Today, lets look at a problem many wives face, which makes it difficult for them to love their husbands. This is the case of a Christian wife who is married to a man who is “passive.” He may even be a passive Christian, who will not provide leadership. Whatever the wife asks, the answer she receives is “It’s up to you,” “Whatever you want,” or “It doesn’t matter to me.” He is often indecisiveness even when “nicely” pressed for an answer. Other times, though he is a Christian, he steadfastly refuses to pray with her or the children or have devotional ties with them.
He does read his Bible and pray, but he does so privately. The husband also fails to lead by avoiding conflict. He either ignores the problem or walks away saying little or nothing. He also fails to lead his children. When he is home and one of the children is disrespectful to him or the mother, he does not reprove or discipline that child. He lets his wife take whatever disciplinary steps seem appropriate to her.
Here is how Insight for Living radio Bible teacher, Chuck Swindoll describes the passive husband. He wrote an article you can find on the internet titled “Passive Men, Wild Women.”
Here’s what Dr Swindoll wrote:
Passive men, wild women. Those words aren’t original with me. They came from [psychologist] Pierre Mornell, who wrote a book that bears that title. The issue that concerned Dr. Mornell is found in Christian marriages just as often as in non-Christian ones.
It’s the problem of the husband who is “inactive, inarticulate, lethargic, and withdrawn at home. In his relationship to his wife he is passive. And his passivity drives her crazy.” He’s not necessarily incompetent and dull. At work he may be extremely successful and articulate. And she’s not necessarily rebellious and overactive. She may be a good mother, talented, and well-respected by her peers.
At home, however, the husband says, in a dozen different ways, “I’m tired… just leave me alone.” She makes requests; he ignores them. She gets louder; he retreats further. She adds pressure; he lapses into sullen silence. Ultimately he withdraws; she goes “wild.”
Application to Biblical Principles
Now wives who are married to husbands like that want to find out how they can apply Paul’s counsel, “Women love your husbands.” They want practical answers.
While I was researching on this topic, I discovered that there is a worse problem than just having a husband who is “passive.” There are husbands who, according to psychologists are “passive-aggressive.”
Let’s look at some of the traits of the passive-aggressive husband. The descriptions I am about to share with you come from different sources from the Internet. A passive-aggressive man won’t have every single one of these traits, but he’ll have many of them.
Just tell a p/a man what you want, no matter how small, and he may promise to get it for you. But he won’t say when, or maybe he’ll do it deliberately slowly, or he’ll do a substandard work, or he won’t comply at all –just to frustrate you.
The P/A man is a master manipulator. He is a genius when it comes to appearing innocent and only having good intentions. He does this in an attempt to have you believe that he is only acting with your best interest in mind. The P/A is very talented at getting her to fall for his apologies, accept his excuses and focus on his charm rather than deal with the issue directly. He blames her for creating the problem and keeps her focused on her anger rather than his own ineptitude. He keeps his partner held hostage by the hope that he will change. This husband may give into her and clean up his act after a confrontation for several days, but then it’s back to business as usual.
MAKING EXCUSES and LYING
The P/A man reaches as far as he can to fabricate excuses for not fulfilling promises. As a way of withholding information, affirmation or love —to have power over you —the p/a man may choose to make up a story rather than give you a straight answer.
The P/A man has a careless attitude towards deadlines. He follows his own time schedule and routine, without caring for those who want his work to be done in a different way or at least on time.
The P/A man always “forgets” to do something on purpose. Examples of this would be, if the wife asks him to throw out the garbage, or fix a dripping faucet or change the fluorescent lamp. When he fails to do it he simply says, “Oh, honey, I’m sorry, I forgot. The husband uses “forgetfulness” when he wants to avoid an obligation.
One of the most infuriating and inconsiderate of all P/A traits is his inability to arrive on time.
