One of the most common remarks you hear from unhappy wives is that they don't know why their husband is so unhappy. This morning, a letter to an advice column laid out the usual complaint pretty well. First, she describes what a wonderful guy he was when she married him. He was "kind, thoughtful, funny," etc. Somehow, after 13 years of marriage and four children, he has become "negative, cold, condescending, crotchety," etc.

She is puzzled by his change because she is sure it is not her fault. "I am a giver by nature and have happily taken responsibility for everything regarding our lives, all he has done is go to work and do house maintenance." She concludes that "he's got it great." Plus, she has read "all the marriage books." 

This is, as I say, a very common attitude. "He was great, he married me, I am the perfect wife, and yet he is now unhappy." Think about this for a minute. Does that make any sense to you? 

Now, maybe she is telling the "real" truth, but it is far more likely she is telling what she perceives to be the truth. Think through what she says. 

"All he has done is go to work," she says, dismissing entirely the importance of his work to both him and to her. "All he has done," she says, is spend eight or more hours a day, five or more days a week, doing a job that allows me and my children to live and do all the things we do. Any appreciation for this? No, just the dismissive "all he does" language. It sounds like "being appreciative" is not part of her definition of being "a giver."

Well, he also does what she calls "house maintenance." But she dismisses that as well. She says he "is always . . . busy with home projects," but only to complain how he uses that as an excuse not to do laundry and such. So, going to work every day and being constantly busy with home projects means "he has it great." Especially as compared to her, the perfect wife.

She, of course, is the real "giver" because she handles "cooking, laundry, and finances." Because we all know that cooking and laundry and balancing the checkbook is so much harder than working a full-time job, right? Do you really think that is true? Is it harder to fix meals than to, oh, let's say spend eight hours using a welding torch in a noisy industrial facility? Is it harder to do laundry (modern washing machine, modern drier) than to drive a city bus all day? Really? What if he is a lawyer who handles bitterly divided parties and judges and million dollar projects all day? What if he is a doctor seeing sick children all day? Is cooking and laundry harder than these things?

She also says she doesn't "nag." I would be willing to put good money on the negative of that assertion. There are probably very few women who think they nag, but the question is what he experiences, not what she thinks, because she also says she has talked to him about all this repeatedly and "begged" to have him talk to her. We all know how much men like being begged to talk about their feelings.  

If I see a man who was happy, friendly, outgoing, funny, etc., before his marriage, but is grumpy, cold, condescending, and crotchety after 13 years of marriage, I have to conclude that there is a good chance his wife is not a perfect wife or even an Excellent Wife.  

Her letter manifested no appreciation for the fact that he supports the family so that she stays home all day. No appreciation for his faithfulness in keeping up their home. No concept of what his work day is like. Interestingly, also, she says not a single word about the children, about their needs, about how they are dealt with. No, the problem is that he does not appreciate her enough for all her hard work, given that he "has it great." She is so proud of herself and so fed up with him that nothing else matters but her anger. Notice, also, not a word about their sex life, which is often a real problem at that stage of life. 

It would be interesting to give that letter to 100 good Christian men and ask them what they think.

It would be more interesting to show it to 100 good Christian women (of many years of marriage) and ask what they think.

She says she is a "giver," but she gives no appreciation for him at all. Thirteen years into marriage and she has decided that the problem is entirely him. As long as this is what she thinks, the real problem will never be resolved. 

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