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.