When His Thinking is Messed Up

March 10, 2014

in Uncategorized

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! “

Watching the game © Pzaxe| freedigitalphotos.net

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr Richard Norris March 10, 2014 at 3:35 am

I used to be that guy. Now I am less that guy. I realised a while back my wife has my best interests at heart and she sees things I don’t or won’t. I have learned to accept what she says and now ask her how I can improve. Progress is slow but I want to be the best husband and father for our family.
Dr Richard Norris recently posted…When It Comes To Doubt, I Don’t Believe ItMy Profile

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Paul Byerly March 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

What a blessing to have a wife who loves us and wants what is best for us.

Slow is okay – slow and steady wins the race!

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Steve Stamm March 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

I am reading a great book right now that I think might help this lady and others. “Boundaries in Marriage” by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Check it out! It is changing my way of thinking about this issue. – Steve

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Paul Byerly March 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

I’m a fan of the boundaries books when they are applied as written. I’ve see them used in ways Cloud and Townsend do not advocate – which is why so many men who have not read them have bad feelings about them.

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Steve Stamm March 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Yes, they warn about this in the book and I can definitely see where a spouse might misuse the “Boundaries” idea in a vengeful way, but then again, you can do that with the Bible! :) For me, I can see a great benefit in thinking the way that they teach you to think. The Boundaries approach has helped me to realize why there is so much conflict in my marriage and points to a way out that is not destructive. It is already paying dividends for me. – Steve

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Paul Byerly March 10, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Yes, we misuse all manner of things. I mentioned it because I find many people have had boundaries used wrongly against them, and too many wrongly assume that is the true message of the books.

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IntimacySeeker March 10, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I think that, generally, wives do not realize the power they have to turn their marriage relationships around. Not quite a year ago, I came to understand that sexual intimacy is much more than a physical need for my husband. It is the “language” through which he feels loved, respected, accepted, admired, approved, etc. He now knows that he will never be rejected when he initiates. I am now a safe place for him to share his feelings, his fears, his grief, his joy. He responds by going out of his way to verbalize his love for me and I feel treasured, cherished, honored, and respected. All because I chose to repent and do a 180! God is good!!!

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Paul Byerly March 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

When we meet our spouses deepest needs amazing things happen. To do that we have to see and accept the truth – both of which can be difficult.
Good for you for doing both those things!

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H October 25, 2015 at 7:05 am

I am more than happy to talk through our issues. Sometimes even arguments are necessary. However, I avoid any conflict at all now. Every time we argue about something, if it turns out I am wrong, all is fine. If she starts to think that she might be wrong, she gets even more angry. On more than one occasion she has packed a bag and driven off threatening divorce. She has always come back (so far) but I am in constant fear of her leaving for good. Tense discussions only ever have negative outcomes for me so why would I participate? It is safer to just do what she wants and hope for her to change. My job is stressful enough. I don’t need more at home.

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Paul Byerly October 26, 2015 at 4:42 pm

@H_I don’t know all the details, but it seems she has found a way to get what she wants. She has you at her mercy, and she knows it.
Paul Byerly recently posted…Take Back the Holidays… and Your Life!My Profile

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