I Thought I Was Being Respectful… What Happened?!?!

Posted on March 6, 2013 by


thinking
Here is an email from a wife on http://www.peacefulwife.com with a dilemma that I believe single women might relate to, as well – and my response.  My focus here is not on what the guy could have or should have done differently.  I am writing for women, so I am only going to address what the wife could have done differently.  If we are in a romantic relationship with a sinful human – and that is what we ALL are – we WILL be sinned against.  It is pretty pointless to focus on what the other person should do.  We cannot control other people or force them do to what we want – even if they are wrong.  We can influence them and say what we want and need and how we feel.  Our power is to focus on what we think, say and do and our own responsibility/sin/accountability in the relationship:
A WIFE’S EMAIL:
Last night I messed up a bit.  My husband had moved some furniture for me.  But I was surprised to find he’d put the chair somewhere I didn’t think it should go.  I was (I think) respectful about bringing it up later.  Asking why he’d done that and did he agree it seemed a bit imbalanced now.
He was offended and mad, his voice escalated and he said something that hurt me. In some ways it reminded me of the lessons you’ve mentioned learning yourself. He was yelling and then he said that I was bullying him to get what I wanted.
I was so hurt, surprised and mad that I told him he’d ruined the night and I stormed off. I actually re-did his work and put it where I wanted.  That was a big mistake I know, but I was hurt and so furious that he’d started yelling at me after I was respectful and appreciative.
He continued with the Sunday night things we’d usually do together, by himself.  I was so hurt.  By the time he came up to bed I was really hurt & fuming.  I tried to forget it, when he put his hand on mine in bed but I wasn’t able to.
I asked if that’s how he wants to move forward in our marraige now.   Just ignoring eachother, blah blah.  Dumb, disrespectful things, I said.
He yelled at me that he didn’t know why I was “manufacturing drama” and he’d decided he “didn’t want to live his life like that” and he’d let it go hours ago.
What did he mean?  We got into going back and forth about it for a long while, but I was very respectful!! Trying to say to him that unresolved conflict is really damaging for me and I want to fix our argument sooner.   He blamed me for storming off.  Fair enough.  I was so respectful.  I was frustrated at times but never raised my voice. I worked hard not to interrupt.
We did make up finally and speak for quite some time about his future work goals, and hug a lot in bed.
I actually wouldn’t have bothered you with an email…
But today, he has changed his facebook profile photo from one of us both at our wedding, to one of him alone – a pic that used to have me in it, but as a favor I cut myself out and photoshopped myself out it so he could use it on LinkedIn.  It really stings and I have a lot of fear that he must feel the honeymoon is over?  Is our marraige is ok?  What did he mean he didn’t want to live like that” … scary for me.
PEACEFULWIFE’S RESPONSE:
I can tell you that many men bristle at the word “why” no matter what the tone of voice their wife has – for many men, it implies that he made a stupid decision.  He may feel that you are questioning his wisdom, competency and abilities.  Imagine if your mom  asked, “Why would you use that kind of detergent?”  or “Why would you date THAT man?”  Wouldn’t that irritate you a bit?  That one little word can make the difference sometimes between a man feeling respected vs disrespected.  Men tend to be quite sensitive to disrespect.  We don’t always mean to come across disrespectfully, but sometimes that is what they hear.  This wasn’t about moving the  furniture – it was about your approach.
You could say, “I would like to have this chair over here, please.”  with a smile and pleasant tone of voice and that would probably have gotten you what you wanted without a fight.
 
I know you thought you were respectful and appreciative. But what matters most is if HE is hearing respect and appreciation.  When he turns on you in anger like that (or some men suddenly stonewall and shut down) – he is probably feeling disrespected – whether the disrespect was unintentional or intentional on your part.
Later, in bed, he was trying to apologize when he put his hand on yours.  That was his way of attempting to begin to reconcile.  But more disrespect made him stop trying to offer you peace and intimacy. 😦
He forgave you earlier.  He dropped the issue.  Men don’t always have to talk through things to forgive and reconcile – they forgive in their own minds sometimes and then want to just move on.  Women usually do need to talk through things.  I totally understand if you feel like you need to talk more about the situation.  Most men will hear our feelings best when we calmly express them purely and simply with vulnerability (Laura Doyle – The Surrendered Wife):
  • I feel sad
  • I feel hurt
  • I feel upset
  • I feel afraid
  • I feel angry
  • I feel confused
  • I feel nervous

Instead of blasting our men with blame and labeling them “the bad guy”  – which will make them shut down or defend themselves – we can simply ask for what we need and say how we feel.  Then we give our men a chance to be the hero and to delight us!

So, in this situation, in bed, you could have cuddled up to  him and said something like, “I feel hurt/sad about what happened this afternoon.  I was trying to be very respectful, but maybe I accidentally said or did something that came across disrespectfully?  Maybe that is why you sounded so angry at me?  I want you to feel very respected by me – I know I still have a lot to learn about respect.  Is there something I could do differently that would feel more respectful to you?  It hurts me when you yell at me.”

I’m really proud of you for doing many things respectfully and not raising your voice and not interrupting him.  GREAT JOB!
If you have not apologized for being disrespectful – then please BRIEFLY and humbly apologize for asking “why” he did what he did (and maybe there was non-verbal disrespect, too?  Tone of voice or body language or facial expressions?)  That one little word, “why” screams disrespect to some men.  Try to ask your questions without using why.  I like to say “I want this”  “I would like this.”  “Would it be possible to do X?”  “I would rather not do Y.”
The apology is probably only going to need to be about one or two sentences: “I understand now that if I ask ‘why,’ it sounds disrespectful to you. I am SO sorry that I came across that way.  I totally didn’t mean to hurt you. I will be careful not to do that again!”  And then DO NOT EXPLAIN or justify yourself!  End of apology. 🙂
My take on his FB pic is – don’t ask him about that right now.   It would be easy to say, “WHY did you change your FB pic?  You obviously don’t love me anymore!”    That would probably exacerbate the whole situation!  I think it is best to just wait a few days and focus on the things he actually does say to you instead of making assumptions about his motives.
If you absolutely must talk about the FB picture – my suggestion would be to say something like, “I noticed you changed your FB picture after our argument.  It makes me feel sad/scared/upset to see that you took the picture of us together down.”  But then don’t demand that  he change it.  Just let him know your feelings and let him decide what to do about that.
There will be misunderstandings like this in every marriage.  It doesn’t mean the marriage is in danger.  It means that there is more growing and maturing that needs to be done.  It means that men and women have very different ways of thinking and feeling.  And it means we are all sinners who desperately need Jesus.  God is using marriage to make you both more holy.  And it is a great opportunity to learn to practice forgiveness, grace and mercy.
Now, today is a new day – so ENJOY your husband.  Savor the moments you share.  Don’t hang on to the argument but more forward and ask God how you can most bless and honor your husband today!
A FOLLOW UP FROM THIS WIFE LATER:
I placed the chair back where he had placed it. When he noticed, he was really pleased and I told him I would rather live with it than have him think anything was more important to me than him.  He told me “you’re so sweet.” And cuddled me.  I used the opportunity to give the apology you phrased.
Thank you,  April. That was a really bad one for us. I really feel blessed you replied!!!
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