The P/A man is master of mixed messages. When he tells you something, you may still walk away wondering if he actually said yes or no. He’ll say one thing and do another. Then he will deny ever saying the first thing. He doesn’t communicate his needs and wishes in a clear way. He often gives double messages and expects his partner to read his mind and meet his needs saying ‘She should have known how it is.’
Listen to this conversation that was taken from the movie, Moonlighting
Woman: Are you upset? It’s ok if you are, I mean, I suppose you have a right to be. I just wish you’d tell me.
Man: I’m not upset.
Woman: It’s really ok if you are. I mean, I absolutely understand.
Man: Again, I’m not upset.
Woman: I would be. I would be very, very…upset. May I ask why?
Man: Uh? Why what?
Woman: Why is it that you’re not upset?
Man: Upset about what?
The P/A man protests that others unfairly accuse him rather than owning up to his own misdeeds. To remain above reproach, he sets himself up as the apparently helpless. He’s the innocent victim of your excessive demands and tirades.
If you confront him about his behavior he will sulk, pout, withdraw and use silence. Or he will walk completely away leaving you to deal with the problem alone.
The P/A man emotionally disconnects. He does this by being very busy with things. He often likes to work on cars or something else that keeps him busy. This man typically loves just watching TV on the couch. He’ll go to work and come back home and be in front of the TV or the computer. Often a wife experiences abandonment. She feels like she’s not even married to him. She feels like she does not even know who her husband is. He’s there but he’s not there.
Please watch this video:
MARRIAGE HELP: Slaying the Silent Knight
Many women want a full partnership where their husbands are at least equally involved. They want an involved husband who will take his turn assuming the responsibility for leadership. When women want this and do not get it they may be resentful and feel very angry. Unless they are watchful, their frustration will be shown in a litany of criticism, which belittles and demeans their husbands. Increasing frustration may lead her to consciously or unconsciously train her sons to “not be like their father.” She often forms tight emotional ties with one or more of her children that are not healthy but satisfies emotional needs that are not met in the marriage.
This condition twists the life of the child. Instead of being accepted for himself, he has to grow up demonstrating certain forms of behavior in an attempt to satisfy both parents.
How did this whole pattern come about?
From Nancy Leigh DeMoss,
From her book, Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free:
I know of few subjects that are a greater source of frustration to women than “passive men.” This is not a new struggle. As is true of many issues, it all goes back to the Garden of Eden:
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food… she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)
This passage evokes a troubling picture in my mind. The couple is together in the Garden. The Serpent approaches them, ignores the man, and strikes up a conversation with the woman. He is fully aware that God has placed her under the authority of her husband and that both of them are under God’s authority…
God created the man first. He gave him the responsibility to lead and feed those under his care.
At this point, notice what the woman does not do. She does not acknowledge her husband, who is standing by her side. She does not say to the Serpent, “I’d like for you to meet my husband.” The woman does not turn to her husband and ask, “Honey, how do you think we should respond?” or “Adam, why don’t you tell him what God said to you.” She carries on the entire conversation with the Serpent as if her husband were not there.
Taking the Lead
Further, when it comes time to make a choice, she takes matters into her own hands. She does not consult with her husband on the matter. Nor does she ask his input or direction. The woman simply acts. “She took some and ate it.” (Verse 6)
What is Adam doing this whole time? He is doing what a lot of women tell me their husbands do much of the time: Nothing. Adam doesn’t interfere. He doesn’t get involved-except to eat some fruit himself when his wife gives it to him. All of a sudden, we have the first role reversal.
God created the man first. He gave him the responsibility to lead and feed those under his care. The woman, created from the man, was made to be a receiver. She was to respond to the initiative of her husband. Even the physiological differences between men and women express this fundamental difference.
But who is leading and feeding in this account? Not the man, but the woman. Who is responding? Not the woman, but the man. Something is wrong with this picture. And ever since, the same thing has been wrong with the sons and daughters of this first couple. That role reversal became the pattern for the way fallen men and women relate to each other.
