May 18, 2016

How Husbands Can Get Their Wives to Resent Them

by Eric Davis
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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.

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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.

  1. He doesn’t care about tempting his wife to resent him.
  2. He is reluctant to seek help and accountability for marriage struggles.
  3. He is unwilling to trust in the biblical Christ for forgiveness of his sin, entrance into heaven, and real change.
  4. He is apathetic when it comes to improving his personal character and christlikeness.
  5. He is unreceptive and self-defensive to his wife’s concerns about his character and habits.
  6. He thinks that he does not need her, a local church, or other godly men to help him live a life pleasing to God.
  7. He has to be prodded to plug into a good, New Testament kind of local church.
  8. He is a different person in the home than he is at church.
  9. He will not make honest attempts at meaningfully discussing and applying the Bible with his family outside of church events.
  10. He is irritated that his wife is not as impressed by his work, hobby, and outside-of-the-home achievements as he is.
  11. He harbors sin in the home which he would not practice elsewhere.
  12. He fails to confess his sin biblically to her.
  13. He fails to ask biblical forgiveness from his wife and/or kids.
  14. He makes excuses for his sin.
  15. He blames his sin on his wife and/or family.
  16. He is harder on his wife’s/family’s sins than on his own.
  17. He is heavy-handed, especially in things not specifically stated in Scripture.
  18. He uses the Bible to exempt himself from various areas of biblical obedience.
  19. He uses the Bible to uncharitably dominate his family.
  20. He will not make attempts to discipline the children biblically.
  21. He will not attempt to get himself and his wife on the same page in disciplining and shepherding the kids.
  22. He works too much.
  23. He works too little.
  24. He is not doing everything he can to assume the responsibility of providing financially.
  25. He is messy.
  26. He is lazy.
  27. He is undisciplined in daily habits.
  28. He is critical about out his wife’s physical imperfections.
  29. He discusses and laments his wife’s physical and/or other imperfections with others.
  30. He allows his eyes to roam towards other women.
  31. He compares his wife to other women.
  32. He looks at porn.
  33. He masturbates.
  34. He only serves himself during sex.
  35. He is sexually demanding and insensitive.
  36. man-cave-furniture2

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    He is picky about food.

  37. He spends too much time playing video games.
  38. He talks often about how awesome his wife was before marriage in an insensitive way.
  39. He messes around with his phone/gadgets while hanging out with her.
  40. He does not make attempts to give her specific encouragement.
  41. He spends too much time in his man-cave.
  42. He talks to her like she is one of the guys.
  43. He serves others more than he serves her.
  44. He serves his hobbies more than her.
  45. He makes her the object of jokes around other people.
  46. He persists in idiosyncrasies and habits that are annoying to her.
  47. He answers her open-ended questions with less than two words.
  48. He puts off discussing finances until the game is on.
  49. He thinks that he never tempts her to resent him.
  50. 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.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Tim Bates

    Convicting words as usual, Mr Davis. I thank you for the boldness and conviction to slap my ears instead of tickle them.

    “As Christ loves the church” is one of the more challenging phrases ever uttered. Perhaps the most. I conveniently forget that passage when marriage isn’t going my selfish way.

    I pray this article is received well and bears much fruit. Marriage is very serious and this article treats it as such.

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks Tim. Glad there’s no ear-tickling going on around here.

  • Sent over to the wife so she could see which ones I can work on. Thanks.

    • Eric Davis

      You are a courageous man, Michael. Hope that goes well for you.

      • I’m sure it will. I suppose it will endear me to her that I asked her viewpoint.

  • Jordan Standridge

    Hey my wife reads the Cripplegate!
    This was a super helpful reminder.

    • Eric Davis

      Like me, brother, you married up. Prov. 18:22

  • Di Vo

    Thank the LORD how He uses your biblically applicable references to think through in daily life on life interactions.

  • Emma Noble

    This is wonderful. I’m really glad to see an article on marriage here, since I have little “real life” support for my sort-of-new marriage (3+ years). I will use the list to pray through for my husband and myself, to help us guard against these things–and resentment–in our marriage. Eric, would you consider writing a similar article and list for the ladies? I know there’s a lot of overlap, but something specific to ladies would be super helpful for me.

    • Eric Davis

      Hi Emma, thanks for the request. We will plan on doing that. Appreciate your humility in requesting something for the ladies.

  • As a wife who struggles to respect a man who really does earn respect (what’s wrong with me?), I appreciated the balance in this article. Thanks for holding wives accountable too!

  • tovlogos

    Acutely relevant, brother. We have regular Bible reading sessions. It has a way of putting to rest our differences. When ever my son comes for a visit we must have a group reading. If there is a problem that flares up, we ultimately go to the Book; and are all submissive to it. Without this feature in our lives I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to survive.

    • Eric Davis

      Amen, brother.

  • Karl Heitman

    Eric, sound wisdom here. This could swing both ways, but I would add, “He shows more affection to his kids than her.”

