything I say as nagging or just plain not respecting him.” I shared with her Judges 16:16, which says, "It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death."

See a husband’s grumbling as male crying. A wife writes, "When I'm stressed I cry, but when [he] is stressed he gets short and irritable.” Though a wife cannot imagine reacting as a man would react, once she gives her husband some grace for the way he handles stress (which isn’t by crying but with irritability), she can then look more deeply at what hurts him rather than feel he is attacking her.

Wives, you are not responsible for his moods, so continue to be yourself when he becomes negative. This isn't easy, but the truth is he isn’t "causing" you to feel discouraged. His behavior reveals that you get discouraged around moody people with whom you are close. This is normal, but do not let his emotions dictate your emotions. I strongly recommend pulling back from disrespect, trying to put on respect, and not trying to be so loving that you bug him. Give him an hour to let the cortisol drain out of him!

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Wives, how do you wish your husbands would respond to you when you grumble? Why is that? Do you respond to them in the same way when they grumble? If so, does it help? 
  2. Why is it that with some wives they try to love their husbands too much, which in turn feeds his grumpiness? Do some husbands interpret this more as mothering? Why?
  3. What might happen if more wives left their husbands alone when they grumbled, rather than trying to connect with him to get him to talk about his feelings? Is it possible that a husband might rebound faster this way? What are the pros and cons of this approach?
  4. What might it look like for you to give your husband more grace when he grumbles? Assuming he resists any unnecessary verbal or physical outbursts, can you allow him time to grumble, while remaining your same self during this time? How so?