On my old blog I would have taken some time to write up a well-worded essay on this topic, but in the present day, I will never have the time to write those kinds of posts, so I’m going to put this very simply.
I was picking something up at the local pharmacy several days ago, and as I was walking back out to my car, a heavy set woman of about fifty-something was walking past me into the pharmacy, saying something over her shoulder to the man in the car. He appeared to be her husband. She was saying something to the effect of, “Because that’s how you treat people with honor! That’s called being honorable!” She then walked back to the car, which was parked next to mine, and gave him a little piece of her mind even though I was standing right there.
Ephesians 5:33 says:
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
For Christians, this isn’t just a good idea; it is a requirement. You either obey God on this matter or you disobey Him. And notice that the verse says “let the wife see that” – clearly He anticipated the fact that women would try to hedge out of it by saying, “Oh, I will respect him…when he behaves in a way that is respectable.” The verse doesn’t give a commandment to the man there, it gives a commandment to the woman; it is her responsibility to make sure she is respecting her husband with her words and actions.
Fine. That should be pretty straightforward. However, this verse is also wise advice for the non-Christian woman. No husband likes to be spoken to or treated with disrespect. No one likes to have snide comments made about them or be the butt of jokes (“But I was only kidding!”), especially in public.
I don’t know what the husband at the pharmacy may have done or said prior to what I overheard his wife saying. For all I know, he may have been acting like a total jerk or have done something that caused a real problem for his family. But I do know there is never – not ever – any reason to berate, humiliate, disrespect, mock, or bitch at your husband in public.
Occasionally I’ll hear people say that telling someone to treat his or her spouse well in public is encouraging them to put on a mask, put up a false front, or act like they are better than everyone else. I guess those folks think everyone should just let it all hang out all the time and involve the whole world in their personal business or something, but I disagree. Social mores exist in part to restrain poor behavior by individuals at the community level. There’s nothing “real” or “authentic” about acting badly in public, and there is nothing “fake” about telling women to put a cork in it in front of other people.
Whatever disagreement or dispute the couple at the pharmacy may have been having in the car on the way there should have ceased the minute her feet hit the pavement. Should she have been treating him with respect even when they were alone? Of course she should. But disrespecting him publicly added an extra layer of humiliation for him; it’s bad to disrespect your husband when you are alone but it is even worse to do it when you are in front of other people.
If you are a woman who has recently come to realize that something is amiss in your marriage, and you suspect you have been treating your husband disrespectfully, and you want to make a change but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to start with this. Whenever you are in front of any other person, whether they be family, friends, church members, or strangers on the street, treat your husband with respect, regardless of what he may be doing or how he behaves. Here is how to do that:
- Speak to him politely.
- Keep your voice calm and quiet when you speak to him.
- Never make a joke at his expense. Never, ever, ever.
- Do not refer to any of his faults in front of others.
- Do not put him down, judge him, or blame him in front of others.
- Do not argue with him. No point that you need to get across to him is that important. Let it go.
What about when your husband is not present? How do you still treat him with respect in public when he is not there?
Last year I was having lunch with a group of women – and I am going to be very vague here because these were real life women and I write under my real name, so I don’t want to embarrass anyone – and one of the women told another woman present (who was engaged to be married) that after she and her fiance got married, she would probably feel like she made a mistake and sort of hate him for a while but not to worry about this because it was normal. Another woman agreed and then added that after the birth of her child, she particularly hated her husband.
The two women then proceeded to spend a good five minutes talking about how stupid they had thought their husbands were after they got married and how much they had hated them directly after the birth of a child. I suppose they were joking around and trying to be funny, but I wanted to ask, “Was there a time in between when you liked and didn’t hate him?” but I could not bring myself to participate in the conversation. A pregnant woman sitting next to me said to me, “I didn’t think I made a mistake after I got married to my husband,” so I said to her, “Don’t worry. I didn’t hate my husband after having a baby.” I have an imperfect, human husband, so it’s not that I didn’t hate him because he’s so much more awesome than anyone else, and I assume the pregnant woman I was talking to has a real-life, human, imperfect man as her un-hated husband as well.
But you know what? Even if you loathe your husband, do you need to share this with the ladies at lunch? Why would you do that? There was no moral to their story; it was just a complain-and-mock-husbands session. I can’t imagine what any men overhearing that conversation in the restaurant must have thought.
So I would add this behavior to my list above:
7. Do not gossip about him when he is not there. If you can’t say something good about him, don’t say anything at all.
That’s not “trying to project” an image that you and your husband are better than everyone else. Rather, it’s simply human decency. No one truly wants to hear your dirt except for other women who want to get down in the dirt too. Don’t do it.
You have to start somewhere, so start here:
Always treat your husband with respect in public, whether he is present or not.