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?

DrDebiSmith

Dr. Debi is passionate about helping Christian couples & single adults learn more effective ways to apply Biblical principles & the findings of psychological research to everyday life. She is an author & former professor, as well as a California Licensed Psychologist (21711) & a Texas Licensed Psychologist with Provisional Status (38600). She earned her Doctor of Psychology degree (PsyD) at Rosemead School of Psychology-Biola University, and has taught psychology courses at MidAmerica Nazarene University, Azusa Pacific University, & Biola University.

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