Our culture has accepted that wives nag. We see it on commercials, TV shows (think Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond, Carrie from King of Queens), many of us heard our mothers do it, many of us do it ourselves.
Nagging is one of the most culturally embedded problems in our marriages. And the tragedy of it is that nagging has become expected, accepted as “the way marriage works” – and nagging paves the way for huge problems in marriages.
Think about the cliché for a minute: “paves the way.” Nagging smoothes out the road for other problems, welcomes other problems, makes it easy for other problems to enter our marriages – and the marriages of millions of Americans. Once we get into a habit of nagging, we’re more likely to be unsatisfied in our marriages. And why wouldn’t we be? If our focus is constantly on what our husbands are doing wrong, what they aren’t doing, why they aren’t doing it, etc., how do we expect to feel satisfied in our marriages? And if we aren’t satisfied, that can lead to many, many problems: seeking male attention outside of marriage, griping to our friends, etc.
So, here’s my advice: Don’t let a TV show or even the dominant cultural norms define who you are in your marriage. Yes, nagging is normal in this world. Yes, short term, it feels kinda good to “get it off our chests.” But, no, it’s not God’s Will for our marriages. It is not God’s best for our lives.
Like any bad habit this one will take time (and God’s help) to break. It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up (to our husbands and to God).
The fact is, nagging is not just seen as something women do, but it’s often seen as actually part of a woman’s nature. And while it certainly wasn’t part of our nature in the paradise God created, it does seem to be part of the corruption of femininity – a temptation common to fallen daughters of Eve. And God, in His infinite wisdom, knew this was an issue we’d struggle with. He knew this aspect of our sin nature would conflict with His Spirit Who lives in us.
Galatians 5:16-18: 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
And consider this: 5 times in Proverbs a “quarrelsome wife” is referred to. While this can certainly be seen as a warning for men (Don’t marry this type of woman!), I think this can also be seen as a reminder for women (Don’t be this type of woman!).
Proverbs 19:13b — a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. [Think about that: Drip, drip, drip, drip……same sound over and over and over……gets annoying after awhile.]
Proverbs 21:9 — Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Proverbs 21:19 — Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.
Proverbs 25:24 — Better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. [Identical to Proverbs 21:9]
Proverbs 27:15 — A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day. [This calls to mind “adding insult to injury.” It’s already raining, and a quarrelsome wife makes things worse for her husband, instead of making them better.]
Consider what these verses are telling us: Terrible living conditions are better than living with a quarrelsome wife. We make our homes less welcoming than a desert, when they should be sanctuaries for our husbands. We make even embarrassment and exposure to the elements preferable to being in a house with us, when our homes should welcome our husbands with open arms.
I think the “living on a corner of the roof” imagery is interesting. The typical Israelite house at this time would likely have a flat roof made of mud and twigs (which required a lot of upkeep). Even living on that would be better than living with a quarrelsome wife.
I wonder – and I can’t prove this, but I wonder – if there was also an element of embarrassment to this image. Bear with me here: Patriarchs were incredibly important in this society, and housing arrangements were often designed around this familial structure. For instance, a father (and his wife), his sons (and their wives and children) would often all live in a closely networked series of structures. If you were living on your roof, it seems like everyone in the family would know. And if the head of the household was living on the roof, it would seem pretty obvious that something was wrong in the husband-wife relationship. That, I imagine, would be embarrassing for a man. BUT, from these verses, it sounds like that embarrassment of living on your roof would be better than having to live in the house with your quarrelsome wife. Again, this interpretation in not explicitly stated in Scripture. I think it follows, though, from what we know about the time period and the family structure.
And make no mistake, quarrelsome wives are still embarrassing today; even if their husbands don’t end up on the roof, often their husbands end up trying to avoid them in other ways. They may not retreat to the roof or the desert, but usually they’ll try to retreat to somewhere else. I’m not saying this is the correct response from the man; on the contrary, I think men retreating instead of leading the household is one of the biggest problems in modern marriages. But I’m also saying that as women, this retreating is partly our fault. We often make it harder for our men to lead, and we make it easier (and more tempting) to retreat.
We nag. We degrade. We embarrass. They feel disrespected. So they retreat. They close us out.
They retreat. They close us out. We feel unloved. So we nag. We degrade. We embarrass.
You get the picture.
The cycle has to stop somewhere. Why not with us? Why not today? I know a lot of you have heard this song, but give this video a listen. Anytime he says “city,” substitute “marriage.” There’s no reason to wait — start here. Start now.
