How should a wife handle disrespect in marriage?
More specifically, how can a wife figure out a healthy balance – accurately judge when she’s under-reacting or overreacting to disrespect?
It goes without saying that husband and wife should respect one another. Mutual respect is a foundational element in any healthy marriage.
That said, the early days of marriage come with a training curve; a sometimes-bumpy season of learning what is right, almost right and plain wrong. And how to fix it.
As always, in this post, I am addressing wives in the early years of marriage, all though the same principles apply to older wives. And I am not victim-blaming – I hope you’ll see that as we go on.
Wife, I am pretty sure your husband has some growing to do: my chat here doesn’t mean he’s acting right.
Consider this post a chat between two friends; wrestling through a testy question, trying to make sure we are dealing with the possible log in our own eye and figuring out how pride plays into our responses and how we can better respond when we feel slighted.
If you’re facing significant disrespect (not a slight discourtesy, the focus of this post,) please read this post My Husband Has No Respect For Me or My Feelings – 6 Things To Do
Let’s start by looking at two extremes when you feel “my husband doesn’t respect me.”
The under-reacting wife
She’s married to a man who seems to have it together on the outside, but in the privacy of their marriage, he’s mean and a bully.
The overreacting wife
She’s newly married and to a good man. At least most of the time, she thinks he’s good. But he also displays a lack of courtesy for her feelings and views, especially in stressful situations.
She feels slighted and cheated. She’s beginning to panic, wondering if his sometimes cavalier dismissive attitude is tantamount to abuse.
In this post, I am dealing with the second instance where a wife feels like she deserves more in the face of a husbands disrespect (and she does of course.)
If your marriage is in the first category, I have another post for you; please read it now.
So let’s dive into the thoughts – what to do/remember when you feel my husband doesn’t respect me.
1. Remember the goal
The big goal is health and wholeness in Christ.
But when marriage hurts, our typical response is to do everything to end the hurt – avoiding hurt becomes the all-consuming goal.
However, there’s a higher goal when it comes to wholeness in marriage, and that’s wholeness and health in Christ. If a man is not treating his wife well, it means he’s first and foremost failing God who gave him that mandate.
If he’s struggling to stop something that makes his wife sad, he has a broader issue, and that problem cannot be fixed by more tears, or anger or pride.
Taking this high road helps us put everything in its proper context; disrespect (and other marriage issues,) aren’t just issues to be fixed so we can be happy.
The reveal a deeper wrinkle in a man’s/woman’s relationship with God, and until these broader issues are addressed, we are blowing smoke.
Once we see it this way, it also helps us see God as an ally.
We see His closeness, and we are then able to pray “Lord help my husband love and honor you first. It’s the only way He will know how to love and honor me.” Instead of the more simplistic “make my husband respect me so I can be happy.”
2. Do your part
Unfairness in marriage is not your ticket out of your responsibility. Ouch.
We live in a world that believes in being treated right and taking appropriate action when it deems a wrong has been committed.
“One more aggravating thing out of your mouth and I am off to my parents” “One more (insert issue) …and you can kiss sex goodbye for ten weeks.”
Our world, yes even us Christians, relish punishment, broadcasting issues, shaming the guilty or a total walk-out when we feel slighted.
For the newlywed wife who dreamed of a perfect marriage union, a husband who doesn’t tickle all her “respect” bones is too much to bear.
But the Bible paints a different pathway when dealing with people who treat us wrong. It’s filled with instruction on how to live with difficult people and how to work through the complexities of relationships.
In the real Christian world (not the culturally-relevant comfort-first faith we’ve become accustomed to) there’s far less self-preservation and more suffering in relationships. (PS. I am not talking about accepting abuse in marriage.)
For example, Romans 12:9-21 says
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,“I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Loving those who don’t love you – Matthew 5:46
Correcting a fellow believer: Matthew 18:15-17
Self control and kindness 2 Timothy 2:23-26
The greatest is love 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
We see that God has a lot to say about patience, perseverance, restraint, and courage; it’s the currency of love.
If your husband is not sweet, if he doesn’t “get” what speaks respect to you, certainly he needs to work on that.
But remember that suffering is not a sign you made the wrong choice, and it’s not a ticket out of your personal responsibility.
3. Guard against comparison
When you are married to a man who isn’t 100%, it’s most likely you’ll start to notice your more excellent neighbors.
