Change yourself, and not your wife

Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 2:32 p.m.
Q: My wife and I argue all the time about everything. It seems like if I say the sky is blue, she says it isn't. Lately, I have been thinking about ending the marriage because I can't live like this anymore. She doesn't respect me as a man and is always going back and forth with me. I have told her over and over again that God made me the head and she needs to submit to my authority, but she starts calling me names. It wasn't always this way because when we were dating, she was meek, humble and obedient. After I put that ring on her finger, she became Dr. Jekyl. I know divorce isn't right, but I don't see any other way. What can I do?
A: As my readers know, I always respond to the person writing me rather than attempt to analyze a person they are writing me about. As such, I am going to deal with you, not your wife.
The timing of this question is extremely appropriate because my dad and pastor of Open Door Ministries currently is conducting very powerful marriage classes. The lessons he is providing have made so many things clear to me that I feel compelled to share a few of his points with you.
First and foremost, disagreement is not a problem. People disagree for many reasons, such as different experiences, different values and different beliefs.
Since no two people are ever exposed to the exact same things or taught to react to situations the exact same way, disagreement in marriage is unavoidable. Believe it or not, disagreement is a good thing. It causes you to think differently, to challenge your own assumptions about things, and to grow as a human being.
A disagreement is an amicable difference in perspective, where each individual respects the viewpoint of the other and is simply sharing their opinion for purposes of discussion. But, when disagreement and pride mix, you have a much more negative and lethal combination: Conflict.
Conflict occurs when you disagree and believe that you have what I call a "monopoly on knowledge." All of a sudden, you move from having a difference of opinion to trying to convince someone to adopt your way of thinking.
As I said before, no two people have been brought up the same way, therefore, trying to convince a person to think the way you think when their experiences and beliefs are counter to everything you are proposing is not only a waste of time, but dangerous.
You mentioned that while you were dating, she was "meek, humble and obedient." She was probably only acting agreeable because she was more interested in getting married than having an opinion. Many people do that.
You may act as if you believe a certain thing in order to get a job, or gain a friend, or find a lover. Having bottled up her opinion for so long, your wife probably reached the boiling point and is now bubbling over.
The difficulty here is that it seems your marriage has passed the point of conflict and has entered a much more precarious territory termed "hostility." Hostility is sustained conflict that has so penetrated your heart and mind it becomes physically visible in your facial expressions, or even your health.
In a hostile environment, your first inclination is to leave, get out, or somehow escape.
In my opinion, you cannot "escape" from marriage. You obviously believe this too, as evidenced by your last statement regarding divorce, but another problem with hostility is it makes you feel helpless. When you are in a hostile marriage, you can feel defeated and worthless.
You mentioned that she does not "respect" you. I believe herein lies the problem because you obviously have a definition of respect that she either does not understand or does not agree with.
Men, especially, tend to view the role of husband as one to be "respected," oftentimes at any and all costs. This idea leads men to believe the source of marital problems boils down to 1) a lack of respect by the wife, and 2) a lack of submission by the wife.
Bottom line: I suggest that you become the change that you want to see in her. Make sure your attitude and beliefs are accurate. Too many men view authority and submission in ways that are completely contrary to what they were intended to be.
So, if you believe she should be more submissive, you be more submissive. If you believe she should be more agreeable, you be more agreeable. If you believe she should be more honorable toward you, be more honorable toward her.
While this advice may not be popular, remember this: you cannot toss any stones that you do not have in your pocket.
Got a relationship question? E-mail Jones is a motivational speaker in the North Central Florida area.Visit for more information.

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