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What Came First—the Chicken or the Egg?

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In marriage one spouse tends to assign blame to the other for starting the marital troubles. For example, in courtship the husband was very talkative but after marriage he talked less, even withdrawing and stonewalling during conflict. 

From the wife’s perspective, this was a bait-and-switch trick. He tricked her into thinking he was a communicative person but after marriage refused to meet her emotional need to connect  via sharing hearts and feelings.

Looked at another way, however, could it be that his “closing down” after marriage is simply because of him not fully understanding how to love properly? Even as a goodwilled husband, could it be that he was unaware (though willing to learn) that his wife needed this emotional connection through talking? 

If we go even further, why did he stop doing in marriage what he did in courtship? Could it be that after they got married, his wife started criticizing and being disrespectful, so he closed up out of fear of her tongue?

It is another example of the classic chicken-or-egg question: “Which came first—his closing down or her criticizing?

Did he clam up, therefore she criticized and complained, or did she begin to criticize and complain, and so he clammed up? 

Each must exercise discernment here because most husbands see themselves as honorable but overlook how unloving it feels to a woman when he says, “Look, I don’t have a need to talk about all your feelings.” Well, what if she has a need that he does not have? Should he meet that need as best he can instead of dismissing it as childish? Will he not see that she has a need that only he can meet? Will he see that her turning to him is a compliment far more than it is a complaint? Will he see that she needs his strength?

Most wives see themselves as extremely loving but overlook how disrespectful they are when they try to “help” their husbands change. Many wives readily confess they become “pushy broads” after marriage and talk to their husbands in such critical and complaining ways; in ways they talk to no one else. And, from his perspective, she talks to him in ways no one else talks to him. Will she see that her goodwilled husband needs her support and respect more than he needs her voice constantly critiquing him in his ear? Will she realize that she is the person in his life he most needs to feel respects him for all he is and tries to be?

When we see that we are inwardly seeking to be a respectful and loving person but appear the opposite, we can make an adjustment. We can acknowledge that we have contributed to the misunderstanding. We can stop assigning all blame on our spouse.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what came first—the chicken or the egg, the withdrawing or the nagging. All that matters is that he or she who believes him- or herself to be the most mature, moves first and ends the withdrawing or nagging.

-Dr. E

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

Questions to Consider

  1. What was one way your spouse became different once the courtship/engagement turned transitioned into marriage? Does this bother you? If so, have you shared your feelings on this? If not, why not?
  2. Reflecting on this change of your spouse, could it be connected to a way that you have changed also? What might that be? Has he or she ever tried communicating to you about this change of yours? If not, should you address it now?
  3. Does your spouse have a need that you don’t have—physically, emotionally, etc.? How can you still meet that need for him or her even though it isn’t as strong a need for you?
  4. Is there any benefit to arguing which came first—his chicken or her egg? Are you willing to meet your spouse’s needs regardless of their response?