Question: My wife is extremely disrespectful to me and often uses four letter words in front of our children when she's mad. I've told her it bothers me but she tells me to grow up and quit being a baby. I've tried just loving her in the hopes that she will change but so far, nothing changes. (Ron in GA)
Answer: I applaud your commitment to love your wife in spite of her treatment towards you. It is extremely tempting when someone is disrespectful to retaliate or shut down completely. It will be important for you to guard your heart against such things or your marriage will only deteriorate further.
That said however, you cannot make a good marriage on your own. Respect is one of the essential ingredients in all healthy relationships (the other's are mutual caring and mutual honesty). When these ingredients are not mutually practiced, a relationship cannot be healthy or close. Your wife's behavior not only dishonors God, but she also hurts you, she hurts your children and believe it or not, she is hurting herself.
So what can you do? First, recognize that you cannot change her but you can lovingly invite her to change. How? By continuing to speak up about how you feel. You've already told her that her language upsets you. Continue to speak up by using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. For example, you might say,
“I hate when you talk to me that way” or “I feel disrespected when you call me names.” versus “You're a nag (or worse).
Second, if she takes what you have shared and then mocks you, respond with another “I” statement. For example: “I don't like when you put me down when I tell you how I feel. We can't have a good marriage if we don't respect each other.”
If she refuses to hear you and continues to belittle you, then it's time to stand up. You need to say something like, “I won't allow myself to be talked to that way any more. If you want me to listen to what you have to say, you'll have to say it differently.” and then walk away. She will soon learn that she does not get your attention when she behaves disrespectfully and hopefully will decide to at least speak to you differently.
Those steps are not enough to change your marriage around but can be a start. I'd encourage you to make sure you have plenty of Christian support to stay the course of being a good husband and father even if your wife doesn't change. My book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong can give you some specific guidelines on how to do just that.
I am offering a free teleseminar on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, September 29th at 9pm EST. If you’d like more information or would like to sign up for the seminar, contact me at Leslie@leslievernick.com
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