Deep Need for Self-Worth

Most people who verbally abuse their spouse are saying more about their own needs that they are about their spouse’s character. The verbal abuser has a deep need for self-worth. They are unconsciously seeking to elevate themselves by putting down the spouse.

Of course, this is not an acceptable way to build one’s self-esteem. The spouse who wants to have a positive influence will affirm the need, but reject the behavior. By saying something like: “I know that you must be terribly frustrated to speak to me in that manner. I wish I could hear you and help, but I am so pained by the words that I cannot listen. If you could write me a note telling me what you feel and how strongly you feel it, maybe I could be there for you and could be the spouse you need.” This statement acknowledges the inner struggles of the abuser, but refuses to accept the destructive behavior. This is a step in the right direction

Abusive Language is Poisonous

Verbal abuse is warfare. It employs the use of words as bombs and grenades designed to punish the other person, to place blame, or to justify one’s own actions or decisions. Abusive language is filled with poisonous put-downs which seek to make the other person feel badly, appear wrong, or look inadequate. Most people who practice verbal abuse are suffering from low self-esteem. Anything which threatens their worth will stimulate a flow of angry words. The slightest criticism can ignite the flame. Understanding this, may change your attitude toward your verbally abusing spouse. Seeing them as a needy person, rather than an abusive person, may help you take a more constructive approach.

Being a Loving Leader

Being a loving leader requires that we put our wives at the top of our priority list. Christ is our example. He loved the church and gave himself for it. The church is his priority. He shed his blood for the church. And now, as our ascended Savior, he prays for us. What a model!

So, the husband who takes the Bible seriously will make his wife his number one priority. Throughout the day he will ask himself the question: What can I do for her that will enhance her life? He will pray for her daily. He will encourage her worthy pursuits. He will commend her for her accomplishments. As Christ showers us with daily blessings, so the husband as loving leader will shower his wife with actions and words which say, “I love you”. And she will follow his leadership.

Leadership Implies Communication

Leadership implies communication. The husband is to love and provide for his wife as Christ loves and cares for the church. But how can the husband do that if he doesn’t know her needs? Peter instructs, that we are to deal with our wives according to knowledge. This means we must take the initiative in asking questions and listening in order to “know” our wives and thus be able to meet their needs.

Does not God invite us to come to Him with our needs, and make our requests known? Why should not the husband do the same?

Application: Go home tonight and say to your wife, “Tell me about your day, darling.” Then look into her eyes and listen. Then ask, ‘What could I do tonight that would make your life easier?” Then after you have picked her up off the floor, listen and do what she requests. You are being a loving leader.

A Wife is a Partner

The loving husband views his wife as a partner. A wife is not a trophy to be won in courtship and then placed on the wall for all to observe along with our ten-point buck. She is a living person with whom to have a relationship. She is not a person to be dominated and controlled to satisfy our own desires. She is a person to be known and from whom we can learn.

The idea of the wife as partner is as old as human literature. In the Genesis account of creation, the woman was created from the rib of man. It is a graphic description of her role as partner. The man and his wife were instructed to subdue the earth and to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and other living creatures. The man was not instructed to subdue his wife. He was told to become “one flesh” with her. We are different, but these differences were designed by God so that we could complement each other.

The husband who views his wife as an partner has taken the first step toward becoming a loving leader in his marriage.

The Husband’s Role in Marriage

In the contemporary world, perhaps nowhere has confusion reigned more than in the area of the husband’s role in marriage.

On one extreme is the concept of the dominant husband who makes all decisions and informs the wife as to what they are going to do, who does not tolerate questions from his wife or his children, and who believes that it is his responsibility to control all the major decisions regarding family life while the wife “takes care of the children.”

On the other extreme is the more contemporary “don’t count on me” husband who expects the wife to support the family and make all the major decisions while he is the resident sports information source and keeps his muscles bulging with workouts at the local gym so that his wife will “be proud of him.” Somewhere between these two concepts is a healthy middle road where the husband is a responsible, dependable, leading but non-domineering husband who is deeply committed to his wife and family.

Where are you?

Ask for Forgiveness

If you want to improve your marriage, and you are open to trying the radical teachings of Jesus, then the first step is get alone with God, and pray this prayer: “Lord, you know what I live with, and you know how they treat me. But I know that I’m not perfect and what I want to know is where am I failing in my marriage. What am I doing and saying that I should not? What am I failing to do and say that I should?” That is a prayer that God will answer. He will show you your failures. I suggest that you write them down as God brings them to your mind.

1. I was not kind last night. I was harsh and cutting with my words.

2. I have been withdrawing lately. Not willing to talk or express interest in his life.

3. I’ve been acting like God is dead and hope is gone. Write them down and confess them to God. ‘Lord, I know that these are wrong. I confess them to you. Thank you that Christ has paid for these sins. I ask for your forgiveness.”

According to scripture, the moment you ask, you are forgiven. Thank God for His forgiveness. “Now Lord, help me to do something good with my life today.” You have taken the first step in improving your marriage.

Improving a Marriage is Hard Work

Improving a marriage is hard work, but the good news is, you can do it, because the first step is always yours. Jesus said: First get the beam out of your own eye and then you can help your spouse get the speck out of theirs. I know that someone is objecting: “But the beam really is not in my eye. I’m not perfect, but the real problem is my spouse.” Let’s assume for a moment that you are correct. Let’s say that your spouse’s behavior accounts for 95% of your marital problems. Now that only leaves 5% for you. I’m suggesting and I think Jesus was suggesting that you best begin with your five percent. In fact, your five percent is all that you can ever change. You cannot confess your husband’s sins, but you can certainly confess your own. You cannot change his behavior, but you can certainly change yours. Once you deal with your five percent, the marriage is already improved. You are feeling better about yourself, because you are following the teachings of Jesus. I will guarantee that your action will get the attention of your spouse.

Does Every Marriage Need Help?

Is there a marriage that doesn’t need help? I find that even couples with good marriages recognize that there‘s room for growth. And couples with troubled marriages are desperate for improvement. I’m convinced that you can have a better marriage. I’m also convinced that the key to improving your marriage is you. Oh, but you don’t understand, some of you are thinking. I live with an alcoholic. My wife is depressed. My husband is abusive. Others of you are thinking, “Well, my marriage is not that bad.” The question is, Do you want to have a better marriage? My response is, You Can. And it begins with you. Jesus said: “Why do you keep talking about your spouses’ faults and spend so little time thinking about you own? Don’t you know that if you will begin by cleaning up your own act, you will have a greater influence on your spouse? First let’s deal with your own failures, then you can expect to see change in your spouse!” That’s Matt. 7:1-5 loosely paraphrased and applied to marriage. But don’t forget, the first step is yours.

Early Marital Adjustments

Question: Gary, we are a newlywed couple. My husband jokes about good-looking women, in front of me. I am offended. He says, “it doesn’t mean anything.” I’m having serious jealousy issues.

Answer: You may both be right. It may not ‘mean anything’ to him. But, you are hurt and jealous. Those would be normal feelings. Many men make comments about ‘good looking women’. When a man is single, these comments are most often made to other men. However, not many women want to hear such comments from their husbands. In fact, I don’t know any women that welcome such comments. So, tell him that you find that offensive. Remind him that he is married and that you are not ‘one of the boys’. Give him a little slack. It takes a while to break old habits. But whatever you do, don’t accept these comments as appropriate. You are newly married and this is the time to ‘set the record straight’ that such comments are not acceptable. Also, be open to his requests for changes in your speech or behavior. This is a normal part of early marital adjustments.