So, what’s the challenge today? Stop nagging. Why wait? Start here. Start now. (And if you’re a younger woman reading this — maybe just married or not married yet — please remember, it’s hard to break these habits. It’s much easier not to form them in the first place.)
Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Strategies? Failures? Successes? Leave a comment below!
Next Monday: Want to make your husband resent you? Want to make his friends pity him? Want to swing the door to your marriage wide open for Satan? Find out how next Monday!
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Ephesians 5:22 reads: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And I’ve been wondering:
Do we struggle to submit to our husbands as unto the Lord because we aren’t submitted to the Lord in the way we should be?
If our relationships with God are out-of-whack, it shouldn’t surprise us that our relationships with our husbands have problems. If we’re having trouble putting God (who is all-wise, all-good, has our best interests at heart all the time) first, of course we’ll have trouble putting our husbands (who are, as humans, flawed) before ourselves.
And, while those of us who are “good wives” often pay lip service to submitting, to putting our husbands’ needs in front of our own, when it comes down to it, we often want to hold our husbands to a standard that we don’t want to hold ourselves to — we expect his selfless service to us, and we feel like anything less than that lets us off the hook. We find ourselves thinking things like: “He didn’t seem interested in my day, so I’m not going to have sex with him tonight.” OR “He doesn’t seem to be handling this problem correctly/fast enough, so I’m going to take over.
This is not an option we’re given in Scripture — it doesn’t say “wives submit to your husbands when you feel they’re living for you.” Nope. It just says to submit. Well, submit as to the LORD. Which brings us back to our original question: Are we having trouble submitting to our husbands because we’re not fully submitted to God?
Hopefully, we’ve begun working on fully submitting to God. That, in and of itself, will do wonders for our marriage, because it is God’s Will that we honor and respect our husbands. If we’re in God’s Will at all times, respect for our husbands will naturally flow from that. This post, though, is about what respecting our husbands looks like a little more specifically.
TWO NOTES BEFORE I BEGIN:
ONE: While this post is specifically about marriage, I think it’s important for unmarried women as well. First, many of you will eventually marry, and being aware of some of these common problems beforehand might help you and your husband avoid some of them. Second, those whom God never calls to marry will, very likely, have married friends who face struggles in the husband-wife relationship. Perhaps something here could help you as you minister to them. Plus, much of what we’re going to talk about affects all of our relationships, not just the husband/wife relationship. (Mark 9:35: Sitting down Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”)
TWO: I’d like to note here that it might seem like these next couple of posts are unfairly hard on wives. That I don’t say enough about what our husbands should be doing. Here’s why: We can’t control what our husbands do. We can only control what we do. What we’d like to do is change our husbands so they’ll do what we’d like them to. Or we’d like to use their shortcomings as an excuse to not improve ourselves as wives. All of this is selfishness (sin) and all of this is very natural. We like easy fixes. We like comfortable things. We like getting what we want. But, as Christians, we’re called to something better.
In addition, these posts are about the Biblical role of the wife, not the husband. I’m not going to handle the husband part because I feel like that will tempt us to focus on his shortcomings, instead of our own. What follows is meant to help us become better wives — no matter what kinds of husbands we have. I can almost guarantee you, though, that allowing God to make you a better wife will help make your husband a better husband. But that can’t be our goal. Our goal is to honor God and our husbands. Period.
Without further ado…….
This post is going to pose several questions. These are NOT rhetorical. I think it’s helpful if you stop and answer them. They also don’t always have a right or wrong answer. Sometimes, it just a matter of taking stock of where you are so you know how to move forward.
First, what three things do you feel like you’ve told your husband over and over or asked him to do over and over?
Second, why can’t you let go of these things? This isn’t meant to imply that you should have to, but I think trying to articulate why something is so important to you can help you plan how to handle the issue in the future.
For example, if you’re constantly telling your husband to drink less because he’s had a DUI, is spending too much money on the habit, and frightens the kids when he’s drunk, I’m not telling you that you have to stop being so selfish and leave him alone. Quite the opposite in this case: your concern is stemming from actual safety and relational concerns. I would recommend, though, getting help other than just yourself. (A great resource is Focus on the Family’s website. They offer solid advice on a wide variety of issues: www.family.org. You can also call to talk to family care specialist or look up Christian counselors in your area: http://family.custhelp.com/app/home.)
