Dear Barbara, how do I not resent my husband?

Dear Barbara,

Your words were wonderful to read tonight as I just got into a fight with my husband because I feel he does not appreciate all that I do and gives no help at all with our daughter, while I am expecting a second child.
After reading your post, I just realized that I am desiring recognition from the wrong person. I am to seek for God’s approval and for his recognition and appreciation!
Thank you for the encouraging words and, if you can, write a little about how you kept your mind from resentment at your husband when you felt as I feel today.  – Adriana

I would love to read some direction and verses on not resenting my husband during these days, too. – Alli

Dear Adriana and Alli,

Excellent questions and I’m proud of you both for recognizing this marital trap and for wanting to make the right choices based on God’s way of doing marriage. I’m grateful you asked and apologize for my tardy reply. I began this post to you almost immediately after you both wrote, but life happens and today I found this beginning letter to you, so here are my thoughts.

Like you Adrianna, my daughter had her first baby in November; over 24 long hours of labor ending in a C-section, then struggling to nurse, followed two weeks after giving birth by a bad virus which affected her milk supply. And on it went for three months. All the change, she felt, was hers to bear. She was exhausted from little sleep which makes every decision, every relationship immensely more difficult. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” said Winston Churchill, meaning we can’t be strong and make good decisions of faith.

I told Laura when she shared her frustrations with me how well I remembered feeling resentment toward my husband as he slept like a baby while my baby and I were up off and on all night. Times six. It seemed so unfair after all the pain of pregnancy and delivery.

In response to your questions, here are a few thoughts from the lessons I’ve learned.

1) Feeling resentment is not wrong in and of itself. Feeding your resentment is. Holding on to resentment and refusing to see any fault in yourself is when temptation becomes sin.

Like my daughter learned, it’s too easy in the blurry fog of sleep deprivation to nurse anger toward your sleeping oblivious husband even as you nurse your baby. He probably doesn’t even know you are feeling frustration, doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong, or if he does he’s probably baffled as to how to help you and how to make the circumstances get better. The whisper of the enemy of your soul is to become arrogant, to feel justified that you are a better or more superior person than he because of all you are juggling or have suffered.

2) Comparison is a trap we women deal with regularly. And we compare our lot in life with our husband’s way too often every day. Whether you work outside the home or not it’s impossible for your life and your husband’s to be equal. You are two vastly different people with very different ways of responding to your life experiences. The goal is learning to understand one another in what God has given you together; your children, and all the other particulars of your life as a couple. Comparison with your man is a no-win situation. It’s impossible to fully understand how your spouse really feels and what his experience is like.

A favorite story of mine is the encounter after the resurrection between Peter and Jesus. Over breakfast on the shore of Lake Galilee, Jesus was giving Peter his ‘marching orders’ for the future. The intense focus of Jesus’s eyes boring into his soul likely felt a bit uncomfortable. Peter may have felt inadequate and nervous, so he, like we often do, attempted to shift the focus to someone else by asking, “What about him?” Jesus responded with “What is that to you, you follow Me!” (John 21:22). Many many times God has reminded me of this story and in doing so reminds me, you follow Me. Keep your eyes on Me, not your husband or others.

Jesus did not come to earth to make everyone’s life equal or fair. He came to redeem us from our comparison struggles, our critical attitudes and our sin that keeps us from knowing following His individualized unique plan. What He had for Peter was different than John. What He has for you is different than what He has for your husband.

3) God did not design a husband to meet all of his wife’s needs. Neither does He expect wives to meet all their husband’s needs. This truth is a great liberator for us. Read it again and again. We aren’t responsible for meeting everyone’s needs; husband, children, mom, dad, siblings, or friends!!! God is. And the sooner we learn to go to Him when we feel life is unfair the sooner we will rest in His plan for us.

Here is a great verse to remember: “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name,” (Isaiah 54:5). I used to think this was a lovely verse for women who never married or were suddenly single again, but I’ve come to see this verse is for married women too because no husband will ever be perfect or all that a wife needs. Look to Jesus, trust His all-seeing eyes on you, knowing where you are and what you are feeling and needing.

4) Last is a practical suggestion for necessary conversations about the resentment you are feeling. These seasons of missing one another because our personal experiences are so different are actually wonderful opportunities for growing your marital intimacy. God’s desire is for you to have healthy honoring conversations about what you are feeling. Your husband can’t learn to help, care for you, and meet more of your needs if he doesn’t know what you are going through. The key for these conversations is focusing on sharing your heart and hearing his. Focus on me and I statements, I feel like I’m doing it all by myself, and I know you are trying or want to help, not accusatory you statements, you never help. Share how you feel, ask how he feels about your common circumstances; the new baby, your toddler who is wearing you out, etc. Give him suggestions for how to help. Consider writing down what you know is true to read in those dark hours and the ideas for helping one another that you discovered together. Thank him for what he is doing and for the ways he does try hard. And don’t expect it to be learned and all accomplished in one conversation.