That is the reason why we have Passive Men and Wild Women.
So let’s go back to Paul’s counsel: “Young women, love your husbands.”
How do women love passive-aggressive husbands?
1. First, understand passive-aggression.
You cannot remain clear and calm if you don’t understand what is happening. If you remain reactive, you’ll be dancing from one encounter to another. Notice what is happening. What does he say that provokes you into snapping back aggressively? Notice these patterns and determine to remain clear about what is happening.
2. Be honest about your own shortcomings.
To put it more biblically, “Get the log out of your own eye first. Only then will you be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your husband’s eye.“
We’re told in Matthew 7:1-5 ESV “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.“
Here is another insight from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, quoted from her book, Lies Women Believe.
As was true with Adam and Eve in the Garden, our instinct is to blame the other party for this problem. As women, we are quick to fault men for being passive. We insist that if they weren’t so inactive —if they would just do something, we would not take matters into our own hands.
But as I have watched men and women interact and have evaluated the effect of my own reactions, I can’t help but wonder to what extent we women have de-motivated and emasculated the men around us. We quickly take the reins rather than waiting on the Lord to move men to action. We can so easily trip men of the motivation to rise to the challenge and provide the necessary leadership. To make matters worse, when they do take action, women, they look to for encouragement and affirmation, correct them or tell them how they could have done it better.
We simply can’t have our cake and eat it, too. We can’t insist on running the show and then expect men to be proactive, take the initiative, and be “spiritual leaders.”
3. Wait on the Lord!
Again listen to the wisdom of Nancy Leigh DeMoss from her book, Lies Women Believe.
At times, I have asked women who are frustrated by the inactivity of their husbands, “What would happen if you didn’t jump in to handle the situation?” You think you have to go to work because he won’t get a job? If he gets hungry, he will probably work! You feel you have to take charge of the finances because he is irresponsible with money? He may go bankrupt. But that may be exactly what it takes for God to get his attention and change his character. You must be willing to let him fail-believing that ultimately, your security is not in your husband but in a sovereign God who is not going to fail you…
What can free us from the drive to control the men in our lives? We must learn to wait on the Lord; in His time, and His way. He will act on behalf of those who wait for Him. (Psalms 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!)
4. Pray for him.
Pray that he will take on the role of head of the house the thereby obey God and glorify Him (Ephesians 5:23 ESV: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.“)
5. If he is a Christian encourage him to develop an even deeper desire for the things of God.
(1 Peter 2:2 ESV: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation. | 2 Peter 3:18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.). She might want to give, as a gift, a book that is doctrinally sound and has a high view of God. She could also encourage him with testimonies of what God is doing in her life or the lives of others. To the degree that the husband is in the Word of God, his desire for God will grow and he will become a stronger leader.
6. Encourage him to make decisions.
Accept whatever you can during this time of building his confidence about committing himself on small matters. Whenever possible be noncritical of his actions. Try to say, “yes” more often. Even to the crazy silly ideas. You know, the ones that make you want to laugh at him. But please do not laugh at him! If it isn’t really a big deal, just say yes. Try to keep the yes/no ratio around 10:1. Obviously, this will depend on your husband. Let him feel successful and let him make some decisions. Save putting your foot down for the big issues: skydiving with the toddlers, moving to the Arctic Circle.
7. Learn to communicate biblically.
Don’t expect your husband to somehow intuitively know what you want. Instead of expecting him to “just know,” you should communicate your desire in a clear, gentle, godly tone. (Proverbs 16:21 ESV: The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.)
8. Observe your unrealistic expectations for him to change.
Don’t demand more than he can willingly give. Hire out projects you think he won’t carry through on. Get realistic—try to figure out where he can realistically change and what is set in store for him.
9. Recognize evidences of grace.
All of us do tend to see only the negative. But when we are praying for a person we should see what God is doing in their lives. If we see even small evidences of what God is doing, we should recognize that and express it to your partner.
