Do You Treat Your Husband Worse Than a Stranger?

Do You Treat Your Husband Worse Than a Stranger? //

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

Proverbs 18:21

You may remember; my husband and I sometimes do marital counseling together.

It’s heartbreaking to hear from a husband at his wits end. He comes downcast. Disheartened. He wants to be faithful to her; he wants to please her. He’s not perfect, of course, but he longs for kindhearted affection. Instead, he lives life unbolstered by encouragement, and in fact, often, outright criticized, torn down, and discouraged by his wife’s words.

And we see it; it is not a misperception on his part.

  • Her words seethe bitterness.
  • Her body language exudes disgust.
  • Comments about him, or to him, drip with contempt.

Nothing he does can please her. Though surely she didn’t start out this way, now, 8, 15, 26, 43 years down the road, she is now wholeheartedly committed to tearing down her husband.

It’s the complete opposite of how the husband/wife relationship ought to look:

The heart of her husband trusts in her

~Proverbs 31: 11

let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

~Ephesians 5:33

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

~Proverbs 31:26

Do You Treat Your Husband Worse Than a Stranger? //

Today I want to ask you to consider how you treat strangers.

  • Do you smile at them?
  • When you see them struggling, are you willing to go out of your way and lend a hand?
  • When they annoy you, do you exercise self-control and withhold your rudest thoughts?
  • Are you sometimes willing to cheer for them (i.e., as we do for athletic teams that consist of strangers)?
  • Do you speak pleasantly?
  • Are you willing to extend grace and listen even when they talk about subjects you’re not wholly interested in?

Perhaps some of you reading are saying, “sure I do those things for strangers, and I do them for my husband too.” All right. Great. This article may not be for you.

Some of you are saying, “nope, I’m rude to strangers.” All right. Well, that’s not great, but at least you’re honest. This article may not speak to you.

But some of you are saying, “yep, that’s me. I can be sweet-as-honey to strangers but offer little to no kindness to my husband. I treat him in ways I wouldn’t dare treat a stranger.”  To you: Thank you for being honest.

I think we can all do this sometimes, when we slip into the mode where we’re comfortable and getting lazy in our relationship. Let’s work today, you and I, at offering more grace to our husbands. Let’s treat them as needy souls… because they really are.

They can seem so strong. Sometimes they seem opinionated or over-confident. Sometimes we can feel like they need us to “take em down a peg.” But the truth is often the opposite.


Looks can be deceiving. Our husbands appear strong, but often feel weak and weary on the inside. This world beats up on them, and they are more fragile and needy than we realize. They may seem confident, but often, a husband’s internal message is one of defeat and fear and wondering when someone is going to find out what a loser they really are. They don’t need our corrections and contempt.

Do You Treat Your Husband Worse Than a Stranger // jessconnell.comNo… our husbands need our:

  • encouragement
  • smiles
  • listening ear
  • receptive eyes
  • interested questions
  • bolstering words of confidence
  • pleasant tone
  • excitement for the good things
  • empathy for the hard things

He needs you! It may not feel that way, but it is true.

He longs to be able to trust you, and to consistently receive kindness and respect from you.

This is your mission as a wife today. Will you accept it?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast ( I write and wrangle kids.

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16 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Oh this is so true and such a good reminder after a difficult stressful month for both my husband and myself. (Why do those months have to coincide?) Praying God helps me learn to treat him better than a stranger consistently.

  2. Christy says:

    I remember reading this in For Women Only a few years ago – the idea that men are often worried about being “found out” to be a loser. I couldn’t believe it. My own husband always seems to “have it together” and when I asked him about this, he admitted that it was true. Wow. What an eye opener for me! But really good to know so that I can be careful to offer encouragement and pray for him.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Thanks for the reminder. There are shreds of thought like this that flow out of my head and yet I don’t connect the information with where I got it from.

      But now I totally remember that book & yes… you’re right. I remember doing the same thing– turning to Doug and asking: is this true? Do you think like this? That book was a great eye-opener in many ways for me as a wife.

