What Does “He’s A Good Man” Mean?

This won’t apply to many of you, but you may have friends who are this way. This is a bit of a rant and a bit me asking for a clue.

What Does "He's A Good Man" Mean?

I recently saw a comment (not on this blog) where a woman said her husband was “good man” and then went on to talk about how he had no feelings for her, only cares about his own needs, and showed no concern for her feelings or needs. Basically, she said, “He’s a good man, but he’s selfish and does nothing for me.”

What on earth does the whole “good man” thing mean in this context?

I’ve seen this many times in comments and emails, and we’ve heard it from women we talk with. But I don’t hear men saying “She’s a good woman, but…” In fact, Google returns almost ten times as many hits for “he’s a good man, but” as “she’s a good woman, but”.

I’ve heard some pretty bad “buts” after “he’s a good man” – physical or sexual abuse of the wife, emotional abuse of the wife or kids, drunkenness, drug addiction, and so on. 

Can someone help me understand what “A good man” means and how this clause is supposed to modify the ugly stuff that follows it? 

~ Paul – I’m XY, and my wife is a good woman, with no but! (But a nice butt!)

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22 Comments on “What Does “He’s A Good Man” Mean?

  1. It means we aren’t supposed to say anything bad about our spouse, so we start with a disclaimer before getting things off our chest to soften the blow

  2. “He’s a good man but” is wishful thinking. We rationalize our behavior all the time. It is part of our psychology. By saying that He’s a Good Man we are rationalizing why we stick around, why we put up with the nonsense. If there wasn’t something good about our man and we haven’t been proactive apart from complaining, what does that say about us? If we say, “he is a man with problems”, what do we do to help? If we say “He is a terrible man” then why are we still living in the same building?

    It also means we want him to be a good man, that he is capable of being a good man and we are willing to stick it out until he is. Often a woman needs help to realize that her “good man” is not making any moves to be the man she hopes he one day will be, and that she needs to make different choices to stay safe and sane,

  3. Sure. My husband is a good man. He works very, VERY hard and provides very well for us, his family. He gave his life to Christ about ten years ago, and I know he has a strong prayer life. He tells me he prays for our marriage to be strengthened, and that I believe because he is sincere when he says it. He is honest in most areas (with the exception of saying things just to spare my feelings), and he is faithful in body (if not in mind, that I cannot know). He helps his mom out when she needs help, and recently spent countless hours upon hours at the hospital, helping her get through a health crisis. He s a good father to our sons, teaching them to work hard and be men. So he is a very good man.

    But, he’s not perfect. Any time I try to discuss painful things (like our lack of sex life and I beg him to tell me what it is that turns him off and what I should change) – he gets angry. And he is a screamer, just like his mom. So that stinks because we can never get to the root of any serious problem.

    And I am not enough for him. He does not find me attractive or have much of a sex drive when it comes to me. (And not that this should matter, but I’m not that old, I still have a decent figure, and objectively I’m not that bad looking.) BUT – I am not his type, and that is hurtful. He would never say that, but I see the women that catch his eye, and they look similar to each other, but not a thing like me. His low sex drive tells me everything I need to know about how he feels about me. I’m trying to take the advice of others and let it go and try to find my worth and identity in Christ. I know that’s right, but it’s hard.

    And I am by no means perfect, nor even close, (nor do I have a nice butt – which sounds like a joke but I know is actually a huge turn off, my lack of backside). I am not perfect in thoughts, or feelings, or attitude, and I do not think anyone would classify me as a “good woman.”

    However, your question was about a good man. So yes, I feel my husband is a VERY good man. I just wish he was a good man who loved his wife, didn’t get angry every time I ask him a question, would stop saying “I love you so much” if he doesn’t love me enough to want sex more than the obligatory once ever week or ten days, and had a bit more of a desire for sex.

    • As a man, this is exactly how I was going to describe the whole ‘good man’ thing. A good provider would be the first on my list. My sister is married to an alcoholic, but he also owns his own business and provides a very nice lifestyle for my sister and their boys. I can’t speak for their love life. Very good response to this post, B.

