Last month I asked the men on The Generous Husband how often their thinking was influenced by Pride, Anger, Jealousy, Fear, or Competitiveness rather than Grace, Mercy, Love, Self-sacrifice, and What is best for others. A woman made the following comment on the post:
“I would love if you would address this wrong head topic in XY Code. I have many, many days where my husband is thinking by the first list. I try to be supportive, although I sure I am not always. But frankly, when he is thinking with that first list, I really just want to be someplace else and I feel very distant from him. If I try to say something, I get snapped at or he turns on football. That first list thinking has also led to a lot of very selfish behavior that he doesn’t even realize is selfish, because he cannot see himself or his actions objectively when he is thinking by the first list – which is completely understandable, but leaves me really feeling helpless and trapped. And, to the extent I do not feel close then it makes me far from interested in sex, which can really throw fuel on that wrong head fire! The Bible talks about confronting people in their sin. In my house, that does not go over well. So, if you have some pointers for us ladies about how to deal with our husbands when they are in the wrong head, I would appreciate it! “
I do not know this woman, or her husband, or the situation, so I cannot answer her exact issue. However, I can address the general issue as it often plays out.
If I talked to the husband of a woman feeling these things, he would see it differently. He would tell me she is always complaining. He would report he never gets to watch the game in peace. He might or might not own his selfish behaviour, but he would tell me all about her selfishness. He would complain she says no to sex, or says yes and just lies there. In reply to the comment about confronting people with their sin, he would ask who is confronting her about her sexual refusal. He would say he also feels helpless and trapped. Please note I am not saying he is right in these things; I am just giving the “other side”.
In such a situation who is right? Both of them, to some degree. Who is wrong? Both of them, to some degree. Both are hurting, and both are discouraged. Each can point to things the other has done wrong and things the other could do better. Each would probably admit they could do things better, but they find it difficult because of the situation. They are in a vicious cycle.
There are some gender differences at play here.
- Men want peace in their home. They “do battle” at work, they do not want to do battle at home. Anger is a good way to stop discussions. It is not real peace, but it is closer than another argument. Tuning out, by turning on the game for example, is another way to get pseudo-peace.
- Men can feel fine with a lower level of relationship than most women can tolerate. If he is okay with something and his wife is not, he will see it as her problem.
- For men sex is a way of connecting and feeling intimate. When sex is lacking, he feels disconnected from his wife. He also feels unloved and unwanted.
While husbands and wives both want a great marriage, their different priorities result in different paths. His path seems ineffective or painful to her, and her path seems ineffective or painful to him.
My advice here is going to be the same one I give men: The more mature person changes first.
That and a good deal of grace is the best way to help someone change. You can nudge a bit, especially to indicate the direction you want him to move. This is far more effective if you have moved in the direction he wants and have been offering plenty of grace.
I realise this is not what anyone wants to hear. (The men over on TGH certainly do not want to hear it!) The truth is few of us react well to our spouse telling us what we are doing wrong. Even if you are correct, he will not receive it well. He is more likely to hear what he needs to do from other men. Do whatever you can to encourage him to spend time with godly men, and particularly men with good marriages.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and often my wife was the more mature one.