All posts by Jeff Olson

About Jeff Olson

Jeff is a licensed professional counselor in the State of Michigan and has worked for Our Daily Bread Ministries as a writer and editor since 1992. He’s authored and contributed to a number of Discovery Series booklets (discoveryseries.org) on such topics as addictions, grief, and depression. He also maintains a part-time private counseling practice in the West Michigan area. Jeff and his family live in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s an avid outdoorsman and loves to be out fishing for salmon on Lake Michigan.

Can a Wife Be the Abusive One in a Marriage?

Much has been written in recent decades about husbands abusing their wives, as it should. In more cases than we care to admit, husbands from a variety of backgrounds are physically and emotionally battering their wives with their fists and their words. This is a serious problem no one should take lightly (SEE When Violence Comes Home.).

Abuse in marriage, whatever form it takes, is ultimately about a pattern of exerting power and control over one one’s own way. When a marriage is marked by a one-sided pattern of control, the abusive spouse is not always the husband. Sometimes the abusive spouse is the wife.

While most wives are not able to control their husbands through physical threats and violence, some dominate their husbands through their words, looks, and other threatening actions. Similar to an abusive husband, an abusive wife may boss her husband around, talk down to him, call him humiliating names, and treat him in a very emasculating way. Generally speaking, her style of communication doesn’t invite open and free conversation. It tends to be intimidating or manipulative and is intended to shut her husband down. Whether it’s through a dirty look or a lecture, the point is unmistakable: He’s not there to think or share an opinion. He’s there to do not only what she tells him to do, but also how and when she wants it done.

Just as abusive men demand sexual intimacy without regard for their wives’ needs, abusive women can withhold affection or intimacy as a way of controlling their husbands. An abusive wife may also exert control by imposing arbitrary or erratic expectations. For instance, she may badger her husband to do something, but then get upset with him for doing it because he not’s doing something else for her instead. Imposing and then randomly shifting her demands keeps him off-balance. It leaves him second-guessing himself and her feeling superior. Other abusive women constantly harass their husbands for their recreational interests and even their deeper aspirations for life. If what he enjoys and feels passionate about doesn’t fit into what she deems important, she may ridicule him or look for reasons for him not to do it. If that doesn’t work, she can always find some way to make him feel guilty.

The bottom line is this: most things in the marital relationship have to be her way. She demands that her husband revolve most, if not all, of what he does completely around what is important to her, even though her demands are often unreasonable, inconsiderate, and constantly shifting. And when it doesn’t go her way, she feels “free” to let her husband know it. Whether she relentlessly grumbles and criticizes, threatens to leave, or turns cold and withholds attention and affection, the clear message to her husband is “things had better go my way or else.” It’s a message meant to intimidate her husband and wear him down to the point where he feels it’s not worth doing anything that would risk upsetting her again.

Of course, every marriage experiences painful moments of unreasonableness and control from both partners. But when those moments become the norm rather than the exception, it becomes abusive and denies a spouse the freedom to be who he or she is both within and outside of the marital relationship. Not unlike an abused wife, an abused husband feels coerced into being who his wife thinks he should be. Perhaps this is why the Bible doesn’t pull any punches when it states that “a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15) and that it is “better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (Proverbs 21:19).

Any marital relationship that is characterized by such patterns of control is not really a relationship. It is more like a dictatorship, where one partner rules over the other. Unfortunately, because of their own insecurities, most husbands in this situation let themselves get walked on and are afraid to stand up to the patterns of control with courage and love. Others try to ignore the way they are mistreated, only to blow up and turn mean or abusive. Neither is a godly response and is nearly always a sign of a man who has lost his heart.

To read some general ideas about a better way that doesn’t take the abuse lightly yet still offers the opportunity for forgiveness, healing, and restoration both in the marriage and in each spouse’s heart, read When Words Hurt .

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (187 votes, average: 4.17 out of 5)
Loading...

What Is a Godly Response to Domestic Abuse for an Abused Wife?

Domestic abuse is a one-sided relationship where a spouse regularly seeks to control and punish his or her partner. The most common sort of spousal abuse is that of the husband toward the wife. The abuse can take many forms: verbal, physical, psychological, sexual, and financial. These are the primary methods a man uses to dominate his spouse.

Regardless of the form of abuse, there are no easy answers for a wife whose husband regularly abuses her. Financial concerns, intimidating threats, personal doubts, and a husband’s ability to hide the abuse or make her feel responsibile (when she most certainly is not) are just some of the factors that leave hurting and scared wives feeling cornered with few, if any, options.

As trapped as a wife may feel, she is always free to choose the option of love. Sadly, however, too many have been taught that showing love means that a wife should passively tolerate her husband’s abuse. Love is misunderstood as getting along and not upsetting one’s husband. But a weak, fearful, compliant response usually enables her husband in his abusive patterns. Meek compliance on her part is not best for either of them. Nor does it serve the larger good of a godly marriage. Therefore, it’s not loving.

