The Discontent Wife – Who's to Blame?

The Discontent Wife – Who's to Blame?

The church is really good at shifting blame. We tend to think that sin is “out there” and not “in here”. We promise ourselves that if we could just avoid the right things, we won’t sin anymore.

“Ladies, if you stop watching movies with romantic story-lines and reading books with romantic themes, you won’t be discontent with your husbands.”

Can I just say that is a LIE?!

You can avoid every movie and book in existence and still find yourself discontent with your husband. You know why? Because the issue is your heart. What I find particularly funny is all the while we preach to avoid these “snare traps” for our marriage, we serve women something far more dangerous on a silver platter from our pulpits, retreats, and books.

We sit next to our husbands in church and listen while preachers give our husbands a list of all of the things they are called to BE and DO in order to be a godly man. Never mind that the list is mostly comprised of things that are not in scripture at all. While they could be good things, maybe even helpful things, there is NEVER any mention of God’s grace to our husbands in how Jesus is the perfect husband that is talked about in Ephesians?!! This stuff is like gasoline to an open flame in the heart of a wife who is discontent. You’ll find the same content in most books on the subject of marriage.

These lists usually contain things like: 
*Take your wife out on a date weekly.
*Take your children out on dates individually weekly
*Have family devotions daily. Include singing. Even if you’re not a singing family.
*Be sure that your wife and children SEE you spending time with the Lord daily.
*Disciple your wife
*Disciple your children
*Disciple your dog, fish, neighbor, brother, mail man
*Be discipled by your dog, fish, neighbor, brother, mail man
*Keep your family from sinning, you need to present them to God, blameless.
*Do love dares
*Quit watching sports so much. Quit playing golf so much. Quit playing video games, be a man.
*Take your kids to church every time the doors are open. 
*Don’t work so much. 
*add other cookie cutter ideals here ____________ .
*Find a godly man, be like that guy. Do what he does. 

And as if that were not bad enough, we hear the guilt trips laid upon them when they fail to meet this list (which they all do.):
*If Jesus were to walk in your home and see it in disarray, he would come looking for YOU husband and ask what you have been up to that these things are not in order. What will you say to Jesus about these things?
*Your witness to the world is your family. Does it emulate Jesus?

The wife hearing all of this knows how painfully short her husband is falling to the standard laid out. So she, in the pew, purposes in her heart to “be a helper” and make sure that he begins to tackle these things. After all, that’s what ALL of the books she is reading on being a “godly woman” are telling her to do. This “ideal man” becomes an idol in her heart. She comes up with all kinds of crazy ways to manipulate this man into becoming her idol. Maybe if she cleans more, cooks his favorite meals, offers sex more often it will make him want to serve her more? She can lay out his bible for him, wake him up with coffee, and be an example to him by reading her bible in his view as he sips his coffee and digs the crust from his eyes. Maybe she’ll sweetly encourage him to spend time with other men in the church. She’ll notice that a week has gone by without him doing so, to be helpful perhaps she’ll send an email to one of the “godlier” men in the church and encourage him to set up a “play date” with her husband?

And then…it doesn’t work.

The bitterness grows. There’s no flowers brought home. He doesn’t put gas in her car. He’s watching football…again. The comparison game begins. Look at “so and so’s” husband. He does ALL of these things. Why can’t my husband be more like HIM?! And how quickly that thought moves from, “I wish my husband were more like him” to… “I wish I were married to him.” In her mind, THIS is a godly man. She can stand from afar and assume the best about this other man because she isn’t around to see him at his worst. (She doesn’t see his messy hair and eye crust over sips of coffee in his whitey-tighties.) He’s just perfect. He fits the bill to the idol she had created for her husband to be. Fascination has taken root. It isn’t long before her heart and mind take her places she never thought possible because she’s avoided ALL of the romantic movies and novels that would make her think such things!!!! How in the world did she get to this place? Feeling empty, alone, and full of guilt for the thoughts that she indulged she thinks, “I’m wanting my husband to be the “godly” man he is supposed to be. What’s wrong with that? I thought these were good things?”

Then one day, out of absolute frustration and desperation to fix the issues, she finds herself sitting across from her husband saying, “If YOU would just BE what you are supposed to BE and DO what you are supposed to DO then I wouldn’t be struggling the way that I AM!!!!” He’s failed to become her idol. She shifts the blame of her discontent to her husband.  She watches as his face falls, his heart breaks. He has been defeated.