However, for many of us, what we nag our husbands about is not nearly so important. So, once you have your list, consider why you can’t let go of those issues. WHY is this so important to you? What need of yours would he be meeting if he did these three things?
For instance, let’s say you always tell him to get projects, etc., done faster. Just totally pulling this example out of the sky. Have no real experience with it or anything…. J
And this speed is important to you because, well, you want these projects done. The house would look better. Or he could then move on to a new project. Etc. He should want to do this for you because you want it done. In this case, though, if it doesn’t get done, there’s no real harm.
Consider, too, why he might be taking so long. Does he even know how to do the project? Does he have other things that are more pressing priorities? Is he just a slow person? Is the project not important to him?
1. If he doesn’t know how to do the project, there’s a good chance this is causing him quite a bit of anxiety. As we’ll talk about in a later post, there’s a lot of pressure on men to know how to do stuff. More than there is on women. Maybe easing up on him would relieve some of that pressure. And really, is the project so important that it’s worth causing him anxiety over?
2. If he has other, more pressing concerns, then he probably needs to be cut some slack. If he actually has more to do than he can get done in a day/week/month, then asking him how you can help with the load might be a good idea.
3. Is he just a slow person? Honestly, this was probably something you knew about him before you married him. But maybe he’s gotten worse. Or maybe you thought you could “fix” him. But, if this is a trait you knew he had when you married him, you’re probably going to have to let your timetable go in a lot of cases.
If you’re pretty sure he’s just a slow mover, I’d ask him about this. My husband is notoriously slow at almost everything — and I knew this going in. The positive side of this is that almost everything he does is done to an incredibly high standard and he makes very few mistakes. The negative side of this is that he’s SLOW! And I’m NOT!
We’ve found lots of ways to cope with our different styles (and I’m happy to talk about them, if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation) — and for the most part, we work very well together. That doesn’t mean, however, that the slowness never gets on my nerves. However, this is usually a personal preference thing, not an actual issue. (Even if I sometimes feel like my preference is the correct one!) If this is the case for you and your husband, I would recommend talking about it. Our discussions have taken us some time (time I don’t always feel like we have to spare), but they’ve allowed us to utilize our strengths really well — and spending the time talking about it when we’re both level-headed has led to far fewer disagreements.
4. Is the project not important to him? Sure, he should want to do it because it’s important to you, but the fact is, he’s not perfect at this putting-others-first thing either. Again, you might find out why it’s not important to him. Was he not consulted about the decisions regarding the project? Is it a project he doesn’t see the need for? It is outside his area of interest? Talking about this might help you handle projects better in the future.
Overall, though, I’d recommend prayerfully considering letting go of the top three things that you feel you tell your husband over and over or ask your husband to do over and over. Unless, as discussed above, this is an actual issue (drinking problem, violence, etc.), it’s probably a matter of preference. And, as we’ve discussed, his needs should be put ahead of your own.
I’ll grant here that this is much easier if you’re both trying to do this the right way. If both of you are trying to put the other first, you won’t bother him so much with projects, etc., and he’ll get done what is important to you. Both of you will make some sacrifices and both of you will have needs met. And if, like me, you’re blessed enough to have a husband who leads and puts you first, take some time to thank him today. I think sometimes those of us with husbands who do this well underestimate how much easier that makes our roles as Biblical wives. If, however, this is a one way street, it becomes much harder. The truth is, though, that it’s still what we’re called to as Christian wives. If your husband isn’t a Christian (or claims to be one, but doesn’t show much evidence of it), remember that you are not alone! God is with you through this journey – and other women who have been in the same situation can offer solid advice. Here are some resources that can help you:
Focus on the Family Advice: http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25920.
Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/spiritually-single-raising-godly-doesnt-believe/nancy-meyer/9781576838747/pd/38747?event=CF
Another Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/doesnt-believe-encouragement-alone-their-faith/nancy-kennedy/9781578564347/pd/64344?event=CF
So, Challenge One on the road to becoming a more godly wife: Prayerfully consider letting go of some things that you most nag your husband about. Realize that “why won’t he . . . . ?” isn’t the only question to ask. The right question to ask might be “why won’t I . . . .?” Remember that this is a sacrifice you’re making for the good of your marriage. Remember also that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the sacrifice God made for the good of your relationship with him.
I’d love to hear about successes, questions, concerns, etc., as you work on loving your husband more and more. Please comment below!
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