Submission is about outcomes, not about input. A wife needs to communicate openly, frequently and honestly with her husband. What he does, how he responds, is his story, but she is to give input. She is not to argue, only to simply state the scriptural principle that she thinks is being violated, and then quickly return to loving him, with no expectations. She is to let her husband know that his behavior is having such and such of an emotional impact upon others in the house, which he may be clueless about. She can say “That statement hurt,” and then quickly return to treating him with respect as if the incident never happened (no brooding, and no letting a root of bitterness develop). She could also say, “We feel abandoned by your _____ [golfing, web surfing, studying, preoccupation with work—whatever it may be]; could we talk about that? You might not be aware of how this is affecting us. Perhaps we could arrange a time when you could connect with us and then you could go back to [whatever he feels he must spend considerable time doing]. We don’t need much, but we do need some.”
The man may have every right to his focused activity, but he needs to know that if his wife and children could count on his relating to them every so often—for example, that he would spend ten minutes connecting with them relationally, hugging them, manifesting interest in their interests, etc., it would represent the heavenly Father (the caring shepherd) to them and as a result, would make the family bond more with him. If he chooses not to, he needs to know that he puts them at risk of looking to find their emotional needs met somewhere else.
If he does not change, then the wife needs to do some cheerful self-management and not sulk and not to feel oppressed. No one makes us unhappy—we allow it. We can be fearless in our own homes and be cheerful in the Lord’s tender companionship all the day. “Perfect love casts out fear.”
A godly wife can live with even an “impossible” husband, by making positive spiritual choices. She can carry inner thoughts like “I’m divinely picked to represent the Father’s steady love to him.” Or, “There are reasons he acts like this, perhaps stemming from his early background and training. I will lovingly and steadily pray for his healing. I will model the Lord’s nature to him.” No doubt, this is a big job for the wife, but it is one that will bring about her own sanctification, changing her complaining about him into working hard on herself. Or she can think an uplifting thought like: “This is an exciting challenge that the saints of old have also encountered with other ‘impossible’ people and have found victory. They learned to deepen their relationship with the Lord via the struggle. I shall choose to do likewise!”
Andrew Murray (1828-1917) wrote (On Prayer), “Holy love bears with the most disagreeable for Jesus’ sake…the most trying and unlovable.” And, “It is possible to see the will of Him in everything and to receive it not with sighing but with singing.”
For more on this topic, read our short eBook of 7 Womanly Secrets to Marital Harmony, and How To Resolve Marital Conflicts Happily, and/or order the full book of Wise Womanly Ways to Grow Your Marriage (it includes the content of the first eBook but not of the second).