(becoming) a godly wife: nagging = (marriage) sabotage


Image by jcoterhals via Flickr

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 SatanFind out how next Monday!

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13 responses

  1. This is why Grandpa spent so much time in the garage and one of our uncles spends so much time at his “farm” in the country. I am in complete agreement with you on this. I have seen many marriages suffer due to “a quarrelsome wife.” It is a really difficult habit to break, but I will say the rewards are almost immediate. Even though we don’t change our behavior for a reward, we change it so our lives will be more God pleasing, the rewards are a lovely consequence. When we stop nagging or degrading or embarrassing our husbands, their reactions will be to draw closer instead of retreating. They pay more attention, they spend more time, they are happier and more fun to be around. An attitude change on our part can bring about huge change in our marriage. And we will be happier too. Thanks for another great post!

  2. Amen ! I respect my husband and his views, though we may not always agree on things. I have never been one to nag and find those who do to be quite negative to be around. I used to work with a girl newly married, much younger than I and she constantly called her husband names, never had a kind word to say about him and how he could do nothing right. Needless to say, they are divorced now. The way we treat our husbands reflects on us as individuals and God knows each of us personally and individually, so why would we want to disappoint God?

    1. Hi, Jeri! Sometimes I wonder why those people who are so unhappy so early in their marriages got married in the first place. Part of it, I think, is that so few of them see solid Christian marriages as they grow up. Ashley is so lucky to have you and Brad as her template for a Christian marriage!

  3. Don’t know how I stumbled onto your site, but I’m glad I did! My husband and I just moved into our church parsonage. We have a good amount of ministry starting to come through our doors. God has been tugging at me regarding my attitude towards my husband and not garding my tongue-not to other people, but to him…yet the temptation is there, though. I have a ‘captive’ audience weekly & Satan knows that. Didn’t seem to have too much of a problem the last 11 yrs of marriage, but then again, it is quite possible that I did and didn’t even notice. My thanks is twofold-thank you for letting God use you to write this & thank you for your honesty! This message might just effect all the lives we meet:)

  4. Thank you so much, Jennifer! Your comment means a lot to me. It’s always so encouraging to hear that something I’ve written has been helpful to someone else!

    You said you didn’t seem to have a problem with this for the first 11 years of your marriage, which I think is interesting. I don’t know anything about the ministry you guys are doing, but It seems to me that Satan often steps up his attacks when he knows we’re positioned to do good. My guess is that Satan knows you can use your ministry for God’s Glory — and he wants to prevent that in any way possible. Maybe this new struggle is his way of trying to do that. I’ll be praying for you and the ministry you and your husband have. Blessings to both of you!

    1. And I’d love to hear more about your ministry, Jennifer!

  5. This is such a good point. I know there are times I struggle not to nag. I’ve seen what it does to other marriages, though (including my in-laws) and so I work purposefully to find other ways to discuss subjects with my husband. I love him, and I certainly don’t want to drive him to the roof!

    1. I think it’s awesome that you’re looking for alternate ways to discuss topics with your husband! Praying it’s going well for you!

  6. Nagging our husbands spills over into nagging our children as well. When I start nagging my children I am almost always being a lazy parent and not dealing with the attitude or disobedience in the child. The big challenge for me is to replace nagging with positive and affirming words..but God is able to give us the motivation and self control. We women are powerful instruments of change for God when we submit our lives to Him.

    Blessings to you,

    Jill Farris

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Jill. I love your website!

  7. My former pastor used to say, “if you can’t say amen, just say ouch.”

    I’m definitely saying ouch after reading your post. While I know I have made strides in this area, I am not where I need to be.

    Thank you for those great scripture references. It tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, CORRECTING and training.

  8. Thank you so much for your comment, Kim! Many time since I’ve read it I’ve thought “since I can’t say ‘amen,’ I’ll just say ‘ouch.'” Thank you for that valuable lesson.

  9. This post really hit home for me! I struggle A LOT with nagging. My mom was always complaining and my dad would pull away, then as soon as he was in the garage she would tell me how he doesn’t give her enough attention. I see myself going down that road sometimes, and I don’t want to be them! We will have been married for 1 year in august, and I love my husband and he is a Great guy, I don’t know why I feel the need to look down on him so often. I feel the grip of Satan pulling me down the path my parents were on all of my life but I am not going there! My God will help me and with his strength and mine i can beat this!
    thank you so much for posting on this!!

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