How should a husband respond to emotional abuse from his wife?

By Tim White

Few other issues can be so discouraging and hurtful than that of having a mate who continually wrongs you and does not protect you, especially in the area of emotions. This is just as true for husbands with emotionally abusive wives as it is with any other relationship.

Ephesians 5, as does the entire Bible, rises to transcend our fallen condition. That is why the psalmist said:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. Psalms 19:7-9
Regardless of the situation in marriage, we are still accountable to God to be Ephesians 5 husbands and wives. The difficulty of doing so drives us to one thing; a more intimate relationship with God through increased dependence upon Him for survival in a difficult situation. Running away from the situation or rebelling against the truth in the marriage may separate us from the difficult situation, but it also would separate us from the hand of God in the situation and the closeness to Him to which we are being taken.

I once honestly believed that God would not put us in a position that we couldn't handle. Situation after situation that were beyond my strength caused me to question if I even knew God and was one of His. Even in this past year, God place me into an extended situation that I was failing in, creating questions of my competency, my value as a person, and the very reason I should live another day.

In all of that, I would get an occasional small sign that God's hand was in work, not only in the lives around me, but within my very heart. It was clear. God does put us in positions we cannot handle but never one in which He cannot handle.  He takes us to places we would never volunteer to go. He addresses things deep in our hearts that we prefer to remain hidden. Surely, all things, including the most difficult situations, work together for the glory of God and our benefit in the end (Romans 8:28).

A Christian husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the Church to the point of living his life for her benefit. In a balanced Christian marriage done properly, the wife is giving honor and authority to the husband, and the husband is using those to shower honor and love upon his wife (Ephesians 5). Unfortunately, there are no perfectly balanced marriages.

When a husband is emotionally abused by his wife, he is being disregarded in the human relationship that is supposed to be the most protective. There will be a natural response for the husband to react to unbiblical treatment by acting in kind and responding with disregard of the wellbeing of the wife. But Matthew 5:9-12 equally applies to the marriage relationship as it would to community interactions:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Let me include some practical ways in which such a husband can respond in godly ways:

1. Draw as close to God as you can and always seek to be closer (James 4:8). Become more and more dependent upon that relationship and allow God to meet the emotional needs of the husband.

2. Pray for the wife in specific ways. James 5:8 says, "...pray for one another so that you may be healed (repaired). The effective prayer of a righteous man [or, one made righteous, as in 2 Corinthians 5:21] can accomplish much."

Pray that in the treatment received from her husband, the wife can see the Savior. Pray for God to protect you and heal where you have been hurt. Pray that every pain will ultimate be applied to the price of salvation for someone else, especially the wife. Pray that God will use the pain to invest in the soul of the wife.

Immediately following the passage quoted above in Matthew concerning our response to betrayal and persecution, Jesus said:
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
3. Trust God to be working in the wife even when you cannot see any improvement. It is often when God is at work that the behavior of the person being prayed for worsens. This is the natural human reaction to conviction. But know, God is prepared and capable for burning through such resistance if we remain faithful.

4. Allow God to guide the results. The wife will initially pull away from such sacrificial love from a husband because it highlights her shortcomings. This will challenge her view of herself, not only as a wife but as a person. For healing in the marriage, both the husband and the wife must increase their dependence upon God. As God is maneuvering the wife to that realization, she will rebel, fight, push away, and be confused. Be patient.

This is not easy work. Just as Christ stretched Himself out upon the cross to allow the soldiers to drive the nails, you must stretch yourself out to allow pain as a follower of Christ. You must suffer in almost every area of your life to reach across a damaged relationship (1 Peter 2:21). You must swear to (accept and be determined through) your own hurt and not let it change your heart or behavior (Psalms 15:4).

If you have a chance, see the movie Fireproof or read the book The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrix.

Image Credit: Unsplash; Untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | Hardships  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

comments powered by Disqus
Published on 6-15-2015