A Little Chat With Husbands – PART FOUR

You Cannot Change What You Don’t Acknowledge

By Craig Bluemel

 

This series was first inspired by what I observed in my own marriage.  I am still dumbfounded by how unaware I used to be when it came to communicating with my sweet wife Pam.  I knew I wasn’t the ‘perfect’ husband, that I had a short fuse at times, and often engaged my mouth before my brain was fully in gear.  Just the same, I love my wife, and was always quick to apologize and ask her forgiveness whenever I messed up.  If you had asked me 10-12 years ago how was I treating my wife, I’m sure I’d reply, “Great!”  The problem was, my wife didn’t feel the same way as me inside, but on the outward, she kept her pain hidden (so I THOUGHT).

 

Any marriage that lasts a lifetime is a commitment that will inevitably cross certain milestones and unless there’s some major differences between man and wife, those first few years are pretty smooth sailing.  Nevertheless, somewhere around the 5-year anniversary mark, it dawns on you that the person you’ve been married to all this time has endured a lot of your uglier side that not many people would put up with!  Along with this new awareness is a much deeper appreciation for one’s mate; at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

 

In my marriage, I wish I was writing to you about my experience of a wonderful marriage epiphany; but that stuff is la-la-land material that Hollyweird puts out for naďve dreamers to imbibe on their television set.  In the real world love is a choice, and great marriages take a lot of diligence and hard work.  I suppose if the truth be told, my precious wife and I had been together long enough for her to feel safe enough to share her true feelings.  I would learn I wasn’t the Christian husband epitome when God helped reveal to me some of my less attractive features.

 

I’ve been blessed by God with a wife that is not the nagging type, but rather she is very soft, gentle, and tender.  These marvelous characteristics are what first attracted me and won my heart and continue to this very day.  By the grace of God, I become aware that her sensitive nature and quiet ways are accompanied by a spirit that is easily bruised and vulnerable and must be handled delicately.  I wished I could write and tell you I’ve been the ideal, picture-perfect Christian husband, but I haven’t (and they don’t exist!).

 

We have had a good marriage and I do not want to misrepresent it as being all-bad and no good.  My wife and I are best friends and we love being together more than anything else in this world.  Just the same, I had woefully over-estimated my contribution to the goodness of our relationship because, quite frankly, my wife endured a lot of my gruff ways and mannerisms until God could get hold of me.  We never got into big arguments or blow-ups, so I figured, “Hey, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?”  The problem is, we’re talking about a woman of God, not a car!

 

Like many husbands, there were far too many times my wife perceived my mood as either angry, or worse, as if disappointed in her.  The scary part is, I was OBLIVIOUS!  Gosh, I figured if I said or did something that upset her, she’d let me know right then and there, right?  Wrong!  I needed a wake-up call from God, which I got in short order.

 

One day I was driving along in my car after work, and on the local Christian radio station I heard an ad for some type of anger management classes that were biblically based, and something the announcer said caught my attention; he said, “Do you have feelings of angry silence?  Do you hold those feelings inside until they explode and get aimed at your wife?  Are you weary of saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ but without lasting change in your speech and behavior?”  This guy on the radio was like Jesus talking to me! 

 

So I decided to shell out a couple hundred bucks, and take this 3 month course.  I told my wife it was only twice a week, and in a classroom setting, so maybe I’d learn something.  I’m certain looking back my wife was rejoicing that God truly did answer her prayers for me! 

 

Well, my anger management classes weren’t exactly a classroom environment.  In fact, it was my baptism by fire into “group” counseling.  Those who’ve been there know exactly what I’m talking about.   But this wasn’t just another 12-step program for anger management, but gave me real life, hands-on training about feelings and how they affect relationships.  I’d never heard any preacher or pastor teach men, especially husbands, how to identify their own feelings, acknowledge problems with anger, and learn how to use this awareness in marital communication.

 

In general, women are inherently familiar with their feelings and the feelings of others about them.  Women are by nature born communicators and as women, our wives are affected by what they hear us say and how we say it.  Our tone of voice and body language are almost instantaneously picked up and processed by our wives, often while we husbands remain clueless.

 

As men husbands tend to be visually stimulated, affected more by what they see than what they hear or say.  Of course, I’m speaking in broad-brush terms to generalize.  On the very first day of group, I remember the instructor of the session went around the room and he asked each man, “How are you FEELING inside today?”  Of the approximately 20 men present that day, just about every guy responded to his question the same way, “I’m fine.”  When it came to my turn, the instructor used me as his role-play victim and when it was my turn to say how I was feeling, I gave him the standard, “I’m fine,” but for some reason my answer wasn’t satisfactory to him because he asked the same question a second time! 

