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(This article is not for marriages where abuse is happening. If a spouse is abusing the other one, it may be a crime, and you must contact the civil authorities, as well as your church leadership.)
If a husband experiences transformation into a person who can practically live out the Bible while serving his family in doing the same, in most cases, the family will follow him in his gospel-centered applications.
My counseling experience supports this perspective. I would have to rack my brain to think of a situation where a woman refused to follow a humble, Christlike man. Though there may be outlier wives, the percentages are quite low within the Christian community.
The wives in more than ninety-five percent of the couples that I have counseled were willing to follow their husbands when their husbands chose to follow Christ. You should expect this kind of submission, which is why I appeal to men more than women when it comes to sanctification within the family construct.
Then there is the exception. Sometimes you will run across the mean wife. The husband may not be perfect, but you get the sense perfection is not what would change her. She is just downright mean, snarky, unforgiving, and generally hard to love.
A key for the husband to remember is that the things currently wrong inside of her heart did not begin when she married him. She brought the baggage of her life into her marriage.
People do not “turn mean” in an instant any more than a stalk of corn magically appears on a summer day. For the cornstalk to pop through the soil, there have to be many days of “quiet growth” (John 12:24).
More than likely a mean woman thought marriage would rectify or at least help some of her pre-existing problems. There is always a history of wrong attitudes and expectations that predate anyone’s current meanness.
Things like fear, discouragement, insecurity, patterns of justifications and rationalizations, anger, dissatisfaction, and illogical thinking are some of the culprits that can captivate a mean wife’s thought life.
The way for you to discern these culprits is to observe (1 Peter 3:7) and categorize (John 2:24-25) her current behavior. Whatever she is doing in the marriage has a long tail, which goes back to her childhood and teenage years. Here are a few examples of a mean wife. These mean attitudes and behaviors are rooted in her past.
You get the idea. In these five characteristics, you see blaming, insecurity (fear), criticalness, self-righteousness, idolatry, anger, materialism, and self-centeredness.
These things did not appear in her heart after your wedding day. She had a pre-existing condition. It is vital for you to discern and identify her past “sin constellation” so you can help her change.
When a person sins against another person, there is no excuse and no right option but for the culprit to repent. If she does not change, you need to try to help her according to how you have identified her past problems.
The key for you is to think redemptively. Rather than responding with “fire-for-fire,” you need to ask yourself if you are going to cooperate with the Lord by coming alongside her to love her into change (Luke 10:33). Who knows, perhaps the Lord will grant repentance to her (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
Too often the husband gets ticked-off at his wife because she is not meeting his expectations, and he is right: she is failing. Regardless, somebody is going to have to act like Jesus in the marriage (John 14:6). This problem is a beautiful opportunity for the husband to lead her by cooperating with the Lord in the restoration of his wife (Galatians 6:1-2).
What Is the Orientation of Your Home?
You cannot make her happy because that is not her main problem. If she is mean to you, she needs to experience God redemptively, rather than you feeding her addiction to her cravings.
She needs Jesus more than she needs you. Ultimately, that is where she will find satisfying happiness (Deuteronomy 33:29). To soothe her by any other means is to set up a “functional god” in her life. Everybody has a God (god); it is either the Lord or something we created as a God-replacement.
We find true happiness when we are fully satisfied in God alone. Any other attempt to find solace for the soul is an insatiable pursuit of the elusive pot at the end of the proverbial rainbow. There is no hope or help in those endeavors.
If you try to become the source of her happiness, you will have to meet all of her expectations, and when you do not come through according to her desires, she will critique you as a failure, and there will be repercussions. The difference between a god of her making and the true and living God are matters of control, authority, and submission.
Because she is looking to you as the primary source of her happiness, she is trying to control you, have authority over you, and she will not submit to you or God. If she chooses to submit to the Lord, she will have to give up these idols–control, authority, and submission.
The angry wife is an idolator, looking for whatever means she can find to satisfy the longings of her soul. The reason she lashes out at you is that you are the only viable option. She needs a target for her bitterness.
A trap that predates you has caught her, and she will blame you for what is going wrong. This predicament reminds me of the snarky comment Martha made to Jesus when she wanted her brother healed.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” – John 11:21
Sometimes your wife will say unkind things. It is imperative in those moments that you keep the big picture in mind:
If you do not guard your heart, you will take it personally and snap back at her. This approach will never work, which you already know. An “eye-for-an-eye methodology” is old school. We live in another day.
She does not need your punishment, but your Christlike example. If you do sin back at her, you will be just like her. And if you are mean to her, she will be your functional god, who did not come through according to your expectations.
One of the things that surprise me about how people process marriage conflict is they do not have a practical awareness of the doctrine of sin. Sometimes in counseling, I want to stand up and ask, “What did you expect?”
I am not sure if we are naive, dense, dumb, absent-minded, or blinded by our cravings. We live in a sinful world. People sin. This characteristic is the one thing that we all do swimmingly well. Sin is my greatest strength, which I have been trying to put to death since regeneration. As of this morning, it is still not dead.
The gospel-centered husband perceives this “Adamic problem” and can set aside his agenda to serve his wife. He is viewing things from a different perspective. He does not take it personally but understands the true nature of the situation.
We see this need for a God-centered perspective in the Old Testament where Samuel ran up against some selfish people who did not like his ideas.
Samuel went into self-pity mode and had to be corrected by the Lord. Samuel took it personally. He had a good idea, and he thought everyone would be onboard. When they did not cooperate, he was discouraged.
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:7
Dear brother, your wife is not rejecting you, but she is denying the Lord. When we sin, no matter who we are directing our sin toward, ultimately we are rejecting the Lord.
The selfish Israelites launched their disappointment toward Samuel, even though it was not about Samuel. Samuel was only an advocate for the Lord. Advocacy is part of the job description of a husband.
God has called you to love, learn, and lead your wife. You are doing the Lord’s work. You must never forget this objective. If you get caught up in what you are not getting and toss a grenade in her direction, there is no hope for your marriage.
But if you will allow the Lord to correct you as he corrected Samuel, your perspective will change, and He will give you the grace to serve your wife, hopefully helping her to experience complete restoration to the Father.
The biggest question you will have to answer is why God brought you into this marriage. Suppose what I have said is true and your wife closely fits within the framework of this article.
If these things are real, you have to wonder why in the world our Sovereign Lord brought you two together. It is a thought worth pondering, and the Scriptures do not leave you scratching your head on such matters.
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14
May I speculate with you? Is it possible the Lord knew the soul-condition of your wife before you ever met her (Jeremiah 1:5)? Is it possible His desire has always been for her to find satisfaction in Him alone (John 4:14)? Let me further speculate.
Is it possible the Lord brought you into this marriage for such a time as this? We do not serve a haphazard, “catch-as-catch-can” God. He is a premeditative God. He can think of the future (Ephesians 1:5). Sometimes He “prepares suffering” for us because He is working a higher purpose in our lives. Are you in faith to serve this kind of God?
All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. – Exodus 1:5
God placed Joseph in Egypt so he could receive the people who needed his help. Through the means of disappointment and broken dreams, Joseph was put in Egypt to steward an opportunity that was coming in his direction.
Are you willing to become God’s man for your wife so you can lead her out of her bondage? You have a choice: you can act similar to your wife by becoming just as snarky, demanding, and mean as she is or you can choose to endure the current suffering because you have a future vision of what pure joy could be like in your home. (See Hebrews 12:2)