The #1 Way to Get Your Spouse to Stop Offending
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…?” This is the question Jesus asked, referring to the account in Genesis 1 where God creates man and woman to be husband and wife.
We might ask ourselves the same question.
PINK AND BLUE
I use a word picture to show these male and female differences. God designed women, so to speak, to look at the world through pink sunglasses, which color what she sees. She inserts pink hearing aids and these decipher what she hears. She speaks through a pink megaphone and expects everybody to know what she means by what she says. After all, her girlfriends know what she means by what she says!
The husband, on the other hand, puts on blue sunglasses, which color what he sees. He puts in his blue hearing aids and these determine what he hears. He speaks through a blue megaphone and expects everybody to know what he means by what he says, because his buddies know what he means by what he says.
I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR
Are there male and female differences when it comes to what we say and what we mean by what we say?
Yes. We can say the same thing but assign a different meaning to the same words.
For instance, a woman will say, “I have nothing to wear.” What she means is she has nothing new. Her husband will say, “I have nothing to wear.” What he means is he has nothing clean.
Both say the same thing: “I have nothing to wear” but mean something different.
YOU ARE CRITICAL!
Imagine the potential explosion during this marital exchange: A wife asked her husband how he feels about her. He answers, “You are critical.” About to explode, she pauses and asks, “What do you mean?” He responds, “I could not survive without you. You are critical to my survival.”
Whew! Explosion diverted.
I bring this up because during conflict among good willed couples we must trust that neither mean to be as unloving or disrespectful as we interpret.
When a husband communicates through his blue megaphone in ways that a wife hears as unloving, she must take a deep breath and pause before taking up offense. She must find out what he means.
For example, in a conflict most husbands feel they are doing the honorable thing by saying “Just drop it. No big deal. Let’s forget it.” He doesn’t want to fight. He is a good willed man who would die for his wife if she doesn’t kill him first! He exits the room.
His meaning is respectful since he intends to de-escalate an unnecessary argument. He has behaved this way with his best buddies since junior high. However, to his wife his words mean something different. She hears, “I don’t love you.” She thinks, “If he loved me he’d talk with me until I felt reassured all was ok between us. That’s what I would do.”
So, a wife must not label her husband as unloving when he intends to do the honorable thing. Just because this feels unloving does not mean the husband intends to be unloving. A wise wife gives him the benefit of the doubt.
When a wife speaks through her pink megaphone in such a way that a husband feels disrespected, he must pause before he takes up offense. He must find out what she means.
For instance, in an argument, most wives feel they are doing the loving thing by saying, “We need to talk. We need to talk now. Sit down and talk to me.” She does not want the fight to continue. She is a good willed woman who longs to emotionally connect with her husband so the two of them can be a happy team. She longs for the two of them to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” She has done this dance with her best girlfriend since first grade.
However, her words “Talk to me now” mean to her husband, “Stay put so I can talk at you and tell you the ways you have hurt me and been unloving.” He hears, “I don’t respect you Bozo.” He thinks that if she respected him, which she obviously does not, she’d drop the matter and move on, like he does with her many times a month.
So, a husband must not label his wife as disrespectful when she intends to do the loving thing. Just because this feels disrespectful does not mean the wife intends to be disrespectful. A prudent husband gives her the benefit of the doubt.
IS THIS BIBLICAL?
Is it accurate to conclude that both have a desire to do the loving and respectful thing? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:33-34, that the husband “is concerned… how he may please his wife” and the wife “is concerned… how she may please her husband.”
Yes, both want to please the other. Neither intends to be unloving or disrespectful. Yet, at the end of the day each feels the other has displeased them due to being less concerned about what matters to them. She wants to talk more and he doesn’t. He wants to drop it and she doesn’t.
We have a disconnect.
DO NOT BE QUICK TO LABEL
Thus, a wife should refrain from telling him that he is always unloving. He rarely aims to displease her by being unloving. Truth is, he is concerned about doing the respectful thing.
A husband should hold back from telling her she is disrespectful. She hardly ever strives to displease him by being disrespectful. Fact is, she is concerned about doing the loving thing.
Though both know they fail at times, they believe they get up each day with basic good will. Both know their hearts are in the right place. Neither get up early to irritate the other.
LET’S FIGURE THIS OUT
If we do not figure this out then when we feel offended, we end up offending.
When a wife feels unloved she unthinkingly reacts in a way that feels disrespectful to her husband. When a husband feels disrespected he unconsciously reacts in way that feels unloving to his wife.
I call this the Crazy Cycle and couples spin out of control. We keep offending the other on the heels of feeling offended.
What is the solution?
When a wife feels offended, she must not offend her husband with a negative, disrespectful reaction. She will feed the craziness and keep feeling offended.
When a husband feels offended, he must not offend his wife with his unloving reaction. He will trigger the endless cycle of craziness and continually feel offended.
- Let your spouse know you do not intend to be unloving or disrespectful even though it sounded that way.
- When feeling unloved and disrespected say, “I know you are not trying to be unloving and disrespectful but can you clarify what you meant by what you just said? This would help me.”
- Cease taking up offense if one is continually offending and triggering the offense. Ask God to help you with this.
Among good willed couples the #1 way to get your spouse to stop offending you is when you stop offending them! This is true for Sarah and me, and I know it will be true with others of good will.