No man starts out wanting to be this way, but that’s sometimes where we end up. Here are 6 ways to be a terrible husband.
“You’re not hearing what she’s saying, Matt”.
Krys is a sharpshooting older gentleman who wanted to have a chat to me during the dating phase with my now wife. I was startled as he ran through some examples of how I wasn’t hearing what she was saying and how instead I should be picking up on things.
But I was known as someone who helped many people with relationships, and people had so many praiseworthy comments about me, and I’d done so much research and study on the area… and and and…
And he was right. I had to change a few things.
It’s a sobering reality for any man to consider that they may be a terrible husband, or developing patterns in the earlier stages that are unable to sustain a happy marriage. But that’s just where many of us end up.
Relationships are either the greatest source of joy or the greatest source of pain in our lives. Often both at the same time. We are often aware when others are the cause of our distress, but we are seldom aware when we may be contributing to the pain of others.
Especially our wives. The women in our lives are supposed to take centre stage, and yet for so many they either suffer in silence or lash out in the wrong behaviours.
And so whether you’re an aspiring husband, a current husband who wants to do it right, an ex-husband who doesn’t want to repeat mistakes, or someone with a husband who doesn’t know what to do, let’s have a look at six ways to be a terrible husband… obviously with the hope that you don’t become one.
#1: Think that you can’t be one
I think the conversation above was a startling reminder for me that every person is one decision away from stupid. That all of us are capable of making mistakes. That even the best of us can become the worst in a single instant.
Saint Augustine said “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels”. How true that the most destructive thing we may be bringing to our marriages, or our desire for them, is a blinding pride that we can do no wrong.
I don’t think we need to beat ourselves to death with shame either. But if we don’t think we can ever be wrong, then we are driving with all the mirrors on the car removed.
#2: Have no (or limited) role models
63% of suicides, 90% of runaways, and 85% of young people in prison all have one thing in common – they came from fatherless homes.
As much as society progresses, the statistics continue to highlight that the absence of a male role model can have a detrimental effect on a man’s development. There’s just something about other men that every man needs.
Author John Eldredge makes a fantastic point on this in The Way of the Wild Heart, a book I would highly recommend to any man and any one who loves a man: “The father is to speak into his son’s heart deep affirmation. Yes, you do. You have what it takes. He needs a hundred experiences that will help him get there, and he is wounded and emasculated when he is kept from those experiences, or left on his own to interpret them, or when no one is there to help him in his journey toward initiation“.
As we get older, it can be easy to blame the men in our lives for how things are turning out. Fortunately for me, I had a really good dad, but in truth all of us need a multitude of male examples in order to be the best men we can be. As much as you may have wanted it from your own father, even the best father out there is an incomplete picture, much in the same way that we ourselves are incomplete.
The Proverbs tell us that plans fail for a lack of counsel, but with a multitude of counsellors, they succeed. There is an abundance of great masculine example out there – men who can show us how to be great husbands, handy around the home, good with the kids, balanced in our commitments, strong in our health, and also with eyes who are allowed to see and make comments on how we’re doing as I needed earlier on (and still do).
We just have to go out there and find it, rather than spending our lives bitter about what we didn’t get.
#3: Surround yourself with friends who don’t challenge you
One of the posts I continually have people comment on about how it ruined a classic Disney film for them is Why Timon and Pumbaa Are The True Villains Of The Lion King. As endearing as these little animal characters are, they accurately represent the most common telltale sign of a man who is about to be a terrible husband, or a man who continues to be one –
They have friends who do not challenge them.
Think about it even in the movie. Simba is lied to and has to run away from his home. Traumatic and terrifying. But then he finds these friends who just allow him to breeze through life, never ask where he’s come from, never challenge him on who he can eventually be, and actively encourage him to neglect his responsibilities.
If that isn’t an accurate picture of what happens to so many young men, I don’t know what is. Men who abdicate the throne of how great they could really be because of who they’re currently surrounding themselves with.
I have found that if you aren’t accountable to anyone, you are dangerous to everyone. And in fact when a man starts pulling away from the right friends in his life, I have seen 100% of the time that the worst decisions they have ever made are not far behind. Without the right friends, we are guaranteed to be a terrible husband – if not today, then in a few years’ time.
The Scriptures are clear – bad company corrupts good character. And when we live in a dark house with all the lights turned off and no external eyes allowed to see what goes on in your marriage, your home, or your life – destruction isn’t far behind.