10. Learn to make an appeal.
If, in spite of clear communication and encouragement in his desire for the things of God, he persists in failing to lead, then you should appeal to him. You should appeal based on the Scriptural mandates to the husband. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.“
You might say, “Honey, I would like to appeal to you to take a more active role in the leadership of our family. We want to come under your leadership and mature as a result. Scripture is clear that you are to lead and we are to follow. I will be glad to do anything I can to help you and make it easier for you. Is there anything I can do differently to help you? Would you think about what I asked?” Give him some time to think about what you said, perhaps a week or so.
11. Seek for help.
If he refuses or nothing changes, then she should again appeal to him. Ask him if it would be all right if they talked to the pastor or a godly man in the church. The purpose of the meeting would be to seek help for both of them. It would be to learn how to carry out the roles that God intended. She should give him time to think about what she has asked. If he still refuses or nothing changes, then she could consider going to the pastor to seek guidance. As a rule, it would be wise for her to inform her husband rather than “going behind his back.” She can invite him to come along if he would like.
12. In spite of his negligence, the wife still has a responsibility to show respect and love to her husband.
We’re told in 1 Peter 3:9 ESV: Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.) She can learn to think “kind… tenderhearted… and forgiving” thoughts (Eph 5:32) so as not to become embittered. She can strive to persevere in her prayers for him, to delight in her relationship with the Lord, and to glorify God by being a loving companion to her husband as much as he would permit.
In conclusion, she should remind herself often that her obedience to God is not dependent on her husband’s obedience. Her ability to be pleasing to the Lord is not contingent upon her husband’s godliness. Even though her husband won’t lead, she can still be like one of the “holy women of the past who put their hope in God.” (1 Peter 3:5 NIV)
We believe this sermon was given by Pastor Jurem Romos. It was posted on the web site for “Shepherds Call Ministry,” which, unfortunately, is no longer on line.
52 responses to “How to Love a Passive Aggressive Husband”
My life is a mere reflection of what this article is expressing. I have always been a quiet person and it takes me a little time to warm up to people. I have a big heart as a man, but have been hurt by belittling words, comparisons of past relationships, plenty of put downs and now it seems I have built several walls towards the woman I Love. It’s been hard to trust and to become vulnerable again and every time I have tried, things from past experiences would be throw in my face.
I’ve done things out of honest concern for people, but it was viewed as I was trying to get at the person, yes a female. I had admitted I had went about it wrong, but my heart was in a pure state when I had offered help, yet; I am still viewed as a cheater, liar and an ungodly, untrustworthy man. Now; I do shut completely down when there’s a hard conversation, or when I’ve said my peace and it was deemed as I had not said anything at all.
I am seeking help as a man of God and how to get to the root of my issues now; so that my heart can be free to please my wife as I should in Gods eye, according to His will for my marriage and my life. Thanks for your post, because often times, strong women don’t see they a part of a man retreating into a passive-aggressive state, when they’ve fought to become more of a leader and husband. Anymore help given is will be greatly recieved!
It’s all the broken promises that hurt the most. Of course, he claims that they were not “promises” but just “ideas that he had”. I am learning the hard lesson to completely disregard anything that he says, to not depend on him for anything, and to believe only what he does (not what he says). It is very difficult since I have always been responsible and trusting. I wish that I had never married him but here we are 40 years later. I admit that I am hurt that God would allow this if He really loves me. Any advice or support would be appreciated.
I’ve been in a relationship with a passive aggressive man for 30 years. He is my husband. It’s been a long road and it’s been very difficult at times. I’ve wanted to get a divorce so many times yet being a Christian it’s not an option. I get so angry that I wish he just wasn’t here anymore. I get anxiety; I actually get sick. I need to understand more about what to do, how to react sometimes.
