If I told you that it was important to listen to your wife you wouldn’t argue much. But if I told you that we need to take the “list” out of listening you would agree with that as well. In marriage, one fear most men have is the list. We think that we have awakened to a new morning in our marriage only to find that past failures, faults, mistakes, or wrongs that we have done are brought up by our wife. We think that they forgave us days, months, or even years ago, but in the heat of an argument the list comes out. There is no doubt that we probably were wrong on our part on most of the list, but how should we respond to our wife when she brings up the list. I got together with the Peacefulwife and we tried to come up with some thoughts on the list and some ways we can try to limit or even eliminate the list from our marriage. In this part of The List we will look at our wife and why she might feel strongly compelled to use the list.
The Science of Women
It should be no surprise to most husband’s that a woman’s brain works very differently than a man’s. It is extremely easy for a woman to access a past memory that affected her emotionally. The memories that are brought up are so vivid that they can voluntarily or involuntarily replicate the exact level of emotion from the past experience. So when something that you did that had an emotional effect on her good or bad is remembered, it is as if she is experiencing the same emotions all over again. So even though your wife may have forgiven you, if the issue is brought back up she has to deal with all of the emotions from before if she has forgiven you or not.
Additionally, a woman’s brain’s verbal center is very connected to a much larger limbic system. The limbic system is basically the center of emotion in the brain. Men have markedly smaller limbic systems that are highly connected to the spinal cord. This allows men to react physically when we are upset or angry. This works as a great advantage to us in times of war or when we are protecting our families from physical danger. Women are much more connected to their verbal center and that is why women respond quickly with a barrage of words when they are highly emotional. You can find out more about the differences by reading the book His Brain, Her Brain by Dr. Walt Larimore MD.
The Power of the List
The List is most often used like evidence in a trial. It is brought out when there has become a conflict in the relationship. It is like a prosecuting attorney presenting little or no evidence to prove someone is guilty and then saying, “Let’s look at everything this guy has done wrong in his life,” and then resting his case. What a wife is really doing is using guilt as a weapon in the conflict.
Claire Colvin in a post entitled Using Guilt as a Weapon describes the list this way, “Using guilt is never an act of love, it is always an act of violence. It may masquerade as ‘brutal honesty’ but the true intention of guilt is always to wound, to hurt and to break down. Whatever it is we’re after, guilt aims to make the other person suffer. So why do we do it? We often resort to using guilt when we feel threatened, unloved or unworthy. Something in the relationship — or in our past — makes us feel vulnerable and we resort to guilt in an attempt to regain control of the situation. Unfortunately, using guilt never gives us what we’re really looking for. Instead of building the intimacy we crave, attacking our partner with guilt pulls us apart. In healthy relationships there is no position of power. Both partners are genuinely interested in the other’s well being and so there is no reason to feel threatened, no fear of attack. Both partners can be open and honest in a safe environment where they are valued and cared for.”
Why Controlling Wives Use the List
God is Small
When a woman is controlling and dominating in a marriage, the crux of the issue is that she has a very small picture of God and a very large picture of herself. This is probably subconscious, but she tends to view herself as VERY responsible for making things happen “right” and she often has very blurry boundaries between where her responsibilities end and God’s begin. Many times she really doesn’t understand God’s sovereignty – but lives as if He is a wimp and she is sovereign. This is actually idolatry of self and trying to be in control. And since she believes that she is basically sovereign in her little world and that everything depends completely on her – she easily elevates herself above God. Because she lives as if she is above God, she tends to believe that she is always right, that she is very powerful, that she is responsible FOR other people, that she is the only one who can see clearly and that there is no other way to view life than her view.
Ego is Big
Controlling and disrespectful wives tend, in my experience, to expect others to bow down to their superior intelligence, because they truly believe that they know best about everything. Pride is THROUGH the roof. Because they believe that they are above God, they believe they know better than God. They convince themselves that God’s Word doesn’t apply in their situation. They really know better than God in their marriage. Because they believe that they are always right and because they are so blind to their pride and sin – they believe they are above forgiveness. Forgiveness can be EXTREMELY difficult if not impossible for a controlling woman. Many times they don’t believe they have done much wrong at all, and they see others as being SO MUCH MORE sinful than they are. There is a lot of self-righteousness here.
Bigger than Forgiveness
Because they don’t forgive – and many times even when they want to forgive, they can’t figure out how to do it – they hang on to grudges, resentment and bitterness. That allows the enemy to set up a huge stronghold in their hearts that defiles many. It grows into an evil tree or forest in their souls and in their families when it grows unchecked. The Peacefulwife describes it this way, “We are deceived – we are extremely blind to our own sin. We seriously DO NOT SEE IT. We are not intentionally disrespectful. We don’t even realize what respect is to our men. We are so hung up on that we are right – we don’t even see our own sin. We are in a prison of our own making. We are full of anxiety, fear, unforgiveness, pride and self-righteousness. It is a MISERABLE way to live. We need Jesus and the freedom, peace, joy and lightness of heart. But we have no idea what we are doing wrong or that we are doing anything wrong and we have no clue how to get to God’s peace.
So, we covered the Ground Rules in Part 1 and the Source of “List”ful Behavior in Part 2. Part 3 will cover some ways that a husband can respond when the list is brought up and how he can eliminate some items on the list.