“How to be a good wife to a bad husband” is one of many search phrases bringing people to this website.
A search phrase is what you type into your search engine’s search field to look up ideas online.
Before we look at how to be the most-splendid wife to the most-unsplendid spouse, let me point out that I’m going off some assumptions. I’m assuming that a good marriage is the goal.
That she wants to know how to love well so her husband can become a good man and together they can have a good relationship. I’m supposing the overall goal is a healthy, happy marriage. Or at least a marriage that does not hurt.
Contrary to assertions that women can put up with just about anything, women don’t like hell. If they find themselves in nightmarish conditions, they want it to stop. If it’s a relationship, they want change.
For some, becoming pieces of “heaven” in their hell is how they hope to inspire their environments to become healthier. So being a good wife to a bad husband becomes just doing your part to change the trajectory of the marriage from bad to good.
How to Be a Good Wife to a Bad Husband – The Reality
Here’s the reality piece.
Marriage was not designed to operate on the goodness of one spouse. The relationship does not function as it’s meant to when it relies on the decency and kindness of one individual.
When only one person is doing the actual work of being a good spouse, utter exhaustion and depletion will follow. The harm is multiplied when the “bad spouse effect” is factored in.
Marriage was not designed to thrive or even exist where badness is embedded in its DNA.
There’s a chance women are searching for “how to be a good wife to a bad husband” because they were told it is possible. They were told we can love hardened people to wholeness. That you just need to love their hurting parts, and gradually, they’ll heal and stop being bad.
Or perhaps women are searching “how to be a good wife to a bad husband” because someone told them they need to persevere and do the work, and their spouse will see their extraordinary efforts and become motivated to be a good husband.
In the Christian faith community, particularly evangelical and conservative circles “bad” or “hard” in marriage is often presented as standard, something women should accept, even delight in.
How can I be a Good wife to a Difficult Husband?
Many Christian teachings present men as an entirely different species, one that ogles, lusts, is disconnected, immature, lazy, and that’s just how they were created.
Women are told men are superior by God’s design, that they should submit unconditionally and celebrate that.
Men who believe they are decent fellows still have to explore how they may have internalized male entitlement, pride, and immaturity.
When men embrace toxic teachings or remain resistant to growth, the result is women googling “how to be a good wife to a bad husband.” Searching because they have been conditioned to be saviors, mothers, and policewomen to their husbands.
To The Wife Exploring How to Be a Good Wife to a Bad Husband:
Content Warning: safety in marriage.
Safety is an essential component of any healthy marriage. Healthy relationships are not just safe; they feel safe.
It’s true that even in healthy marriages, there can be seasons of “tense” or “hard” as you work through growth-related issues or face storms together e.g., job loss, childlessness, or grief after losing your mom.
But “hard” in marriage is not being scared of your husband. It’s not being terrified about what you’ll find in his phone or computer search history. It’s not anxiety every month because you’re not sure there’s money to cover food and rent because he tends to spend it all.
Healthy relationships are safe.
- You should not be jumping when you hear his keys rattling at the door or steps as he walks into the house. You should not be wondering what mood he’s in and how you’ll adapt to accommodate it.
- You shouldn’t be watching your words – in the sense of fear, not healthy respect – always looking for the best words to use so as not to tick him off (although he gets ticked off anyway, no matter what you say and how carefully you say it.)
- Your life shouldn’t feel like a circus: one moment calm or happy – he’s nice, even loving – and the next the bottom falls out – he’s mean, manipulative, biting, bullying, betraying, deceptive, abandoning. If you were to chart your relationship, you shouldn’t have “ups” and downs that are almost predictable in their occurrence, where you see patterns, not one-offs.
- You shouldn’t be running everywhere, trying to smoothen everything and everyone, so he’s not inconvenienced by yourself, kids, life.
- You should not be living with cold fingers of dread-mixed-with-shame wrapped around your heart because you know the perversion in his soul.
- You should not be living with the pressure of acting one way in private and another in public to “cover” for him or pretend things are fine.
