Lessons Learned from a Vindictive Wife

When I first started specializing in the Psychology of Men & Marriage, people would often ask how it happened that a woman like me – who knew so much about men & romance – wasn’t married.

Maybe they didn’t realize that I had been married. Twice.
And divorced. Twice.

Sitting through hour after hour of marriage counseling (with me as the counselor), I often envied women whose husbands were enduring so much.

Men who were fighting for their marriages.
Even when their wives were fighting so hard against them.

And I thought of many women I’ve known.
Some of them have been pretty mean.
But they still had husbands.
And I didn’t.

One might be tempted to believe that being a Mean Girl is the only way to get & keep a husband. How do they do it? Why do these men stay? (I’ll have to answer the latter question in another post.)

Never take another woman’s advice. Never ever.

Shortly after I met The Cute Boy, a female acquaintance offered her advice. “Expert advice” because – she proudly announced – she once worked as a receptionist in a counselor’s office (not mine, fortunately). Therefore, she felt compelled to share her own love story as a “good example” of how to keep a man.

As a young teenager, she’d become infatuated with a boy who was several years older. He didn’t treat her well. But she hung around anyway. Like a lovesick puppy.

When all of his friends had deserted him because he was so self-centered, she was still there. And he started being kind to her. Spending all his time with her. By then, there wasn’t anybody else for him to hang out with.

Once she’d “set the hook,” however, she changed her approach. Drastically.

After he’d declared his love and married her, she announced – out loud, I believe – that she was going to “make him pay” for all the time he’d ignored her when she was following him around.

She gleefully reported,

“I treat him like $#@!. Then when he feels really bad, I do something really nice for him. Like cook his favorite meal. Or have sex with him. And that’s how I keep him in line. He can flirt with other women. They don’t intimidate me. I’m the one he’s always going to come home to.”

When I met this couple, they’d been married nearly 30 years.

  • Did that mean she had it figured out?
  • Did her husband realize what she was still doing?

What was his point of view?

Her husband had been dealing with some pretty serious digestive problems. He ended up in surgery.

A few months after that, I was standing next to him at a presentation about Victorian costuming when someone asked why they never had any workshops for men’s costumes.

He turned to me and mumbled sarcastically, “Ya. ‘How to Make Armor.’”

And I wonder if she cares that – in that same conversation – he referred to wives as “blood-suckers.”

As a psychologist, I’m convinced there’s a connection with his poor health. Being treated badly would make anyone’s stomach hurt.

On the other hand, some men have no better advice than women.

I was carpooling with a group of friends and sat next to a middle-aged single man. He was aware of my interest in the Psychology of Men and took the opportunity to tell me “an insider’s secret” about men.

“Guys don’t like to date a woman they see as too perfect. It makes them nervous that they’ll never be able to deserve her. So they’ll dump her.”

So … it would seem that I’d been going about romance all wrong. I should first pick a Bad Boy, then become a Mean Girl who flaunts her flaws as though they are virtues & treats men as slaves?

I just couldn’t see myself doing that.

And I have absolutely no desire to even try to pull that off. Not ever. As a Christian, my goal is always to become more like Christ. Whether any man ever loved me or not, I want to be governed by

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • gentleness
  • faithfulness
  • and self-control.

And I most certainly didn’t want to be the kind of woman that makes a man feel like he needs to wear armor when he’s around her.

What I needed & wanted in my life was a man who had the same goal that I have – to be more like Christ.

What kind of partner do you want?

Solving Cinderella’s Problem

I have often identified with Cinderella. She gets just one brief night of fantasy at The Royal Ball where she falls in love with the Handsome Prince, and he likewise falls in love with her.

But then she must return to her life of Poverty and Rejection.

The Resolution of version of here Story depends upon the Handsome Prince.

Fortunately for Cinderella, the Handsome Prince feels her loss deeply. He cannot live without her, determines to find her no matter the cost, and makes her his wife.

Happily ever after.

  • But what if the Problem is not her life of Poverty and Rejection?
  • What if the Problem is the false identity she has accepted?
  • What if the Problem is how she sees herself?
  • As a woman with no value?

What Can Cinderella Do About Her Own Problem?

Rather than wait for the Prince to rescue her, she would be a Wise Woman to discover her True Identity.

Which – by the way – would make it a lot easier for the Handsome Prince to find her because she would be in plain sight rather than hiding – or being hidden by the lies that have surrounded her. A Double Win!!

Why Husbands Don’t Help Around the House

Are you the parent who is taking charge of homeschooling? Are you also the only one who cooks? does the dishes? washes clothes? picks up after kids?

Decades after women started working outside the home, research shows that the lady of the house is still responsible for most of the housework & childcare. Furthermore, wives are also far more likely to manage everyone’s doctors’ appointments, as well as the family social calendar.

Ask a woman what she needs from her husband, and she will most often say she needs him to help more around the house. But that issue is much more complex than merely sharing a list of chores.

Why Husbands Don't Help Around the House

In fact, a woman’s desire for her husband’s help around the house barely scratches the surface of what she needs from him.

