The Disrespectful Wife

I’m just going to get straight to the point.

God has placed a heavy conviction on my heart that I am sinning against Him because I am a disrespectful wife.

When I first felt this conviction, I denied it.  I feel like I do a fair job of respecting James.  I don’t argue with him in public. I refuse to be one of those women who gets together with her girlfriends to rant about how “terrible” or “stupid” or “inconsiderate” her husband is.  Several months ago, I vowed to never say anything negative about him to anyone else, and I have done a pretty good job at sticking to that.

But since I value honesty, it is only fair to admit that I am wrong.  Deeply wrong. I know at the core of my being that I am a massive failure when it comes to respecting my husband.  I may be nice to him in public, but I have no problem yelling at him as soon as we get in the car, using my words to manipulate him, questioning and going against his leadership and decision making, nagging at all of his faults, and using the silent treatment (super mature, I know).

I am a disrespectful wife. And the worst part is, I have been blindly unaware of this for the longest time.

“…and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

One of the primary commands God places on Christian women is to respect their husbands, and to be honest with you, I am failing miserably.  I shared my conviction with my discipleship group last night, confessing my sin and the weight of my conviction.  As I shared with my group, there was a great relief when heads starting nodding and others said “yeah, me too.”  It was freeing to know I am not alone in the struggle, that other couples are fighting the exact same thing.

We start discussing root issues, and the main question that came up was “how do we respect our husbands?” We didn’t really have a clue where to start.  With that question on our mind, we decided to take a D Group “field trip” and drive half a mile down the street where our men were meeting and have a real, honest discussion on what it looks like to be a respectful wife.

We interrupted their Bible study to set up an impromptu panel discussion (meaning the guys sat on the couch and we sat in chairs across from them) and asked hard questions on respect.  We promised to take down our defenses, listen to what they had to say, and learn.  With ears and hearts open and pens ready to take notes, we opened up the discussion and asked questions like:

  •   How do I make you feel disrespected?
  •   How much weight do my words carry with you?
  •   When have you felt respected by me?
  •   What areas do you need the most support?
  •   How are sex and respect connected?
  •   How can I disagree with you in a respectful way?

The conversation was real, raw, honest, a bit painful at times, hilarious at others, messy, genuine, insightful, and most of all, necessary.  It was a beautiful picture of gospel-centered community.

Here is what we learned:

Men feel disrespected when…

  •   Their leadership is questioned
  •   The decisions they make aren’t taken seriously
  •   They feel inadequate
  •   They are belittled
  •   Frustration leads to anger
  •   Roles aren’t clearly defined
  •   They aren’t receiving affirmation from their wives
  •   Wives use fear to manipulate actions

Men feel respected when…

  •   Their wives show grace and patience when they fail
  •   Their leadership is affirmed and trusted
  •   Their achievements are celebrated
  •   They feel supported in the areas they value most (i.e. ministry, tough relationships, career, future aspirations)
  •   Their wives desire and initiate sex
  •   What they are doing is recognized (be his cheerleader!)
  •   Strengths and accomplishments are highlighted
  •   Open, honest, gentle, loving communication when they are wrong

None of this is rocket science, and nothing I learned was something I hadn’t heard before.  But there is something different about hearing it in a sermon on Sunday and then hearing it from the mouth of your husband who you love very deeply.  It means more, carries more weight, and inspires change.

In my journey to grow into a respectful wife, I am going to fail.  Many times.  I will yell out of anger, say hurtful things I don’t really mean, and question his leadership.  I know I will never “arrive” in this area.  But for the sake of my marriage and the glory of God, it is a fight worth fighting, and a pursuit worth pursuing.

Thank God for His grace.

Without the hope of the gospel, this would be a trivial, legalistic pursuit toward a false hope of achieving some unattainable, impossible standard.  Without Jesus, we have zero hope of having a joy-filled, thriving marriage.  It just isn’t possible apart from Him.  The gospel allows us to forgive each other when we don’t deserve it and love each other free from expectation.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Marriage is a long, hard, messy journey of sanctification.  I feel the pain of it, but I am joyfully aware and hopeful that Jesus is making us new every day.  We are slowly but surely becoming more like Him.

Marriage is the greatest picture we have of the way Jesus loves His church.  There is nothing super glamorous about it, but it is a love that pursues, that is faithful, committed when it seems impossible, enduring through hurt and sin, and reflective of the great love God has for His people.