- You shouldn’t be crying rivers in a church service and having him “comfort” you, playing the great husband in public, only for him to chastise you for “embarrassing” him in public once you get home.
How to be a Good Wife to a Bad Husband: What I’m Saying
A healthy marriage should not feel like eggshells and little deaths. It should not suck the life out of you and do nothing while you’re collapsed on the ground, begging for help.
Marriage should feel like goodness, dignity, fidelity, loyalty, safety, mutuality, fun. These are not lofty concepts or something you should be begging for or something you should be scolded for desiring.
These are relationship basics. And you deserve them all. You deserve safety, goodness, and peace of mind because that’s what a good marriage offers.
Spouses don’t act good to stop bad. At least they shouldn’t. They act good because they are good, and their good is being reciprocated. When their good is not returned, they are not obligated to keep dishing out the best parts of themselves to someone who throws it back to their face and harms.
You deserve to receive the bare minimum in your relationship, what you yourself are offering. In other words, “how to be a good wife to a good husband” is what should be loading your search box.
You deserve to be safe and loved, and when that’s not coming to you, when you are begging and pleading and dying, and that desire is being thrown back at your face, boundaries to protect your well-being is your reasonable option.
(Ps: Spouses in harmful marriages might need to “act” good to regulate their harmful spouse’s behavior and, in that way, stay safe. Sometimes that’s the best and safest option. It is also true that regulating another person’s emotions and behaviors is more of a survival strategy than a long-term solution. The best case scenario is “be a good wife” in the short term as you explore your options.)
A Word to the Bad Husband
Bad husbands will probably not read this post, but this is for his wife: your bad husband needs to figure out how to be a good and safe man.
His intentions and journey and even long-term fruit do not guarantee he’ll have a marriage at the end of it. It does not guarantee you’ll feel safe or promptly dive back into the bits and buts of married life.
Misty Terrell, author of Rise Heal puts it this way:
“The motivation of a man in true recovery is not to save the marriage, to save his reputation, to save his kids, to save his title, etc. You already lost that when you chose to break your covenant. You make amends not to win others over, but to align your soul with the heart of God.” Please read the rest of her words: Dear Men in “Recovery
Per chance the bad husband is actually a decent fellow with a heart for fairness and empathy, but he is struggling with some behavior/mindset issues – and wants to overcome those: – he needs to figure out how to be a good and safe man.
“Decent” husband, if your wife is googling how to be a good wife to a bad man, you have failed her. You can start your journey of becoming a better man here.
(My opinion is that women searching how to be a good wife to a bad husband are dealing with negative life-impacting patterns, not one-off, minor occurrences.)
How do You Deal with a Bad Husband? The Lie of “Balancing The Good”
One spouse’s goodness cannot balance out the bad of their partner. You can’t be a good wife to a bad husband. You can try, but the reality is, you can’t good-wife your way to a good marriage.
Your husband needs to be a good man, and you need to be a good woman so together you can create a good marriage.
An Extra Note: If you’re searching “how to be a good wife to a bad husband” there’s a chance you’re trying to figure out how to survive in chaos or confusion. My heart breaks for you.
I focused on the “good wife” part and how it’s impossible to pretzel yourself to “good” when immersed in bad. It is true you can be a wife to a bad husband. You are. I just don’t think you can be a good wife in the sense of bringing all of your healthy self into that marriage and have marriage thriving as a result.
When your desires are unnoticed, resisted, or shredded, it’s difficult to flourish in those circumstances. So I don’t think you should feel pressured to be this amazing woman to a man who treats you badly.
You do what you can. You stay safe. And you also process that your circumstances are not typical, that marriage ought to be good and decent and mutual. So you protecting your emotions, mind, and body from his bad and harm is a healthy, godly step.
Continue reading: Being a good wife cannot fix a bad husband
Question: If you’re on the other side and looking back, what would you advice a woman searching “how to be a good wife to a bad husband?” What do you wish you knew sooner (if you can discuss it publicly?)
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