Last Monday we talked about nagging and the damage it does. One of the biggest problems with nagging is what it often leads to: complaining to others about our husbands.
Do you want to usher satan into your marriage, roll out the red carpet, offer him a warm beverage, ask him to make himself at home? Complain about your husband to other people.
[As has become my habit, I’ll give a caveat here: if you need professional help in your marriage, by all means, seek it from your pastor or from a Christian counselor. That’s not complaining. That’s trying to strengthen your marriage. If you need advice or a safe place to express your feelings (and you aren’t using “advice” or “expressing your feelings” as a cover for complaining), then I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to seek it from another Christian woman. (A group of women becomes more problematic because it’s unlikely all of them will be strong Christians). And this should be a strong Christian woman. One who won’t let your advice-seeking turn into a husband-bashing session. And we know the difference when we think about it for a minute. And remember: “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2). God knows what our motive is. He knows if we’re truly seeking godly counsel or if we’re using that as a cover for gossip. He cannot be fooled (Galatians 6:7).]
But the type of communication covered in the caveat above isn’t most of what we see. What we see are wives complaining about their husbands to other women. Because he can’t wrangle the kid correctly. Because he still hasn’t gotten the oil changed. Because he acts like a child. Because he’s just so clueless. These are throwaway comments to so many women. They aren’t thought about; they’re just said. There’s no moment of reflection: Will this build my husband up or tear him down? Will this honor God’s plan for marriage or dishonor it?
We laugh about how hapless our husbands are. We top each other with stories of the ridiculous things our husbands have done. Ways they’ve failed us. As with nagging, we focus on the negative. And then we wonder why we’re dissatisfied in our marriages.
A few things I think we need to think about:
1. Why would we want other women to think our husbands are incompetent morons? Why would we want other women to think our husbands are children, incapable of leading? (What is motivating us when we complain?)
2. What the Bible says about this:
a. Proverbs 11:12: A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [And our relationship with our husband should be far closer than our relationship with our neighbor.]
b. Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. [Our husbands are pierced by this badmouthing, even if they never say anything. It’s painful to see the woman who is supposed to be your closest companion belittle you to others. We need to be the tongue of the wise. Our words need to heal, not pierce. If our tongues aren’t the ones healing our husbands, they may drive them to others for that healing.]
c. Proverbs 14:1: The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. [Why are we trying to destroy our own homes?]
d. Proverbs 15:28: The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes folly. [This one is hard for me. Not regarding complaining about my husband, but regarding almost anything else. In so many situations, I know what I want to say, and I know the tone in which I want to say it. I don’t want to weigh my answer because I know that God will often change my words, my tone, or keep me silent altogether. I’d much rather gush than weigh when it comes to words. Ultimately, though, I know I have to learn how to keep a reign on my tongue. The Bible is full of verses that tell me that. (Such as James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.) This takes an act of will, though. This isn’t something that’s going to magically (or even easily) happen.]
e. 1 Peter 4:11: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [Is what you’re about to say going to bring praise and glory to God? Does what you’re about to say line up with the Word of God? Sometimes I don’t like answering these questions, but this is what we’re called to.]
3. If the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, then what we are doing is akin to the Church walking around telling people: listen to how Jesus failed me. Listen to how He keeps messing up. Listen to how incompetent He is. We wouldn’t think this was okay. And I understand the difference: Jesus is perfect, our husbands aren’t. But we aren’t told that the perfect husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church — just that the husband is. We aren’t let off the hook because our husbands aren’t perfect.
4. Why do we think talking negatively about our husbands will make anything better? Honestly, has anyone ever talked about her husband behind his back, gotten it off her chest, and never done it again because that one session of complaining met her needs? Nope. Because those sessions of complaining can’t meet our needs. They may make us feel better short-term, but we’ll find that we have to keep coming back to them to get that short-term feeling. Complaining about our husbands doesn’t fix anything. It’s an empty “solution” that has to always be repeated. It’s similar to the sacrifices that had to be offered year after year in the Old Testament. Those sacrifices were not a permanent solution. They “fixed” the problem for a time, but had to be repeated because the same problem kept coming back. Similarly, complaining “fixes” our problem temporarily (because we’ve vented), but we haven’t actually SOLVED the problem. We’ve just put a band-aid on it. And this wound will reopen.
The only solution to the yearly sacrifices was Jesus. He was the only way those sacrifices could stop because He was the only thing that actually FIXED the problem of our sinfulness. In the same way, He is the only solution to problems in our marriage. He is the only thing that can FIX our marriages. He is the solution that never runs out. He is the only One who can heal our wounds.
So, what does this mean in practical terms? It means we turn to Jesus (and our husbands), not to others, when we’ve run out of patience with our husbands.
Jesus is the only permanent solution. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can use Him once and be done with Him. The exact opposite in fact. [He told us to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23).] He commanded us to remain in Him, and said that we could do nothing apart from Him (John 15:4-5). It does mean, however, that in Christ, you’re on “the Way” to permanently improving your marriage.
What I said last week about nagging holds true here as well: 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, to the women we complained to (or whoever else who may have heard it, children, etc.), to God.
Start now. Tell God you’re sorry. Ask Him to draw you closer to Him. Tell Him you know He is sufficient for you — and that His way is sufficient for you.
Start today. Tell your husband you’re sorry. Tell him that keeping a rein on your tongue is hard for you – women just are verbal; we process things by talking about them – and ask if he’ll help by being more willing to talk through things when they come up. This does not mean we nag our husbands more when problems come up. This means we talk kindly (in ways that honor our husbands and our God) and calmly (prayerfully weighing our words). And that we stay more focused on how we can improve in the situation than how he can.
Under conviction from God, I made the decision before we were married that I would not complain about my husband to other people. (As I said last week, it’s easier to not start a habit than it is to break one, so I’m grateful that God was so firm with me about this early on.) This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And let me be clear: I don’t feel isolated. I don’t feel like I have to bottle up my emotions. In fact, I feel far closer to my husband because of it. We solve our skirmishes. We work through our issues. [More about conflict resolution in future posts.] And it draws me closer to God – because let’s be honest: HE solves our skirmishes. HE enables us to work through whatever the issue is.
If I have sacrificed anything in this decision, it is the false intimacy women feel with one another when they complain about their husbands. I’m willing, however, to trade false intimacy with a friend for true intimacy with my husband. I’ll make that trade every time.
And please understand: I’ve made plenty of bad decisions. I’ve had to unlearn LOTS of bad habits. I know how hard it is to give up something that you’ve always done. Something you’re comfortable with. Something you feel nervous without. So, even though this isn’t my struggle, I do know what it’s like to have similar struggles.
So, here’s the challenge: Stop complaining about your husband to other people. Start stopping today. (As always, I’d love to hear your insights below!)
Next Week: Okay, I’m willing to stop complaining, but do I have to stop listening to other women complain? (aka: being the light, but not fueling the fire)
To read the wife series from the beginning, click here: wife, part 1
To read the fully submitted series, click here: fully submitted, part 1