Married But Not Engaged
Many women are happily married, but long for greater intimacy with their husbands. They may mention that their spouses are withdrawn and quiet and that they don’t take the leadership role in the home. Other women say that although their husbands go to church, they back down from leadership positions or they may be constantly walked over in the workplace and do nothing about it. These men come home and it may seem as though they are in a different world. Quiet, aloof and completely disengaged, these men battle to express their emotions which leaves their wives feeling alone, frustrated and angry. This is a man who is married, but not engaged with his wife at all. He is passive and disconnected.
The problem with passive husbands is that they are still so ‘nice’. They smile sweetly and go out of their way to never ruffle any feathers, even when they should. Extremely easy going, the ‘Christian Nice Guy’ would rather stand back than be part of the action. Are you married to one?
• Does he battle to say no to people or projects?
• Does he lack leadership in your family?
• Do you resent how his passivity influences your life?
• Is he hard to respect because he appears weak?
• Does he avoid setting and achieving goals?
• Does he avoid conflict?
These are just some clues that your husband may indeed be too passive, but it is not simply a ‘shy personality’. Masking pain with a smile and pretending that everything is fine, while deep down he is boiling with anger, is actually a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed. No-one can be ‘nice’ all the time, and if they are, they are hiding a much deeper, underlying problem.
Forces that make and keep men passive
A culture at ends with masculinity – our culture is becoming more and more women-dominated. Women are raising children on their own, women are working hard and earning enough money to support their whole family, women are growing into leadership in church, work and sadly, in the home too. Men can start to feel disposable and no longer needed. Men used to be the ones who went to work and supported their families; they were the ones who had to step up and take leadership in the home. These days those lines are blurred and the result is that many men just sit back and ‘go with the flow’.
The psychology of passivity – many men have a psychological tendency to passivity, especially men who have survived the trauma of childhood abuse, neglect and abandonment. Later in life, the shame and fear associated with these events may lead to depression and anxiety and ultimately, passivity.
These forces and many others may have contributed to your husband’s passivity, but they pale when compared to the power a good woman has in the life of a man. No other person possesses your potential to help move your husband in a better direction. You might just be the person God uses to help set him free.
Emotions of a ‘Christian Nice Guy’
Passive people the world over have difficulty expressing emotions and men, on average, have a harder time expressing emotions. So it’s a dual challenge for a passive ‘Nice Guy’ to be emotionally available – a prerequisite to being intimate. Men need to be encouraged and shown how to harness their emotional power to help create stronger bonds with the people they love.
Some ‘Christian Nice Guys’ also struggle with depression, which further diminishes and marginalises emotional engagement. Signs that your husband may be depressed include the following:
• loss of interest in activities he once enjoyed
• feelings of sadness or emptiness that last more than two weeks
• change in appetite
• sleep disturbances
• anxiety, irritability and fatigue
Men suffering from depression seldom talk about it and these symptoms often need to be highlighted in order for them to see and realise what they are.
When your husband learns to be honest about what he thinks and feels, especially with you, your relationship can only improve. Nagging your husband and repeatedly going after him with unkind words or criticism will only push him deeper and deeper into his ice cave. You need to approach him gently and, once you have said what you need to say, rather back down and allow the Lord to work in his heart.
Handling your emotions
Of the negative and unpleasant emotions that go through the upset mind of a woman married to a passive man, three of the biggest are anger, dwindling respect and resentment. Some of the anger you face is the result of false expectations and the feeling that you have no control, leaving you with the sinking feeling of powerlessness. This is, however, inaccurate. You have far more power than you realise. The state that most men long to experience in their home is tranquility. You can start to create that state by letting go of illegitimate expectations of him. Don’t expect him to change, rather change yourself first and see the amazing transformation that occurs in his life. Respect for your husband needs to be unconditional. You may not feel respectful, but you need to show it in your behaviour. Respect is crucial to a man’s feeling of self-worth. In an American survey, 400 men were given a choice: Be left alone and unloved in the world or feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. Faced with one or the other, 74% said they’d rather be alone and unloved. These are startling statistics that show how critical your respect is to your husband’s self-esteem, confidence and ultimately his growth away from passivity.
More practical ways to nurture intimacy
Express yourself, then listen with empathy. One study shows that the average married couple actively communicate 27 minutes a week. Most businesses would crash and burn under the same priorities and circumstances. Expressing yourself in a truthful, concise, non-shaming and gracious manner builds intimacy. Many women expect their spouses to somehow read their hearts and minds to discover how they feel and think. Men need to be told how we feel. Listening to what he has to say is just as important. Listening empathetically means you need to give him your undivided attention and try to feel what he feels. Live your life as an example and instead of complaining about others, focus on your own growth, healing and development. Instead of praying to be delivered from life’s inevitable difficulties, pray for strength to endure. Let your husband see your struggles, warts and all. You don’t need to be perfect. Joyful, hopeful people know the world isn’t always fair and they charge ahead anyway. This is a huge lesson for passive people to learn as they often blame others for their problems. By setting a Godly example you will be helping your husband, and anyone else around you, to be inspired to live a better, more productive life.
Think of all the wonderful things about your husband and don’t just focus on the negative. Think of:
• The things that physically attract you to him
• Something about him you cherish
• A way you can spoil him, such as planning a night out together
• His many gifts
• Ways you can spend more time together
Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe said, “If you treat a man as he is, he will stay as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become the bigger and better man.”
The best chance of creating greater intimacy with your husband begins with you. He isn’t so much a problem to be fixed as a person that needs to be understood and appreciated. Pray that the Lord will give you strength and that He will guide you every step of the way. Developing a closer relationship with the Lord will go a long way in developing a deeper relationship with your husband.
Marriage is the most demanding classroom of love. Loving someone who right now appears to unlovely to you, may be a larger display of spiritual brawn and faith than all the money you will ever tithe or Scripture verses you will ever memorise. Get behind your husband and support him unconditionally. Possess the kind of character and strength that will help your husband refuse to be passive any longer.
When you muster your courage, creativity and faith and when you begin to rightly trust the power of the Lord in your lives, you will help forge a path toward the intimacy with your husband that he will soon realise he wants and he will desire to build this same intimacy with you. You will discover that although your husband’s overcoming of passivity is challenging, it is certainly not impossible. You can share a life of being both married and engaged.