This advice is based on dealing with an inconsiderate man. If your husband is purposefully mistreating you or abusive, this advice could cause him to escalate. If you feel unsafe, it is the opinion of this author that you should contact a shelter and make an exit plan.
Are you doing everything you can to be good to your man, but he is still treating you badly and you feel like he doesn’t respect you? There is a way to resolve this, but you have to stop being so nice. Many women turn up the “nice” when their husbands are behaving badly. The idea is to make a man see how great his woman is so he will treat her right or to soften him up and draw him back. Unfortunately this is backwards thinking. This does not cause a man to respect his wife. It does the opposite. If a woman is extra nice to her husband when he is treating her badly, he will be comfortable in his behavior and continue it. This is called enabling, because it encourages and supports destructive behavior. In fact, it downright rewards bad behavior. When a husband treats his wife badly, it is not only bad for his wife, but it is bad for his soul and weakens his character. Encouraging that is never a good idea.
This is not a choice between reward and punishment. This is a choice between right and wrong. When a man is behaving badly, it is appropriate to draw back, like you do when you touch something too hot, and to let him know that he has crossed a boundary and things are not healthy. Speak to him clearly and respectfully. Tell him what he did that hurt you and tell him what you want him to do to correct the problem. He may not like it. Actually he probably won’t like it, especially if you have been rewarding this kind of behavior and suddenly you are telling him to knock it off and have stopped the rewards. The good news is that it is likely to get his attention and motivate him to make a change.
When a man is mistreating his wife, things are not healthy and acting like everything is all nice and pretty is like putting a table cloth over last night’s dirty dishes and setting your good china out on top of the mess. Nothing is going to set right and it’s going to smell bad, because there is a mess underneath that is not being addressed. What you need is to do the dishes before starting another meal. Cleaning up the mess requires addressing the problem and working together.
It’s not about punishment. Do not try to punish your husband. That will certainly backfire. The idea is to make him feel good about doing what is right and being expected to take care of things that are wrong. This is a reasonable expectation. It is about repentance, healing and restoration. That cannot happen when a woman is rewarding her husband for bad behavior. I see this all the time. When a man is in a position where he is no longer being a loving husband, women will go out of their way to dress nicely, smell nice, make the house nice, make a nice dinner. Nice, nice, nice, all he gets in return for his unloving behavior is a woman who is making nice. When you think of it that way, it becomes painfully obviously why it hasn’t been working, because he is happy being rewarded for drifting away or being unloving.
I spoke to a woman, Jamie*, whose husband was pursuing other women. She did everything she could to draw him back in by trying to be extra nice and extra sexy in an attempt to win him back. She finally realized that making nice was making worse. He did not stop until she stopped being nice and it was clear that nice was not coming back until it was mutual. I’m not saying to be mean. I’m saying to stop pouring on the nice in an effort to draw him back. When a woman stops being nice to draw him back, this isn’t the same as turning mean. It is facing reality and doing something productive about the problem.
Women who take the route of rewarding bad behavior are often Christian women thinking they are respecting and submitting to their husbands in this way. It is true that the Bible tells wives to respect our husbands and to submit to them. However, scripture also teaches to speak the truth in love and to confront someone who has caused an offense. These concepts are supposed to work together to resolve issues, not brush them under the rug.
Being nice instead of facing an issue has nothing to do with respect or submission and we all need to stop acting like it does. Being nice in no way addresses the real problem. A problem cannot be solved if it is ignored. If he is behaving badly, he is the one with the problem. We are always taught to look in the mirror and not to be afraid to go first, which is correct, but once you have looked in the mirror, done your part and found that you are not the one behaving badly, the problem has to be addressed with the person who does have the problem. Going first means being willing to do the right thing, even when your husband is not. It means addressing issues with a gracious and a peaceful attitude, even when your husband is not being the husband that he ought to be.
There is no guarantee that addressing an issue will resolve it. Your husband could choose to respond badly, when he finds he is suddenly being held accountable. But nothing is going to get better if you continue to reward him in doing what is wrong. The being nice approach is not logical and it doesn’t work. The being real approach is much more likely to get a desired response when it is combined with behaviors that build on what your husband is doing right.
There is an excellent book that covers these topics and teaches how to show your man how to treat you, by addressing what is wrong while at the same time learning how to draw your husband close and resolve issues that may currently be plaguing your marriage. Melt Your Man’s Heart, by Randall Bennett is a comprehensive teaching program that helps women understand how their man thinks and how to relate to him in a positive, healthy manner in building him in doing what is right, but also addressing problems in a way that heals, rather than further tearing down. The Melt Your Man’s Heart program includes a manual for personally applying these principles to your own marriage. Purchase this wonderful program here or by clicking on the photo cover of the program.
By Cynthia DeWitte
*Not her real name.
Image credit: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: joebelanger / 123RF Stock Photo
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