  3. Susannah says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Jess. While rudeness is not so much an issue, lack of empathy and just getting tired of listening have been. Been praying for the compassion of Christ. When you contemplate His compassion, it’s overwhelming. He offers mercy and kindness, and gave his all for us, even though we have been contemptible.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Great point. As we grow in Christ, it may not be outright “rudeness” but more the lack of tenderness and kindness that we are tempted to drop. Let’s not give it up! And that’s a wonderful reminder of the source of it all: Christ is so tender and kind toward us; He enables us to offer that to our husbands.

  4. Adelle says:

    It’s so true – our husbands need all the sweetness we can give them! Let’s hear it for our hardworking & often overachieving boys! Let’s show them the love they need after backbreaking days. Then we get to be their happy thought of the day!

  5. Jennifer says:

    So good. We should be their number on encourager. Thank you for speaking truth.

  6. Laura says:

    I personally know a couple who has been married for 40+ years and I can see what years of bitter contempt on the wife’s part have done to him and their marriage. It is not pretty. I can also see in myself this tendency to feel contempt for my husband and to try to correct him scornfully. It is so, so shameful. It terrifies me to think that in many years, my husband could be so broken and it could all be because of me. Anyway, I have done so much soul-searching and have worked/am working really hard to be kind to my husband. One thing I have prayed constantly for a quite a few years is to 1. respect him and 2. love him as he IS and not who I expect him to be. I have a long way to go, but I feel the Lord changing my heart slowly. I just really realize that it’s the little choices NOW and the patterns that I’m allowing NOW that will determine how our golden years will play out.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Oh man, it’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? It’s hard to watch, hard to be around, and hard to know what to do.

      Good for you for recognizing that tendency in yourself, and working to combat it. Keep up that battle & don’t give up. It’ll pay off both now and later… like compound interest, you’ll reap the rewards as the good interactions pile on top of each other in place of what would have been miserable, contemptuous ones. Keep at it & don’t give up, Laura.

  7. Kaitlin says:

    I do try hard to encourage my husband, I am an exhorter after all! 😉 But I think you have some good things to remember here and to put into practice!

    A question though…I know that men struggle with pride… a lot! So when you say, they worry that they will be “found out as a loser” (though maybe harsher then it really is – they are not ‘losers’) isn’t that a good thing? I’m just thinking, that we are to humble ourselves and acknowledge our lacking and thus dependence on Christ and His redeeming work in our lives. But often, many men will not admit to this – this fear of “being found out” stops them from truly repenting, turning to and relying on Christ. I’m talking about ‘big’ sin issues, just the daily things. So, how as an encouraging wife, can you both encourage and yet draw them out to turn to our Lord and lose the pride? Does this make sense?

    (Yes, them actually turning to the Lord and working on their pride is only up to them and their hearts but I just struggle with the thought that, “they think they are losers so we should tell them other wise.” And no, I’m not saying we should make them feel like they are losers! lol!! And maybe it’s just because I, as I said, naturally encourage him that the main struggle you have here, isn’t exactly what I’m talking about – but I’m more curious about the balance between building pride and encouraging them….gee I hope this makes sense! lol!!)

    • Laura says:

      But I think there’s a difference between being humble and being thought of as a loser, a difference between being called out for sin and being cut down with scorn. My husband tells me: “You can tell me anything, just say it with honey.” So I hear what you’re saying, but if you’re going to call out your husband for a big sin in his life, it’s totally necessary to do it in a way that calls him to repentance, but doesn’t make him feel like a loser. He should be able to see the difference in you, whether you are sharing your concerns in love, or if you are scornfully and self-righteously pointing out sin in his life.

      • Kaitlin says:

        Thanks Laura! :) I think you put into words exactly what I was trying to get at!! I like how you put that it should be calling them out to repentance and not in scorn! That’s what I try to focus on but then I get confused sometimes and feel that any ‘negative’ from a wife is wrong! You articulated my thoughts much better then I did! lol!! And though I do try very hard at honouring my husband these ways, I certainly can improve!!! I like what your husband says, that’s a good quote to remember! :)

        • Emily Jensen says:

          Great discussion!