Suddenly all the men in the church are opening car doors for their wives. Sappy marriage stories blow up your Facebook timelines all day every day. The world gangs up to remind you how everyone has it better than you.
And at that point, it’s easy to despair. You feel angrier, more petulant, fearful. And these things snap and kill any good attitude and your faith.
If you are feeling disrespected by your husband today, I want to you know that God does want you blessed and happy. No question that He desires healthy marriages.
But you need to know there are seasons when joy comes in spite of the marriage. Times when you will sing about the goodness of God when none is coming from your man.
I know it’s hard to think of marriage that way.
But if you are going to create a joyous marriage in spite of the ups and downs (and everyone goes through ups and downs, you are not special) you are going to have to raise your eyes a little higher.
4. Educate him
Your husband might not be aware you feel disrespected by his action/inaction.
One time as newlyweds, my husband and I were in a heated discussion when he, right in the middle of the conversation, stopped and asked I leave the room.
I was outraged. But oddly enough, I stood up and walked out. Later, after we cooled down, I brought it up.
“I really felt disrespected and rejected when you told me to leave the room. You treated me like a child.”
He looked at me, surprised. He remembered asking, not demanding. Then he added, “If you didn’t want to leave the room, why did you?” He set off another volley of emotions, but I’ll spare you the details.
Bottom line here’s something worth looking into; before you decide my husband doesn’t respect me, perhaps you need to round back to these instances and figure out what he really means.
Since we bring two different life views into the marriage, it’s likely he’s using a different filter. Once you circle back, be ready to wrestle and talk it out because many of these filters have a long history attached to them.
My husband didn’t see anything wrong with asking me to give him space because he believed I could say no if I didn’t want to. It’s how his guy-brain works.
I on the hand grew up being bossed around (disciplinarian parents and last-born of nine kids) and quickly resorted to childish hurts and reactions when triggered.
So be ready to figure out what’s actually going on. And who needs to change.
Wrestling with early marriage challenges? Wondering how to influence your “imperfect” husband and overcome hurdles? My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years might help! Start your journey here!
5. Make a decision
What if he still leaves his clothes on the floor instead of the bin? What if he doesn’t defend you when his family throws jokes and barbs at you. What will you do?
Will your marriage end? Will you barricade yourself in a pit of reactions and despair?
It’s a hard pill to swallow, all these (potentially) disheartening realities of married life. But you are not without options.
There are steps you can take to nudge your marriage towards health, without swinging to extremes (overreacting or under-reacting.) You can find a healthy balance.
Here are examples of possible resolutions
- When he runs over you during conflict.
You can decide to end such discussions until he regains control and can listen. See this post: how to set limits with a difficult spouse .
- Not picking after himself.
Put a bin somewhere closer to the door of the bedroom, or wherever “the trail” begins. Find ways to make it easier for you to maintain order and tidiness.
Of course, a bin is no guarantee he will actually drop the clothes inside. Therefore you might have to make peace with the fact that you are the neat one in the relationship; if you want a tidy sparkling home, it’s mostly on you.
- If he won’t protect you from his family.
If he thinks their jokes and barbs are harmless, but they are not, you can talk about it and excuse yourself from gatherings where the jesting and jokes are likely to happen.
The reason you make these decision is because small problems grow to become significant problems, and I am not talking about your husband’s issues.
You alone decides what to do with the little foxes running in your heart. (Song of Solomon 2:15) Small offenses, if not nipped, tend to multiply.
In fact, they become a magnet, attracting other debris in the universe of your marriage and your entire marriage becomes train-wreck looking for a place to happen.
So consider this – if your husband won’t change, who else is left but you? You don’t have to suffer in silence; you can do something about it. But don’t swing to extremes because there’s a lot of room in-between.
My prayer is that your marriage will grow strong, on both sides.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty you can do to get it there, and that includes mentor help or counseling, which I didn’t include in this post because it’s obvious.
When you can’t solve something between the two of you, invite outside help.
But overall, don’t check out of your marriage because anger and pride got in the way. Spend a few minutes with God every day, be a little courageous and see what God can accomplish through a wife who is grace-filled, bold and intentional.
What do you think? I know I haven’t covered everything – I would love to hear your thoughts. Lets chat in comments!