Timing is an important factor too because sometimes we expect our husbands to be instantly mature and wise and ‘all-knowing’. It takes decades for men to learn how to love the wife God gave.

Ali, you asked for verses and I hope these will be an encouragement to you. But another help might be the old hymn Kim wrote that she said helped her: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” God has used the words of great hymns and songs to keep His truth fresh and alive. Singing these lyrics helps my heart choose to trust Him and believe Him for the change only He can make.

Hope this helps.
Hugs and love to you,
Barbara

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9 thoughts on “Dear Barbara, how do I not resent my husband?”

  1. These words are so helpful, Barbara. Resentment has run rampant in my mind this past season, so being reminded of the truth is like salve for my soul. Thank you.

    1. Barbara Rainey

      Thanks Sami for commenting and I’m so grateful my words have encouraged you. You have demonstrated courageous faith over these last few years. I’m very proud of you!

  2. Rosalynn Symington

    Thanks so much for sharing such timely truth and wisdom, Barbara. This is the season I’m living in and struggling through. But God is faithful and is meeting me where I am, and giving me His peace, joy, and strength along the way. God bless you!!

  3. Rosalynn Symington

    Thanks for sharing your experience in making the choice to rejoice (Ps. 118:24) and giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18) , especially trying ones like those you shared!! Continue hanging in there, and following Barbara’s wise advice. So thankful for her spiritual leadership and encouragement :)

  4. Thanks for bringing a balanced and godly perspective to a common problem for moms of little ones. I remember well how resentful I felt toward my husband during that season of life and it’s been over 30 years ago! Hmm…maybe I’m not really over it. I said a lot of things I wish I could take back. Although I did often cry out to the Lord and give Him the glory for getting me through it, there was a wedge driven between us that may never fully be removed. Although there was some medical justification for my only having one child, in my heart I know that I felt so disappointed and frustrated with his parenting or lack thereof, that I didn’t want to go through that again. In retrospect I realize that I was the loser. My only daughter is the delight and joy of my life and she has a good relationship with both of us. While God has forgiven me for my resentment and withholding of love, at times I wonder what our lives would have been like with more children. Resentment punishes the one who harbors it. Young moms who want to stay out of the minefield of resentment, blame, and long-term damaged marriages would do well to read your advice frequently and practice it diligently.

  5. Dear Barbara,

    Thank you for this article. And thank you for being faithful to the call God has on your life. As a husband myself, I have followed the wisdom of your husband, Dennis, since I first became a believer about 6 years ago now. But reading this article gave me a fresh sense of the internal struggles my wife may go through. It truly helps me in my venture to live out 1 Peter 3:7. Thank you again, to both you and Dennis! What an awesome legacy.

    -Phil

  6. Dear Barbara,
    Let me take a moment to say a heartfelt THANKS for this post…its a war i think every woman battles with irrespective of how wonderful our husbands are in their own special way and how strong we think our faith is… the enemy is out for God’s marriages i see it all the time and this topic is sooo prevalent and too common, it probably was the same war our mothers fought but they worked so well to conceal it. Thanks for shedding A LOT of light and thanks for your Godly perspective and counsel in this area…I’ve learned so much and will be reading over it from time to time for my own encouragement. God Bless your heart x

  7. Jennifer Janes

    Oh my word, is this timely or what?! My husband just left in the wee dark hours this morning for a week’s worth of work in sunny, warm Arizona (he did mention palm trees), while I’m here in still-chilly Wisconsin to do my homeschooling mom job. My upstairs toilet clogged–AGAIN–at 8am and here I am at 1:30pm trying to determine if I’m going to be able to get this thing done or not. :\ “Dear Lord, please loose this clog!”

    But, as I’ve been plunging away, listening to my boys fuss about who did/didn’t do what, and my youngest have too much freedom because I NEED to unclog the rediculous toilet again….**sigh** I was reminded early in the process of how grateful I am that I have a second bathroom; I’m grateful that I can be home with my children while God provides through my husband’s job; I’m grateful for our health; I’m grateful for the sunshine today (again, Wisconsin!); and I’m so very grateful for Jesus Christ. Even if nothing else went right this week, Jesus accomplished everything necessary to experience joy in my day, even if it is through tears, hunched over the toilet, praying for a clog to let go. Thanks for the post. Now, back to the plunger…

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