I walked away from “The Notebook” thinking, “Dallas puts up with my crap just the way Noah did with Allie. He is SO patient with me!!!” I couldn’t wait to hug and kiss my husband for being so kind to me when I’m such a brat sometimes after watching that movie. I walked away from the “Twilight” series thinking, “Wow. That is not sacrificial love at all. I’m thankful to know what real and sacrificial love is because I live with someone who loves me that way every day.” I walked away from years of sermons and self-help Christian books just like the ones I mentioned above completely frustrated, my discontentment raging. So let’s stop pretending that ALL of our discontent is put to rest by avoiding certain types of entertainment. That is a foolish notion.

Friends, if movies and books flame the embers of discontent in your heart, and your husband becomes less in your eyes after spending time there, by ALL MEANS avoid them at all costs. It’s not worth it. But let’s not pretend the issue is always “out there”. The issue is always first and foremost, the heart. If you have expectations of any kind, that you find in movies, from sermons, etc. your husband will fail to meet those expectations and you will find yourself discontent with him. The church DOES need to take a good hard look at the way we talk to husbands about who it is they need to be. The effects of Christ in a man’s life and how it plays out within his family is going to be different for every man and that is because every man is different. And that is okay!!! The bible does not lay out specific guidelines for how a man is to love his wife. It just says to love her. So frankly, expecting your husband to be “Noah” (from The Notebook) is just as ridiculous as expecting him to be someone else’s ideal of a godly man, even if it comes from a pulpit or book by a Christian author.

Let’s stop asking our husbands to love us the way we think he needs to be (or as prescribed by others) and instead be thankful for the way God displays his love for us through our husbands. That is where you will find the contentment. That is also where your husband will find freedom. And the next time you sit with your husband and watch him deflate listening to someone telling him how much he is failing to love you, be sure to hug him and remind him of Jesus. Christ is the perfect husband, not him. He can’t possibly love you perfectly the same way you can’t love him perfectly. Remind him of how much the Lord has grown him in grace over the years and remind him of the promise that God’s not done, with either of you.

I also read a great blog post this week about lowering our expectations of our husbands and how that creates a healthier marriage. You can read it here.   

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19 thoughts on “The Discontent Wife – Who's to Blame?

  1. I saw your note about “wounded…skiddish about church”…. But on THIS topic, I can’t blame the church – so much as books, blogs and seminars that worm their way into houses (see 2 Timothy 3:5-6) and prey on gullible women! Sadly, I’ve seen too many gullible women in my limited experience. You’ve hit the nail on the head in this post and I’m glad to have found it!

  2. A few agree/disagree things:
    1. Absolutely, let’s be conscious of all the ostensibly good media that feed discontent and be conscious that the hunger is internally driven, not externally.
    2. Given the *decades* that women have been subjected to the same via moralistic books about wife-ing and mothering, hopefully there will be a similar post somewhere coming to men re: their wives. Beyond the physical expectations, there are plenty of spiritual and domestic ones that become an unbearable burden for women.
    3. We don’t get to be all dogmatic about Christianity having a “masculine” feel and the fatherhood of God and Jesus’ pursuit of His bride, and then turn around and tell women married to men who bury themselves in work or hobbies and are relationally or spiritually neglecting their families they just need to suck it up and be content. No one would tell a woman whose husband is addicted to pornography or alcohol to just be content. Why does a man who may be addicted to self (even one who wants to change but doesn’t know how) get a pass?

    Hope this doesn’t sound too harsh. I agree entirely with the main premise, and the Christian Internet can fuel all kinds of discontent. But I’m uncomfortable with how quickly this articles is being flung around and potentially discouraging wives in really difficult, lonely marriages who are still being told it’s all their fault.

    1. Hi! Thanks for leaving a comment! You know, like 5 people read my blog usually so I’m pretty shocked at the fact that my post is being “flung around”! I’m a big fat no one, honestly. I write out of what the Lord has taught me in my own life. And everything that I wrote came straight from my own battle in my own heart and within my own marriage.The premise of the post wasn’t to women who are living in oppressive situations. The point of the post was to take a good look at where discontentment comes from and to bring to light an issue that is taking place within the church that we may be overlooking. The focus was how we are setting up the ideal man not found in the pages of scripture and telling men to be that…and telling wives to expect that.

      I totally agree where you’re coming from, I would never tell a woman in the situations that you mentioned to “just be content” or that it’s her fault. That’s incredibly unloving. I have experience within my family and extended family the issues that you mentioned. I completely understand the bondage for women who are married to men who are addicted to such things. They already feel hopeless, so to tell them flippantly to be content is so cruel. (I have also heard well meaning people say all of those things and watched those women crumble under the weight of that kind of cruelty. Usually from people who haven’t a clue!) Rest and peace for those women in those difficult, heart wrenching situations is truly found in Christ. And the freedom from those addictions is also found in the gospel (and counseling is a really good idea!). So, I understand where you’re coming from but that’s a whole different topic than I was speaking of here, one that takes considerable delicate thought and grace. It’s impossible to cover every situation for every woman in one post. Hope that helps you see where I was coming from.