Marriage is a fight worth fighting for.  Lets keep fighting, all for the glory of God.

Until next time,

Katie

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17 thoughts on “The Disrespectful Wife

  1. I am not married, but I am in a strong relationship in which we both someday do hope will become marriage. but I enjoyed this, thank you for posting it. I feel occasionally that we don’t respect each other, whether it be that our anger, upset-ness, etc., gets the better of us. this helped, thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I often wonder to myself how women can belittle themselves so and become little robot Stepford wives….now I know. Way to take a giant step backward into the 1950’s. Men and women are equal and have equal rights to express their opinions. I REFUSE to bow before any man. I am a person that just happens to be female. Why are my ideas or thoughts any less valuable? It’s this kind of trash that turns people away from Christianity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Because that’s the way God designed marriage. He made woman to be a helpmate. We each have our roles as husband and wife. It is the man’s role to be head if the household.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If I may, the word “helpmate” is a very poor translation of “ezer k’negdo”. (“Helpmeet” is a little better though not by much.) “Ezer” does not connote subordination but a strong, valorous help. More often than not, it is used to refer to the help God gives to us (Psalm 121, for example).”K’negdo” is a prepositional phrase: “K-” is a Hebrew prefix meaning “like” as in “similar to”. “Neged” means “corresponding to”, “fit for”. It can also mean “opposite” or “against”. (One very Orthodox rabbi says that the woman was even created to “oppose” the man when he needed to be opposed.) “O” is a masculine suffix meaning “his” or “him”. Thus– “Like a strong, valorous help who corresponds to him”. Likewise, there is nothing in Genesis 2 to indicate that Eve’s creation after Adam meant she was subordinate to him. Eve was *not* created subordinate to Adam nor were all women created to be subordinate to all men, and nor were wives created to be subordinate to husbands. Adam’s statement, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, she is called woman” etc., can well be argued that it is not an act of authority, but of recognition–he recognized the one who was like him. The word “Adam” itself has three different meanings: 1) A proper noun: Gen 5:3-5) 2) In the generic sense–Gen 2:7,8,) and 3) Humankind (as in Gen 1:26, 27; Gen 5:1,2).

        “Kephale”, the Greek word for our English, “head” has likewise been misunderstood. We’ve taken a first century word and applied a contemporary meaning to it. It doesn’t necessarily always (or only) mean “authority over”, “leader of”, “the one in charge”, etc. (Gordon Fee, Kevin Giles, and Gilbert Bilezikian are just three respected and conservative theologians who have shown how greatly in error Wayne Grudem was re “kephale”.) Liddell and Scott’s Greek lexicon defines “kephale” as “source”, “origin”, etc. In addition, the NT doesn’t specifically say men should be “heads of their households”–one has to read that meaning into it. Likewise, the Greek word for “authority”, “exousia” is only used of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7–in which both husband and wife have authority over their spouse’s body.
        Indeed, husbands had authority over wives in the first century (and it was an absolute authority), yet Paul reminds all believers to submit one to another in Eph 5:21 (this is a subordinate clause–the original command refers back to Eph 5:18–“Do not be drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit”). Also in that society, a wife had no choice, she was already submitted. Roman law gave a man complete and utter control (including life and death) over his household–including his wife and children. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” was quite a radical teaching in the first century, especially in the “agape” sense. Submission, love, and respect are all two-way streets in marriage and of course, every marriage has its own dynamics. God doesn’t expect one’s marriage to be the cookie cutter image of another. Yes, marriage is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and His Church, but that is a very limited analogy. Husbands are not Christ and they are certainly not responsible for their wives’ spiritual growth–attempting to be so would usurp the Person, place, and work of the Holy Spirit. (Of course, it is always a blessing when one spouse influences the other toward growth.) The head and body metaphor is far more indicative of unity than a “chain of command” authority–an authority which rarely fails to be extremely worldly.

        God did not design marriage in which one person always has the final say. He is not going to hold husbands exclusively accountable for how they led their families or wives accountable for how one-way submissive they were to their husbands. “Role” and “roles” according to one’s gender/sex have no place in Christian relationships any more than do roles according to one’s race, class, ethnic background, or economic status.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I will agree that one should always be respectful to their spouse, but it works both ways. Many verses from Ephesians 5 appear to advocate male headship and wifely submission, but in context, appear to support a relationship of mutuality. We both lead, we both submit. Husbands need to respect their wives, as well. Oh, and sometimes you should be questioning your husband. That’s what spouses in a dynamic, growing relationship do. My wife and I are both free to question the other when necessary. Likewise, we both accept influence from the other.

