Who Is He Married to Today—Wonder Woman or Cinderella?

Much has been written and discussed about the “Proverbs 31 woman.” This oracle taught by the king’s mother describes quite the strong woman.

  •      She “works with willing hands” (v. 13).
  •      She “considers a field and buys it” (v. 16).
  •      She “dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong” (v. 17).
  •      She “opens her mouth with wisdom” (v. 26).

Two books later is the Song of Solomon, which reflects on the more intimate aspects of a woman.

Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. . . . Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. . . . You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Solomon 4)

Who Is He Married to Today—Wonder Woman or Cinderella?

What these beautiful passages tell us is that women are more than capable of being Wonder Woman—strong, wise, independent, a skilled entrepreneur—and yet they also desire to be adored like Cinderella for the feminine beauty God created her as. And I would venture to guess that most husbands agree. They view their wives as strong and beautiful. Wise and precious. Fully capable and incredibly sexy. Wonder Woman and Cinderella.

He’s a Problem-Solver, She’s an Empathy-Giver—Neither Wrong, Just Different

Have you noticed that everyday problems and burdens cannot typically be shared, discussed, and dealt with between you and your spouse in the same way that you have handled similar situations all your life with your same-sex friends or siblings?

For example, a wife comes to her husband with a problem she faces. His first instinct is to try and solve her problem, just as he would with another man who comes to him with a problem. He kicks into solution mode. Most men operate analytically. This is the way he helps his guy friends, who probably say something to him in response like, “I should have come to you weeks ago. Thanks.” They truly appreciate his recommended solution.

However, when he tries to solve his wife’s problem, she will say to him, “I just need you to listen to me and stop trying to fix me.” He is taken back. He is trying to help. Can’t she see that? Instead of words of appreciation such as those he hears from his buddies, he hears her words to mean, “You are an insensitive, unloving jerk.” He feels disrespected, so he pulls back and disengages. He no longer has any interest in understanding and empathizing.

He’s a Problem-Solver, She’s an Empathy-Giver—Neither Wrong, Just Different

She can tell he has turned cold and leaves the room crying. Later, she tells him not to touch her. He withdraws in anger. They are now on the Crazy Cycle: without respect he reacts without love and without love she reacts without respect.

Why does the Crazy Cycle Happen? Speculation versus Facts

Why does the Crazy Cycle happen? Oftentimes, it is because either one or both marriage partners are letting speculation drive their responses instead of facts.

I recall a commercial wherein a wife is informed that her husband is flirting with a woman at the jewelry store. The scene moves forward with the wife coming down the street toward the jewelry store with a rolling pin in hand and a growing crowd marching behind to watch her catch him red-handed. As she enters the store, she observes her smiling husband purchasing a diamond for her. The other female is the clerk behind the counter. This husband was innocent, but the warring wife did not have the facts. Sketchy or misconstrued information is dangerous.

Why does the Crazy Cycle Happen? Speculation versus Facts

We must be careful not to react based on sketchy or misconstrued information. The Bible is very clear that facts must be the basis of evaluation. All of the facts. 

In marriage it is too easy to negatively react based on inadequate or misinterpreted information.

All of us know firsthand how upsetting it is when our spouse jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts. This pains us immensely. We feel disrespected. Unloved. Not trusted. We end up walking on egg shells so as to try avoiding further misunderstandings.

Are You Not In Love with Your Husband or Have You Stopped Loving God?

There’s a stand-out moment in the Old Testament story of Job that almost definitely has caught the eye of every married person who has read it. In Job 2:9, Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die.”

Curse God and die? What awful thing had Job done to her? Infidelity? Physical abuse? Verbal assault?

No. None of these or anything else like it. Her condemning anger toward her husband was in response to all the horrific things that God had allowed Satan to do to their family—including loss of children, destruction of property, and excruciating boils covering her husband from head to toe.

Are You Not In Love with Your Husband or Have You Stopped Loving God?

I’m sure most reading this say they are grateful that they cannot relate to the atrocious sufferings Job went through, and also that they cannot imagine ever saying to their spouse something as hate-filled as “Curse God and die!”

