Please keep in mind that this post is not intended for those who seeking help with a physically abusive relationship. If that is the case, then outside help should be sought immediately and someone who is able must intervene on your behalf.
Disrespect in marriage can go both ways. Women can react to disrespect from their husbands in many ways. I’m here to share a few positive ways women can react to disrespect in their marriages in order to handle it well and steer their marriage in the direction of grace and kindness again.
1 | Understand that just because he says it, doesn’t mean it’s true or right
Take time to practice telling yourself that you’re not how your husband makes you feel. Does your husband make you feel stupid? You’re not. Does he make you feel like you would be lost without him? You wouldn’t be. Does he make you feel ugly? That’s not up for him to decide. These are things that you need to be able to grasp yourself before you’ll ever be able to convince your husband of them. If you inherently know that you are smart, no matter what your husband tells you, you’ll be able to filter through his disrespect and respond in a much more productive way than just internalizing his words and being hurt. That’s not to say that being secure in who you are makes you unbreakable. Being disrespected by someone so close to you is always going to be very hurtful. But it doesn’t need to damage your view of yourself.
This also isn’t to say that you’re perfect. It’s extremely important to give yourself grace and room to not be perfect, but that also doesn’t mean that whenever your husband and you disagree, that you are inherently right, just because. Hear what your husband is saying. Determine whether he’s crossing the line into disrespectful territory, and then filter his words accordingly. On the off chance that your husband is just trying to help you be a better person, try humbly accepting his criticism. But if his standards and expectations of you are unmeetable, you might have to refer to my next point.
2 | Have a safe, wise friend
Sometimes, when we’re constantly being faced with disrespect, it can be easy to forget what “normal” is like. And although I think most marriage problems can and should be resolved between you and your husband, if you feel like he is constantly disrespecting you, having a safe and wise friend can be extremely helpful in reminding you that you are not alone, you are not how your husband makes you feel, and they can remind you what “normal” is; you know, how people and couples should treat each other.
I was in a relationship once where I was constantly talked down to and made to feel like I would be a hopeless wreck without him. It really had a strong affect on my self confidence until I had a job where my boss was my reminder of “normal.” Well, she wasn’t really “normal,” she was actually one of the most encouraging people I had ever met. She reminded me that I was smart, that I was a hard worker, and that I was valuable all by myself, without needing anyone to help me. She and I became close friends and having her in my life allowed me to face my relationship with a new kind of confidence. With my new confidence, I now knew that sometimes when he spoke, he was right and had good things to say, and other times he was wrong and I had to learn to filter that out and gently but confidently let him know that he was wrong. (More on that later).
Be cautious when choosing this friend, though. Be sure they’re not simply going to be someone you go to who will gossip with you about your husband until you momentarily feel better about yourself (and worse about him). Your friend will need to be someone who can hear your story, and without judging or becoming consumed with mama-bear anger for you, give you the advice that you need to hear. They can pray with you to give you strength in a hard situation and they can even be the one to help you find someone to intervene on your behalf. But be sure that this friend is first and foremost going to be respectful of your marriage and want you and your husband to succeed.
3 | Be slow to speak
While we can’t necessarily control the words that come our of our husband’s mouth, we can control how we react to them. And there’s actually a lot of power in that. If your husband makes a backhanded comment, even if, on the inside, you feel like lashing back, try to pause for a moment, remember your standards for him, and say something like, “Hey, please don’t talk to me that way.” Or maybe, “I’d prefer if you worded that more kindly.” Responding this way, no matter how hard in the moment, will do a lot in terms of putting the fire out, instead of fanning it with an angry retaliation, without compromising your standards for how you want to be treated.