    I think it’s good that you clearly addressed this to men (i.e., in a post such as this, it’s VERY important to know the audience) because it’s so common to hear women talk about their struggle to submit to and respect their husband because of some kind of condition she has placed upon him (e.g., he’s not “respectable” because he does/doesn’t do _______) and we tend to accept that kind of language. If the shoe were on the other foot, we would be shocked to hear a man say, “I struggle to love by wife because she’s not loveable.” That sort of thinking would probably receive a stern correction…and rightly so. At the same time, as we teach husbands to love their wives unconditionally—like Christ loves the church—we also ought to teach wives to submit to and respect their husbands unconditionally too. I know you alluded to this in your article; I’m just thinking aloud here. Peace, brother! 🙂

    • Eric Davis

      Good word, Karl. Thanks for chiming in. We will likely do a parallel article addressed to the ladies.

      • my2cents

        Would it be possible to have a woman write this article addressed to the ladies since a man wrote one addressed to the men?

        • Eric Davis

          We’ll be sure to get input from some ladies. Thanks for that suggestion.

        • elainebitt

          Can I ask you why you want it to be written by a woman?

    • Jane Hildebrand

      “The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female and 39% male. On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches. This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.” (Tim Challies)

      As one who has taught women’s ministry for almost twenty years, I can testify that the greatest source of struggle that Christian woman have in their marriages is their husbands disinterest in not going to church and leading their family spiritually. And while that is never an excuse for a wife to not to submit to her husband, it is the primary source of pain for so many women.

      • Karl Heitman

        I can see that, Jane. I’ve dealt with several women whose husbands aren’t good examples of godly leadership/headship. Yet, in counseling those struggling unequally yoked women, I rarely hear them being eager and content to apply passages like 1 Pet. 3:1-6. I hear more of this: “He doesn’t ‘do this or that,’ therefore it’s soooooo hard to respect him. How can I respect an unrespectable man?” Just like a husband’s love for his wife is unconditional, a wife’s respect for her husband must also be unconditional regardless of what he is or isn’t.

        • Jane Hildebrand

          I agree with you! And I agree that that kind of attitude of disobedience is what keeps God from healing our marriages.

          But if I can be perfectly honest, I think many women are simply disappointed. They have been taught that men are given the role of spiritual leadership in the home and they are to submit to that. And so they envision their husbands leading family devotions, praying with them and for them, teaching them biblical truths and modeling them, thereby creating a seriously God-centered home. Talk about paradise!

          And while that may be true for the families of pastors, it is not the norm for the average Christian home where spiritual leadership is often reduced to a fight of who gets to hold the remote.

          All I’m saying is that submitting to one another unconditionally is hard work and especially when there are unmet (or unrealistic) expectations. That’s not an excuse, just an observation. Bottom line is we love and respect one another out of our love for Christ. And if that means handing over the remote, I’m fine with that. 😉

          • elainebitt

            Jane, can you be more specific with this statement:

            “I agree that that kind of attitude of disobedience is what keeps God from healing our marriages.”

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Elaine, what I meant was that those women who approach leadership for help with their marriages with no intention of ever changing themselves (perhaps in areas of disrespect, anger or frustration towards their mate) rarely find healing in their marriages. That is what Karl was saying he has experienced more often than not in counseling. So in that situation a woman is simply approaching leadership in order to find an advocate “against” her husband, not advice on how to obey God in order that God would bring the necessary conviction to her husband. Hope that clarifies it.

          • elainebitt

            Jane, you actually answered my comment to Karl, but not my question to you.

            Anyway… I appreciate all that all the marriage counselors do, don’t get me wrong (btw, every single leader should be a marriage counselor, it’s not like this is a special ministry apart from shepherding). But it has become clear to me (over several years) that no one is addressing the unequally yoked women, who struggle to be faithful and godly while married to an unbeliever. While those women you mentioned exist, why not talk about the other ones, the ones who sincerely want to honour their Saviour while living such difficult lives? I mean, every single blog offer help for single people, for parenting, for pastors’ wives, for all sort of problems and people, but no one addresses the unequally yoked spouses.

            I hear a lot, and I mean it, about the stereotype of the believing wife who comes to the pastors/elders only to ask them to “fix” their husbands. That is not helpful.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            I hear what you are saying, Elaine. There should be more practical advice for those who are unequally yoked. I believe it takes a great deal of faith and trust in God for a woman to remain submissive in those situations, especially when there is no guarantee her husband will come to faith.

            With respect to disobedience, I would define that as a woman who is disrespectful, demeaning, resentful, angry and unforgiving towards her husband. Basically one who fails to show him mercy, thereby making the gospel unattractive.

            On a personal note, I was saved before my husband was and while those were difficult times, he admitted that he could not deny the change he saw in me. He saw a peace and a joy that he said he wanted. I guess my thought was that if I would love him the way Christ loved me, God would move his heart. And He did.

