What Can a Wife Do?
WIVES often ask that question in a tone of despair. Their marital problems just seem beyond themselves to solve.
These wives, unfortunately, are not exceptions. Today they seem to be in the majority—a result of what psychologist Israel Charny calls “the nearly disastrous state of most marriages.”
Therefore, it should come as happy news to many to hear that, despite the seriousness of family problems, there is a way to handle them successfully. Considering the origin of marriage sheds much light upon both the problems and the solution.
Where Marriage Originated
Many believe that marriage is of human origin, that in some way it was worked out in the distant past by men. This idea is at the very root of today’s disastrous family breakdown. Why do we say this?
Because it shoves aside as unimportant the very finest counsel on marital problem. Marriage is really of a higher origin. Almighty God himself created the first man and woman, gave them powers of reproduction, and joined them together in marriage. God also provided instructions recorded in the Bible on how to make a success of marriage. When these instructions are followed closely, marital success is enjoyed.
Can the Bible Really Help?
Some persons object, saying that people have long had the Bible and yet their marriages have been failures. The increased divorce rate, they say, is due to fewer couples putting up with unhappy marriages.
There is considerable truth in this argument. Millions of unhappy couples do possess the Bible. But have they read it? More importantly, have they applied its principles in their lives? The simple fact is, the Bible’s advice has already helped many couples to handle their family problems successfully.
If you want a happy marriage, it is wise at least to examine family problems in the light of what this book the Bible says.
When Sex Is a Problem
Sex is commonly cited as a major problem in marriage. This is often due to unrealistic views sponsored by the news media. Popular books, magazines and movies have couples ‘fall in love’ and live ‘happily ever after.’ Literature also highlights sexual pleasures, often raising expectations beyond what realization fulfills.
To illustrate, one young wife explained: “I guess I wanted sex to be some psychedelic jackpot that made the whole world light up like a pinball machine. I mean, it was all right but I kept thinking, ‘Is that all there is? Is that all there really is?’”
The wife’s overriding concern was her own sexual enjoyment. She was not satisfied. This is the complaint of many women—that their husbands do not satisfy them sexually. In such case, what can a wife do? Is it possible for her to realize greater satisfaction? Does the Bible say anything helpful?
Note the straightforward encouragement it provides: “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband. Do not be depriving each other of it, except by mutual consent.”—1 Cor. 7:3, 5.
According to this Bible counsel, whom should a mate be concerned primarily with pleasing? One’s own self, as was the primary interest of the above-mentioned wife? No, but, rather, one’s mate. The underlying principle here in the Bible is of rendering, giving. The welfare and pleasure of the marriage mate, not oneself, is properly paramount. This is in harmony with the further Bible principles: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” “Love . . . does not look for its own interests.”—1 Cor. 10:24; 13:4, 5.
But how can seeking to please her husband increase the satisfaction of a wife? Well, enjoyment of intercourse is largely dependent upon the mind and heart. Thus, when wives view sexual relations as an opportunity to display their deep love for their husbands, they more frequently, as a side result, find that they themselves are enjoying the relations to a higher degree. When the wife’s mind is not principally on her own sensations, she often relaxes. Any resentment she may have entertained melts away, and the personal pleasure she really desires in the marriage act is realized as a natural consequence.
The greatest teacher to walk the earth, Jesus Christ, indicated that giving of oneself will, in turn, bring a person satisfaction. He said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” This principle has time and again proved true in connection with intimate marriage relations.—Acts 20:35.
Furthermore, applying Bible counsel is likely to work for the wife’s satisfaction because of the effect on her husband. It will do more than anything else to move him to begin to act unselfishly toward her, being more considerate of her needs and desires. It has happened this way in many marriages. The one taking the initiative in giving receives back in kind.—Luke 6:38.
Thus the Bible urges showing unselfishness and love in paying the marriage dues. Try practicing this. See if it does not eventually lead to your realizing greater marital satisfaction.
When Husbands Lack Initiative
Dr. Rebecca Liswood, a marriage counselor with over twenty years of experience, noted another major marriage problem, explaining: “Many of my clients complain of the weakness and irresolution of their husbands.”
Perhaps this is your complaint. Your husband may fail to shoulder his family responsibilities as you believe he should. What can you do about it?
Again the Bible provides help. It shows that man and woman were created with somewhat different qualities and responsibilities, with the purpose that their union contribute to mutual happiness. After creating man, the Creator said: “I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”—Gen. 2:18.
The two were thus created to go together; their qualities balanced or complemented each other. Each was created with a need that the other filled. Thus woman was made as a helper to her husband, and in keeping with that role the Bible urges: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands . . . because a husband is head of his wife.” (Eph. 5:22, 23) This is practical, for if there is no head in the family there is usually discord and confusion.
