Why Do Good Willed Wives Feel Frustrated? Part 2

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This series was also posted as a podcast. Stay tuned for next week, when we will answer the question “Why do good husbands feel frustrated?”

In part 1, we introduced the idea of the despotic husband who recognizes that his vulnerable and sensitive wife typically acquiesces to his bully tactics. But now we want to put a name to these tactics of his in hopes that he will recognize the bully in him and that this is not how a loving husband triggers respectful feelings in his wife.

1. The Self-Justifying Blamer

The first sin Adam committed in the Garden of Eden, after he and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, was to blame God and Eve, and in so doing justify himself. We read in Genesis 3:12, “The man said, 'The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.'"

Wow! Adam only knew two beings at this time and blamed both of them for what he did—in one sentence!

A husband must recognize the sin nature’s proclivity to vindicate self and assign fault to the other. As gravity causes water to run downhill, not uphill, our sinful nature pulls us downward into the mud of self-defense and blame-placing. The sinful thoughts go there first. It is quick and easy to do. Without much effort, a husband effortlessly imagines retorts that get himself off the hook and put her on the hook.

  If a husband does not resist this penchant, he will lose the heart of his wife.

  Listen to the frustration level of several wives:

  • "My husband blames me for everything in our marriage and after a year he still points the finger at me without seeing his side (guilt)."

  • "It is very hard to show unconditional respect when he just blames me for all of his hardships and actually thinks I am purposely trying to hurt him (he thinks I am evil)."

  • "Last night, he told me that he wanted to share some things with me and then proceeded to read five pages (typed) that he'd written about how he'd been hurt in our marriage. It was extremely painful for me to hear. . . . Right now he blames me for a lot and only acknowledges that he sometimes reacted negatively to me."

Every husband must discover his Adamic nature. Within his nature, self-justification and blame-placing are as easy as eating Grandma’s apple pie, smothered with vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, his actions crush the heart of his wife just like a kid smashing a sand castle at the beach.

The solution for the honorable man is to determine to be as honest as he can with himself about the facts during squabbles. He needs to begin by asking, “To keep things fair and balanced, where do I need to confess my guilt and where do I need to defend her goodwill?"

2. The Angry Intimidator

Wives repeatedly tell me of the intimidation and fear they feel when their husband displays anger. This is not a miffed look but a glare that can scare. These women say the only safe recourse is to go silent and not do anything to set him off.

Listen to this wife: "His anger always seems to be simmering just beneath the surface, and I never know what is going to set it off. It's like living in a mine field! He has never been physically abusive, but the two friends, and the counselor, whom I've confided this to, say that he is verbally abusive."

The Angry Intimidator has rage issues and interprets everything through the disrespect grid as this wife captures: "My husband has struggled with anger issues and was in counseling for this. . . . His anger is now to a level that somewhat scares me. . . . He went off in a restaurant this past week because a waiter didn’t apologize to my daughter for stepping in front of her and giving her a rude look. He told us to leave the restaurant and the girls and I kept asking him to calm down. We begged him to stop so we could have a nice day together (Christmas Eve Day). He stormed out of the restaurant and was furious that we did not follow. He said that showed total disrespect on our part."

Such angry husbands intimidate wives into silence. “After years of criticism, scoldings, belittling, controlling, and explosive anger,” a wife e-mailed, "I have shut down. I don't know how or what to say to communicate with my husband without sparking his anger so I stay quiet."

Women feel like they walk on eggshells, as was the case with this wife who wrote me: "The whole family walks on eggshells as to not get him mad. He pouts, says mean things, and makes it miserable for everyone in the house. He directs his anger at myself or my seventeen-year-old daughter (his step-daughter)."

Oddly, many wives feel responsible for their husbands' anger. A woman said, "The anger and hurt that I receive from him anytime I disagree or do something he doesn't like seems very excessive for the situation. Pretty much since we've married, I've tried very hard to not set him off and to learn more effective ways to interact with him. (I walk on eggshells a lot!)."

Again, this angry bully will get what he wants by subduing his wife into submission and making her feel she’s to blame.

This is the Adamic nature.

Of course, one day this husband will awaken to the fact that he closed off his wife’s spirit and lost her heart.

Standing before Christ, he will hear the Lord say, “She did not cause you to be angry but revealed your embittered soul. She revealed your decision to disobey My command to love her."

Is this why Paul wrote Colossians 3:19? “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them."

3. The Dictatorial Ruler

The Dictatorial Ruler yells out ultimatums. He has the final say. His word must be obeyed. It is not up for discussion or debate. There is no negotiation or argument. He is in charge.

