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The Question Every Husband Must Decode

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Growing up I noticed that my dad made a mistake in relationship to my mother. He would get angry and harsh with Mom. It appeared as though he was saying to her, "I'll teach you. I'll get angry in order to teach you to show me more respect. I'll remain embittered until you change. I will be harsh when I feel you are disrespectful."

Of course, my mother heard a different message. She felt that Dad closed off in anger because he was declaring, "I don't love you!" So this caused her to deflate. Not infrequently she reacted in ways that felt disrespectful to him! His mistake plus her reaction put them on what I refer to as the Crazy Cycle: Without love she reacts without respect. Without respect he reacts without love.

However, a closed-off and embittered husband does not influence the spirit of his wife. Her need is for love, not to learn to be respectful on the heels of a closed-off, harsh, and embittered husband. This is why Colossians 3:19 instructs, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”

My observation is that when an embittered husband closes himself off in anger, he appears harsh and mean. Sadly, though, whatever his wife appears to be doing that is making him mad isn't what is really going on. She isn’t trying to make him mad; instead, she is often crying out for his love.

Unfortunately, when he closes off in anger, as my dad would do, in order to motivate her to be more respectful, she tends to react in ways that feel disrespectful to him. And away for a ride on the Crazy Cycle they go.

On the other hand, when a husband stops closing off in anger and seeks to be more understanding and open with his wife, recognizing her negative reactions are probably rooted in her cry to be loved by him, she feels energized. She will respond by trying to honor his deepest heart. This puts them on the Energizing Cycle: His love motivates her respect. Her respect motivates his love.

Every husband must decode: Is my wife trying to embitter me by showing me disrespect or is she negatively reacting because I said or did something earlier that felt unloving to her? Is she crying out for my love, not trying to dishonor me? Will I stop the disrespect (which she does not intend) by being harsh and closing off in anger, which misses her heart? Or will I soften her negative reaction by seeking to understand her need for reassurance of my love and instead of closing off, choose to be more open and kind with her so as to better hear her heart?  

Though a husband is less open than his wife—generally speaking—when he humbly opens up more about his thoughts and feelings, his wife will feel connected and respond more respectfully. Isn’t this response better than the one typically received by the harsh and embittered husband who reacts in anger in an attempt to make his wife respect him?

-Dr. E

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

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does the harsh and embittered husband purposefully act that way toward his wife whom he loves? What is the response he is trying to get from her? What response(s) does this behavior typically get in return?
  2. Emerson wrote that “a closed-off and embittered husband does not influence the spirit of his wife.” Assuming you agree, what does influence a woman’s spirit?
  3. Do you agree that “her negative reactions are probably rooted in her cry to be loved by him”? Why or why not? When has this been the case between you and your spouse?
  4. Explain how “her negative reactions are probably rooted in her cry to be loved by him.” Why does a wife react negatively in an attempt to be loved? How have you seen this played out in your experience?