A Dissection of a Disrespectful Conversation – Part 1

Posted on July 16, 2012 by

This is an email I received from a wife who has given me permission to use a conversation she and her husband had.  I want to use it as an example of how we might inadvertently come across disrespectfully and in a controlling way to our guys and cause damage we don’t even realize we are causing.  Her words are in black, my comments are in blue.

Today I would like for us to focus on the man’s perspective.  Try to put yourself in HIS shoes. 

I am making assumptions based on what I understand about men in this post.  Gentlemen, if you feel I miss something, please let us know.  There are some things that will come across disrespectfully to almost all men, but then there are unique areas for each man about certain things, so a woman must be a student of HER man to learn what speaks respect and disrespect to him specifically.

THANK YOU to the precious wife who allowed me to use this conversation.   God is doing some VERY amazing things in her heart.  I will give you a follow up on how she is doing now in a few days! 🙂

The couple has company at their house – his aunt and uncle, it’s early morning.  We’ll call this couple John and Megan – they are both Christians and they have 3 precious little girls. 


He passed me by in the kitchen and I said, “Honey, can you help me for a minute… I’m just trying to finish cutting the fruit and getting a couple things ready but I really need to get out the door.”

He said, “Don’t bother, its fine.”

OK – Let’s stop here.   Megan did a GREAT job asking for help and telling him what she wanted here.  Especially if she was smiling at him as she said it and used a friendly tone of voice.  It is GOOD to ask for what you want.

At this point – Megan could recognize that his decision is that making breakfast for the guests is not high on his priority list and that he feels confident in deciding NOT to make them breakfast.  He also tried to release her from the pressure she was putting on herself to do so much that he felt was unnecessary by assuring her that he and their guests would be fine.

When I ask for help and my husband says it is not a priority for him in some way (he turns me down) – here are some ways that I could think about handling this (this is not an exhaustive list, it is not scripture, but it may be helpful for some wives to have a few possible healthy examples to think about): 

  • “Well, if you think that will be ok – I trust your judgment.  Love you!  Gotta run!”  And give him a BIG hug, a passionate kiss, a glorious smile and go to work. 
  • “Oh!  Well … Ok!”  and stop working yourself to death over something he didn’t feel was a big deal, give him a hug and a kiss and an, “I can’t wait to see you tonight!” 
  • Or you could have said, “Ok.” and hurried through and tried to finish the breakfast yourself if it was that big of a deal to you and accept that it wasn’t a huge priority to him. You would have no regrets because you did ask politely and respectfully for help and accepted graciously that he didn’t help this time.  Grown adults get to each decide what is important to them on their own.  But you would have to guard against feeling resentful.  If you truly didn’t have time – you may just have to chalk it up to something that you can’t get to before you have to leave for work and hope that your relatives are understanding.
  • Or you could use Laura Doyle’s phrase from “The Surrendered Wife” – “Whatever you think.” Or – “Ok, whatever you think is best.”  This implies you trust his judgment.  OUR MEN NEED THIS FROM US!  Then you go with his decision and drop it.  If his aunt and uncle are upset about not having breakfast ready – he made the call, he can face the consequences.  He’s a grown man.  He is capable of deciding about this.

I said, “Well, I was trying to help you so you knew what you could offer them for breakfast…”

He said, “They are not babies…  They know what they will want to eat and besides they are not YOUR family.  They are not going to judge”, etc.

UH OH!  Here is where the subtle disrespect begins that most women miss.  First of all – he already said that he was fine with not making breakfast for the guests and now his wife won’t accept his decision – that alone is disrespectful.  I know that she thinks the more she explains herself, the more he’ll understand and then agree with her and do what she wants him to.  That is not how men usually work.  Once he makes a decision, more words from her probably don’t help!

When she says things like “So you knew what you could offer”  she implies that if she didn’t help him – he couldn’t figure it out. 

I totally understand that Megan was trying to be a good hostess and that her motives were good not evil.  Neither spouse was WRONG originally in this scenario.  They were both right – they just had different perspectives and priorities at the moment and not enough time. 

I’d like us to see the effect of the disrespectful comment Megan made – even though that is not what she intended – that is what he heard.  Men react in anger to disrespect

He also tried to address her fears about the guests not approving of her hostess skills. 

I just looked at him and said “So you are going to just let them fend for themselves when they wake up?”

He said, “What they came here for was for a rest, not for us to wait on them.”

YIKES!  Now Megan is attacking John’s judgment.  She is saying that he is a poor host.  She is saying that she doesn’t trust him to make this decision and that she believes he is wrong and it is a BIG deal to her because she won’t drop the issue and accept his decision.  She is implying that he might be incompetent and irresponsible.  

He probably feels that he knows his relatives well and can’t understand why on earth his wife is questioning him so much. 

I just looked at him so puzzled..like  “Are you kidding me?”

And that facial expression just added MANY, MANY points to the disrespect meter (as would an increase in her volume and an angry tone of her voice at this point).