Of course, he denies that he is some kind of tyrant. He is just a very good decision maker and his wife needs to do what he decides.

A wife wrote, "I am so exhausted I'm not sure how to tackle our problems anymore. . . . I really despise the dictator way he goes about getting the results he wants. I just feel like he never takes the time to listen to the children or analyze the situation before he flies off. I try to explain this to him but . . . he just tells me I'm interfering . . . I should stand back."

A gal reported, “I try to be nice and friendly, but he needs total obedience and control or he flies off the handle at me. I have no opinion at all unless—it's his. I am running out of hope."

A wife divulged, "I don't really think he knows what respect looks like. My take on it is that it looks like a dictatorship to him, and everyone around him is supposed to bow down and call him master, and I am not being sarcastic. So when things don't go quite that way, it sets him off, and off to the disrespect races we go."

What is fascinating is that these women do not rebel against leadership but lordship. A gal attested, "I do love the idea of a man being a man and being the head of the household. I would not want to take this away from him. However . . . from day one my husband has acted like a dictator . . . convinced he is doing the right thing and at any cost (to the family). . . . I am stifled and my children are stifled and we are unhappy.”

These ladies want to follow a spiritual leader in the home. They do not argue against what Ephesians 5:23 reveals about the headship of the husband. Instead, they resist what Jesus resisted: “the rulers . . . lord it over them” (Matthew 20:25).

On the other hand, an honorable husband avoids squelching his wife. He willingly listens to understand, encourages negotiation, and creates win-win as best he can.

4. The Divorce Threatener

When a guy feels he cannot do anything to maintain control, he may opt to threaten divorce. Using the “D” word not only gets her attention, she backs way off. The “D” word gets her to capitulate as he announces his intention to see a divorce lawyer.

A wife wrote, “(In) arguments with my husband, he always says that he wants a divorce when we fight."

Another woman told me of her frustration. "I love and respect him more than anyone else in the world but the last year any little disagreement and he threatens to leave me and tears me apart."

Hear the pain of this wife: "My husband has used the ‘D’ word even though I asked him not to say this if he was not serious because of the way it pierced my heart."

Need I say more about the ultimate way to manipulate a wife? Threaten to divorce her. Scare her. Cause her to feel like she and the kids will have to make it on their own. Frighten her into thinking the kids will all go into daycare while she clerks at a grocery store.

Short term that may get her to cease her complaints, halt her criticisms, and hold back the disrespect. But is this a noble cause? How ironic that the bully thinks threatening divorce is an effective way to shelter and secure the marriage.

The Bible says, "the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:11), because there are no grounds for divorce. Therefore, threatening divorce is not an option in the playbook when trying to motivate a wife to change for the better.

Honorable men remove the “D” word from the playbook.

5. The Withdrawing Punisher

During conflict in which he feels disrespected or he feels she has excessive expectations for emotional intimacy, he decides to stop the talk and start to walk. He withdraws.

As for the disrespect, he will teach her that she cannot show him disrespect. He will physically walk away from her and cut the conversation off. If she doesn’t learn her lesson, he will prolong his emotional absence to punish her for being a slow learner.

Does it work? This wife learned her lesson: “I have to keep my mouth shut or he ends up walking away from me, going to another room or leaving the house altogether."

Such a husband knows that this frightens her. A man quickly observes this vulnerability in his wife.

A wife said that there are times when "I am sobbing hysterically begging him not to go and sometimes holding on to his clothing to try to make him stay. My own father left me and my family when I was eight and continually shut out my feelings when I was growing up."

His withdrawal paralyzes her emotionally. A husband can use her fear of feeling forsaken to get her to show him more respect. Isaiah captures this womanly vulnerability when describing a wife who “is rejected’ and feels “forsaken and grieved in spirit” (54:6).

Getting her respect by scaring her at the core of her womanly being runs contrary to the wisdom of the honorable husband. Only bullies use this mean trick. Sadly, only bullies believe they can be unloving to gain respect.

As for emotional intimacy, he will teach her that he neither wants nor needs to talk about feelings on a regular basis. So, when she again approaches him to connect, and he senses it will be too much, he pushes the eject button.

This gal conveyed, "It frustrates him that I am wanting to talk with him after he gets home. He says that he can't handle talking every day. I have to keep my mouth shut when he walks away and not run after him when everything about me is screaming to grab hold and hold on tight."