#4: Address your sexual needs in an unhealthy way
Men like sex. It is very rare for a man to not have high numbers of sexual thoughts per day, and for those who don’t it is often linked to trauma or a medical issue. However, many men’s sexual appetite and actions in a marriage can constitute a very unhealthy component in their relationship.
Women get pressured into doing things way beyond what’s safe or comfortable, and men frequently invite other women into their relationship – either physically, or mentally. I wrote more about a variety of these things in What Porn Teaches Us About Men, Celibacy Syndrome, Rejection, and Preferring Sex With A Screen, Men and Rape Culture and Addressing the Sexual Elephant in the Room, all linking to various research in the area of male sexuality.
When you go watching things or pulling in standards of beauty that aren’t your wife, you are framing your sexual desire, not discovering it.
In thought and in deed, if we chose her, we need to continue to choose her. And fellas, even if you can’t do it today, you have a pretty good memory don’t you think? Do you really need to go lusting after other women in order to cope? Just do what you were going to do anyway, but with your wife. No conflicts there.
In her various material on “Mating In Captivity“, sexologist Esther Perel notes this – “When the impulse to share becomes obligatory, when personal boundaries are no longer respected, when only the shared space of togetherness is acknowledged and private space is denied, fusion replaces intimacy and possession co-opts love“.
We know that men are only ever after one thing – love. And there are healthy ways to express that in marriage. But when we become demanding and demeaning, we should note that we’ve clearly lost the plot somewhere, and find a healthier way for enjoying sex as a couple.
The Hebrew Song of Songs is another great resource to consider. Look at how he treats her and how free she feels herself.
#5: Think that violence is acceptable
If you have decided that an acceptable way of dealing with problems in your marriage is to use violence of any kind – and I know you didn’t want to be a terrible husband – this is exactly what you’ve become.
Violence is the ultimate violation of the marriage covenant. If you have the gaul to tell a woman off for running out of the house with the kids for their safety and call her unfaithful, you my friend need a mirror, as you are the first to break the covenant.
Even Mental Illness Isn’t An Excuse for Cruelty or Destruction.
In Jewish society, even a slave had three rights in a marriage – food, shelter and safety, and conjugal rights. Even the lowest of the low in terms of their standing on society was free to be released if these weren’t being met.
Bishop TD Jakes tackles this head on in his material He-Motions. A man who hits his wife hits her because he hates himself. Definitely worth a watch and a read if you’re in this boat.
Do you hate yourself? Have you become angry or dominated with bitterness? There is help available. Make sure you take it before the woman you love (or the woman you will love) has to leave because she can’t be safe with you.
#6: Demand instead of cherish
I think the ugliest thing a man can do as a husband is to demand instead of cherish. “I’m your husband and you’ll do what you’re told”. Control. Fear. Treat ’em mean. You’ll respect me woman.
Here’s the actual description of someone like this:
You think she owes you. And maybe she does. But our calling gentlemen isn’t to take what we think we are worthy of, but to lay our lives down.
One of my favourite passages in all writing is in the Song of Songs. A young woman starts out so insecure and unsure of herself. She doesn’t like the way she looks and she thinks her skin is too dark, but her husband offers constant and consistent reassurance and love. After an extended period with him, she says of herself that she became in his eyes as one who finds peace.
What does your wife become in your eyes? Is she safe? Is she beautiful? Is she allowed to pursue her dreams? Is she free to give to you? Or do you demand it out of her because of who you think you are?
Cherish her. Treasure her. Give her the best you have to give.
Even the greatest husband of all, the great King, could demand his wife to love him and serve him the way he deserves.
But instead he didn’t consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but laid down his life as a ransom. And he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf so that we could become the righteousness of God.
Are we still clinging to our entitlement? Have we laid down our lives for our wives yet?
You can’t control what your wife does, but we should always do the right thing even if we get the wrong result.
Make no mistake – marriage is hard. It can be very easy to be a terrible husband. But I think it is very achievable to be the best we can be. For some other things that have helped me a lot in my own marriage, check out 10 Ways To Minimize Fights In Marriage and Love.
If you’re not sure how you’re doing – ask her. Really ask her. I’m sure she’ll be glad to tell you. Ask your close friends. Ask the role models in your life. If you regularly invite feedback and take stock often, you won’t ever stray far from the right track.
How about you? What are some other ways to be a terrible husband (so he doesn’t have to be)?