I’m very, very strong and then I get so weak because he totally ignores me and I get very lonely. Then I get very needy and I want his love and companionship so the dance starts all over again. I beg him for his affection and his love. He is never wrong; it’s always my fault. He never apologizes. It hurts so much there’s nothing I feel I can do. I feel like I just have to be under his control in order to make the relationship work. We talk about doing something and I’ll get the whole thing together to do it and then he’ll act like we never decided to do it and it’s crazy.
I really feel like I’m going crazy at the time and he tries so desperately to convince me that I am crazy instead of taking any responsibility. The only time I got a response from him and he admitted that he was wrong is when I got divorce papers. And then it was like a miracle; he went back and told me all the times that he was wrong and I was right and that he was so sorry and that he would change. It was a lie; it was just to get me back and he did. On the other hand I see he is a very trustworthy, honorable man and I think so highly of him. He’s very smart; he does everything he fixes everything. He’s a good husband so I’m just so confused !!!
Oh Marilynn, I am in an identical situation in my own marriage. My husband has been in counseling for about 5 months now, concerning his passive/aggressive behavior but I know it takes time. Right now, all I do is cry. I had foot surgery that has kept me like a prisoner here at home for almost three months now. I have four dogs. Between trying to get my husband to move to a little larger house and being laid up, I have been sinking into a deep depression. I am not even prone to depression.
I am very friendly and easy going. My husband’s immaturity and constant stonewalling is driving me to exhaustion and wanting nothing more than to leave. I hate where we live. Our house was home to the Luciferian Freemasons and I have been literally attacked in this house he inherited from his family. I have been pleading with the Lord to let us move from this place but he doesn’t want to. Again, we are at an impasse. We too have been together 30 years. Please Lord, Marilyn and I are both struggling. Help us.
Please consider that your husbands may be narcissists. While that term gets thrown around loosely nowadays, it is a very real, and ultimately devastating, disorder that ultimately destroys the trust (and sanity) of their spouses. While overt narcissists are easy to spot, covert or vulnerable narcissists appear to be regular, perhaps even shy, Mr. Nice Guys. But they lack the empathy that is necessary to have a genuine relationship. They lie to get their needs met no matter the emotional cost to their families. They are incredibly passive-aggressive, deceptive and manipulative. They sabotage their spouses behind their backs. They blame-shift and gaslight. They do not take responsibility for their behaviors and often break promises.
After years of praying and self-sacrifice to make things work in their marriages, spouses of narcissists ultimately struggle with PTSD type emotional stress. Sadly, our Churches are full of narcissists who know all the right things to say and do to make good impressions and appear “godly”. A good resource is “Confusion to Clarity” which is an online group for Christian spouses of narcissists. You are not alone.
Thank you, Elizabeth. I appreciate your writing to Marilyn and myself. My husband is an only child. He is a manipulative narcissist by definition. So many women suffer under this type of husband. I am asked why I am angry all the time. Hello?????? I am a born again Christian. My husband claims to be but you never see him read the Bible or anything else. He does go to church and Bible study. Because they are so secretive, it’s hard for me to see the fruit? Only God knows for sure.
His son is suffering from alcoholism and suicidal thoughts. He is a former alcoholic. He seems to lack the ability to admit fault over anything and seems to have little compassion for the son that his own lack of parenting, has destroyed and hurt. I do not understand how the Lord continues to not let him reap any circumstances for how he has affected our marriage for the last 30 years. Anyone????
Linda, there are several online groups that will help you understand and better cope with this disorder. Confusion to Clarity is one and there are others on Facebook as well. Narcissists simply don’t have the empathy to be reflective or to do the necessary give-and-take in a marriage. They have the capability for being sympathetic but not much for being empathetic. It really is “all about them”. The things they do are not for love. They are done for their need to be in control of situations. They are incredibly manipulative, but often in ways that we cannot readily see.
If a narc feels he is losing his spouse (“supply”) he may love-bomb. her. Once he has regained her trust, his coldness/anger/lies/manipulation will begin again. But they often blame the wife and simply leave for someone who gives them “supply”. There is something lacking in them, often due to childhood issues. But some is “wiring”. The bottom line is that there is NOTHING the most loving, kind and caring wife can do to change this. This is who he is.