  4. Paul, I wonder if women making these statements are wrapped up so tightly in their co-dependency they can’t see the forest for the trees. Are they actually saying, “He’s a good man but doesn’t treat me well because I don’t deserve that and it’s my responsibility to fix him and I’ve failed at that and if I were a better wife he would behave differently…..”

    I also wonder if saying “He’s a good man….” helps us deny facing our own issues, especially asking why we thought so little of ourselves we married someone who abuses substances and/or people.

  5. Perhaps it’s used because after saying something which describes someone as anything BUT good we feel wrong for talking so negatively about them and therefore, by adding they are a good person eases our conscious for what might sound like knocking someone down, especially when it’s a spouse. Kwim?

    When I was in an abusive marriage I would often say this very thing — “…but he’s a good man” after crying to a friend or family member about something he had done.

    So why on God’s good earth would I add that? I was told over and over how wrong it was to ever ever ever talk badly about my husband and how what I went through was just my lot in life and to suck it up, submit more, respect him no matter what and know that one day I would receive an extra jewel in my crown because I stayed and endured. So he was a good man because I wasn’t allowed to say different.

    And perhaps adding that to the end of a sentence which described a man who was anything but good was a way to lessen what was really happening. In my case, I had things like “God hates divorce” wrongfully shoved down my throat so I would never even dare glance in that direction and therefore, I had to try hard to make what was so very wrong somehow ‘good’.
    And I didn’t want to be seen as just another disgruntled wife who was bashing her husband.
    Amy recently posted…A book reviewMy Profile

  6. It may depend on where the “good man” falls in the description. If we hear all negatives (he’s a complete rat) but then “he’s a good man” it sounds like (maybe justifiable) reproach but trying to find an excuse, for whatever reason, to stay in the relationship. But if we hear “he’s a good man” first followed by some (maybe justifiable) criticism, then maybe the relationship is basically solid but needs some help. If I’m described in the second way, I need to work on my relationship. If I’m described in the first way, I need some serious soul-searching about who I am.

    I hope all Christian men will earnestly seek God in this. The Bible says “there is no one good, not one.” Any good in me is there because of Christ. And as men called to be leaders in our marriages, we must not hide from the often terrifying truths about our own sin. Stop making excuses for being a rat, man up, and humble yourself before God and let Him change you.

    And women who are married to these “good men” need to earnestly seek help. No man who is abusive should be tolerated. If God can heal and restore your marriage, wonderful. But in the meantime, seek help and don’t let yourself or your kids be put in danger of abuse.

  7. I think for most women that means that they see the potential in their man and have an unfulfilled dream that they are clinging to. What they really mean is, “If only he could overcome this besetting sin of his and be the man I know that he can be, he and our life would be so good. I am waiting for that day to happen. I may be suffering in the meantime, but I promised to be in this for the long haul. I am supposed to help him. I will sacrifice whatever I can to see that this dream life happen some day. He can’t know how he hurts me or what he’s doing. I couldn’t love someone like I do who really felt about me like he seems to or cares so little about me. But if that’s true and he doesn’t love me, I’d rather be self-deluded than live with that deep level of pain and rejection.”

  8. @All – Thanks for all the thoughts, some great stuff there.
    IntimacySeeker hit on something I was thinking- “Are they actually saying, “He’s a good man but doesn’t treat me well because I don’t deserve that and it’s my responsibility to fix him and I’ve failed at that and if I were a better wife he would behave differently…..”
    I think “What I deserve” is a big part of this. It’s why so many put up with things in their marriage that are so wrong.
    I think a couple of folks mentioned co-dependancy. Yup, that’s got to be a big part of it.
    Paul Byerly recently posted…Better Date Nights: You Plan, She PicksMy Profile

  9. I’m thankful I can say my husband is a good man, and not add negatives to that. Sure, he’s not perfect, no one is, but we’re able to talk about our own and each other’s faults/flaws/problems, and try to support each other to work on them. I think you’ve gotten some great answers here Paul, answers that have actually enlightened me about my own gender’s use of this phrase. I don’t blame you for the rant though, because even as a woman I’ve askd this question of married female friends. Usually when I’ve heard women say it, it means a couple things. The primary thing I’ve heard it mean is, he’s a good provider, even if he doesn’t treat me well. I’ve also heard it mean something like, “Yeah our marriage is unhappy and he has all these problems, but he’s not physically or emotionally abusive, so as long as he’s not that, he still qualifies as a good man.”