And his refusal is only the tip of the iceberg of what he needs from her.

When we fail to see the underlying reasons why husbands don’t help around the house, we miss the “main thing” for him … and for her.

Here are three reasons men don’t help around the house … and what we can learn from each about both perspectives.

A Man’s Perspective on Why Husbands Don’t Help Around the House

Men simply don’t think like women. They’re not supposed to. If they did, we wouldn’t need them. We already know the female perspective on life. What we need is balance. And that’s what he brings. Or hopes to bring.

1. Men don’t put household perfection at the top of their priority list.

The men I’ve met do like a clean house. But very few of them are obsessed with perfection. Mostly they just want to have a comfortable place where they can relax after a long day.

One woman I met would get upset with her husband for sitting on the sofa and messing up the pillows. He could sit there, of course. But if he got up to do something else, she expected him to fluff the pillows & cushions.

Even if he was just going out to walk the dog.

Another woman freaked out when her husband set his car keys on top of her freshly polished dining room table.

Okay, I’ll give her that one.

But it wasn’t worth the fight that followed.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.


2. Men don’t understand why women insist on perfection.

I read a rather long post not long ago from a woman who admitted to having a meltdown because she wasn’t able to get everything done. Her husband walked into the fray & shortly thereafter announced that he was going to the gym. She was really mad at him for abandoning her in a crisis.

I get her point. She needed him, and he left.

However, his initial response would NOT have been helpful anyway. He probably would have told her to “chill out.” He would have told her she was overreacting. He would have tried to help her see how silly she was being over stuff that didn’t matter.

You get the picture.

He was wiser to go to the gym.

But a man doesn’t realize how much pressure a woman is under to do everything & to do it all perfectly. To fail means a bucket load of shame on top of extreme fatigue & time pressure. We can handle being tired. And we know there’s never enough time.

But we fear shame. So we get angry instead.

Then feel ashamed.

What women need is (1) empathy, (2) to be held, (3) & a husband who can say, “What can I do to help?”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

PROVERBS 31:30-31, NIV

3. Men don’t like (i.e., hate) being treated like children.

Men have mastered a lot, especially when it comes to vulnerable emotions. Unfortunately, they try to get their wives to use a man’s survival strategies. Or they revert to whatever has worked for them in managing their business lives.

Neither of those approaches work with a wife.

But women also get stuck in how they communicate with men. They use their “mom voice.” Even spoken more softly, it’s still a “mom voice.”

“I need you to ….”

“Put your ….”

“Go ….”

You get the idea?

He’s gonna rebel. I guarantee it.
[rebel verb. “to rise in opposition to an established government or ruler.]

Not the result you were going for, was it?

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

PROVERBS 31:10-12

But 3 Things a Woman Really Wants From Her Husband …

  • She’s not alone when it comes to raising children.
  • He values her & all she does to make their house a home.
  • She is more important to him than anything else in the world.

So when we listen to the words we use & notice the actions that result, we can learn a lot about how we are meant to partner together.

The Short Answer for Both RE: Why Husbands Don’t Help Around the House

… let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, & let the wife see that she respects her husband. EPHESIANS 5:33, NKJV

Therefore, we can conclude that …

  • The main thing she wants is to be loved.
  • The main thing he wants is to be respected.

I look forward to hearing from you!

If you have questions or comments about this article, feel free to contact me. I will reply as soon as I am able. Plus I will add you to my biweekly email, so you will be notified whenever I publish a new post.

Of course, you may also post your question or comment publicly in the space provided. I respect your privacy, so you email address will not be published.

Always remember: I’m here to help.


Better Couple Communication: Be Careful What You Say

Honest couple communication – especially between husband & wife – is essential for creating connection and lasting joy. But should you be able to say whatever you want to your mate?

I’ve always tried to be careful what I say to My Beloved. But many folks – mostly women, it seems; but some men, too – believe you should be able to say whatever you want to your mate. They call it “just being honest.”

On the other hand, some are too careful about what they say because they’re trying to get a particular response from their partner. Actually, that’s manipulation, and I’ve never seen it work to create true connection in any relationship.

The Psychology of Better Couple Communication

As a Couples Psychologist, I’ve seen both extremes.

“letting it all out” or
“tiptoeing around”

The saddest thing about those who’d like better couple communication is that most don’t even realize what they’re actually doing!

So here are my 5 Reasons for being careful what you say.

1. Words can hurt.

Think before you speak: Could what you are about to say be experienced as attacking, blaming, or criticizing? Just because your feelings are hurt does not give you the right to hurt someone in return.

Two “wrongs” never make a “right.”

A counterattack will not get you the response you’re hoping for when you are hurt, but will instead elicit a defensive response from the one who hurt you. Consider these two options and you would respond to each:

What you just said really hurt.

versus …

You’re such a jerk!

2. Words can heal.

Be kind and gracious toward one another. You may have heard that “hurt people hurt people.” Consider what might be behind the other person’s behavior. Chances are he is acting defensively by being offensive … like I just warned you against doing (see above).

