I remember my first year of marriage. “Honey, you’re excited to go skiing with me and the guys for the 30th time, right?” Sure. Just like that one guy’s wife was thrilled when he went over-budget to buy her new 36-inch mud tires for his truck for her birthday. Consumed with myself, I thought that marriage would work well if my idea of loving and serving my wife was being fixated on me. But I began to realize that I was tempting my wife to resent me.
Even the strongest marriages can be tempted with resentment at times. It’s normal. It’s normal because marriage is challenging. It’s normal because we want what we want. It’s normal because it takes time to learn about each other. It’s normal because we are sinful creatures.
But resentment is something that husbands can help their wives avoid. Insofar as we can, we husbands ought to do everything possible to not give our wives reason for bitterness. To not do so is selfish and sowing seeds for unnecessary, future marriage problems. If we want our wives to respect, and not resent, us then it starts with us being respectable. And let’s admit it, brothers: if we are not Jesus, we have probably been a burden to our wives at some point.
Now, a few qualifiers which I have found necessary to mention, especially pertaining to resentment and the marriage relationship.
- God commands wives to respect their husbands. “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:33). Notice that the command does not say, “Well, as long as you feel he is respectable, then he is worthy of your respect. But if he is not, then disrespect him.” This isn’t about the husband’s worthiness, but Christ’s (Eph. 5:22-24, 33).
- At the same time, that a wife is called to respect her husband indicates that he ought to make every effort to be respectable. Husbands are commanded by God to imitate Christ’s self-sacrificial love for the church towards their wives (Eph. 5:25). We are to be as interested in blessing our wives as we are ourselves (Eph. 5:33). The call for wives to respect their husbands does not imply that husbands are to love their wives less, but more.
- Resentment is sin against God and the individual. Typically, it is real or perceived hurt incurred which has been allowed to escalate into a mindset of hatred towards another. And, whether someone tempted us towards it or not, it is a sin for which Christ had to die.
- We may not legitimately blame resentment, or any other sin, on others. Certainly various situations tempt us towards resentment. And this is not to say that the other party is innocent. However, we sin, not when we were driven, forced, or manipulated to it, but when the desires of our hearts fail to love and obey God (Jas. 1:14-15, 4:1-2).
- There are times when a wife will resent her husband though her husband is quite respectable. In these difficult situations, the husband might consider: 1) Continuing to work on his personal character in the home as unto the Lord. 2) Praying earnestly for his wife. 3) Continuing to lead biblically, regardless of her response. 4) Staying plugged into a sound church for help. 5) Reading and applying the chapter entitled, “A Husband’s Resolve: Helping His Wife Deal With Her Sin,” in Stuart Scott’s book, The Exemplary Husband.
- Christ is the greatest hope for both resentment and sinful and unhelpful behaviors that would tempt others to resent. He paid the penalty for those, and all sins, by intentionally stepping out of heaven and onto the cross in order to divert God’s wrath from us onto himself (1 John 4:9). In doing so, complete forgiveness, reconciliation to God, and real change become the realities for all who repent and put faith in Jesus Christ. Christ is the hope in marital resentment, and all sins related thereto.
With that, here are some ways that husbands might tempt their wives to resent them.
- He doesn’t care about tempting his wife to resent him.
- He is reluctant to seek help and accountability for marriage struggles.
- He is unwilling to trust in the biblical Christ for forgiveness of his sin, entrance into heaven, and real change.
- He is apathetic when it comes to improving his personal character and christlikeness.
- He is unreceptive and self-defensive to his wife’s concerns about his character and habits.
- He thinks that he does not need her, a local church, or other godly men to help him live a life pleasing to God.
- He has to be prodded to plug into a good, New Testament kind of local church.
- He is a different person in the home than he is at church.
- He will not make honest attempts at meaningfully discussing and applying the Bible with his family outside of church events.
- He is irritated that his wife is not as impressed by his work, hobby, and outside-of-the-home achievements as he is.
- He harbors sin in the home which he would not practice elsewhere.
- He fails to confess his sin biblically to her.
- He fails to ask biblical forgiveness from his wife and/or kids.
- He makes excuses for his sin.
- He blames his sin on his wife and/or family.
- He is harder on his wife’s/family’s sins than on his own.
- He is heavy-handed, especially in things not specifically stated in Scripture.
- He uses the Bible to exempt himself from various areas of biblical obedience.
- He uses the Bible to uncharitably dominate his family.
- He will not make attempts to discipline the children biblically.
- He will not attempt to get himself and his wife on the same page in disciplining and shepherding the kids.
- He works too much.
- He works too little.
- He is not doing everything he can to assume the responsibility of providing financially.
- He is messy.
- He is lazy.
- He is undisciplined in daily habits.
- He is critical about out his wife’s physical imperfections.
- He discusses and laments his wife’s physical and/or other imperfections with others.
- He allows his eyes to roam towards other women.
- He compares his wife to other women.
- He looks at porn.
- He masturbates.
- He only serves himself during sex.
- He is sexually demanding and insensitive.
He is picky about food.
- He spends too much time playing video games.
- He talks often about how awesome his wife was before marriage in an insensitive way.
- He messes around with his phone/gadgets while hanging out with her.
- He does not make attempts to give her specific encouragement.
- He spends too much time in his man-cave.
- He talks to her like she is one of the guys.
- He serves others more than he serves her.
- He serves his hobbies more than her.
- He makes her the object of jokes around other people.
- He persists in idiosyncrasies and habits that are annoying to her.
- He answers her open-ended questions with less than two words.
- He puts off discussing finances until the game is on.
- He thinks that he never tempts her to resent him.
- He is married to an unregenerate woman.
Many more things could be added to the list. But a brief word for the ladies is needed. This list is not to be used as a weapon against your husband. You, too, have likely tempted your husband in numerous ways towards resentment. Instead, use it, perhaps, to shepherd your own heart in preparation for the reality of not being married to Jesus and cheerfully encouraging your husband (1 Pet. 3:1-6). And it is Christ, not your husband, who is the solution to resentment. Though we have personally sinned against Christ innumerable ways, he did not stew in his hurt feelings, but endured the penalty for our sins in his substitutionary penal death on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). He is both our power and example to really repent of and resist all sin (1 Pet. 2:21).
As husbands whom God commands to conduct ourselves with loving, servant-leadership in the home, it behooves us to strive for a biblically, masculine presence among our wives in obedience to Christ. Marriage can be hard enough with things like financial pressure, in-laws, health struggles, kids, and this fallen world. We husbands, then, ought to do everything we can to lessen the burden by the avoidance of tempting our wives to resent us.
Feel free to add to the list.