        • elainebitt

          While I appreciate your comment Karl, I wish people would comment on those unequally yoked women who do NOT act like that. There are many of them out there who are honestly looking for help from leaders, and find none. There are indeed women who are eager and content to apply those passages, whose hearts want to do what’s “right” before God, but find little to no support at all. It seems to me that the majority of marriage counseling (that includes books/blogs/sermons/lectures) is directed to couple who are believers.

          Maybe someone should write a blog post on how the leadership can get these struggling wives to resent them.

    • Jason

      I’d never thought about how we view being “not respectable” and “unlovable” before. It would be a completely different world we live in if even Christian families stopped putting conditions on the responsibilities we have and were good stewards of the families God has given us.

  • Greywolf

    Eric, thank you for this post, many great points of prayer! Now if only I had a wife, lol.

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks Greywolf.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    That’s quite a list, I have to say. Many of them I’d never thought of.

    A lot of marriage problems could be avoided if the couple would simply put off getting married awhile longer and find out more about how the other one ticks…or what ticks them off.

    How many women say, after three years in, “I didn’t know that about him.” Well, honey, maybe that side of him would have come out had you stayed single until it had. These couples who meet in February and are married by November think it’s “God’s leading”, but maybe God is saying, “The following is a test. Had there been an actual emergency…”

    It takes these kids less time to decide to buy a particular car than it does to decide that this is the one I want to be buried beside someday. And, of course, it works in both directions: guys, don’t do your thinking with anything but your brain. It was issued to you for a reason.

    • Jason

      I disagree with this for a number of reasons:

      1. People act differently when courting than they will when married, regardless of how long that carries on. There will be things you will only learn when you “tie the knot” regardless of how long you hold out.

      Also, people are legitimately unbothered by things that will later bother them because of their own difference in perspective of what they “expect” out of a relationship before and after marriage.

      2. If a person is going into a marriage assuming that things not going smoothly is a sign that the marriage was a bad idea instead of that he/she need to approach it differently, than it will be (again, regardless of how long they wait).

      3. I would guess the average amount of time people spend together before getting married has increased dramatically over time (with a big boom after arranged marriages died), while “irreconcilable differences” have also trended up at about as dramatic of a rate.

      4. Paul (1 Corinthians 7) clearly teaches that a person should remain single indefinitely (to avoid the troubles of marriage) if they are not in danger of sin, but if they are “burning with passion” than they should marry.

      Basically, when marriage finds you, don’t attempt to remain single, but don’t go looking for it either.

      5. 11 years and 2 overactive boys later, my wife and I have no regrets about getting married. We knew each other for about 2 years, some of which we knew each other as “a friend of a friend” and some we could only hang out on occasional weekends.

      We made it past the 7 year average (and will make it until death) because we took the commitment seriously from the start. Our society doesn’t even know what it looks like anymore (with everyone thinking they are in complete control of the situation). The church certainly needs to be a better light in this area.

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Very good points, Jason. I read a book recently called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas that really helped change my perspective on God’s purpose for marriage, especially in how we deal with our expectations.

        It’s tagline was, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than make us happy?” That really struck me. I guess I had never viewed marriage as a primary means that God would use in my sanctification. Don’t get me wrong, I had always understood the importance of obedience, but I had not viewed difficult times within marriage as a critical means to foster that. Anyway, a great read from someone who is 32 years and counting with their best friend. 🙂

        • elainebitt

          “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than make us happy?”

          Not only that, but for sure on a personal level, since not all people get married (hence they wouldn’t be holy, right? 😉 )

  • Starrocks923

    An intriguing list, well worth a read. Thanks Eric!

    I felt that the list kept a nice balance between slightly humorous (#41, #47, #48) and outright disgusting. (#29-#35, basically) The latter actually made me slightly nauseous- I know couples who have split over issues like porn. It’s been rather upsetting to hear many of my teenage friends talk about how much they enjoyed Deadpool in light of its content concerns, and I pray they do not continue to watch such movies in the future.

    I don’t mean to sound insensitive to those who struggle with this, but I honestly can’t imagine driving my wife nuts by taking her skiing 30 times with my guy friends. If she’s my best friend, wouldn’t I want to spend as much time as possible doing stuff with her that she wants to do? I’m not saying I have to enjoy EVERY chic-flick she likes, but if she’s my better half, I’d choose to play board games with her and going out to a nice restaurant with the pretty window view of the ocean over staying up all night playing COD and binging The Walking Dead any day of the week.

    Please excuse my naivety; I am unmarried as of 5/10/2016 and am writing this hypothetically.

  • Suzanne

    This is super helpful. If I may, I’d add “Not leaving and cleaving.” It’s hard playing second fiddle to a husband’s mother.

  • Matthew Childs

    Found this incredibly helpful and convicting. It was so helpful to see the importance of practical holiness in our lives in better loving and serving my wife.