 

 “How are you feeling inside?”  I replied, “I’m fine, didn’t you hear me the first time?”  I’ve always been a joker and the class laughed.  Then he asked me the same question a third time.  So I go along with his charade, say, “I’m fine,” and figure it’s time for him to move along to the next guy.  Except he didn’t.

 

The instructor asked the same question a few more times, and had the class roaring in laughter at my antics, until finally I was getting irritated and then he asked how I liked being put on the spot over and over.  So I told him, “”You’re beginning to get on my nerves and tick me off.”  That’s what he wanted to hear… how I FELT inside.  I had my first, “Aha!” moment.

 

Now I didn’t need group therapy to figure out what human emotions and feelings were.  But I DID learn something very valuable from going to group for 3 months, and it started a transformation in my life, and more important, in my marriage and how I treated and spoke to my wife.  I learned men and women have the same feelings and/or emotions, but the main difference between the sexes is our consciousness of them and the manner that we handle them.

 

The most helpful aspect of this experience was learning how to communicate my feelings to my sweet wife without her thinking I am angry, upset or disappointed in her.  What helped me in this learning process is understanding anger is always a secondary emotion; anger is a reaction or response to feeling hurt, misjudged, ignored, etc.  This understanding is vital because I might feel hurt but don’t feel angry, yet I now realize the anger will inevitably accompany the hurt.  My sensitive wife will pick up on the angry, feel she has displeased me, and the communicate becomes muddled and distorted.

 

It probably isn’t fair to broad brush every husband this way, and I recognize we all have good and bad days.  I also recognize that wives can behave in ways that are not a compliment to a godly woman.  Some women may even be downright contentious and difficult to live with.  My goal here is to speak to the hearts and minds of whatever husbands out there always see room for improvement in their marriage, and who are willing to take responsibility for whatever changes need to occur.  As husbands, ours’ is the greater responsibility because we are to love our wives as Christ does the church.

 

Now instead of just feeling an emotion that involves some interaction and communication with my wife, I take whatever time is necessary for her to respectfully be given a thorough explanation, with emphasis on the fact the hurt and anger are MY problems, not her responsibility.  As a result, she trusts me more, feels more and more confident to be herself, and it is so much fun watching her true personality free to express all that inner goodness, love and caring.

 

There is a travesty I see quite often in Christian churches and my awareness of it is heightened by my own past experience.  This caricature of husband-wife role is blatant misuse of scriptures that speak of the wife submitting to her husband.  Manipulative, controlling pastors reinforce abuse in marriages by teaching the wife must always submit and just let God deal with her husband.  This teaching comes from the pit of hell and is a clear violation of Jesus’ teaching to treat others, as you want to be treated.

 

This bogus submission doctrine is sanctioned from the church pulpits across the world by pastors promulgating a warped portrayal of husband-wife communication.  It is the despotic pseudo-submission doctrine assert a wife must be in direct “submission” to her husband.  Some take this teaching to dangerous extremes and many husbands use such false doctrine as justification to dominate, control, belittle, and abuse their wives.  I have witnessed husbands treat their wife like a doormat and they treat their dog more kindly than their wife.

 

What you end up with is frustrated women and angry men and the lines get drawn in the sand instead of trying to find ways to reconcile relationships that have been tattered and broken.  Any man that has been married long enough realizes that women are typically much better at verbal communication and we would do well to learn from them. 

 

In a recent survey, I asked wives to complete a form with questions that target the subject matter of this article.  I wanted Christian wives to help me understand what a wife feels by anonymously answering questions about her husband’s treatment of her feelings.  For every guy out there that is a complete jerk and treats his wife with disrespect, wives should know there are also husbands like me who WANT to change, but don’t always understand the nature of a woman as we ought and how to effectively communicate with tour wives.

 

This article is for those husbands out there who have “ears to hear” what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  God is bringing us together thru the atoning work of His son Jesus Christ.  Husbands are commanded to LOVE their wives as Christ loves his church.  My wife points out that God never commands the wife to love her husband because it is in her nature to love and respond to love.  What He does command them is to “respect” their husbands.

What Wives Really Think Of Their Husbands

Below you will find a list of questions asked and below each question a summary answer to represent the various answers, which are all anonymous to protect the confidentiality of the wives who participated.  These wives are all Christian, but some of their husbands are not.  Therefore the answers are characteristic of husbands in general and what their wives think of them.  I hope there are husbands that will read these and find ways to implement positive changes in your marriage that will deepen your love for your precious wife.

 

1. If you could change anything your husband does or says what would it be?

 

His work schedule.  But I can't change it, so that's that.

 

I wish my husband would stop drinking and to show me the love he says he has for me.

 

I wish my husband would be able to communicate with me without being so angry and defensive. 

 

I can't really think of anything major about my husband that I’d change.