    • In Fiddler on the Roof, the father wanted to marry his daughter off to the butcher because he would be a good provider. There is still this good provider=good husband. Some women are even more likely to tolerate a crummy husband so long as they have a more affluent lifestyle. Even I have noticed myself turning the other cheek when money was better and promises of more money were coming.

      It is similar to husbands saying they have a good wife because she is a great cook and housekeeper, but sexually absent. Or she’s all about sex, but spends money like a fool and barely takes care of the kids.

      What’s opposite of good? Bad. It is hard to label someone as bad. Perhaps we just need better adjectives.

      • @lib1 We don’t need better adjectives, we need the truth. “You provide for our physical needs but you treat me like a house maid. Or, You take good care of the house but you refuse sex.” Also, to whom is this being said? Is it to friends or family, maybe out of desperation, but actually a form of gossip? Or is it to a marriage counselor, hoping to get real help? Or is it actually to the spouse, speaking the truth IN LOVE, trying to turn the marriage around. If the truth is thought but not spoken, nothing can change. If the truth is spoken to the wrong people, it adds fuel to the fire. If the truth is spoken to the right people, in the right way, then real progress can be made.

        In my marriage, I was refused sex completely for several years. On my side, I had done very little to nurture my wife’s heart and connect with her emotionally. People would have described us as a “good” couple, not knowing the truth. I often thought about the truth of sexual refusal, but not saying anything just sent me into a self-pity spiral. I was having to deal with real threats to our marriage, like porn/masturbation, an affair, or divorce. Refusing all those, I actually brought up the subject to my wife, probably in what seemed to her a harsh way , but with the truth finally on the table, things began to change. She also spoke the truth to me about my neglect and how badly I had hurt her. But once the air was cleared, we were able to see that there was a lot of actual “good” in our marriage. And with God’s help, the rest has changed. I think the most important thing we learned was to not let things fester, but speak the truth to each other, early on and find healing.

      • @libl – “There is still this good provider=good husband.”
        I suppose if many husbands are not providing well it’s easier to excuse some clear problems from a man who does provide. And I guess the same would be true for any man who is better than the average, even if he still falls well short of what he should be.
        It’s sad when anyone thinks being better than average makes them a good pick!
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Are You in an Emotionally Abusive Marriage?My Profile

  10. libl says: “In Fiddler on the Roof, the father wanted to marry his daughter off to the butcher because he would be a good provider.” I refused to sing the lyrics in “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” during a concert last year “…he’ll beat you every night, but only when he’s sober, so you’re all right” as they are meant to be funny and taken lightly. When the only way a woman can have food in her belly and a roof over her head is to marry, even if that means tolerating abuse, that’s anything but funny.

    I think husbands and wives treat one another better when both know they can be financially independent if they choose to be. This doesn’t mean they threaten to leave whenever there is a problem, but she knows she is not trapped and he knows she is not trapped. Makes a big difference.

    • @intimacy Seeker. I disagree about the financial independence. The message that sends to me is “I’m keeping my options open.” Where is the trust and the oneness? Maybe in a marriage that is so far gone, that is a last desperate option. But it’s like a pre-nuptial agreement. It says “I do, but with reservations.” Surely there can be healing and restoration, but keeping one foot out the door, or keeping an escape hatch open sure doesn’t help matters. Besides, joint finances keep us accountable to each other.

      So many things I read on this site and others about troubled marriages really disturb me. If both spouses are Christians, they need to look to the real Healer. If only one is a believer, it underscores the scriptural admonition to not be unequally yoked. if neither one is a believer, I don’t know what to say. Without Christ, I don’t know what to do.

