Help for the Frustrated Wife! – Avoiding the “reactive” marriage Cycle

So as my last post was directed to husbands, fathers and men…it only seems fair (maybe not wise 🙂 ) to approach similar issues from the other perspective. It’s common for most wives to get seriously frustrated with their husbands and over a variety of life issues and habits, personality quirks, behavior patterns (some very serious, some minor) etc… Unfortunately it’s also common for ladies to step into those frustrating situations with a baseball bat and start swinging (metaphorically of course) at the guy.

The typical reaction… Guys pull back emotionally and physically from the relationship. They retreat further from you and get even quieter than before you unleashed your inner tiger and let it “roar”. Often a downward spiral starts to form, where you (the wife) get angrier and more frustrated with each event. Leading to more and more baseball bat episodes and roaring, until eventually the relationship that was once so intimate, vulnerable & fresh is left broken and reserved and superficial, a shell of its former self. And your too tired to care.

What do most frustrated wives usually do in those situations ?

Your reaction may be to trust in your basic instincts, which almost always will be to focus on changing your husband, to force or lure him to adapt his behaviors to be more accommodating to your family. You will be deeply frustrated so your comments may inadvertently get a bit nasty, edged with impatience and anger at his inability to remember your preferences, or your suggested improvements in his actions etc… You will think your editing the worst thoughts out of your comments, but believe me… your tone will more than make up for any censorship you may have maintained. He will know your absolutely torqued off at him, again, and it won’t work well. Oh it may cause some minor temporary changes in behavior, but nothing substantive. But you will feel marginally better for a few days…

If you persist in pushing hard at his exterior, he will continue his slow retreat from you. First to the kids (if you have any) for his emotional support and affirmation, then to friends and if you continue to push over a longer period of time… he will eventually begin to consider other relationships as a retreat from the constant barrage he finds at home. That will lead to disaster for you both and your family.

Consider a few different approaches instead;

1) Look at the relationship from a higher perspective than your own. God has a plan, these bumps in your marital highway are not catching Him off guard. Ask Him for advice and take the time to listen to His response to your deepest frustrations and concerns. If you feel your husband’s being a donkey’s hind-end, then pray for God to change his heart, or yours or both. Ultimately it’s your relationship with God that will fulfill your deepest emotional needs, not your husband. Also, take a sec to gain some balance and  be encouraged, this is a common marital challenge, but not necessarily a permanent status you will have to endure.

2) Take a hard look at the way your “reacting” to your husband. Stop doing that if you can, and when you can’t; take responsibility for it with him and apologize. I know, how crazy. Apologize to HIM ? Yes, please. It will start to change the dynamic with you and him immediately. Lower your “expectations” for him to immediately “understand” what you’re wanting. It’s going to take some regular time in prayer and the Holy Spirit to really start to change him, and you.

3) Find some help. Don’t try to sort this out on your own, and don’t do the gossip circle of confiding in friends who will agree with you and commiserate about their own failed relationships. (you know what I mean here) Go higher than that. Find a lady who has lived a few decades as a married woman successfully, talk with her, pray with her, listen to her. Also, books are awesome, lots of great biblically based marriage resources are on the bookshelves of our local Christian retailers, but more common is the number already in your own home. Look up anything by Chapman, Lucado, Eldridge, Dobson, etc… they will all re-enforce the same basic truth. Love is more than an emotional reaction or feeling, it’s a covenant of commitment. Centering your focus on Christ will re-set your capacity to love your husband and help in learning to understand each others love languages, expressions etc… are all very important to moving past these cycles of reactive behavior.

4) Respect your husband – honor his hard work and efforts on your behalf. Recognize to yourself and your family that this is no small feat. His determination to provide and protect is a major contribution to your health and stability. See his contributions to your well being as valuable as any comfort his emotional vulnerability might provide in your personal relationship. When you understand that his hard work IS his way of communicating his love to you… it may make more sense why he’s trying so hard at his job.

5) Read and live I Peter 3:1-4 (NIV)   Simply paraphrased… Your actions speak louder than your words.

1 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

6) Wait expectantly; My wife prayed for me for two years as we went through a terrible separation, infidelity and divorce before God intervened in my heart and our marriage. It was hell. But in the end, God won. The power of my praying wife is an epic testament to the strength she had in faith and her willingness to allow God to do what He had to do in me. This stuff works, it’s counter-intuitive, it means letting go of the baseball bat with your husband, but in the end… big or small, God can handle it.

I can’t guarantee God will heal your marriage, or remove the issues with your husband, but I can tell you he will either give you the strength and grace to move forward or the clarity to walk away. Each marriage is unique and full of baggage, some can be helped with counseling and a community of faith, others cannot. I would NEVER presume to assume that the way God worked in my heart and life is the way he will work with others, but I can tell you… He will work out his love and redemption and restoration in every heart that lets Him.

Last thought… Remember that Marriage is a three-way covenant with  God,  husband & wife. It is not something to be easily discarded or walked away from. It is the solution of last result, when ALL ELSE has failed and you have carefully considered the cost and biblical impact of your choice with trusted advisors and pastoral counsel. In the presence of dangerous emotional or physical abuse or the act of infidelity (adultery) , it’s clear you have every right to leave.

Peace out dear ladies and may God richly provide for you with every need you may have.


Authors Disclaimer – Not being a licensed therapist or counselor I’m only offering my observations, a possible new perspective on the issue. Suggestions shared here are simply gained from the life experiences of a redeemed 20 year marriage, three teenagers and the common marital conflict  relational circumstances I’ve gleaned from years of ministry in the church. In the end, we all answer to God individually for our life choices, not to me, your mother in-law or your pastor. God alone, and He looks at the heart. Beware taking the “easy” out in these things, I believe the lessons not learned will follow you.

9 thoughts on “Help for the Frustrated Wife! – Avoiding the “reactive” marriage Cycle

  1. I am newly married. Marriage is very hard. I keep throwing tantrums and my husband withdraws, this fustrates me. I know he loves me, but he’s always silent when I m complaining. Any suggestions. Thanks

    • Angie, my thought (without knowing a lot of details) is to find a way to Vent differently. (i.e. Write out your thoughts in a journal before sharing them) If your emotions are too strong to control, then it’s essential that you re-train yourself to walk away, literally take a walk. Give yourself some space to sort out what your feeling. Separate the raw emotion from the reaction. Your husband will respond better if you can articulate how his behavior or lack of behavior makes you ‘feel’ vs. just explosive anger or resentment. If you only talk with him when your angry, he will naturally avoid ‘talking’ in the future as he will only associate this intimacy with your disappointment with him.
      Hope that helps… for some additional help, read “the 5 Love languages book from Dr. Smalley)

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