What To Do When Your Husband Doesn’t Respect You

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Today we’re talking about respect for a wife.  What should you do when your husband doesn’t show respect for you as a person or for your role as wife and mother in the home?  Here’s what a wife shared with me:

I feel my husband does not respect my position as a wife.  Not only do we have different beliefs, but the things we value are very different which causes friction and I feel like my decisions are not respected. My decision to give my life to God wasn’t respected at first and caused a lot of animosity in the household. With time it got better, but there are still times that he does not respect my decision – like the TV will be on in the room while I am reading my Bible. 

I feel disrespected as a wife when he goes out with his friends and doesn’t let me know where he is.  He comes home in the early hours of the morning and has been drinking. He doesn’t consult me when making financial decisions and makes large purchases without consulting me beforehand. I stay at home with my child and maybe he feels because I don’t contribute financially that I don’t really have a say in the finances of the household. 

I also feel disrespected when he puts his family before us. Our needs come second to his parent’s or sibling’s needs. 

In summary, it sounds like this man is still living like a bachelor but with the comforts of home provided for him.

What should this wife do? She is clearly not feeling respected as a wife and part of a team that makes decisions together.

God’s Expectations

What does the Bible say about God’s expectation of a husband?  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.”  Ephesians 5:25  God expects husbands to give themselves to and for their wives, to love them sacrificially.

He expects men to provide for their families – not only financially but physically and emotionally.  “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Timothy 5:8

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”  Philippians 2:4  God expects spouses to consider each other’s needs.

The Bible makes it clear that it is not right for a husband to neglect the needs of his wife and family or to be inconsiderate of his wife by not including her in decisions.

This man is not on the same page spiritually as his wife, however, there are certain things that she has the right to expect from a marriage – whether her husband is a believer or not:

  • She has the right to have her basic needs met
  • She has the right to expect to be included in making big financial purchases
  • She has the right to expect her husband to put his own family first
  • She has the right to know where he is and when he will be home

So what should she do?

Approach the problem first as if it is an ignorance issue. 

It seems like the husband is the bad guy in this story, but it may be that he is unaware of how his actions are making his wife feel. If he truly is ignorant and wants her to be happy he will apologise and make changes to the way he is treating her when she lets him know.

This husband is not facing the effects of the problem.  He is not the one feeling disrespected because his wife is not consulting him on financial matters etc.  Until his wife says or does something nothing is going to change.

Consider that she might be part of the problem.

There is very seldom an all-innocent or all-guilty situation in conflict. This wife should take ownership of her part of the issue – take the log out of your own eye.  (Matthew 7:5) At the same time, she should not take total ownership of the problem.  If she rescues her spouse from his part she will make the issue worse. “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Proverbs 19:19 (NIV)

Her part in the problem may be:

  • Her lack of boundaries that is enabling her husband to continue treating her badly.  
  • She may not be meeting the needs of her husband or is not showing him the respect he craves.
  • She may be nagging, self-righteous or condemning.
  • It may be that she is simply not expecting to be treated differently.
  • She may not be communicating what she needs or what is hurting her, and pretending that everything is ok.
  • She may be withdrawing emotionally or gossiping about her husband instead of bringing up problems and telling him her feelings.

“You have to earn the right to require your spouse to change.  Look actively at how you may be contributing to the problem, and make necessary changes.”[i]

 

Boundaries

A boundary can range from a conversation to setting limits on someone’s behaviour. Boundaries are actions that you take, not something you “do” to someone else.

Boundaries must be implemented prayerfully, without anger or for the purpose of revenge. They are designed to protect from hurt and abuse and are never to be used as punishment.

Boundaries should be enforceable. If you create a boundary make sure it is something you can and will do.  “If you continue to shout at me, I will leave the room.”

Boundaries should not belittle your spouse by making fun of him/her. They should preserve your spouse’s freedom – you cannot say, “You have to,” or “You must.”

Identify the Specific Issue

Drs Cloud and Townsend[ii] make the following points about boundary setting:

  • Identify what boundary is being violated
  • How does it affect you and your love for your spouse?
  • Is the problem a pattern or an occasional event?
  • Why is it important enough to risk conflict over it?

So let’s apply those points to the problem of the husband making financial purchases without his wife’s knowledge.

  • The wife’s boundary of being part of a team as husband and wife is being violated.
  • This makes her feel devalued as a person and distances her from him.
  • It happens every month or maybe twice a year? (she will know)
  • Why would it be important enough to risk conflict over? She doesn’t want to resent him for making her feel this way. She wants to feel close to him and part of a team. And she wants him to benefit from having her opinion on purchases.

 

Have a conversation. 

This wife has a right to confront her husband and talk about the things that are bothering her.  She should prepare her thoughts by writing them down, praying about them and making sure that she is not acting in anger or bitterness.

She should make a time with her husband where they can talk about the issues undisturbed – kids asleep, TV off, cell phones on silent.  Confronting in the heat of the moment is not a good idea – like when he walks in the door super-late and she can smell he’s been drinking.

Once they have made a time to talk she can respectfully tell him that she would like her needs to be cared for and her boundaries respected, and ask him if he feels that his boundaries are respected and his needs met.

She should be specific about the changes she would like to see:

  • I would like for you to include me on our financial decisions.
  • I would like for you to make your own family more of a priority by spending time with us on weekends and not rushing off to meet the needs of your siblings at the drop of a hat.
  • I would like you to let me know where you are going and when you will be home.
  • I would like you to respect the fact that I am reading my Bible and leave the TV off.

Hopefully this is all that will be necessary for change to take place, but if he refuses to change, becomes accusatory, or blames her then she should consider practicing stronger boundaries.  A boundary without a consequence is nagging.

  • She should tell him that if he continues to make large purchases without her knowledge she will insist that he returns the items or she will return them herself.
  • Let him know that if he continues to put the needs of his parents and siblings before the needs of his own family that she will distance herself from him emotionally.
  • Tell him that if he comes home late without letting her know and disturbs the household because he has been drinking then he should plan to sleep in the spare room or on the couch.
  • Leave the room and read her bible somewhere else if he puts the TV on.

Expect to receive some backlash from a boundary-resistant person.  You may be called un-Christian, selfish, hard, cold, or unkind.  This is a common reaction because boundaries can feel painful to the one receiving them.

The effects of doing nothing.

Wifey can choose to do nothing about this. By doing nothing she is enabling her husband to abuse a child of God – herself.

This will break down her self-respect and the self-respect of her children in in the long run.  She must see her own value based on the value Christ has placed on her and she should expect to be treated decently (not perfectly) because she is a child of God.

Doing nothing will affect her ability to meet her husband’s needs and will allow resentment and bitterness to grow in her heart toward him.  Somewhere the resentment will break out in disrespect toward him which will perpetuate the cycle of unmet needs in their marriage.

While boundaries may seem unkind and unpleasant they produce growth in relationships. This wife can be used by God to empower her husband to be a better husband, and through implementing boundaries she can become a better wife.

Is there a conversation you need to have with your spouse? What changes should you make to solve the problem?  Leave a comment.

[i] Boundaries in Marriage, 223, Cloud & Townsend

[ii] Boundaries in Marriage, 218/219

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

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