‘But that is the very problem,’ you may say. ‘My husband does not assume headship; he does not take the lead.’ Yet have you considered why he does not? Could your own attitude be part of the problem?
Today female aggressiveness and competition with men have become common. Has some of this spirit rubbed off on you, as it has on other wives? For example, Dr. Liswood said that, even though they may fail to realize it, her clients’ “own aggressive tactics” are often a source of family problems.
Many husbands are repelled when wives push ahead. Their reaction may be, ‘If she wants to run the show, let her go ahead and do it.’ It may not be your intention to operate independently of your husband, but he may think that it is.
Yet you may feel that you are forced to take the lead, since your husband simply will not do so. But could you do more to encourage him to fill his proper role in the family? Do you ask for his suggestions and guidance? Do you indicate that you are looking up to him for leadership? Do you avoid in any way belittling what he does? When in small ways he manifests willingness to make decisions or take the lead in family affairs, do you express appreciation for this? Or do you argue against his decisions?
If you really work on fulfilling your God-assigned role in marriage, it is likely that your husband may start to assume his. And this will contribute to genuine family peace and happiness.
When Communication Breaks Down
Another complaint, perhaps the commonest one voiced by wives, runs something like this: ‘My husband was thoughtful during our courtship, but he isn’t now. He’s hardly ever at home, and when he is, he makes no effort to talk to me.’
Does a communication problem threaten the welfare of your family? It need not, for the Bible helps marriage mates to view matters realistically.
For example, the Bible emphasizes that we are all imperfect. “We all stumble many times,” it says. “If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” (Jas. 3:2) So, then, is it realistic to expect perfect marital harmony in word and deed? Think back: Before marriage, did you enjoy perfect relations with your brothers and sisters, school friends or possible roommates, with never a sharp word between you? If not, why expect faultless relations with your marriage mate?
Do not be surprised if differences of opinions or expressions give rise to problems. Do not assume, as some wives apparently do, that a dispute or conflict is evidence that ‘he doesn’t love me anymore.’ Try to deal with the problem objectively. True, you may feel deep emotional hurt, but try not to think principally of your own hurt feelings or of how to get even. This will only enlarge the problem. Rather, consider what can be done to settle the difficulty. Do it right away. Remember the Bible’s counsel: “Love . . . does not become provoked, it does not keep account of the injury.”—1 Cor. 13:4, 5.
Analyze your own conduct. Could you bear a measure of fault? Could you, for example, in some way have failed to heed this Scriptural admonition: “The wife should have deep respect for her husband”? (Eph. 5:33) “Deep respect” will cause a wife to avoid anything that would result in her husband’s displeasure. Failure to show such respect is often responsible for a husband’s aloofness.
Many husbands are driven away by the nagging of a contentious wife. (Prov. 25:24; 27:15) In one instance a divorced man said: “Do you know what finally finished me and Estelle? It was her need to be right at all costs. . . . whenever anything went badly, her line was, ‘I told you so!’” Are you careful to avoid such expressions that would show disrespect for your husband?
“Deep respect” may also be shown by a wife’s appearance. Do you try to be attractive to your husband? Would he have continued to call on you before you were married if you gave no more attention to your appearance and personal hygiene than you do now? What about your home? Is it kept neat and clean? Are meals prepared tastefully? When he comes home, do you welcome him with genuine affection? Respect for your husband includes close attention to all these matters.
As for the oft-heard complaint, ‘He doesn’t talk to me anymore,’ one woman said: “The blue-ribbon reason why men don’t talk to their wives is simply that we’re such poor listeners.” Is this true of you? When your husband speaks, do you butt in, leaf through a magazine or have your ear tuned in to some other matter? Lack of interest in his opinions and feelings is certainly not showing him “deep respect.”
By analyzing your conduct in the light of Bible counsel, you may see things that you can do to improve your handling of family problems. Application of God’s instruction has brought contentment and happiness to thousands of troubled homes.
When Husbands Do Not Respond
Yet what if, despite a wife’s efforts, her husband continues to make life difficult? For a Christian wife there is still considerable satisfaction, for, as the Bible notes: “If, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.”—1 Pet. 2:20.
In such suffering Jesus Christ himself set the example, as the Bible account goes on to note: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously. . . . In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.”—1 Pet. 2:23-3:1.
Admittedly this may not be easy to do, even as it was not easy for Jesus submissively to endure persecution. Yet, having an “unbelieving husband” is no grounds for divorce. (1 Cor. 7:13) But, as in the case of Christ, a wife can be sustained in her righteous course by the contentment and satisfaction that come from knowing that she is doing what is pleasing to Almighty God. And she can be assured that her faithfulness will be remembered and rewarded by God in his righteous new system.—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:3, 4.
Thus, the wife can only do so much to handle family problems successfully. For a more complete resolving of problems she needs the cooperation of her husband.