          One thing that has helped us in the past, is for me to respond gently when my husband confesses sin, especially in the big things. I don’t want him to think, “If I tell her this, she is going to fly off the handle and I’ll never hear the end of it.” Of course this is challenging, because in those moments sometimes you want cry or become a mess – but when I maintain self-control and speak gospel truth to him (or wait to say much at all until I’ve prayed), I find that it promotes even MORE openness and trust in our relationship. We can walk through the issue together, on the same side of the table facing it with locked arms (instead of me vs. him and his sin). I am totally in support of confronting sin / not letting people hide in the dark, but trust is built as I let love cover a multitude of his daily imperfections and prayerfully deal with a limited number of ‘bigger’ issues over time.

      • Jess Connell says:

        Yes this is exactly right!

        I think wives CAN and SHOULD be a great refiner for husbands… We should be able to speak hard truths, and they should be able to hear the truth from us and respond to it. Ideally, that’s the greatest “iron sharpening iron” relationship in our lives. I believe this is what God intends within a Christian marriage. Part of the problem is that once hiding happens in a marriage… where pretense is allowed to stand, and problems are swept under the rug, it becomes increasingly difficult for truths to be spoken and heard.

        In a Christian marriage we don’t hide/harbor sin (which is biblically counterweighted by the truth that “love covers a multitude of sins”), and we *should* both be growing in our ability to give a rebuke with kindness and scalpel-like precision as well as receive a rebuke with humility and the “believes all things” heart of love that believes the best about the intention of the spouse offering the rebuke. That is how things *should* be. Obviously we are each given peculiarities of history, personality, and familial norms that will color the way that we grow toward that ideal, and we as wives are to be amenable and kind even amidst the task of sometimes speaking a hard word.

        At the same time, a Christian marriage is NOT a nitpick fest where the husband who doesn’t lead family worship but is in all other respects a kind, servant-hearted man is made to feel like an idiot or spiritual lightweight. A Christian marriage should not look like a wife on a mission to point out her husband’s errors. Where there is sin against us or the children, we should speak, a la Matthew 18, 1 Cor 13, Ephesians 4:25-32 and other places… and yet, our marriage relationships should not be a minefield where anytime the husband is human and not perfectly serving or leading his family, he meets with contempt, correction, and rebuke from his wife.

        This charge to be as kind as you are to strangers is NOT saying, “don’t talk about stuff” or “don’t ever say hard things”… but that there are simple horizontal graces we sometimes give to strangers that can fall by the wayside in a marriage relationship… and I think we should work hard to keep offering kindness and a soft approach toward our husbands.

        Hope that clarifies things some. Great questions & dialogue; I love it!

  8. Erin says:

    I realize this is an old post, but maybe some are still reading and could comment! :) I had a question about what Jess wrote above: “Where there is sin against us or the children, we should speak, a la Matthew 18, 1 Cor 13, Ephesians 4:25-32 and other places… and yet, our marriage relationships should not be a minefield where anytime the husband is human and not perfectly serving or leading his family, he meets with contempt, correction, and rebuke from his wife.”
    I can see this “minefield” idea unfolding in our home when my husband is human with the children, and for some reason, I struggle more when it’s with the boys. I have improved SO MUCH, meaning now I don’t say anything publicly about it, but boy once we turn the corner or I get to catch his eye, I’m like “what are you thinking!??”
    I’m thinking the root of this issue is FEAR. I’m so scared that I’m going to do all this training all day and because Dad doesn’t praise them when I think he should, etc., that my efforts will be in vain.
    Can anyone speak to this? Relate? Have some advice on how to practically handle those interactions in the moment? :)
    I really enjoyed reading the dialogue above and hope I’m not too late to join in on it!

  1. July 11, 2015

    […] Do You Treat Your Husband Worse Than a Stranger? […]

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