But have you ever deflected anger toward God at your spouse, even when he or she has been maturing in their walk with Christ and trying to better love and respect you? Because that is what was going on at the heart of Job’s wife. This is also what was going on at the heart of the wife of the husband who wrote me below. He shared with me about his wife:

She became closer with the Lord while I still was not; plus, I was working a lot. Three years later we had our second child and I noticed her walk with God starting to slip. One year later she told me she was not in love with me anymore, that she had given up on me. God was telling me this was my last chance to walk with Him or He was taking my family away from me. My life changed that day and I rededicated my life to the Lord and got baptized. Now my walk is awesome!

But then our marriage continued to suffer. We began meeting with some godly counselors and things started to get better. One of the female counselors told her that she didn’t fall out of love with me; she fell out of love with God.

I believe that is true. God answered my wife’s prayer (my walk is awesome and everyone around me knows that . . . and my wife knows that) but God did it on His time, not her time. This was hard for my wife. She wanted it to happen several years ago.

When we find ourselves not merely in a specific conflict with our spouse but actually feeling overarching resentment and anger toward who they are as a person, each of us must reflect on a profound truth: Are we mad at our spouse or mad at God?

On the heels of their tragedy, Job’s wife told her husband to curse God and die. I speculate she said that to her husband because in her heart she was cursing God herself and wanted to die. How sad that we blame our spouse when the fact is, we are angry at God.

In the case of the wife written about above, she closed off her heart to God and this resulted in her closing off her heart to her husband. This isn’t true for most, but it is for some. Are you one of them? Are you upset with your spouse who has changed but you resent all those years you suffered before they changed and that the change didn’t happen sooner? You felt so deprived during all those years that you do not rejoice and thank God for changing your spouse when He finally did.

Find comfort in God’s Word today. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God “has made everything appropriate in its time.” The psalmist was more than aware that God’s timing rarely matched his. So he encouraged us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). And perhaps most importantly, we must not miss Jesus’s final words to His disciples before His ascension to heaven: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

Even though it seems more than fair to wonder and complain that God did not “fix our spouse” before more damage had been done, causing pain and heartache that we believe could’ve been avoided, some things are simply not for us to know why God does what He does, when He does it. But the truth remains: God has made everything appropriate in His time. Wait for the Lord!

And as a final footnote . . . At the end of Job’s story, we are told that God gave Job twice as much as he had before, including seven sons and three daughters. Which means that even though his wife had told him to “curse God and die,” they persevered together, learned to show grace and forgiveness, and waited for the Lord.

If they can do it, you can too!

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you think you would’ve responded had your spouse told you to “curse God and die”? How have you responded to his or her deflected anger at you in the past?
  2. Can you empathize with wife who was angry at God for not moving in her husband sooner than He did? If she had confided in you as a friend, what would you have shared with her?
  3. Whether in your marriage or in another situation, when have you thought that you knew better than God about when and how He should have been intervening? What did you learn as you waited for Him?
  4. Have you ever thought about why Satan pretty much took everything away from Job except for his wife? Why do you think that is?

Whatever Happened, You Can Still Move Forward as a Love and Respect Team

Have you ever meditated on 1 Corinthians 7:11, which says, “. . . (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife”?

What’s the backstory to this verse? Paul does not mention adultery or abandonment in this text—the two traditional justifications for biblical divorce—so it is safe to infer that biblical grounds for divorce are not in play here. He simply says that the husband is not to divorce and the wife should not marry someone else in the event that she leaves her husband.

Yet, the pain in the marriage was so severe that despite Scripture’s command, the wife wanted to leave and the husband wanted to divorce. Pink and blue had such distasteful exchanges that they wished to bail on the marriage.

Whatever Happened, You Can Still Move Forward as a Love and Respect Team

But guess what? Paul saw reconciliation as a very promising possibility (“. . . or else be reconciled to her husband”). This means that whatever happened between them in the gray areas could be put behind them and they could move forward as a love and respect team (Ephesians 5:33).

Can How We Were Nurtured Actually Mask Over Our Deep Felt Needs?

In my book Love & Respect, I conclude that wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Alternatively, their husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect.

However, I am always quick to point out that, though these conclusions have been based on years of research, studies, and polls with thousands of subjects, we must still view them as on a bell curve—there is certainly room for women to lean less on love and more on respect than other women do, and for men to place more importance on love than they do on respect.

