Over the years I have had many women take me into their confidence regarding their marital woes. Before that, as a child, who spent a great deal of time with her mother and consequently her mother’s friends, I have heard an earful about the multiplicity of male shortcomings, particularly the failures of husbands.
Proverbs 14:1 (New International Version)
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
Years ago, after studying a book by Shaunti Feldhan called, “For Women Only: What You Need To Know About The Inner Lives Of Men,” I had cause to reevaluate the manner in which I not only speak about my husband publicly, but also how I talk about him in my head. The author did an excellent job of explaining that even seemingly “harmless complaints” (if such an animal exists) can find their mark in a husband’s heart if delivered poorly. The end result is that a woman tears down with her words, the very human being she has pledged to love and honor.
Any human being, who has consistently been on the receiving end of stinging criticism, is bound to get worn down over time. When a wife consistently points out her spouse’s flaws to him or to others, he can begin to feel as though nothing he does is good enough for her. From there it is not a big leap to conclude that since there is no pleasing his wife, he shouldn’t bother to try. After all, the husband reasons, it isn’t as though she will notice his efforts anyway.
When she points out his flaws to others, particularly in the form of proclamations or jokes at dinner parties, ministry meetings, or very loud cell phone conversations in church parking lots, a wife runs the risk of destroying her man’s credibility with others as well. There are more than a few men who have been met with knowing, sideways glances and fake smiles from new acquaintances because their reputations precede them, thanks to wifey.
This is not to say that if a wife is experiencing problems in her marriage that she should not seek help, or confide in someone. In fact the opposite is true. It is, however, crucial for a wife to wisely seek out someone who can actually “help” and in whom she can “confide.” If a woman has one or two girlfriends who have her best interest at heart, whom she considers wise, who will commit to praying privately for her, and who do not gossip, she has an invaluable resource for comfort as well as accountability.
Sometimes, however, marital problems are too complex or too close for friends to be able to give objective, useful insight. In such situations, it is wise for a woman to seek out a neutral third party, who can assist the her in getting to the root of the conflict. Therapists, counselors (both lay and professional), pastors and their wives, and intercessors can be excellent people with whom to discuss marital problems. Many churches have all of the above on staff for their members and for the community at large.
The point is that discussing marital woes should take place in a private setting, where conversations can be kept confidential. For the believer, it is also necessary that any person in a position to give advice, be familiar enough with God’s word so as to be able to offer biblical accountability and godly guidance.
It is natural to experience conflict in all relationships. This is doubly true in marriage. There is, however, a proper way to confront a husband in love. Sometimes the nearness of a spouse makes his faults that much more obvious. Still, many women come into married life so broken from past relationships with other people in their lives, such as parents, siblings, classmates, bosses, boyfriends, or ex-husbands, that they can mistakenly label an unmet need in themselves as a fault attributed to their husbands. Sometimes what wives perceive as a man’s character flaw is really just a husband’s inability to meet a need that he was never designed to address. It is crucial to know the difference. If the believer can look to God to be God and to meet her spoken and unspoken needs, then she can free her husband to be what God designed him to be – a gift.
Consistently turning to God first to meet all needs is a process and requires a significant amount of introspection. Before verbally attacking, berating, or criticizing her husband, every wife should consider first what she really hopes to gain by hubby’s improved behavior, and go to God to meet that need first. Once she has determined that a legitimate problem exists, a wise wife needs to prayerfully address it, seeking God’s timing, all the while determining to honor her husband with her words when the opportunity to speak presents itself. Let’s be clear: This is not easy. The reward for both husband and wife, however, is well worth the effort. It is amazing how well a man will listen and endeavor to cooperate when he feels respected instead of demoralized. By emulating Christ in her marriage, the wife actually becomes a better human being, paving the way for more marital harmony. It’s the quintessential win-win scenario!
Let she who has ears hear.
Be blessed Family!
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