 

That he would have complete victory over his sexual addiction.  Also, I'd like him to be more careful how he words things sometimes, and not exaggerate

His derogatory joking.  He seriously believes he's being funny but I can't stand the derogatory words he uses which are directed at me.  He does that to everyone.

 

His hatred and superior attitude towards fat people.  He does not stand up for me such as when his brother sexually harassed me.  I would change him from a quiet non-people person to a friendly people person, but he is not and I can't & that is ok as he is what I need not what I want.  

 

2. What does your husband do that makes you feel loved the most?

 

Does things without me asking to do them because he knows I want them done.

 

Nothing

 

Wants to spend time with me.

 

His trustworthiness and faithfulness, and his friendship.

 

Projects I've asked him to do.  Even better is when he does things to help without being asked.

 

When he walks up and hugs me.  He does it so sincerely; he caresses me and looks at me a certain way.  Action sometimes speaks louder than words.  Although that doesn't mean he tells me he loves me, it doesn’t mean anything. I love that too. She doesn’t just want to hear the words, “I love you,”; hearing the words is not enough.  She needs non-sexual touching (i.e. – hugs, being held, etc).

 

He provides for our home and gives me full reign to do as I wish in managing our home and affairs.  He answers the phone when I am too tired & sends away ones he knows will drain me more.  He honors me on holidays such as Mother's Day when my sons do not.  His backing me with our sons and encouragement me in my areas of ministry.

 

3. Does your husband listen when you talk to him?  How do you know he is listening?

 

Yes, he does.  Most of the time.  He looks at me, and says he understands, and gives feedback. 

 

I don’t have anything to say that he would want to listen to (unless it was about sex or the bar). 

 

Yes, he asks all the appropriate questions but then gets mad when I don't know all the details he desires in his answers (who, what, when, where, why...I just want to tell a story!). 

 

Yes, he listens, and I know he is listening because he talks back to me.

 

Yes. He sits down and gives me his full attention. He will ask questions and talk with me.

 

Depends on what I'm talking about; he always listens to serious issues as long as I'm not screaming it at him and sometimes we talk just to have simple conversation.  Also, it depends on when I'm talking to him. Long hard day at work forget about it; which I understand he just needs a break, that doesn't bother me much.  I love that we can still talk like good friends after 10 years of marriage.

 

He tries but often I find him drifting off to sleep, but this is after a long day at work away from home and I am alone all day and have to talk or burst.  So I appreciate the effort. Other times he listens fine and that is a comfort, as I do not want him to fix it, I just need to vent or have someone to listen to me & validate my feelings.

 

 

4. Are you happy with your marriage?  If you could change anything knowing what you know today, what would you do differently?

 

Yes I am very happy in our marriage.  I can't think of anything I would change.  I like the way things are.

 

No!  Marry a Christian or not get married at all.

 

Nope! I would not marry someone who does not the know the difference between lust and love.  It makes for an unhappy relationship when the passion wanes and he is just left with a real person.

 

I'm extremely happy with my marriage...everyone should be so blessed as we have been and hopefully continue to be!  It's hard to say what we would have done differently, maybe not imbibed so much of that phony submission crap; even though we didn't imbibe a lot of it, any amount of that false understanding was too much.  It's just another way of saying "subjection" not submission.  The whole concept belittles both men and women.

 

Yes. I am happy and would marry him all over again. I would speak the truth in love and not be afraid to speak up when I see something that is wrong.  I've been too afraid of his feelings, taking care of his feelings too much: so much so that I don't speak the truth in love and give him the opportunity to grow through the conflict.

 

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We've had our share of issues to work through and right now I'm just waiting to make sure they truly are resolved. It's been off and on being happy and unhappy through the years. Right now, things seem to be resolved and I would say I'm happy.

 

For the most part, I am happy with our marriage.  Considering we have been married 37 years we have both grown and matured and done much changing for the better. Let’s see what would I change? I would change the fact I thought I was the butt ugly urchin my brother instilled in me on a regular basis growing up. We were fatherless as he died when we were both babies.

 

I would change how I got married to: The both of us being saved and more mature and have a tiny clue of what we were getting into.  I would change us having no one to help us get thru difficult times.  I would change our drunken romance to a much longer & sober time to get to know each other and see if we were even suitable.

 

 

5. Do you respect your husband?  Why?  Why not?

 

I do respect my husband.  He puts his family, and me first above his needs. He's always thinking of us.  He treats me as his partner not as his slave.

 

No.  Would you respect someone who drinks and doesn’t have a good word for anyone?

 

I desire to respect him.  I know God commands me to respect him but my flesh struggles with giving respect when someone does not "deserve" it.  God tells me, just obey and trust me for the rest!  We live like strangers yet have raised four children because God is sovereign, gives me grace, and doesn't make mistakes. I keep my covenants, marriage being one.