Feel the pain of this woman: "We've been married for almost thirty-three and a half years. . . . From day one my husband and I could not communicate in that he's never given me his heart. Whenever there was confrontation he would walk away and abandon me, therefore I learned to stuff my feelings and be a doormat so there would be peace."

What is Christ’s call on this man of honor? Because he is to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24) and to live with his wife in an understanding way precisely because she is a woman (1 Peter 3:7), then withdrawing to punish a wife is an unloving and unwise reaction. Though he may not stay engaged and connected as long as she desires, he can do more than he desires. In obedience to Christ, such a man can change his tack. In nautical terms, there is a come about. One husband gave his wife the gift of fifteen minutes every day after dinner to hear her heart from that day. This made her feel deeply loved and connected, and her disrespectful reactions lessened.

6. The Opinion Invalidator

When a wife gives her opinion, he invalidates it.

For sure, not everything every person puts forward is valid. However, the Opinion Invalidator disallows his wife’s input from the get go.

A wife told me, "I still can't disagree with him at all about anything. I can only pray that God will bring him to the place where he will allow me to have my opinion (even if I disagree with him). . . . I feel miserable inside because I don’t get to 'say my opinion' especially when I see a wrong decision getting ready to happen. Sometimes he'll 'cut me off' by putting up a hand, which means 'I'm not interested in hearing you.’"

Another echoed the same: “If he doesn't feel like being bothered and I ask him a question he doesn't want to answer, he feels like I should have known just not to say anything and the mere action of me opening my mouth is disrespectful and he feels like he has grounds to be unloving."

Typically, the reason he wants her to keep her opinions to herself is that he does not have enough confidence in the reasonableness of his own position to gently and lovingly talk it through with her. His opinion is so weak that the only way he can proceed is to keep invisible duct tape over her mouth.

Sadly, sometimes his selfish cravings related to his opinion out punt the coverage of sound wisdom God gave to his wife to protect him from a mistake.

Knowing she is more than likely to convey something that opposes his opinion, he shuts her down at the starting line. “My mind is made up, so don’t confuse me with the facts.”

For those husbands who let their wives opine, he counters it quite quickly. A lady lamented, “I do not know how to talk to him. He is very controlling and, I feel, does not value my feelings. He says he wants my input but when it doesn't match his he gets upset with me."

Hear the frustration in this woman: "It seems anytime we disagree on something, he gets defensive and angry. He feels attacked if I express an opinion different from his, even if I’m being respectful. . . . I was simply expressing my opinion and trying to offer some advice . . . but he did not like what I had to say because it differed from his opinion. He became defensive and began to poke fun at my opinion. . . . He responded as he has in the past; that I'm always trying to prove that I'm right and that he's wrong. . . . What can I do when he responds so defensively when I respectfully express an opinion or idea different from his own?"

The godly, wise husband acts on 1 Peter 3:7. He will "show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” This means he treats her as an equal. He does not dismiss his wife as having less value because she is a woman with a differing opinion. Instead, he respects her person and her right to have a contrary position. He may debate her, but he will never denounce her. He may say that he doesn’t agree and will need to act on his opinion, but he is full of appreciation for her input. She feels honored as a person though he does not comply with her position.

7. The Money Depriver

Because he makes the money for the family, he claims and demands that he has the final say about how the money is to be spent. Since he controls the purse strings, he pulls the strings. Since she either does not make the money or doesn’t make as much money, she has no real authority on how the money will be spent. She must get his approval.

But as I say, though he has 51 percent responsibility to provide for the family, that does not mean he has 100 percent of the authority to say where those provisions are to be expended.

I oftentimes receive this type of email from wives: “He told me that I could do my shopping and as usual, it was a big ordeal. I had to agree to the amount that I needed and then he would say that I should have money left over from something else, which there was no way I would have. Then he informed me that he didn't have any money to give me. He then lectured me for a half hour about how irresponsible I was with money and if it wasn’t for my spending habits we would have the money I needed. Please note that I am not on any of our accounts. I have to go to him for every penny that I get and I still get blamed for money problems."

A wife wrote, "We have been married twenty years . . . and he has NEVER included me in any financial decisions. My name isn't on property . . . he keeps separate accounts at various places . . . and only puts a set amount in the checking account for me to pay bills, groceries, etc. By his own admittance, he feels the money is his . . . because he has always made the most money. I have been a teacher for twenty years . . . and of course not making nearly what he has. . . . Even before we married he tried to get me to sign a ‘contract’ he wrote up saying I would not try to spend his money . . . and I would not try and prevent him from doing the things he wanted to do."

