Why Do Goodwilled Husbands Feel Frustrated? Part 3

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This series was also posted as a podcast. Don’t miss last week’s series, “Why do Good Willed Wives Feel Frustrated?

In part 1 and part 2, we introduced a mom and dad who had strongly different opinions on whether or not their son was ready to drive. We also discussed the inconsistencies found in the good willed and loving mom’s argument that the husband is having trouble getting past. In this last part, let’s get down to exactly what mom and dad are truly feeling and how they can best get through this in a loving and respectful way.

What Does a Wife Feel? Her Rationalization

Is the wife insensitive to the husband and son? No. She battles within herself. She knows that she needs to let her son fly on his own. She knows her fear can be excessive if not irrational. She struggles within herself big time.

Even so, she defaults to the idiom: better safe than sorry. Though putting her foot down is killing her son emotionally, she rationalizes this by saying to herself, “I’d rather kill him emotionally than literally kill him.”

Her husband’s position takes back seat to minimizing the risk by denying the boy the privilege of driving to school. He could either kill or be killed. He could injure or be injured. Case closed. “Safety first."

Though she knows her husband feels disrespected, and she feels badly about him feeling this way, she cannot help her fear. He needs to help her fear by acquiescing to her conditions. She feels miffed and insulted that this issue has become about her respect for her husband. The issue here is the long life of their son.

She says, “I am not trying to be mean. But until he thinks smarter and changes for the better, he hasn’t earned my respect, and everybody agrees that respect must be earned. I am not trying to judge him unfairly. Truth is, I want to follow his leadership but he needs to lead with wisdom. It baffles and hurts me that he does not receive my wise input. Our son shouldn’t drive to school right now. Why can’t my husband lead based on the wisdom I give to him?"

What Does a Husband Feel? His Hesitation

What makes this so tough for the dad is that he does not want to disagree with mom. He knows she is a good and loving woman, and though it is improbable the boy will be hurt it is not impossible, so he finds himself hesitating. What if the boy is hurt? He would devastate his wife, and this would be an issue between them until one went to the grave.

Even so, a good willed husband can be frustrated in marriage because he feels he is never good enough to lead and his ideas are never smart enough. He receives disrespectful treatment because he is deemed not good or smart.

Over time a husband feels unfairly judged and dishonorably treated. He says, "If I did toward her what she does toward me she would be up in arms denouncing me as a control freak, as chauvinistic. In her opinion, what is good for the goose isn't good for the gander. I must do as she says, and I have no right to make a decision at odds with her desires, but she has the right to make decisions at odds with my desires."

Bottom line, and many guys cannot articulate this, he feels responsible to make her feel loved by doing what she expects, and in addition he feels responsible to make her feel respect for him by doing what she expects.

He just shuts down. How can he stay engaged with a person who claims he is unwise, unloving, and undeserving of respect?

Many husbands end up going along with the wife’s request, and afterward she feels badly that he feels badly and she tries to make it up to him. She jumps back and forth between contempt and conciliation.

What Should This Wife Have Done with Regard to Her Son's Driving?

What is the solution for this wife when she does not want her son to drive the car and her husband wants the son to drive the car, as does the boy himself?

In this instance, the fact that the state sanctions the boy to drive is significant justification for letting the boy drive to school. The husband is not out of line for supporting the state’s belief about sixteen-year-olds driving. If mom’s fears were that grounded in reality the state would change the driving age.

Yes, mom can argue her son is an exception. But the state tested the boy and he passed the exam. So, is mom going to hang on dogmatically to her position? This isn’t reasonable according to the very government she lives under.

The dad is not unloving and worthy of disrespect simply because he agrees with the state! To convey to the husband that he is stupid and uncaring is out of line and will push him away like few things can. He will not only be frustrated, he’ll be provoked.

A Suggested Approach from Mom to Her Husband and Son

That mom fears something bad happening is most understandable. What mother does not have these fears?

But I strongly recommend that she word herself differently.

With her words, she can avoid making the husband feel like he is an unloving human being who is unworthy of respect and making her son feel like he is still in diapers.

What about saying it this way?

I know you both are probably right, and I am letting my fears get the better of me. As the state says, he is ready to drive, and your discernment as his father is correct about his capabilities. You are both men and know these things well. However, I can only ask that you give me a little more time here since I have fears that I need to work through. I am not trying to control either of you with my fear. Instead, I need your strength to give me a little more time.

For sure, I am not trying to be disrespectful toward either of you, and certainly do not want you to hear me saying that you are incapable of making a good decision here. Instead, would you both help me by seeing my motherly vulnerability here? Would you give me some more time? I know I should have been better prepared for this moment since I’ve had sixteen years, right? Call me slow and in denial. But thank you for helping me with this.

Most Goodwilled Men Will Arise to the Request

Most husbands and sixteen-year-old boys will work with such a woman, given that it is said genuinely, not out of manipulation! It appeals to their sense of honor in serving a woman with a need, as she as a woman feels compelled to nurture someone in need.

For this reason, why tell a husband he is unwise and unloving and undeserving of respect when the facts do not deserve this kind of unfair judgment? A good willed husband will be utterly frustrated and the relationship will suffer unnecessarily. Why go there? Whereas when a woman words herself in ways that feel respectful to her husband while remaining true to her concerns, usually a win-win situation results.

Every wife and mother must avoid putting her foot down in the face of what she thinks is her husband putting his foot down on her. To him this is the pot calling the kettle black. This is not the wisest approach and will frustrate a man of goodwill like few things do. He’s thinking, I cannot wear the pants but she can wear the pants.

Instead, a wise woman will respectfully appeal to her husband to be patient with her concerning her fears. She will do this by making this her issue, not judging her husband as unloving and unworthy of respect for making this an issue.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. For the mom, the issue is not about purposefully disrespecting her husband; it’s only about the safety of their son. But how can she best show respect to her husband even though she can’t get past her desire to protect their son as best she can?

  2. Emerson wrote, “He feels responsible to make her feel respect for him by doing what she expects.” Will this work? Will doing only what his wife expects of him gain him respect? Explain.

  3. In time, what will happen with the good willed husband who never feels respected by his wife and is never allowed to lead his family?

  4. How can the concerned mom in our example best keep her fears and lack of faith her issue to work through and not coming across as accusing him to be unloving and disrespectful?