 

I respect my husband more than any person I know, and he has proven to me that my respect is not wrongly placed.  He is the most honorable, trustworthy, good-hearted, honest, faithful person I know.

 

Yes.  Because he is willing to face his problems and work on them along with me.  It's not that someone has problems; it's what they do about them.  My heart soars when he is open, soft, and teachable.

 

In some ways yes, in other ways no.  He's a hard working, dedicated man not only to work but also to us and I respect and admire that greatly. He has also in the past had problems with anger and handling emotions. I find it hard to respect him when he's like that.

 

Yes and I honor him even though we are not either one perfect.  When I do not respect him is when he was young (and not perfected yet) he was not always honest in some small ways. One example is: he would want the boys to lie about their age to get them in an amusement park at a cheaper rate.  I do not like dishonesty and it made me wonder where else he was dishonest.  But it was a lifestyle from his upbringing and he did eventually change.

 

 

6. What criteria are necessary for a successful marriage?

 

Trust.  Communication.  Satisfying each other’s needs.

 

Respect, love, communication, & dedication 

 

Must be bases on a friendship! You have to LIKE each other’s company. Unselfishness works wonders too.  To put the other first and the marriage as a priority over all else except God.

 

Firstly, it helps to have compatible spiritual beliefs, but mostly I think you need to be friends and have a good sense of humor!

 

Commitment, transparency and openness, trust and loyalty and friendship and love/romance.

 

Love, acceptance, forgiveness, honesty, willingness from both partners to make it work, choosing to do what works over having to always be right, listening not just to the words that your partner is speaking but what’s behind those words. (Sometimes they sound angry because underneath they're hurt, frustrated, etc.), treat each other with thoughtfulness and kindness.

 

The ability to communicate well and to listen!  Mutual respect towards one another Know your mate and enable your mate to become all he or she is meant to be in Christ & be a team. Allow each other to be who we are in Christ and encourage our respectful gifts.

 

 

7. Please make any additional comments.  All survey responses are totally confidential and no personal info will be used whatsoever.  Also, if you are not comfortable with this survey, but would like to comment, I invite you to do so anonymously.

 

I think when I realized I should live for Christ, and my husband, more than my parents. Several years into our marriage things started becoming well with me.  My husband has always supported me in my decisions and allowed me to make my own decisions with his help if I needed it. He's just the best thing in my life besides Christ! 

 

Really, want to love my husband the way I should, but I have no respect for him.  I’ve been reading a lot of books about God.  My husband was drunk the other night and said that my reading those books is tearing us apart.  He asked me if I would stop reading and my answer was, “No!”  I will continue in my walk {with God} with my husband or without.  The ball is in his court.  I will not turn away from God just to appease my husband.  All I do is read, I don’t preach to him or to my kids.  I’m still learning myself, so I don’t know a whole lot.  If God chooses me to stay in this relationship, to carry this cross, I will do so.  I will also live alone if God so chooses.  I do love my husband, but not what he is doing to me, himself or God; with faith and prayers I’m sure he’ll come to realize that he is wrong. 

 

One thing I thought of later about what makes me feel loved is not only when he does projects for me, but also when he spends time with me and plans things for us to do together.  It’s also important to me that he values me as woman and values my opinion.

 

More importance needs to be placed on knowledge before marriage. Knowledge of yourself and why you’re getting married aside from the fact that you feel that you love them. Knowledge of the person your marrying, emotional baggage included, what makes them happy, what makes them sad, past life experiences, family background, etc. and what all that means for your marriage. How men and women are different, how they have different needs and desires. What each person expects that marriage to be like. (Although we should be marrying with more love and less expectations to begin with) It's a lot and maybe sounds longwinded but seems that so many people are jumping into marriage not knowing anything about it or thinking they know then finding out otherwise. Why wait until there's too much at stake, like your kids and then find out what you wish you knew back when. Maybe some people were fortunate enough to have had a good family background and someone in their family who knew enough to teach their children about marriage. I wasn't one of them. It all came the hard way and I know others that feel the same. There probably should be more pre marriage seminars or classes. Not to take something sentimental like marriage and turn it all technical but wouldn't we all like to have known when we started what we do know now. Not just simple basic marriage stuff but classes that cover everything from the emotional to the financial.  More instruction and training are required for a Driver’s License than is required for a Marriage license!

 

Husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church. And if you are clueless what that means please find out and implement each area with all respect and seriousness for your happiness and your home depend upon this one thing.   

 

Thanks sisters in Christ.  Husbands, if you’re wise, you’ll heed every word of criticism and praise these women of God said here.  I learned a lot, and am still learning!

 

 


Links to the Entire "A Little Chat with Husbands” Series:

Part 1

Part 2: My Husband is Always Angry at Me

Part 3: Pornography

Part 4: PMS and the Christian Husband’s Response

Part Five: Wives’ Survey

 


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