Can How We Were Nurtured Actually Mask Over Our Deep Felt Needs?

But while these exceptions certainly occur, could they actually occur less than we initially believed? Could some of the examples we hold up to serve as exceptions to the “wives need love, husbands need respect” rule, when examined more closely, actually prove even further the arguments made in Love & Respect?

Are You Mistaking a Crazy Cycle for a Crazy Train?

The Crazy Cycle, as explained in my book Love & Respect, says, “Without love she reacts without respect. Without respect he reacts without love.” If neither husband nor wife is mature and calm enough to recognize this cycle and to step off in order to slow it down, it will only strengthen and keep on spinning.

Unfortunately, many couples when in conflict do not recognize that they have stepped onto the Crazy Cycle and nothing begins to simmer down until one of them, typically the husband, storms off and withdraws from the fight, with the attitude to simply “live to fight another day.”

Are You Mistaking a Crazy Cycle for a Crazy Train?

Others are not blind to the fact that there is a real conflict going on that needs to be worked through, but to them it is not so much a Crazy Cycle, where they see how each of them is fueling the other, but in their eyes it is more of a Crazy Train, as in they don’t understand why their spouse is coming at them like a runaway train. They do not see how they have been contributing to the conflict; they only see their spouse’s negative reactions and blame them for it all.

For example, a wife who is upset about something that has angered her, such as a comment her co-worker made to her, might come home in a bad mood and lash out at her husband in a disrespectful way. This may cause her husband to react in a way that feels unloving to her. It is here that some wives disregard how they appeared to their husband in the first place and fixate only on the husband’s unloving reaction.

What Do I Do Now? When Being the Mature One Doesn’t Seem to Help

Oftentimes, a husband or wife recognizes where he or she has not been loving or respecting their spouse as they should and honestly seeks to be intentional about getting off the constant Crazy Cycle they feel they have been spinning on for a large part of their marriage.

They make significant changes in their previously harsh and unloving tones and words, they pursue peace with their spouse at all times instead of seeking only their own will, and they learn how to better communicate to their spouse’s pink or blue “hearing aids.”

What Do I Do Now? When Being the Mature One Doesn't Seem to Help

But then . . . nothing seems to help! In fact, the situation may even feel to worsen, because while the Crazy Cycle is still spinning relentlessly, the one attempting to be the mature one only grows more frustrated with their seemingly failed efforts to better love and respect.

What, some may ask, should I try next?

Can you relate to this husband who wrote me recently?

He is Different. She is Different. How Do You Deal With Disappointment?

She is disappointed because she sees him neglecting her heartfelt concerns, even dismissing them in a condescending way. To her, he is too stoic, matter of fact. Furthermore, she cannot believe that he would bark out solutions when she simply needs from him a listening ear and empathetic demeanor. To her, two people who care for each other will “tend, mend, and befriend,” and that revolves around what one feels.

In her opinion, that is the key to connecting. Two people give the report on what they are feeling to build rapport. This is what marriage is all about—husband and wife talk to discover what they are feeling, and explore those feelings, and stay with the discussion about those feelings until there is a sense of closure and closeness. For a woman, to shut down on such conversations, to declare, “Just drop it and move on; it’s no big deal” is like finger nails down a chalkboard.

He is Different. She is Different. How Do You Deal With Disappointment?

On the other hand, he is disappointed because he sees her as self-absorbed in her feelings, dwelling way too much on them. To him, she is controlled by her moodiness. But worse, he cannot believe she often blames him for her upsets, hurts, and anger.

Constantly, he is asking himself questions, such as: Why does every feeling have to become an issue, and why does it end up being that he is the issue? Why can’t there be one day or one month when everything is okay? Why does every feeling have to be talked about? Why can’t two mature people move forward positively, enjoying each other instead of always revisiting some minor infraction?

Your Parents’ Marital Problems Do Not Have to Become Yours Too

Have you ever realized that the most impactful influence on your children’s marriage—whether they are two years old and barely able to say “da-da” or twenty-two and about to walk down the aisle—is your marriage? Yes, you!

Your marriage to their mom or dad teaches them both directly and indirectly how a married couple works together.