Christian couple counseling (or any couple counseling), which often puts the onus on the wife and stresses mutual empathy, frequently creates some serious additional problems for the wife. I have seen first-hand, how counselors can be duped by a covert narcissist, because they cannot grasp how easily, and with seeming sincerity, the narc is able to lie. Once the narc husband learns of his wife’s expressed vulnerabilities, he will use them to undermine and manipulate her. When she wishes to express an issue with him, he will use her vulnerabilities as an excuse rather than take responsibility for his own actions.
Most wives try and try to understand their husbands, yet unfortunately, they are encouraged to do more/be more so their husbands will respond to them in a better manner. This is NOT possible with narcs who will use even others’ kindnesses as a tool of manipulation. Sadly, because they know how to “play Christian” narcs appear to be the perennial “Mr. Nice Guys”. Many women have expressed how their Churches supported their husbands while blaming the wives for leaving their emotionally abusive marriages. Please consider seeking therapy for yourself with a counselor who has experience in this area. God bless you-
I’m at my wits end, married to a passive man for 30 yrs. I believe it drove me to drink because of my pain, but I thank God I found Recovery and have been sober and have practiced my program for over 8 yrs. now. Unfortunately, the pain of truth of living with a man that never lets me in has taken a toll on me. I can’t seem to do it anymore and want a divorce or a miracle. Please pray for me as I feel so lost and completely alone even with my faith in God.
Hi, Beth. Bless you for your tenacity in dealing with your addiction. It’s also understandable that you are growing weary in waiting for as you say, to let you in. We pray Galatians 6:9 over you:
Heavenly Father, we pray for Beth today that she will not grow weary in well doing for a the proper time she WILL REAP a harvest from you if she does not give up.
I used to have a lot of joy being around my husband. If sitting by him, I would spontaneously hug him. He never interacted with that. The last time I hugged him spontaneously while we were sitting on the couch he pushed me away.
I have given up as all of his time is his time, not our time. He doesn’t even sit on the couch with me any more. I think he just married me because I’m nice (too nice)? and he wanted someone who could get along with his mother who still thinks they are the couple. Maybe it is true.
Sadly, no more joy in us…
Question if I may? If all of these advices given, a woman has already done….and still no change…..even after 30 years of marriage……what is a woman to do? It’s incomprehensible to think that although a woman does what GOD has called her to do…..after a while that would make her go literally insane if the insanity never stops. At that point he is unfaithful to the marriage.
My reply is to Beverly. I feel the same. I feel I have diligently tried to be and do all these things. While this is a great article, it puts all the burden of making the relationship work on the wife…which, in effect, is making the wife the leader -the exact thing the article says wives are not supposed to do. A marriage can thrive only if the husband also diligently studies the Word and prayerfully strives to be/do his part. A wife can not permanently dismiss her needs and feelings while she tries to figure out what she must do BEFORE the husband has an obligation to live out his own role. Another words, I can’t do it for him. If I could, I’d be his Savior. Only Jesus can do that.
We agree. This is a tight rope walking situation. One size does not fit all. You just have to pray about it, ask God for wisdom and then prayerfully glean through the info you come across. Do what you can, but don’t do what you shouldn’t. Sometimes all you can do is take care of yourself as best as you can, looking to Jesus to lead the way. Just make sure pride doesn’t get in the way where you are judging and are being mean spirited. You can speak the truth in love, but not in pride and feeling better than the other person. Just follow Jesus in word and deed, and then you will be walking the right path.
Nancy demoss adds NOTHING to the real dilemma of living with an emotionally destructive husband. She did a lot of blaming the wife for “making” her husband be narcissistically sinful and emotionally brutal. She demonstrates her ignorance, and only aids in the abusiveness perpetuated by the passive aggressive husband.