Wives Loving Someone With a Mental Illness

Respecting Your Difficult Husband – Karla Downing

May 17, 2018

Respecting Your Difficult Husband

Ask any man how important respect is to him and he will tell you it is everything. Ask him how you can show him respect and he will tell you that it is appreciating what he does, allowing him to lead, believing in him, liking him for who he is, and supporting him in his endeavors. Honestly, this can be difficult to do even if your husband is a respectable man.


How do you handle respect when your husband isn’t respectable?


I had that dilemma in my marriage. My husband was an extremely hard-working man, but he was also angry, harsh, and defensive. I matched his anger by telling him how I felt in an equally angry, harsh, and critical tone. I did it in front of my daughters, and held onto the many ways he was difficult to be married to.


When my husband told me know how he felt about something, I corrected him and told him how he should feel. When he told me things he wanted to do, and I didn’t like them, I told him why it wasn’t a good idea. He didn’t feel respected and I didn’t care because I didn’t respect him.


Ephesians 5:33 (NIV) says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” I didn’t feel loved, so I didn’t act respectfully toward him. I was wrong.


Matching disrespect with disrespect never brings new life into marriage.


How do can you respect your husband when he isn’t respectable?

  • Communicate your appreciation for him for how hard he is working (even if you feel it is not enough).
  • Validated his feelings as his since they are.
  • Listen to his ideas and try to find something good in them.
  • Keep your critical comments private and communicate them differently when you need to speak truth.
  • Find things about your husband that you like, and let him know what they are.


In marriage, God doesn’t direct you to give respect once your husband has earned it – he just commands you to respect him. Even if you’re married to a man who has destructive and unacceptable behaviors, now is the time to learn how to set biblical boundaries and how to communicate your truth and boundaries in a respectful way.


Respect is crucial to your husband. If you haven’t been respecting him, it is time to start!      


Wife Step: Today, communicate your appreciation for husband for how hard he is working (even if you feel it is not enough).


Why do you think it’s so difficult for us wives to live out the command to respect our husbands – even when they haven’t earned it?

Karla Downing, the founder of, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.

Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image.

She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.

Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.

  1. Michelle Lucas says:

    Hi..I really am struggling in my marriage.My husband 8s so controlling and wants to have his way in everything in our home.With the way I mother my kids,if I question him about his finances,he is angry and says that’s his business,he does not contribute as a husband should.he is the step-dad to my kids but treat his kids differently to mine and they pick that up.He is harsh,and speaks how does he expect us to respond when he is’s his way or the highway..I must not touch his phone..because it’s private..I must not ask why he opened a new bank account..he says it’s his business..I must not ask for finances.. he says he has the car to see to..I must not ask why he bought clothing but don’t have money for the house..he asks must he write me a report of what he does..I cannot question anything..but he criticizes everything I do..Gaslight.. never takes accountability..but points the finger back at me that I do what he does..everything is a fight because he treats me like I’m a kid..I don’t know what to do because I can’t communicate the problem or my feelings of what he is doing then we blow up into an argument and he says hurtful things and thinks nothing of it..but makes it my fault..I don’t know anymore..please advise as we are married 3 years only and this is constant since we got married

    • Amanda Davison says:

      Michelle, I am so sorry to hear this. This is not healthy – his behavior is dysfunctional and very unhealthy. I highly encourage you to seek counseling as soon as possible. There might be steps you need to take to keep you and your kids healthy. Please seek professional help right away. We will be praying for you through this journey – please know you’re not alone!

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