Your Parents’ Marital Problems Do Not Have to Become Yours Too

This certainly includes the way you love and respect each other. Your kids may not yet have learned the biblical emphasis on love and respect or even be old enough to know what “respect” means, but they are learning all about it nonetheless . . . from you!

Does the Eden Inside Your Heart Bring You Closer to Your Spouse or Drive You Apart?

Have you noticed yet that the paradise of Eden still remains in your heart? Have you recognized where the Eden in your heart has affected your relationship with your spouse and your expectations in your marriage?

Let me explain.

Does the Eden Inside Your Heart Bring You Closer to Your Spouse or Drive You Apart?

In the beginning, God created man “in his own image . . . male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Then after all of Creation was finished, the passage continues by saying, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (v. 31).

The first man and first woman were created in God’s image, as all of us still are even today. But where we differ from Adam and Eve, whom God declared as created “very good,” is that they were placed in paradise as two unfallen, or perfect, human beings.

Why Would Someone Not Want to Communicate That Which Is True?

In my book Before You Hit Send, I quote a woman who said, “You know that little thing in the back of your brain that tells you not to say something before you say it? Well, I don’t have that little thing.

I suppose all of us wonder occasionally if we lack that little thing in the back of our brains. We know that we are to think before we speak, but we end up saying something that we should not say.

The good news is that we all have that little thing in the back of our brain, but we just need to remember to ask ourselves four questions before we communicate. And by communicate I mean not just by emails, texts, or social media, but by over-the-phone talking and face-to-face discussions.

Why Would Someone Not Want to Communicate That Which Is True?

These four questions serve as a checklist. And after going through the entire checklist, if we can answer all four in the affirmative, then it is okay to speak up.

But if we cannot answer all four of them with a confident and resounding “yes,” we need to refrain from communicating at this time.

For Your Spouse, “Cleaving” Probably Means Something Different than What It Means to You

We read in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is from this verse that we get the well-known saying that a husband “leaves and cleaves.”

But for the husband who interprets this scriptural command to “leave and cleave” and become “one flesh” as purely sexual, I have some disappointing news to share with them. For most wives, cleaving does indeed mean a face-to-face closeness, but not in a sexual way. For her, this face-to-face closeness entails talking about the things that matter to her.

When she gives her daily report to her husband, she feels a rapport with him. She feels a heart-to-heart connection.

For Your Spouse, “Cleaving” Probably Means Something Different than What It Means to You

For her, cleaving is not sexual per se but emotional and spiritual.

However, do not despair, men!

Meaningful closeness between you and your wife can (and most often will) arouse her sexually. Heart-to-heart intimacy, for your wife, is the foundation of sexual intimacy. Generally, without that sense of heartfelt connection, the act of sex to her is less than meaningful.

What Do You Believe About God’s Revelation?

When I became a believer as a young man, I came across certain scriptures that shaped my thinking.

Not only have these verses instilled in me an excitement that the God of the universe has not remained silent but instead has spoken loud and clear, but it has also been affirmed for me that the Scriptures are not the mere words of men that I may pick and choose what I want to believe and follow.

May I ask you if any scriptures have developed in you the same worldview?

What Do You Believe About God's Revelation?

For example, Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” What does this mean? God is there and He is not silent on matters that matter to Him.

That God has spoken is no mere passing comment. It should be central to our lives. The writer of Hebrews tells us in his first two sentences in Hebrews 1:1–2, that “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.”

Do You Use The Wrong Tools In Your Marriage?

In your experience, have you found that any of the following approaches have worked to influence, motivate, and energize your spouse?

Keeping track of the other’s wrongs with resentment, nagging and criticizing without seeing any good, judging and shaming from a spirit of self-righteousness, getting angry to the point of showing hostility and contempt, manipulating to achieve a selfish or worthy agenda, blaming without any acknowledgment of one’s own faults, and fighting for control, not for win-win.

I believe that we would all admit knowing that these do not work long term to influence the heart of a spouse. But here is what fascinates me. I have had some people tell me that they know these things do not work but they keep doing them anyway. Why?

Do You Use The Wrong Tools In Your Marriage?

What they realize and then confess to me is that they don’t want a close relationship with their spouse and they know these methods will sabotage intimacy.