The most unexpected experiences - and scenes - reveal life more fully so we may move through it more freely.
A Sure-Fire Way to Crush His Confidence
Every wife wants more confidence for her husband. Ironically, we’re often totally oblivious to how our well-intended, corrective but condescending remarks and actions actually have the opposite effect on a man. Let’s examine a movie scene to get a little perspective.
Molly’s public rebuke of Kyle
Hollywood’s infamous silver fox, George Clooney, executes one of his charming, sarcasm-in-the-midst-of-a-crisis roles in Money Monster. He plays Lee, a stock market analyst whose TV show’s studio gets held hostage right in the middle of a live episode. The gunman, Kyle, is a bitter viewer who’s lost a significant chunk of change thanks to Lee’s crappy investment advice.
In an effort to have some sense talked into Kyle by someone close to him, the cops seek out Molly, his feisty pregnant girlfriend, and put her on the phone, her voice echoing throughout the studio. What ensues is the most cringe-worthy female rant I’ve ever witnessed on film (and that includes Cruella De Vil’s tantrum when she finds out the puppies are not for sale).
Molly thoroughly rips into Kyle, gushing on how immensely ashamed she is of him, and that’s putting it mildly. She calls him out in some extremely personal areas (including but not limited to the bedroom), emphasizing his weaknesses and insulting his manhood, all this being broadcast on live TV. Cringe city.
Even aside from the hostage circumstance, it’s clear that Molly hasn’t a spec of respect for or faith in Kyle. By the time the police hang up on her tirade, Lee and the viewers are, ironically, commiserating with poor Kyle in his heartbreaking humiliation.
It becomes clear that Kyle, like John in Marley and Me, is just a man trying desperately to provide for his family. Although he’s going about it all wrong, he’s simply stepping up the only way he sees fit.
But does Molly see that? Not in the slightest. What she sees is an ignoramus who’s utterly unworthy of her respect or trust; who’s more an embarrassing thorn in her side than the devoted, determined father of her child. She sees a failure.
Sometimes, we’re all a little Molly-like
The funny thing is, although Molly’s made out to be quite the antagonist, her standpoint is remarkably common in relationships these days. Women, particularly wives and mothers, have a tendency to view their men as incompetent duds. We might not express these sentiments as candidly as Molly, but there are those eye rolls, condescending comments, and heavy sighs indicating our deep disappointment in them.
It seems harmless, especially since it’s so stinkin’ common. As Mike and Alicia Hernon, hosts of the podcast Messy Parenting, point out in a recent episode, TV shows over the past couple decades portray the husband and father figures as dumb, blundering idiots with minimal depth or proficiency. We’re programmed to think of these family men as doofuses and sure, it’s a standpoint that makes for a fairly comedic theme or gabfest amongst gal pals.
But in reality – and I’m not being overdramatic here – it’s a catastrophic perspective that has sunken its teeth right into the very heart of our culture and it’s tearing the noble role of men to shreds.
Sadly, guys rarely take issue with it since expressing their dejection is usually met with further criticism. The astounding documentary The Mask You Live In, explains, “The reason men are … less likely to show vulnerability … is that they’ve been socialized into [concealing emotions].”
So for the most part, husbands and fathers whose wives treat them condescendingly like incompetent children live in a quiet hopelessness, tiptoeing around on eggshells, simply striving day after day to stay out of their wives’ ways and not set them off. The repercussions are disastrous. It’s a common habit within families that flies way too often under the radar because we wives tend to be entirely ignorant as to what our husbands need most from us: our respect.
A man’s needs don’t look like a woman’s
Here’s the thing: Properly loving a man doesn’t look the same as properly loving a woman. Men don’t generally yearn for love in the same form that women do. The love males crave comes in the form of respect. Women want to be pursued, stood by, and adored. Men want to be respected. They’re thirsting to be told they have what it takes to step up and provide, defend, or what have you. It’s at the very core of who they are.
In her fascinating book For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn explains the different responses men and women give to a very telling question: Would you rather feel alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected? Most women would choose the latter. I sure would. Heck, I feel inadequate and disrespected in some way every day (enter motherhood). But I’ll take it, no question, over loneliness or lack of love.
The overwhelming majority of men however, would prefer to feel alone and unloved instead of inadequate and disrespected. “The reality is that if a man feels disrespected, he is going to feel unloved”, Feldhahn explains. “Feeling respected by us is as important to a man as feeling loved by him is to us.”
But sadly, a wife who truly respects her husband these days is somewhat of a rarity. Most women fall ignorantly into the habit of reducing their men to yet another child they have to care for and instruct. Many of our well-intentioned efforts to “help” him or encourage him are actually damaging his self-esteem and having the opposite effect of what we’re aiming for.
“I’m not saying that [his messiness, for example] isn’t a legitimate issue that needs to be discussed,” Mike Hernon acknowledges. “But in no circumstances at any time is it appropriate or acceptable or loving to be demeaning and disrespectful and criticizing. It’s a killer to your marriage.”
Listen: I’m not exonerating myself in the slightest. I frequently fall into this trap, moaning and groaning about how I have to do everything around here while my husband just adds to the messes the kids make. My perverted pride persuades me that I’m the superior spouse, parent and Good Golly Miss Molly (see what I did there?) he is so lucky to have me.
All the while, I’m disregarding the courageous, steadfast man who enriches, defends, uplifts and leads our family. When I carelessly project my shortsighted, bitter, insulting sentiments onto him in one way or another, I’m essentially discouraging him from being the kind of husband and father that our family and this world as a whole is hungering for. In withholding my respect and opting for criticism and disdain, I’m failing to love him.
“It’s gonna kill your marriage,” Alicia Hernon warns. “It’s gonna be poison in your family.”
Two wrongs don’t make a right
I’m not denying the fact that men are just as flawed as women. It’s no secret that wives, perhaps especially the most critical ones, are hurting, too. But I’ve got to go with Ghandi on this one: “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.” A husband’s flaws and hurtfulness will never serve as an excuse for his spouse to mistreat or badmouth him.
If I want our marriage to thrive, I have to help him thrive, and that requires giving him my honest, heartfelt respect; telling him how proud I am of him; empathizing with him; choosing the perspective that admires and appreciates him.
I implore you, let’s not follow Molly’s lead. Whether we’re reaming him out on national TV or passive-aggressively calling him out for letting the toddler wear flip flops in the thick of winter, we’re actually sabotaging ourselves.
Because as Alicia Hernon puts it, “You’re weakening your greatest ally.”
Don’t do that. Love him like he needs you to – with your respect.