The Bible says that showing genuine love is to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” ( Romans 12:9 NIV). In other words, a loving reaction is both compassionate and strong. Although her husband may not see it this way, an abused wife can show that she cares for her husband by sending the strong and consistent message that she will give him consequences for his abusive words and behavior.

A consequence is something that a wife decides to do. It’s not something that she tries to make her husband do. Consequences vary depending on the seriousness of the situation. For instance, a verbally abusive episode (although still serious) often calls for her to simply end the conversation after informing her husband that she won’t continue to talk with him as long as he remains controlling or disrespectful. Situations involving physical abuse may require calling the police and pressing charges. In other cases where there is a longstanding and oppressive pattern of emotional/verbal abuse, legal separation and even divorce are legitimate options to consider, but only as a last resort.

An abused wife shouldn’t expect the situation to turn around quickly. Many abusive husbands apologize and act remorseful, but a wife shouldn’t be misled. An abusive husband’s quick remorse is often just another ploy to regain control. Other men don’t apologize at all and resist admitting the harm they are causing. They continue to minimize their sin and put the blame on others. It frequently requires an abusive husband to undergo an extended time of his own personal suffering before he will come to his senses and begin the long and difficult process of understanding and owning the damage he’s caused. Therefore, a wife committed to loving her husband should be prepared to stand her ground for a long period of time while her husband learns necessary lessons from the consequences he is suffering for his sinful behavior.

An abused wife shouldn’t try to give consequences without help. Confronting her husband without a plan or physical protection can be a grave mistake. It will likely cause her husband to feel threatened. He is used to being in control and giving him negative consequences takes that control away. Therefore, a wife should prepare for the possibility that her husband could resort to physical intimidation and violence to regain control. She needs a plan that would help ensure her safety For example, having several friends present at a point of confrontation, having an escape plan or an alternate place for her and her children to go stay, notifying the police, obtaining a restraining order.

A wife has no assurances that his suffering the consequences will wake up her husband, end the abuse, or resolve their marital problems. She can, however, begin to love as Christ loved as she gradually begins to rest in the fact that God desires what is best for her. It may take a fairly long time to really believe this, but God is there to empower her to show love, to comfort her with love, and enliven her with a purpose for her own life no matter what happens ( Psalm 23:4 ). Her heart can begin to gain a growing confidence and peace that says, “I’m not totally powerless. I’m free to love. And although it may not work out between my husband and me, I am confident that it will work out between God and me.”

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (59 votes, average: 3.92 out of 5)
Loading...

Should Christians Pray for God’s Wrath on Their Enemies?

Depending on our motives, praying for God’s wrath can be a legitimate cry for justice. That is the cry of the heart you see reflected in such psalms as Psalm 94:1-2:

O LORD, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve.

While the desire for God to set things right is valid, Jesus introduced a new attitude to have toward our enemies.

Jesus didn’t teach us to pray against our enemies. He didn’t encourage us to request bloodthirsty revenge or the judgment they deserve. Instead, He called His followers to actually pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:43-45). This was nothing short of revolutionary for his Jewish listeners. In a time when the Jewish religious leaders touted radical vengeance as a virtue, Jesus introduced a whole new way of doing business. He taught that true sons of God are not only concerned for their neighbors, but for their enemies as well.

This seemingly outrageous mindset was an important part of the new era Jesus’ death and resurrection would establish. His willingness to give up his life for a world of people at enmity with their Creator (Romans 5:6-10) and His resurrection from the dead would make it possible to have a restored and better way of life with others—friend or foe. Praying for our enemies also reflected God’s ultimate plan to rescue and to reconcile both Jews and Gentiles to Himself.

It’s a mistake to assume that praying for our enemies means we are to be passive and to let them take advantage or walk all over us. There are times to take a stand and strongly oppose our enemies like the day Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers and drove them out of the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12-13). And the writers of the New Testament call us to appeal to civil authorities to enforce laws that are meant to hold evildoers accountable and keep them in check (Romans 13). Holding others accountable for their actions and seeking justice, however, are not the same as praying for and pursuing revenge.

Though we should never stop longing and working for justice, Jesus took praying for vengeance off the table. By word and example, Jesus urged his followers to replace a heart for revenge with a heart to see our enemies reconciled to God and us. His life, death, and resurrection empowers us to envision the glory of God restored in others, to seek peace and reconciliation when possible, and to leave the matter of vengeance up to a holy and wise God who will mete out revenge in His perfect time and in His perfect way (Romans 12:17-21).

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (38 votes, average: 4.11 out of 5)
Loading...