    I would commend to you the scholarly work of Gordon Fee, Philip Payne, Gilbert Bilezikian, John Stackhouse, and William Webb. Patriarchy is a result of the curse, which Christ has already come to break.

    Blessings.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I hope the second that your interview of them was over that they turned the chairs around and asked the same of you ladies. How do you all feel disrespected by your husbands? Marriage is a compromise and this article seemed to focus a lot of singular blame on the female sex. I hope this was just to keep the article succinct. I hope you both find ways to respect each other as equals.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While reading your blog I felt that you forgot to mention your husbands ‘ respect towards you as his wife. Respect has to be earned and it is not a one way street.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful thoughts but more forceful if men lived up to their part of Eph. 5. Men need love their wives as Christ loves the church, total self-sacrifice. That doesn’t mean dictatorial leadership. It doesn’t men I’d be willing to die for her (that’s assumed) but rather willing to sacrifice your wishes and desires to for her betterment.

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  7. This was great! God placed this in my heart a few years ago and developing respect and respectful behavior has blessed my marriage and life in ways I never could have imagined!
    However, I’m curious about how this plays out for a woman who is in a marriage that is spiritually abusive. How does this woman respect her husband who demands it… A man who claims to be a follower of Christ but uses his authority in ways that Christ never intended? This is a problem with many southern men… What encouragment can we offer our southern women to develop respect for this kind of husband?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a great question that I don’t 100% know the answer to.
      A husband demanding respect & manipulating the wife into doing so is sinning against his wife AND God. That is pathetic, passive, insecure leadership. Husbands are called to sacrificially love and serve their wives, as Christ did for the church. Christ laid down his life and died for the church. There is nothing manipulative and abusive about that.
      For a woman in this kind of marriage…man that is hard. I can think of three things I would encourage her to do:
      1. Pray for her husband daily. Pray that God breaks him of his pride, exposes his sin, and leads him into repentance.
      2. Ask her husband if they could pray together daily. There is something about praying with your spouse that softens you and aligns you together with God. If he says no, resort back to #1. 🙂
      3. Really encourage both to get involved in real, authentic community with godly men and women who know them and know their marriage. Real community is life changing, where sin is exposed, and healing happens. If he refuses, resort back to #1 again.

      Above all, I would encourage her to trust God with her marriage. Her husband will stand before God one day and give an account of how he led his family. That is a huge weight. If he is a follower of Jesus, trust that God is bringing the work he started in him into completion, maybe slowly, but it is happening.

      I wish I had more wisdom and insight into this, but it definitely gives me a lot to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I appreciate your perspective. However, I couldn’t help but feeling that your thoughts may have put women at a position inferior to men’s. Being a young man myself, I understand marriage is a mutual relationship. And I’m grateful that my mother questioned my father leadership and decisions, or the lack thereof. Otherwise, I’m afraid to think what my sister and I would have ended up in. I don’t want to disregard everything you discussed. But is it possible that a different mentality is more relevant in this society? I understand there are truths in the bible that maintain through the ages, but to say that women have to cater to men’s ego, I find it problematic.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the idea of sharing those questions about perceptions of respect with one another as a couple is excellent. There is one underlying problem though: they are perceptions, not Biblical mandates. Some of the perceptions shared by the men in this article are cultural perceptions not Biblical ones. Eph 5:21 sets out the Biblical directive. Vs22 onwards are merely examples of how that plays out and are not proscriptive. A proper understanding of respect in marriage will never be realised until a couple realizes that a marriage was intended from the beginning to be one of mutuality. ‘Help meet’ is translated from ‘ezer kenegdo’ which is loosely ‘strong help ‘ the same words used in the OT to describe God’s relationship to Israel: in this context God is called the ‘helper ‘! He is certainly not the subordinate. Jonathan made some excellent suggestions for extra reading, above. It’s s complicated topic, but long-standing pre- conceptions (and these have been around since the fall! ) are hard to break free from.

    Liked by 2 people

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