Quiz Question 6: Does your husband feel disrespected by you?
Does he get angry because you interrupt? Does he get frustrated when you give suggestions or tell him how to do it? Does he often become sullen, explosive, or withdrawn? Has he opted out of parenting because you’ve corrected him so much? Has he started spending more time out than in?
You know that type of guy who just loves another home improvement project? Every Christmas, he asks for a new saw or drill or wrench set. He loves the smell of sawdust and his favorite outfit is coveralls. He lives for a completely free Saturday so he can get back to work on building the deck or hanging the drywall.
That guy? That guy is not my husband.
Now my husband is incredibly hardworking. He keeps our house and yard looking great. He is willing to help with whatever I need. Just tonight, I asked if he would clean up our trash bin cupboard, and he scrubbed on hands and knees until it was spotless! He is thorough and neat and diligent and has a wonderful servant’s heart. But Mr. Fixit, he is not.
Ken doesn’t love fixing things, and that’s okay. Except for when he tries anyway.
A Botched Door
Our first house was a fixer-upper. We painted, carpeted, and updated the entire thing.
After we carpeted an upstairs bedroom, the door wouldn’t close, so Ken unhinged the door and brought it down the the basement to saw an inch off the bottom. The only problem? He sawed it off the top instead.
He didn’t tell me about it. We rarely closed that door, so I didn’t notice for a while. But imagine my surprise when I walked down the hallway one day and saw daylight streaming through a thin crack at the top of our closed door, where he had glued it back together.
Like I said, Mr. Fixit, he is not.
At first I was upset, but eventually we were able to laugh about that door. Ken made jokes about the next owners seeing the crack for the first time, and how he had a 50/50 chance of cutting off the right end. It quickly became a distant memory, and something to joke about. But there was a lasting effect.
That glued-together door, and incidents like it caused me to question my husband’s judgment. I began saying things like, “You’re not going to do that yourself, are you?” and, “Why don’t we hire someone?” Or the clencher: “You better call my dad, first.”
Now my dad is wonderful and a true-blue Mr. Fixit. He just intuitively knows how it should be done. And Ken has always been incredibly grateful for all of my dad’s help and input from day one. Even so, no man wants his wife to seriously doubts whether he can do it. And like it or not, I was that wife.
I thought Ken’s mistakes gave me license to be a hypercritical nag.
I thought his past errors gave me cause to be on edge, always on the lookout for the next error.
I thought a glued together door was just cause for excessive eye-rolling, sighing, and finger-pointing.
But I was wrong.
Control Girl Wife
Ken has always been humble enough to laugh at his mistakes, but my attitude created lots of tension between us. He was angry and defensive one minute, and sullen or withdrawn the next.
When a wife takes control, her husband perceives it as disrespect. And there’s nothing a man wants more–especially from his wife–than respect. Now I didn’t notice my disrespect because I was looking at him, not me! I was staring incredulously at the crack in the glued-together door. I was fixated on preventing the next error. I thought it was all up to me. I had to take control, here; he gave me no choice!
I saw my husband’s mistakes with hawk-eyed clarity. But my own sin? I was blind to it. Yes, I knew that my eye-rolling and excessive criticism was disrespectful. And I knew that Ephesians 5:33 said, “And let the wife see that she respects her husband.” But, honestly? I thought my situation was an exception.
My door was glued together, people! How could that possibly be respectable?
Perhaps you feel the same way. Maybe you feel as though your situation is the exception, too. Maybe you’re shaking your head incredulously, saying, “I’m to respect my husband even if he ______?” Perhaps you’d fill in that blank with something that makes my home improvement mishaps seem pretty superficial.
So, are there exceptions? Are there times that it’s reasonable for a wife to be disrespectful? Peter, in the New Testament, says no.
“Likewise, wives be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (I Pet. 3:1, emphasis mine)
Notice the “even if”? A husband who is disobedient and rebellious to God seems like a good exception clause to me, but Peter says no. Wives are to be respectful, no matter what they might put in the “even if” blank.
To be clear, I would never advise a woman to remain passive in an abusive marriage. But even in the most extreme cases, disrespect only throws oil on the flame.
I was speaking at a Control Girl retreat once, when a woman who had been divorced for several years told me, “I’m going to call my ex-husband this afternoon and apologize. He was an alcoholic, but I was a Control Girl. My disrespect didn’t help our marriage.”
This is true in every marriage.
Remember Jennifer’s story, which I shared in my last post? Notice that it was her gentle, quiet spirit (referred to in I Pet. 3:1) which won her husband back. When Rob saw the way that Jennifer had settled herself before the Lord, no longer trying to take control but quietly hoping in Him, this is what drew Rob back home.
Friends, this is what God wants for each of our marriages!
The Control Girl wife feels that she must take control. She feels an urgency to make up for her husband’s lack. She feels that he leaves her no choice. But every time she takes over, grabs the wheel, or shudders over her husband’s ridiculous ideas–even if she does so silently, he hears her screaming, “I disrespect you!!!”
God wants us to turn back from our Control Girl path and go a different way. He invites us, as wives, to be…
- respectful, rather than dishonoring
- gentle, rather than harsh
- quiet, rather than scolding
- settled, rather than obsessive
- pure, rather than having ulterior motives
- hoping in God, rather than hoping in ourselves to take control
A wife who chooses to be respectful warmly invites her husband in closer to both God and herself.
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Join me for a study of seven Control Girls of the Bible, who struggled with control in the same way we do: they pushed for their own agendas, tried to make everything turn out according to their plans, and made everybody miserable in the process. By comparing their stories with ours, we learn—in hundreds of ways and examples—that God is in control and we aren’t. And He invites us to live like it’s true.