Dealing With Narcissists – The Contentious Wife, Part 2

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So how can a husband Biblically deal with a contentious (narcissist) wife?  There are a few guideposts in the Bible that indicate an answer:

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Guidepost 1 – The Bible says that you will not be able to stop her from being contentious – therefore, a “full frontal attack” (ie – confrontation) will fail and result in a fight………

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Proverbs 27:15-16

15 A constant dripping on a day of steady rain
And a contentious woman are alike;
16 He who would restrain her restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right hand.

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Why can’t you stop her from being contentious?

  1. Narcissists do not give up their fight for dominance
  2. Narcissists will never admit they are wrong
  3. Narcissists will not accept rebuke (see here)

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Guidepost 2 …….You are to be at peace with your wife, as far as it depends on you……

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Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
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……That you are to act like a man (ie – do not wimp out or be a milquetoast) ……..
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1 Corinthians 16:12-14 – 13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

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Guidepost 3 ……..You are to love your wife…….. (even if she is “unlovable” – love is based on the giver of love, not the merits of the receiver – Romans 5:8, I Corinthians 13)
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Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  [Note:  This is a direct statement, without preconditions such as being “lovable”]
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Guidepost 4  ……..You are not to become bitter against your wife
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Colossians 3:19 – Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
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So, how do you do these?   Some foundational principles are
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  1. Have a rock-solid self-worth, grounded in Him.  This result in your accepting God’s assessment of who you are instead of your wife’s assessment.  (Psalm 139:13-14)
  2. Be wise and understanding on what is really going on inside your wife.   That includes recognizing her narcissism / insolent pride for what it really is.  Pretending its not there does not lead to solutions.
  3. Realize and accept that your sense of being loved, and happiness are ultimately from Him, not her (I John 3:1)
  4. Realize and accept that you can not change her (only God can do that)  (Proverbs 27:16)
  5. Understand the role and purpose of suffering in your life (I Peter 2:1-25)
  6. As a bonus suggestion – dig into Proverbs (Proverbs 1)
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 With these as the foundation, the Bible gives some practical hints on handling things with a contentious wife in a peaceful way
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First, it might be appropriate to have a place where you can “create some space” when necessary
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Proverbs 21:9 – It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
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Proverbs 21:19 – It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.
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Proverbs 25:24 – It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

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 There is a hint in these verses of creating some space.  This space will give you some peace, and provide your wife with a “smaller target”.  This does not mean leaving or abdicating your responsibilities (the “corner of the roof” referred to would be in the same house).  But rather than fighting the contentious one, you avoid it the fight.   This has some similarities to the “avoid them” philosophy discussed here.    But it is not completely avoiding, but rather fulfilling your responsibilities, showing love, etc., while at the same time stepping away from fights.  Practically speaking it may mean being silent in the immediate face of the contentiousness, and then when the time is right to create some space.
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Second, when she picks a fight, don’t take the bait.  Start with silence ( Isaiah 53:7), then move toward creating space
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Proverbs 17:14 – The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.
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Third, do not rebuke her for her contentiousness – it will not help
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Proverbs 9:7-8

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets [a]insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

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Fourth, consider setting boundaries and consequences (see here).
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Proverbs 19:29 – Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And blows for the back of fools.
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This does not mean saying, “stop nagging me or I”m leaving you”.  But there could be some smaller boundary/consequence combinations that help you more peacefully manage the situation.
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Fifth, find ways to bless and pray
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Matthew 5:43-45

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

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What should we pray for?  If the source of her contentiousness is her insolent pride, then praying that God would graciously remove that from her is a good place to start.  You are then praying not only for your own relief, but also for her eternal good.

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Sixth, your wife could have a family history of narcissism / insolent pride / and contentiousness.  Dealing with a family history of insolence will be explored in the future.
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Although dealing with a contentious wife may  seem hopeless at times, we can hope in God and at that same realize that while God may not get us out of our circumstance quickly and easily, nothing is impossible with God.

3 responses

  1. Hello,
    I find this to be helpful on dealing with a indolent prideful=narcissistic wife. I have been trying to understand the seemingly illogical and nonsensical behavior from my wife for years. Since I recently (in the past month) discovered that narcissism is an actual personality disorder I have been researching everything on the subject but have not found any (relevant to me that is) Biblical advice until reading this post. I was wondering if you could provide some more specifics or examples on setting boundaries? I believe this will possibly work but, am not sure on what would be appropriate consequences to set for the “If you then I will” technique.
    Thank you for your diligence on this subject.

    Blessings
    TJ

    • For the following response with better formatting, please click here
      ——————————————————-
      Thanks much for your comments, TJ.

      I am thinking out loud in my response here, and what follows are my thoughts only – and in no way at the same level of my main goal for this blog (letting God speak on this subject through the Bible). Also, if you will indulge me, I will list some things that you likely already know in order to provide a complete logic chain for others who may read this. And finally, please excuse my shorthand bullet point approach. Here are some actions to consider:

      1. Cry out to the Lord for a miracle in the situation (see here and here for “Crying Out, Seeking God”)
      2. Understand that you will not change her, as only God is able to do that. But you can and should pray for her (James 5:16 – “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”)
      3. As part of better understanding your situation, I would look into three things:
      a. Confirm that she has scoffer traits
      b. Look at her family background for an N history (“sins of the fathers”)
      c. Take a peak into any spiritual warfare (the best book is the one by Karl Payne called “Spiritual Warfare”)
      4. Divide your response approach into four categories
      a. Protection from her personal attacks
      b. Managing the consequences of her poor decisions
      c. Positive ways you can be loving and kind in the midst of the challenges
      d. Looking to God to meet your own heart needs
      5. Specifics on the above
      a. For protection from her personal attacks…
      i. Find/create a “corner of the roof” which will give you space to “avoid her” when necessary
      ii. Develop the ability to recognize when she is lying to your and herself about your inadequacies
      iii. Take up the full armour of God and be very clear about your worth in God’s eyes
      b. For protection from the life consequences of her “insanity” (ie – loss of friends, money, etc.)
      i. Understand that God is able to easily
      a. make up for any damage she has caused, even though His solution might show up at a completely different time and in a completely different way
      b. use the “constraint” created by the loss which she has caused as a means of a deeper ministry or goodness to you
      c. deal with her while at the same time protecting you
      ii. Manage specific situations through consequences – it is impossible to be precise due to not knowing any specifics, but it could include things like – “If you spend money on X, then I will make money unavailable for Y”. Note: the point here would be to not have a shouting match, but a quiet consequence that you can stick with and that will give her a choice between doing what she wants in the situation or avoiding consequences. It needs to be something you have full control of, as the N will fight like crazy to both get what she wants AND avoid the consequence. Think of it in terms of how you would handle the same situation with a child. The child may cry or scream at the consequence, but the parent should just quietly stand firm. The “corner of the attic” is one of the consequences you can apply, but I would not announce that one.
      c. For positive ways to be loving and kind
      i. There are ALWAYS opportunities for this, you just need to be willing
      ii. God wants us to overcome evil by doing good
      iii. She may not deserve it, but if you do it as unto the Lord you can through His grace find ways to love the unloving/unlovable.
      6. Finally
      i. Pray that God would break the generational sin patterns that may exist
      ii. Recognize
      a. that God’s solutions may come in the form of lots of little solutions rather than one big monolithic “answer”
      b. that any “restrictions” in your life that arise from this situation are opportunities to go deeper with Him

      Just some thoughts!

  2. Pingback: Narcissist Tactics – The Shaming Woman « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

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