How should a wife handle disrespect in marriage?
More specifically, how can a wife find a healthy balance – accurately judge when she’s under-reacting or overreacting?
It goes without saying that husband and wife should respect each another. Mutual respect is a foundational element in a healthy marriage.
That said, the early days of marriage can come with a training curve; a sometimes-bumpy season of learning what is right, almost right and plain wrong. And how to fix it.
In this post, I am addressing wives in the early years of marriage, all though the same principles apply to older wives. I’m also addressing mild discourtesy that comes from personality differences, life experiences or just the newness of marriage itself.
I am not excusing disrespect from a husband or assuming the wife is responsible for fixing it. Our chat here doesn’t mean a disrespectful husband is acting right or he should be mollycoddled. Not at all.
Consider this post a chat between two friends who are married to overall healthy men; wrestling through a testy question, figuring out how we can better respond when we feel slighted. Not because we’re responsible for fixing our spouse or “we asked for it.” But because we also need to take responsibility for our own responses and hold our spouses accountable too.
Remember: in this post, we’re dealing with slight discourtesy and irritations in marriage. If you’re facing significant disrespect, 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.
Since she’s new in marriage, she hopes it will blow away by itself. She chooses to pray, walk on eggshells, “submit more,” while hoping he will change without having to make a big deal about it.
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.
Sometimes she feels slighted, like her husband doesn’t really understand how certain things make her feel.
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
For Christians, health and wholeness in Christ results in health and wholeness in the here and now of marriage.
If a man is not treating his wife well but claims Christianity, he’s first and foremost failing God who created marriage.
Now many healthy men will address this type of problem as soon as they are made aware of it. But some men will struggle. If he’s struggling to stop something that makes his wife sad, he has a broader issue, and that problem cannot be fixed by his wife doing more gymnastics.
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 – all though happiness very very good!
But these issues often reveal a deeper wrinkle in a man’s/woman’s relationship with God, trauma or blind-spots and until these broader issues are addressed, we might end up blowing smoke.
Once we see it this way, it also helps us see God as an ally.
2. Remember partnership
Common unfairness in marriage aka normal marriage problems are not a ticket out of all other responsibilities in marriage.
For the newlywed wife who dreamed of a perfect marriage union, it might be disconcerting when a husband doesn’t tickle all her bones.
The Bible paints a pathway when dealing with people who sometimes (not as a pattern) do us wrong. It’s filled with instruction on how to work through the complexities of relationships.
Relationships will not always be comfortable. We see that God has a lot to say about patience, perseverance, restraint, accountability and courage: it’s the currency of love.
If your husband doesn’t “get” what speaks respect to you right out of the gate, certainly he needs to work on that.
But alongside that, remember the normal stretching of marriage is not an automatic sign you made the wrong choice. If there’s empathy, mutuality, kindness and commitment to growth on both sides, (not just one side) it’s possible to work common marriage issues and thrive.
3. Guard against comparison
When you are married to an overall-healthy who takes responsibility for his issues for the most part but struggles sometimes, you might start to notice the more excellent neighbors.
Suddenly many of 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 apparently has it better than you do.
And at that point, it’s easy to feel more frustrated.
If you are feeling disrespected by your husband today, if he’s missing the mark sometimes, I want to you know that God does want you blessed and happy. No question that He desires healthy happy marriages.
But you need to know there are seasons when we rest despite the status of the marriage. We absolutely address issues, but we also guard against catastrophizing.
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. Later, after we cooled down, I brought it up. “I felt disrespected when you told me to leave the room. You treated me like a child.”
He looked at me, shocked. He didn’t remember the conversation in that exact manner. He remembered requesting, not demanding to give him space. Then he added, “If you didn’t want to leave the room, why did you?” Which was good question but it set off another set of emotions.
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, there’s a chance your husband is using a different filter, language, outlook. 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 brain worked then. (Of course, a much better approach would have been for him to excuse himself out of the room, not request me to. He and I learn a lot from hindsight!)
I on the hand grew up being bossed around by disciplinarian parents and older siblings and quickly resorted to childish hurts and reactions when triggered.
So be ready to figure out what’s actually going on.
5. Make a decision
What if he still doesn’t listen well?
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?
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 protect your health, without swinging to extremes (overreacting or under-reacting.)
Here are examples of possible resolutions
- When he runs over you during conflict.
You can decide to end such discussions until he can listen well. Ask that you both attend marriage therapy. Check out 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. If he’s an overall great guy who is unable to follow a strict “clothes in the bin” policy, you might have to make peace with the fact that you are the neat one in the relationship; if you want a tidy sparkling closet, it’s mostly on you.
- If he won’t protect you from his family.
If he thinks their jokes are harmless, but they are not, you can excuse yourself from gatherings where the jesting and jokes are likely to happen. You can create boundaries with him and his family. You can get individual therapy for yourself to help you figure out some healthy next steps.
The reason you make these decision is because small problems can become significant problems, and I am not talking about your husband’s issues.
My prayer is that your marriage will grow strong, on both sides. Meanwhile, there’s plenty you can do and that includes professional counseling with a licensed therapist.
Again, this post assumes a level of goodwill and empathy in both spouses, even where there’s discourtesy and tension. If your spouse doesn’t care for you or your feelings at all, if he engages in constant and unrepentant disrespect, you might be in an abusive marriage. Please see a licensed therapist who specializes in relationship abuse and trauma. Call the national abuse hotline and get to a safe place.
Related post My Husband Has No Respect For Me or My Feelings – 6 Things To Do
Helpful Resources for Individuals in Difficult, Abusive Marriages
If your spouse is toxic, abusive or chronically problematic, if they are engaged in unrepentant sin (repentance comes with fruit!) please get to a safe place and talk to a licensed counselor who is trained in relationship abuse and trauma. Talk to someone safe. Here are a few resources and websites to check out. You are not alone.
- Hope For Hurting Wives with MaryEllen Brean
- Flying Free with Natalie Hoffman
- Leslie Vernick
- Confusion to Clarity with Helena Knowlton
- Life Saving Divorce with Gretchen Baskerville
- Sarah McDugal
- Patrick Weaver Ministries
- Heather Elizabeth
- Betrayal Trauma Recovery
- To Love Honor and Vacuum with Sheila Gregoire
- Strong Wives with Bonny Burns
- If you’re in danger, call an emergency hotline in your country. Canada: 800.799.SAFE (7233). United States: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). United Kingdom: 08 08 16 89 111. Australia: 1800 015 188. New Zealand: 0800 456 450. Kenya: 0-800-720-072. Nigeria: 0800 033 3333. South Africa: 0800 428 428.