Advice for wives in troubled marriages--and for husbands, too

Advice for wives in troubled marriages--and for husbands, too

Renee EllisonFeb 26, '23

Through the years, the great majority of married women in our culture have subtly shifted from viewing marriage as a gift to regarding it as a right.  Dr. Laura Schlesinger pounds this point home again and again in her radio show where she counsels countless struggling couples.  We must all never forget that someone else (including our spouse) doesn't have to love us; we must learn to make ourselves lovable or else we may find that our spouses and/or friends "walk".  Regardless of the other person's mood or modus operundus, we must make ourselves loveable—for those moments when the other person wants to love us.  This is our job; nobody else can do it for us.  Regardless of how the other person acts, it is healthy to ask of ourselves, "What kind of person have I become?"  Some believers (for example, Richard Wurmbrand, as described in his sobering but encouraging book, In God’s Underground) have remained loving even when they were kicked on the floor every day in prison cells or concentration camps.  Such martyrs had learned to turn a sweet spirit to the oppressor over and over again, while keeping their inner eye fixed upon the Savior who did the same, they became spiritually radiant through the practice of doing so.  They maintained personal dignity regardless of the behavior of the other guy.

The second point that Dr. Schlesinger makes over and over is that the weight of the relationship has to remain positive.  A couple can work through struggles yes, one little bit at a time—while keeping the bulk of the relationship worth coming home to.  People tend to remove themselves from relationships that have become a constant grind.  When that balance shifts and it all becomes negative, there is no incentive to want to continue working on any relationship.

Because of the roots of radical feminism a woman thinks that her perceptions are the only ones—but if you'll carefully watch the men in any room, church, or any social occasion—they do have responses.  You can see it in their eyes and facial expressions and actions—when they are quietly disgusted they may leave the room, for example.  But because men are far less articulate, in virtue of the fact that they have far less linguistic apparatus in the brain, they don't often translate those responses into lots of verbal communication. (For a humorous brief explanation of this, watch The Tale of Two Brains on YouTube.)   The entire female side of the realm thinks what exists in her mind only is what really exists in the marriage or in the business office or in politics.  What she forgets is that her domineering thinking leaves out input from half the species—all the men.  Just because the men are quiet doesn't mean they don't think, and don’t have strong opinions.  You have to get most men alone, and reduce the threat threshold to almost nil for him to open up and say what he really thinks.  A man will talk, but it has to be safe to talk to get at the real heart of the matter.

Sometimes a man under pressure from a linguistically domineering woman will behave poorly: he may lie; he may express anger toward her, he may escape her company as frequently as possible.  Why does he do so?  Why does he make agreements with her that he doesn't keep?  Why does he become angry with her?  It may well be because she has forced him to be someplace linguistically where he is not emotionally.  He has decided that to tell her the truth reaps him an entourage of words that he can't deal with.  He just isn't there, and he thinks he can't get there.  Further, all she does is bury his real response by her continued demands.  She isn't quiet long enough for his real self to come out.  She would be happiest if she just became a watcher of him, observing what paths he treads, and adjusting and adapting her words and actions accordingly.  She will not remake her man.  He feels held/trapped under a microscope of her ever-limitless (as it seems to him) expectations.  He may be thinking that if he told her what he really thought it would be too scalding for her.  He may be calculating that in the past she has perhaps shown him beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would not be open to such real input about herself.  Thus, burying his real perceptions becomes for him a better solution.

It is likely that the man in this situation has become very agitated about some dynamic between the two of them, but he thinks he can tell nobody without getting volumes of future reprisal for having said anything, or for not having said the right thing, so instead he copes by acting out in anger—which is perceived as erratic, without cause, and mean and selfish.  If he had utter confidentiality—purchased by visits to a Biblically-based marriage counselor, perhaps, the root would come out, enabling him to really work through it at his pace, given his psyche.  Slowly, safely, and incrementally the problem could be worked out over time.  At this point he is just fighting to get out of the rapids.  He may think the only way out is death or divorce.  Tons of couples think this.  But there is a huge avenue of professional Biblical counseling available that can help anyone through anything.  Most problems are so universal, it comes as a shock to the counselee to see "I'm not the only one; there is a way to restore this relationship!

The wife in a troubled marriage is mistaken if she thinks she can hammer out reform.  What she doesn't realize is how complex the psyche is, how profound the background that created the problem is, and the possibility that some problems may not ever change.  Just like a person with a physical handicap cannot walk out of a wheelchair, there are some mental problems that people can be equally handicapped with.  In such a case, the other person must just resort to loving in spite of the realities.

What can help a man in a troubled marriage?  Perhaps his most significant misunderstanding is that he hasn't fully grappled with the fact that a woman is first, middle and last a hopeless responder.  Despite her determinations to be more loving next time, she will end up only responding to what he is giving out.  When he doesn't give her love, when it doesn't come her way, she responds to its absence.  In this response, she is fully responding to his lack of love, as all women naturally, biologically do.  She won't give up telling him about how he has hurt her in the past, because she has been given no steady confidence that he gets it.  There are no assurances coming from him, so she goes ballistic with that message—wondering what is this relationship.

Whether he realizes it or not, a man makes his own soup in his own marriage.  A woman who has been loved over a lifetime will have a sweet confident repose next to her man.  A woman who is unsure of her man's love will look haggard in her old age.  The man makes his wife beautiful or ugly, and consequently he makes his whole married life beautiful or ugly.  It is his doing.  This is what Rabbi Arush’s book, The Garden of Peace, teaches a man.

Divorces make one's life far messier, despite the devil's invitations.  Whole books have documented the "afterwards" of such decisions, and they aren't pretty.  Fight for a great, loving, respecting, marriage.  The alternative is worse.


For a practical, concise and lively further discussion on this topic, read the book of Wise Womanly Ways to Grow Your Marriage.

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