Do you feel like you’re losing your self-respect in marriage because of what your husband is doing?
Ever feel like a doormat?
Too many of us allow us to become doormats in our marriages.
I know several women whose husbands are unhappy in marriage. Their husbands blame the wives for everything, but are unwilling to do anything to grow the marriage (date nights, counseling, even just communicating). They won’t tell their wives what the real issue is. Instead, they act miserable, constantly threaten to leave, and even text other women or flirt with other people.
The wives are so petrified the husbands will leave that they turn themselves inside out to try to make sure that there is nothing in their behaviour that the husband could object to.
This isn’t a gender thing–I know women who have done the same thing to their husbands. But in the two relationships I’m thinking of right now, it’s the husband who is threatening to leave. In one case, he circles apartments in the “To Rent” section of the newspaper. He leaves budgets for two households lying around. And his wife is terrified.
Now, I have spoken at length in this blog about how you have to learn to show your spouse love in their language, and how we need to make sure that we are loving our spouses, even if they are not showing us love. But that does not mean that I think we should be doormats or lose our self-respect.
My mother, for instance, when she was married, tolerated really horrible behaviour on the part of my dad, because she was so scared of being left alone. And in the end, all that bending over backwards did absolutely nothing. She has since become such a strong, wise woman of God, so God brought tremendous good out of a bad period of our life. But looking back, she wishes she had more backbone.
When you bend over backwards and try so hard to become what the other person wants, you cease being yourself.
You’re not looking to be what God wants you to be; you’re looking to be what you think your husband wants you to be, and those are not necessarily the same thing.
A truly intimate marriage relationship is based on two individuals who can cling to each other, confide in each other, talk to one another, and feel like partners. If you don’t feel like your husband’s partner, but instead feel like his maid or his slave or even his mother, then you’re not building a good marriage. You’re pushing him farther away from real intimacy.
The whole way we do marriage counseling is backwards, because in the vast majority of troubled marriages, only one person is willing to work on things. The other doesn’t care if they’re hurting the spouse. They don’t care how the spouse feels. They don’t care what happens to the relationship, because they’ve become completely caught up in what they want.
So they’re not going to go to counseling.
So what do you do if you want to work on the relationship but your husband doesn’t, and can’t even admit there’s a problem?
Dobson says you need to do have them feel the consequences of their actions, because that’s the only way out of the selfish fantasy land they’re in. They believe that they can keep daydreaming about leaving, and threatening to leave, and talk about being unhappy, because you’ll sit there and take it and bend over backwards to try to satisfy them.
Stop bending over backwards, and show them what it will be like if they follow through and leave.
Protect yourself and keep your self-respect, because a person cannot fall in love again with someone who has become a doormat and who no longer values herself.
God hates divorce, but where Christians err is that we often think that the proper response then when a spouse starts talking about divorce is to try to do everything possible to appease that spouse. Appeasing, though, doesn’t work, and can cause us to do things that God wouldn’t want us to do. We may put up with things like affairs, or we stop respecting ourselves or our kids because we don’t want to rock the boat. What we do need to do is to show proper love.
When we love inappropriately, by allowing people to walk all over us, we actually encourage them to go further from God. We need to show people that if they leave, life will be difficult, but they need to make a choice. We need to stop tolerating affairs, or pornography, or flirtations, or addictions, or things which will eventually ruin the marriage anyway. The best way to help your husband get over pornography is actually to not tolerate it.
If you’re in this kind of a marriage, I wrote my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage for you. I show how we often misunderstand what it means to be loving–and how sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to help people feel the consequences of their actions.
Now I know this is controversial, and I know there is a thin line between pushing someone away and calmly showing consequences. I know we are called to be gracious and to forgive, but I also don’t believe we were called to tolerate indecision or evil. So if you have any pointers on how to walk that fine line, and do what’s right, please leave a comment!