By Debbie W. Wilson, Crosswalk.com
I had a roommate whose bad moods confused me. I wondered what I’d done to cause her to withdraw or be angry. I later learned, that most of the time, her bouts weren’t related to me at all. Her dark countenance reflected her inner battles.
Understanding some of the struggles that may be contributing to your husband’s unhappiness can diffuse any defensiveness you may feel and help you be his compassionate cheerleader. Here are five reasons your husband may be feeling unhappy.
1. He feels he’s never earned his father’s approval.
Little boys want to make their daddies proud. The man that grows up without his father’s validation carries a hole in his heart that needs to be continually filled. Grown men want to know their fathers are pleased with whom they’ve become. They need to know they bring their dad's pride and not pain.
The Bible says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). A wife’s love and respect can go a long way to filling in the gap left by a distant father. But, be careful not to “mother” him. Mothering conveys seeing him as weak and shows disrespect.
Support his desire and effort to draw closer to God. His heavenly Father is able to heal the wounds his earthly father left.
2. He’s grieving.
Life events trigger cycles of painful emotions for those who’ve experienced deep losses. Men who’ve lost their ability to be productive often lose their sense of purpose. Those who’ve lost their fathers at a young age, wish their dads were alive to meet their children and applaud the accomplishments they know would have made them proud.
Boys are often taught from a very young age not to cry or show their feelings. They fear talking about their pain may uncork a torrent of emotions that will immobilize them or make them appear weak. Those who weren’t given permission to express their grief delay their healing.
Years ago, a Focus on the Family article revealed research that showed that men who participated in the decision to abort a baby were more likely to experience depression than the general population. Acknowledging their part in this sin can free them from the guilt and loss they had formally suppressed (Proverbs 28:13).
Grief will work its way out. If we don’t express it in words, it can later come out in anger, depression, addiction, or busyness.
3. He’s disappointed in himself.
Nobody wins when we compare ourselves with others. But it is an easy trap to fall into. Men, who measure themselves against their peers or by certain expectations, chide themselves for not being further along in their careers. They berate themselves for not being able to provide a better standard of living for their families. They look at the accomplishments of their friends’ kids and fear their children aren’t stacking up.
If a man doesn’t feel like a success, he will be unhappy with himself. Prioritizing his life around a biblical model of success will relieve the need to compare. We help our husbands when we notice and appreciate his good qualities. A wife’s genuine admiration comes out in how she talks to him and about him. It shows in how she treats him.
4. He feels disconnected from you.
A husband values physical and personal intimacy with his wife. Generally speaking, men need to feel sexually close before they want to open up emotionally. Women tend to be the opposite. Emotional closeness increases their desire for physical closeness. These differences create power struggles when we focus on having our needs met before we are willing to meet our spouse’s.
Daily distractions create another hindrance to closeness. How do we juggle the demands of parents, in-laws, children, church, and jobs?
The Bible hales Sarah as an example of a godly wife. It says, “Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master” (1 Pet. 3:6 NLV). The word obey means “to listen, to harken.” Calling him “lord” meant he held the chief position in her earthly priorities.
When we’re internally distracted or putting other’s needs before our husbands, they feel that our hearts are not with them. Honoring your husband validates his God-given authority in the home and is healthy for the whole family. The next time someone puts a demand on your time or energy, get your husband’s opinion before you answer. Give him first place, and see what happens.
5. He has a wrong view of possessions.
Every Christmas, my son and I enjoy watching Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Scrooge’s transformation from a crabby miser to a generous benefactor never fails to warm our hearts.
The Bible says, “Happy is he who is gracious to the poor” (Proverbs 14:21 NASB). When we see God as our Provider we can open our hearts and our wallets without fear. In some mysterious way, being generous empowers and enriches the giver.
The same principle applies to how we treat time, energy, and control. Fear makes us stingy and unhappy. Realizing we are stewards of God’s gifts helps us enjoy God’s provision and life. Partner with your husband in being gracious to those less fortunate than yourselves. You’ll discover how rich you are.
Your husband’s unhappiness may have nothing to do with you. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to support him. Be his partner and encourager. Empathize where you can. Learn what you have power over and what you don’t. Even if our husbands don’t respond to our encouragement as we hope, we can live happy and satisfying lives.
Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.
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Publication date: August 26, 2016