      • Well, there are also believers who really aren’t putting their faith first. Or second. What do you do with a believer who’s not that interested in obedience?

      • @Bobthemusicguy I appreciate your thoughts on this. First I’ll clarify that my husband and I have joint finances and do well with that accountability. I don’t see the option of financial independence as having one foot out the door. I see it as choosing to be married rather than having to be married. My husband knows I could manage well financially as a single adult. Therefore, he knows I am married to him because I choose to be, not because I need his financial provision. That makes for deeper oneness.

      • I have no job training, no college education. I am pretty much as worthless in the job market as a minimum wage teenager. I used to believe I didn’t need a career background because hey, I will be dependent financially on my spouse. And it did fuel codependency. It ensnared me and hurt us. When hubby couldn’t work due to illness, I couldn’t get a job to make up the difference. We had no income for many many months and are currently trapped in deep debt because of it. When hubby was behaving abusively and I was offered by our pastor a means to separate for a time, I had no way to support myself and our children. Thank God hubby responded to prayer and boundaries and things moved from abusive to sometimes difficult.

        I also worked myself sick at home to prove I wasn’t a leech and earn my keep. I still have no job training or college ed. Hubby doesn’t want to foot the bill or watch the kids or take on household chores so I can take classes, and I am worn thin enough with what I have to do here at home.

        There are no guarantees in life. Husbands die, cheat, leave, abuse, get ill or disabled. I recommend every spouse has a career to fall back on.

      • @Bobthemusicguy, surely you misunderstood what @IntimacySeeker meant by financial independence. She did a great job clarifying in her reply to you. The need for women to be financially independent really has nothing to do with preventing oneness. Like IntimacySeeker said, if anything, it helps create oneness by preventing a situation where one spouse is totally dependent on the other and can end up feeling trapped. Traditionally, men have been the financial providers for the family. As such, males have always had the freedom of knowing they could walk away and be financially secure if they found themselves in situation where separation became a necessity. Unfortunately, many women today still find themselves dependent on a man financially and stay in situations which are not healthy for them or their children.

        Marriage is a partnership where two people come together as one by bringing their unique gifts, talents, personality, etc. to the union. For some women, this means staying at home and taking care of the family. But, this decision shouldn’t come at the cost of a woman knowing she can survive financially on her own if she ever needed to do to divorce, illness, death or any other reason.

        I’m currently not working outside of the home, but there is comfort in knowing that if anything happened to my husband I could survive. I could go back to work tomorrow if necessary. This knowledge actually provides peace to my husband as well. He likes knowing I’d be able to support myself is anything happened to him. Or, that I’d be there to support him if he ever got ill or lost his job for some reason. All of our financial decisions have been made together as partners and have led to us both having financial independence. This brings us closer together and demonstrates our oneness because we care enough about the other’s well being to work hard to provide for our future together and make provisions in case something happens to either of us.

        • @libl, don’t sell yourself short. It’s clear from your comments, you’re intelligent and well spoken. You undoubtedly have skills you’re not even aware of that could earn you a decent living if needed. Figure out what you’re passionate about and find ways to pursue it. Even it’s just a hobby for now. Do research in your little bit of spare time. You’d be surprised what types of things people get paid top dollar to do these days!

          • @libl I wholeheartedly agree with K. She took the words right out of my mouth. You impress and inspire many here and you express yourself beautifully. Bless you!

  11. @Sunny-Dee. I wish there were easy answers for this and all of life’s challenges. But the truth is that in this fallen world, there is no easy way out. My wife’s sexual refusal didn’t authorize me to have an affair or seek out prostitutes because I felt that I deserved sexual happiness. I’m still answerable to a holy God. My heart breaks for those caught in these painful marriages. All the more reason for those of us in a better place to find those hurting, love on them a lot, mentor when possible, and pray, pray, pray. And I thank God every day for a wife who loves Jesus more than she loves me.

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