I said, “I’m not expecting you to wait on them hand and foot.  Just help them this morning know where things are.”

He said, “Well I have a job…so if you want to do that, you stay home”.

I said, “I would be happy to, but I didn’t plan on it.” 

He said, “Well, stay home then!” 

All of Megan’s explaining and insisting  just looks to him like blatant disrespect of his decision at the beginning of the conversation.  Not only is she NOT dropping the issue but now she is DEMANDING that he do what she said. 

Guys REALLY do NOT like to be told what to do.  At this point, his blood pressure is probably going through the roof and he is feeling attacked over something that, to him, may seem ridiculously unimportant compared to all that is pressing on him that morning.

Notice that Megan’s explanations are NOT changing John’s mind.  Not only is she completely wasting her time trying to change his mind, but she is doing serious damage to the relationship. The more she argues and become contentious – the more angry he’ll be.  And he will feel completely justified

No guy he knows would EVER treat him like this!  And yet, he has to deal with this kind of treatment and disrespect in his own home, with the woman he loves more than anyone in the world – the one person he needs respect from the MOST on the entire planet!?!? She refuses to give him that little acknowledgment that she trusts his judgment, has faith in his decisions and can accept his choices about even the simplest issue.

Anyway…we went back and forth a little like that…until I just stopped and said, “You are unbelievable!”

Now she is attacking his general character.   SHE has been slapping him in the face with disrespect and now she is labeling HIM as being wrong, maybe even worthy of contempt.

By now – in John’s mind, the issue isn’t being a good host/hostess – in his mind the issue is probably his wife’s refusal to cooperate with his decision as the head of the family over the smallest problem ever.  He may also have questions like “Why can’t she just respect me?”  “Why does she think I am so incompetent?”  

Guess what happens to any feelings of love John has for his wife during an exchange like this?

I realize I was NOT very good!  But ughhhh…really!!

I am so venting right now and I am so sorry for that.

I went to him and asked where the coffee grinder was and he said he didn’t know…I said, “I think you put it somewhere when you moved the kitchen around.” 

At this point – it is tough to salvage the situation.  If Megan had realized she had been so disrespectful (in ANY of the earlier parts of the conversation), she could have caught herself and said, “OOPS!  I am SO sorry!  I just came across very disrespectfully, didn’t I?  You didn’t deserve that.  Please forgive me.  I do trust you.  If you think I don’t need to worry about breakfast, I trust your judgment.”  AND THEN she would do well to be quiet and let him calm down for awhile!!!!!!!

Trying to talk to man who is feeling very disrespected and controlled is usually a huge mistake – unless it is a humble apology.   Disrespect >>> ANGER! 

He said, “I have no idea.” So a few minutes later, I found it.  So I went to him and I said, “I am sorry the coffee grinder was right in front of my eyes.”   

He said, “Whatever…if you would just shut your mouth, we wouldn’t have any of these problems.”

He didn’t ask very politely at this point.  I don’t blame him!  This is not the first time his wife has disrespected him and refused to trust his judgment.  She’s been controlling and disrespectful every day for years.  He has more than reached the limit of what he could tolerate.  

He is trying to ask Megan to:

  • not argue with him
  • not explain/justify her position/question him unendingly to try to MAKE him change his mind
  • not think she’s always right and he’s always wrong
  • accept his decisions graciously and with maturity, dignity and poise
  • not slap him in the face over and over and over with the disrespectful comments.  (He wants her to drop the issue.)
  • not insult him
  • respect him
  • allow him to make his own decisions and be content even if he says, “no” to something. 

And he may be thinking things like, “Wow.  If she can’t trust me about such an insignificant thing as breakfast for my aunt and uncle – she must not trust me about ANY of my decisions.”

I said….”Its not like this goes on all the time.” 

 He said, “Maybe not, but it doesn’t take long for it to come back.” 

I said, “Honey, I wasn’t asking you to wait on them like children, I just thought you could show them where the mugs were, where the coffee was, etc.” 

He said, “I’m not a child.  I know what to do.” 

He had been enjoying the way some of the negativity and disrespect had stopped the past few weeks or so (this wife has just recently begun working on respect!  WOOHOO!).  But now he may be thinking that he can’t get his hopes up that something like that could be permanent.  He is doomed to live with a disrespectful, angry, contentious, spiteful, resentful, controlling wife for the rest of his life.

Megan CONTINUES to hammer and hammer him with her justifications and explanations.  She can’t let go of her priorities about being a hostess and being “right”, even if it costs her greatly in her marriage, even if it deeply wounds her husband. 

I know that Megan was oblivious to the messages he was hearing.   We often don’t disrespect our men on purpose – but it still HURTS them!



I do want to tell you – JOHN texted Megan later in the morning and apologized to HER.  That impresses me.  He took quite a whopping dose of disrespect and her prolonged attempts to control him that morning.  He had a HUGE load on his own plate that morning of things he needed to do.  And he took the time to reach out first and apologize humbly.  WOW!!  THAT is a man I can respect.  I think he’s a keeper!