The Money Depriver tries to silence the wife on money matters. His voice alone must be heard on finances. Such a man utterly frustrates a good willed woman. A wife who lived with a Money Depriver asked, "Does a respectful wife keep her mouth shut about financial issues, and just pray, pray, pray?” She was at her wit’s end and he was losing her heart.

But the husband committed to managing his household as God reveals in 1 Timothy 3:4, 12 ceases being the Money Depriver I have described. This bullying profile is inconsistent with God’s call on his life.

8. The Brute Terrorizer

Some men will use all of the above tactics but fall short, so they resort to strong-arm tactics. They hold up the possibility of violence and bodily harm to terrorize the wife into submission. Fearing he could harm her, she shows deference.

Because he is physically stronger than she is, his threat means he has the final authority. Anyway, she should not be poking the lion. She’ll get what’s coming to her.

Note this wife’s fear: "Lately, his anger has scared me. He ran out of the house Friday (after me) and began pounding on my car demanding that I talk to him. I left and now he said I almost ran him over. Which is not the truth. Anyway, he is the one that was raging. I just wanted to leave to get away from him."

"I am literally purchasing a roll of duct tape for my mouth,” stated one wife. “The next time I slip up and don’t be quiet when he wants me to, I sure hope it is not my body that the ash tray hits (and it shattered into tiny bits . . .) Most men are very repentant and sorrowful and promise never to do it again at the hospital bedside of their wife . . . if only she would have shut her mouth."

Most women have little idea on what to do. "My husband has an anger problem and when he blows up, I don't know what to do? He has never hit me . . . (but) has broken things in his anger. How can I handle an angry episode? Is there something I should say or do, during one of these episodes that would calm him down?"

We are back to the grizzly bear.

We are back to the ape in the jungle.

In his thinking, might makes right. But Jesus said those who live by the sword die by the sword. Though a wife will not kill her husband physically in retaliation (though the courts are lenient toward women acting in self-defense), a husband will one day suffer the consequences of his physically abusive ways. Christ’s rebuke for disobeying His command will come to the man who failed to act honorably toward the wife of his youth.

I don’t know exactly how that will go down before the Lord, but I wouldn’t take it lightly and act as though because one believes in God’s grace that one can ignore God’s discipline. God did not design a wife to be treated brutally. He will not yawn in indifference.

In our third and final part, we appeal to the honorable, Christ-following man to honestly assess himself in all of these areas and decide if he needs to confess any bully techniques to his good willed and loving wife.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. For the wives, did you recognize any of these bully tactics in your husband? How will you respond?

  2. For the husbands, did you recognize any of these bully tactics in yourself? How will you respond?

  3. What are your thoughts about what this man said? "I am the son of an alcoholic who was constantly angry with the entire family, who used the tactics of intimidation and manipulation to get what he wanted, whose words were laced with profanity, and who occasionally cursed at his children. Needless to say, the model I received for marriage and parenting was anything but positive and helpful. Surprisingly, even after observing the devastation of my father’s behavior in our home, early in life I was headed down the same road of destruction."

  4. Do you agree that all men have what Emerson called an “Adamic nature,” in which self-justification and blame placing are part of his nature as a man? Where have you seen that in either yourself or your husband?

  5. Have you observed in your own marriage what this wife writes? "When I am negative or complaining or even at times just expressing my feelings, my husband’s anger becomes explosive and quickly he retreats physically. He has a very quick threshold. I chase after him trying to calm him and have him come back and sit and work things out. This in turn causes his anger to escalate. The crazy cycle increases until he has broken a door frame or has exited our home."

  6. Why would a husband who is not interested in divorce, or who at least certainly agrees with the Bible’s commands against it, use it to threaten his wife?

  7. Comment on this wife’s remarks. "He always thinks his opinion is right, and no other opinion but his could be the right one. So I have learned that I better keep my mouth shut, or he will get angry, ’cause he wants me to tell him he is right, and look out if I don't!!!"

  8. Have you ever seen an Abigail and Nabal marriage? Abigail said about her husband Nabal, “no one can speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17). Her husband shut her down (and others), quashing her from speaking into his life and circumstances and leaving her to feel totally frustrated and feeling unloved.

  9. When it comes to the Opinion Invalidator, Emerson wrote “sometimes his selfish cravings related to his opinion out punt the coverage of sound wisdom God gave to his wife to protect him from a mistake.” How so?In the previous sections, we took a detailed look at eight different ways many husbands use bully tactics to run their households and errantly gain respect from their wives. But are these tactics the ways of an honorable man who seeks to love his wife in the way that Ephesians 5:33 commands?