passive behavior

Battling your Passive Behavior as a Husband

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a person who didn’t seem to want to talk all that much? (“Hey, tell me about your day!” “It was fine.”) Or tried to make plans with someone who didn’t seem to have much of an opinion? (“Where would you like to go eat tonight?” “Wherever.”) Or tried to get someone’s help with something they seem to be disinterested in? (“Would you be willing to help me speak to our kid about their behavior?” “You seem to be doing just fine without me.”) If you have, you know what it’s like to interact with someone who’s being passive. It’s exhausting!

What if you’re the one being passive, though? All Pro Dad has noted that men can be passive to the detriment of their marriages and relationships. The question is what to do about it, and here are a few quick tips:

1. Take some time to see if you can figure out why you retreat into silence.

There could be myriad reasons. Maybe you’re tired. Maybe you’re just on the quiet side. Maybe your wife flat-out runs over you.  Maybe there’s something in your story that makes asserting yourself scary.  But maybe, in a form of laziness, you’ve decided it takes too much work to put yourself out there into the uncertainty of relationship. Step one is to figure out why you’re behaving the way you are. A friend, a counselor, or a quiet conversation with your wife could shed some much needed light on why you are that way.

2. Look for an opportunity to begin talking and sharing some of the things you’re thinking about.

Or start a conversation with your wife about something you think is important in your marriage. This doesn’t have to be the deepest, darkest thing in your psyche or the thing that’s hurting the most in your marriage. When we teach kids how to hit a baseball, we don’t throw 95 mph heaters at them. We start small, let them get reps, and they gain confidence. Likewise, if you’re passive, maybe you just need to learn how to start a conversation. Not sure where to start? In each and every All Pro Dad article on the right column , you’ll find a Huddle Up question that can help you start a conversation about the subject matter. Search for a topic you find interesting, and use the Huddle Up question as a jumping off point.

3. It’s possible that the conversation you need to start is going to lead to conflict.

If you’re the passive husband whose wife runs over you, this is going to be especially challenging.  Remember, no one enjoys conflict.  But it is a necessary ingredient to a healthy relationship – you have to be able to address differences of opinion and temperament.  Before you start this conversation, know  your ground rules for fighting.  You can also start the conversation by saying, “Look, this is going to get tricky, but love works on issues instead of leaving them unaddressed.  Can we talk?”

4. On the other hand, you might be the guy who just shrinks from giving your heart – because the relationship is too confusing or too difficult.

You have to look for ways to creatively give yourself. It may be that you’ll never be the most eloquent speaker in the world. On one hand, you’ve got to communicate to have health in your marriage, so this may always be one challenge you’ll simply have to embrace. On the other hand, though, it’s OK to know that you’re not the most articulate communicator God ever created. If this is you, you still can’t retreat into passivity. You might need to look for other ways to express and give yourself to your wife. Does she appreciate acts of service? Then clean the kitchen for her or do some chore that you know she hates doing. Does she appreciate gifts? Bring home flowers or thoughtful mementos that reminds you of a cherished time together. You don’t have to spend a fortune. You just have to give her something of you, from the heart.

Passive behavior is definitely something to work on. It can work harm into your marriage. The good news is that taking surprisingly small steps can work immeasurable good into your marriage too. [Tweet This] Try one of these steps today.

Sound Off

Under what circumstances do you find yourself most prone to becoming passive?

  • CJ

    I am horrible at my passivity. I am a very emotional and deeply sensitive man who has been an avoider of conflict my entire 20-plus years of marriage and it has cost me dearly in many ways. I have hurt my wife and let her run over me while trying to serve her and love her to the best of my ability. In the process, she has lost all respect for me.

    It is very difficult as a man in my mid 40s to try and change his stripes at this point of his life. I have been in counseling — both individual and marital — for a couple years now and the more I receive prayer, tools, guidance and press into God over this matter, the more this passivity continues to rear its ugly head back into my life at the most inopportune times.

    Just so weary and frustrated that — even in begging and pleading with God that he can change my heart and help me make better choices — I will never ever change. My wife has very little hope that I will change, either, and our marriage just hangs in the balance as we both have hurt each other so much and there is very little positive outlook that we can ever truly reconcile.

    Thank you for any prayers. I have just so weary and done with myself in so many ways. Makes it hard to believe that God listens to prayers and can mend a marriage — or even an individual — when you know you have so many people praying for you and you are trying to take all the right steps in making Christ first. I want beauty from the ashes but am so ready to just throw in the towel for my marriage and life in general. So many years spent in futility!

    • Julio Cachila

      Hi CJ,

      I can feel you bro, but here’s something I want you to think about and realize: Christ has already paid the price for you.

      I can relate to you in regards to passivity, in serving your wife and about being clingy to her (which you said in another comment in another article). Truth is, I’ve had problems with that, too. My friend, just because you’ve been there in that problem with your spouse doesn’t mean you can throw in the towel for your marriage and your life in general.

      Christ paid the price for you to be free for Him. Period. No, He didn’t buy our freedom so that we could enslave ourselves to our marriage or other relationships. He freed us so that we could be free to live for Him.

      The devil has no power over you no matter what you think. However, if you yield to him, you’re actually fooled into thinking that he’s more powerful than you. Think about it. You’re seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and you are authorized to be Christ’s representative — even in your marriage.

      This simply means that in Christ, you have all the authority, all the power, all the strength, and all the grace that you need to love God above all, love your wife next, love your children, love your family, and love others. All while resisting satan by submitting to God.

      My friend, I want to encourage you: stop believing that God cannot help you. Stop believing that God cannot change you because He can. Christ died for you, and if you’re in Him, then God has already deposited the Holy Spirit in you. This same Spirit raised Christ from the dead. This same Spirit changed the great men of God in the Bible. These great men were perhaps lame or even despicable before God changed them, but when the Spirit of God empowered them, they changed.

      You must take note, though, that the change that God made in them happened because they followed Him. They all made a decision to stop staying where they are, and pursued God.

      My brother, DECIDE for yourself not to stay where you are right now. DECIDE to forgive yourself for all the years spent in futility (self-condemnation is actually you doing what the devil wants). DECIDE to hope in God because He can help you, and is not done with you yet. He hasn’t forgotten you, not one bit.

      If ever you feel like God isn’t listening to you, He is. If you feel like He isn’t willing to help you, He is. My question is, would you want to help yourself? Don’t think that God will solve your problem for you — you have to work it out yourself. But don’t worry, because He is with you, and will never ever leave you nor forsake you.

      Praying for you, my friend. God bless you.

  • Jeff Prichard

    CJ, I can tell there is a lot of pain and hurt in what you wrote. I am praying that God will move and you will be able to find the hope you and your wife so desperately need.

  • Tony Bright

    I become passibe when the effort doesn’t exceed the anticipated benefit. I can drive the family truckster all day and get my family to the vacation destination safely. Stopping when or even before someones bladder dictates. But if I choose the “wrong” parking spot, I will catch all sorts of grief. I just take it, because there is no upside to complaining. I will just get told I am responsible for how I feel, and don’t blame the criticism I just heard.

    That is just one example. When there is no perceived payoff for assertiveness, there is no assertiveness.

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