  3. I agree somewhat with your point here but I think you’ve really missed the boat on some serious application for those discontent women. They need to learn to not put all those expectations On their husbands but on Christ and find fulfillment in Him. Yes, give our husbands grace and remind them they are growing- but then throw yourself on the grace of God and rely on Him for your fulfillment. Yes God is the only perfect husband so we need to repent for making our husbands God in our eyes, putting expectations that only Christ can ultimately do in our lives on our highly imperfect husbands. The church needs to teach women that marriage is not going to make you happy, children, the perfect job, house etc. will not make you happy. The only thing that will never let you down and never give you true joy is a life found in the constant grace of the Cross. That’s where you find forgiveness for your husband, patience for your kids, love for your pesky neighbor, servant hood for your nasty boss…all those things. The church needs to teach the gospel. It’s not just for new believers to come to salvation and find forgiveness. It’s every day Christian living. We need to be reminded constantly of the message of Christ’s atoning work on the cross and understand what that means for our lives when our husband is a sinner (aka- all the time, every day, every husband).

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading my blog and thinking about it enough to write a well thought out response.. I fully agree with everything that you said, and that is exactly my heart behind writing the post. The answer is ALWAYS Jesus. I may have just not worded it the way you did or given it as much attention as you would have liked. Perhaps someone looking for more on gospel application will be encouraged by what you shared? That would be cool!

  4. Really enjoyed this as a young husband. My wife does none of these things above but it was very intuitive and great points/illustrations. I also appreciate the straightforwardness of the post! Thank you so much!

    1. I’m encouraged to know this post was encouraging to men as well. My husband helped me write this and is thinking of writing his own post from a male perspective!! I hope he finds the time to do that. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. This hit hard. I stopped reading and watching anything to do with romance b/c I believed the lie. I don’t struggle with comparing my husband to other husbands and yet I’ve still struggled with discontentment. Oh my goodness there’s a “third” man! The less obvious one. I would say almost more dangerous than the characters in a book or movie and even more so than the other husband at church. The “ideal” man. Ugh! You are SO right! Thank you for sharing these words.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. The Lord has taught me over the years how much an ungrateful heart and expectations can cause my heart to be discontent. I love lists, their easier to follow than the Holy Spirit! Whoa is me! I’m so grateful the Lord is showing me His grace and seeing that any permanent change in my life or those around me can only come by conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit. Let’s love each other enough to point out blind spots, in love, rather than give each other a list to follow. Let’s speak the gospel to each other and also have accountability of sin. Let’s bathe each other with mercy, yet also encourage each other to strive towards holy living. I’ve heard the messages you’re speaking of and have grown to see that the emphasis is only on ” the list”, rather than the one who can truly change us . Many things on the list may be good and needed, but the Lord needs to do the convicting. We want everyone to be cookie cutters, it’s easier. Easier, but not Christ-like. May the Lord continue to draw us closer to Him, and consequently closer to our precious husbands.

  7. This is so true of my husband and I. He just never fit into the mold that was being presented in our church circles (a lot of the things from your list). In a house full of articulate women (I have 3 girls who excel in English, Speech and Drama), he felt subconscious about giving a devotional. He never liked the buddy system at church (men mentoring men—-felt like this should be happening naturally—not because someone assigned a certain person to you). He has never been very creative when it came to gift giving, etc. But he is a hard worker and has always been a good provider. He tells people about Jesus where ever he goes. He doesn’t usually initiate pray and bible study with the family, but always joins in and loves it when we have a time of prayer and bible reading together. I had to learn as a young wife to be content with the husband I had. It was hard sometimes because of all the peer pressure, but I am glad we stayed together for 35 years and braved the storms. The Lord knew what I needed too. I don’t think I could have handled that “perfect husband/father” person. I am far from perfect myself.

    1. Valorie,

      Thank you so much for sharing this! Amen!!!! I love it! 🙂 Exactly what I was meaning by this post. Some of the most precious men who love their families well (in their own way), don’t fit the cookie cutter mold and get so discouraged by the lists!

  8. I have to say this was very encouraging to read. As we celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary in a few days, I wish someone had shared this with me years ago. It might have saved much heartache and turmoil early on. Thankfully, God got through to me & taught me this Himself! I wish every young lady preparing for marriage could read & grasp the heart of what you wrote so they don’t suffer the same troubles you and I have. Blessings!

  9. Reblogged this on GRACE Blog and commented:
    As part of GRACE’s desire to share resources and Christian Encouragement, we will sometimes share encouraging or informative blogs written by other bloggers.

  10. Pingback: Focus - GRACE Blog

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