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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