If you’re partnered with someone you love, it’s probably because you really like the person he normally is. So if he is behaving in a way that is “out of character,” it makes more sense to assume he has a good reason for that.  Not an excuse, but a reason. Why not find out what it could be?

You seem really tense today. What’s happening?

If you don’t get an answer that makes sense, you can follow up with …

Ok. I’m sorry I burned the toast, but it seems like it’s more than that. I care about you, and I’m here if you want to talk about whatever else seems to be going on.

Then stop talking. Go on about whatever you would be doing under less stressful circumstances, remaining open to hear what’s troubling him when he’s ready to talk about it. (See also When You Love a Broken Man.)

NOTE: Please know that I am not talking here about anyone who is in an abusive relationship, which requires a different strategy. Here is a quick way to evaluate your situation, and if you are in an abusive relationship, please seek the help of a local mental health professional or Christian Care Connect for additional types of care providers.

3. Words can curse.

Assuming the worst about your mate and saying it aloud is essentially the same as pronouncing a curse upon him. Trust me. You don’t want to speak out that kind of potentially self-fulfilling prophecy! (James 3:10)

You know you’re cursing if you begin with “you always …” or “you never …”

It’s also wise to be aware that saying those things to your friends or relatives – with earshot of your spouse or when he’s not around – still register as curses.

The wise woman builds her house,
But with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (Proverbs 14:1)

4. Words can bless.

better couple communication be careful what you sayPaul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:5) does not give you permission to tell your mate everything you think is wrong with him.

I believe what Paul means is that you should speak the Truth about how God him: as His Dearly Beloved Child.

The most important thing you can do for your mate is to learn to see him as God sees him. Jesus loves him as the man he is, as well as the man he is becoming. Let’s partner with that!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

5. Words can create.

What we think – and especially what we say – impacts the world around us. And that includes the people you love – as well as the people you don’t.

We all believe the world is in more trouble than it’s ever been. So use the creative power of your words to make the world a better place.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

Here are a few more words from the Word about words … and reasons to be careful what you say.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God! (Deuteronomy 32:3)

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9)

Understanding Women and Anger

The issue of women and anxiety is a very confusing one for a lot of men. Yes, I just said “anxiety.” I know the title of this video is “Women and Anger,” but when a man sees his woman upset, all he can tell for sure is that she’s angry. After all, that’s exactly what he sees and hears and feels. Remember that 93% of communication is nonverbal. So it’s no wonder he doesn’t even think to look past her anger for the anxiety that’s just beneath the surface.

Most of the time, what looks like intense anger, is actually fear.

A woman often freaks out when her man freezes up. She’s often thinking:

  • You’re not listening to what I’m saying.
  • You just don’t get how much this means to me.
  • You don’t have any respect me or my feelings. You don’t care.

She feels like she’s drowning, and that her man doesn’t care that she’s drowning.

Understanding women and anger. He could be her rescuer if he only knew what was really going on. But he has no idea.He could be her rescuer … if he only knew that’s what was going on.
But he doesn’t.

So he ends up feeling like he’s drowning himself … caught up in the swirling intensity of her emotions. That is, he may feel very much like someone who’s trying to save a drowning person, and ends up being pulled under the water himself by the panic by the very person he’s trying to rescue. That’s really what’s going on in those moments.

I know it’s next to impossible – when you’re the victim of a woman’s verbal attack – to think she’s afraid of something. It wouldn’t be any man’s first thought.

But, more than likely, she’s not merely angry. When you can recognize her fear and think about finding out why she’s afraid, it could be a very, very helpful thought to have.

A Man’s Anger

Understanding Women & AngerA woman also has a really hard time when her man is angry. And it really doesn’t matter if it’s he’s angry at her or something else. Even if he’s feeling generally frustrated with life, his behavior can evoke anxiety in her.

It’s really very, very scary for a woman to be around any angry man.

If she’s your woman, her immediate thought is,

“What’s wrong? Did I do something? Why are you so mad at me?”

Yes, it could be the other drivers who are frustrating you. Or it could be something at work. Maybe you don’t feel well … or whatever. But if it comes across as anger, your woman will still become terrified.

When women are terrified, they come across as angry. And when men are angry, it terrifies women. So we end up with a vicious cycle of anxiety and negative interactions.


  • Which of you seems to be angry more often in your relationship?
  • Have you considered what the underlying vulnerability might be?

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
(2 Corinthians 13:11)

Related Resource: How to Resolve Couple Conflict

Do You Understand Her Question?

More on Couple Communication: How to Resolve Couple Conflict

Couple Communication: Answering the right questionMen and women use language differently, and that probably affects your couple communication more than you realize. Because you respond to what you think you heard, which is not necessarily what your mate was saying.

In the video below, you will learn the importance of understanding your mate’s Bottom Line Question.

And once you know the real question behind the question, you’ll greatly increase the probability that you will automatically give the answer he/she is hoping for.

To answer before listening –
that is folly and shame. ~ PROVERBS 18:13