One of the biggest things you can do to help bring an environment of respect back into your home is to first show respect. We often think that in order to give respect, it must be earned. But this is often a cause of the breakdown between a husband and wife- moment of disrespect upon moment of disrespect. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs can explain this much better than I can in his book Love & Respect. I read it and it literally changed how I see my marriage and my husband. It opened my eyes to how important respect is to him and, as opposite as it sounds, respect needs to be given to husbands unconditionally just like love needs to be given unconditionally. But, like I said, he can explain it better than I can. Go get that book and read it!
4 | Give him the benefit of the doubt, cautiously
Just because your husband will occasionally say something disrespectful, that doesn’t mean he meant to be disrespectful. He may actually have no idea how his words make you feel. I get a lot of stories from women who think their husband (even their newlywed husband) is a horrible person for something they said to them. But I just can’t understand how all these women were tricked into marrying horrible, disrespectful men. Maybe he actually just has no idea that his words and actions hurt. It could also be that he’s saying something that might have been perfectly acceptable in his own family, but would never be ok to say in yours, leaving you thinking, “How could he????”
When I first met my husband’s family (back when we were dating) I honestly couldn’t believe how they talked to each other. They openly teased and made fun of each other, called each other names (not bad ones, but ones like “chippy cheeks-” the Damon side always had big cheeks- or names like “fatty”). My family wouldn’t in a million years call someone “fatty.” But then I realized how they reacted to being called these things and being teased. They actually liked it. Everyone in their family felt the same about their banter- they all knew it was out of love. And they understood that just because you called someone “fatty,” it didn’t mean you literally thought they were fat, you were just pointing out the fact that they were on their 3rd donut.
Once I understood this, I began to realize that the seemingly hurtful things my husband had said to me, things that I internalized rather than laughed at, shouldn’t have been taken so seriously at all. Now, instead of internalizing his words and feeling hurt, I’ll come back with a cheeky (no pun intended) comeback that we both end up laughing about, now that I’m able to give my husband the benefit of the doubt that he’s just trying to have fun with me.
Although you may have different circumstances, try to ask yourself why you think your husband says the things that hurt you. Could he be just trying to play with you? Or is he stressed out at work and doesn’t know how to express it? (Which, of course, isn’t ok, but it is a place to start when trying to find a solution).
If you feel like your husband is stable enough to talk about the things he says, don’t wait until you hate his guts to say something!! So many of us women would much rather he just “get it” because, of course, he should know that he crossed a line. But, say, if he doesn’t know, someone’s going to need to tell him. And when you do, remember, if it’s respect you want, it’s really important to first show respect. Treat your husband exactly how you would like to be treated, that way he will never have room to say, “Why should I respect you when you don’t respect me?” Lead by example.
5 | Remind him that you expect more
It’s also so extremely important to show your husband that you have standards and expectations of your own. It’s entirely ok to say something like, “I’m not ok with the way you’re speaking to me.” Following that, you could also even say, “I expect better from you.” I think it’s really important to let our husbands know that we believe that they can be kind with their words. We’ve seen it before and we would like to see it again. This all goes along with giving your husband the benefit of the doubt. You know that he can be kind, but something right now is going on in his mind that is causing some sort of anger and bitterness to spill over. Your husband might not be able to control all of his circumstances, but he does have a choice in how he reacts to and processes them.
6 | Get help
Yeah, this had to come in here somewhere. There are some times when there will just be nothing that you can do or say to change your husband’s behavior. But there might be something someone else can say that might sink in. You know how we talked about our standard of “normal” earlier? Well, you might not be the only one who is liable to forget how people should normally treat each other. Your husband probably forgot too and in that case, he’s going to need someone other than you to remind him how to be kind again. Counseling may be an option, but sometimes all your husband needs is a good friend to speak honestly with him. Try having a trusted friend who wants to see you guys winning at marriage talk to your husband. Then, remember to have your own open conversation as well. If things persist, then counseling may be necessary to help remind your husband what “normal” is again.
Have you gone through periods of disrespect in your own marriage? What are practical things you did to help pull your marriage out of that dark place?
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Love you guys!!