Let me first of all establish some context: I know that I know that I know that I am right, and my husband, unfortunately, is wrong. What do I do? There is some underlying problem that is undermining our marriage relationship, but telling my husband would hurt his feelings, maybe even break his heart. What do I do? 

There are two competing philosophies about how women are supposed to act within their marriage relationships. First, there is the feminist one, which can be articulated as follows:

You are an adult human being! You should never take any rubbish from anyone, least of all your husband! Stand up for yourself no matter what and do not be a doormat. Draw a line and DO NOT let him cross it!

Then there is the ultra-conservative philosophy which can be summarised thus:

Wife, submit to your husband in EVERYTHINGeven if he asks you to do something you are uncomfortable with. He is the leader; what he says goes, and if you continue to disagree after you have shared your views, you are sinning.

So, if I am feminist, then I have to be honest, confront what I know is wrong and let him know how far off the mark he is. If I am ultra-conservative, then I just keep quiet, “grin and bear it,” or maybe mention it in private and if he does not take it well, I shut up and forever hold my peace. 

Like all extremes, neither of these is completely right. Jesus, our role model, always confronted what was wrong. Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11)? Jesus confronted her sin, but upheld her dignity as a person. The lesson is to find the balance of confronting what is wrong while upholding the husbands dignity. This is where Ephesians 4:15a comes in. It encourages us to “...speak the truth in love...”

The first principle is to speak. By all means, make your voice heard, let your opinion count! Be willing and ready to talk things over rather than withdrawing in silence. But note that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Cindy and Steve Wright (www.marriagemissions.com) advise not to speak during H.A.L.T. times —when there is hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness. Listen to the Holy Spirit, He will let you know when it is not the right time to speak and also when to stop talking. Not all talking is meaningful, not all talking is productive.

Next, be honest. A satisfying marriage relationship will involve openness and honesty about fears, desires, motivations, sex, money, weaknesses, mistakes, resentments, and misunderstandings. Honesty could solve many marital problems. Are you having problems that you have kept to yourself in order to spare your husband worry? If so, you are actually shutting him out of your life by implying that he is not emotionally strong enough or spiritually mature enough to help you solve your problems. That is an insult that will only pull you aapart. Do you have needs which your husband could be meeting, but is not? You have been too proud or too ashamed to admit it, so you have tried to be a martyr and kept it to yourself. This is not the best approach as tension and resentment could degenerate into a crisis

Lastly, be loving. Honesty is a virtue, but honesty alone can be brutal, the truth alone can be cruel. That is why God says it must be spoken in love – love is necessary to moderate honesty.  Being truthful without love is like performing surgery without anesthesia: it might get the job done, but it causes unnecessary pain and suffering. 

After you speak the truth in love, you may find that your husband falls into one of three response categories: he could be spiritually mature, he could be somewhere in the middle, or he could be immature.  If he is spiritually mature, he might receive loving truth well and even thank you for your courage and love.  He may realise that he can trust what you say, even when it hurts (Proverbs 27:6), appreciating that loving truth can sting but that it is better for your relationship. He could even ask if you have recommendations for how the issues you raised could be dealt with and if there are any other issues you would like to discuss.

If he is intermediate, like most of us are, he will most likely receive loving truth with a mixed reaction.  He might be upset, disappointed or even angry initially, but after some time, may be willing to accept and come to terms with issues raised.  This entire reaction may be within a few minutes, hours or it could span days so give it time and do not be discouraged. He could also accept some points you raised and reject others. Accept his reaction as work-in-progress and continue to build on the foundation that has been laid

If he is immature, he will not receive loving truth, no matter how gently you offer it, no matter how much time you give him.  The immature want what they want, when and how they want it, even if having what they want damages you.  He could behave badly, with harmful words or actions or he could try to shift the blame for his shortcomings to you. Do not retaliate with harmful words or actions of your own, do not play the blame game, do not seek revenge, but continue to seek opportunities to speak the truth in love.  

There may come a time however, when you will need to evaluate: do you let go, or do you escalate? When an issue has become thorny and a resolution does not seem apparent because an immature husband is not willing to back down from his position, ask yourself one question: Does this issue have eternal consequences? Does the issue at hand constitute sin against God? Does it have the possibility to take someone to hell? Where it does not, I encourage you to let it go. As painful as it may seem, let go and let God. Your sanity, your happiness and your health are more important than your being correct. Please note that I am not advocating for you to submit “no matter what” because you will answer for yourself in the fullness of time. Remember that Sapphira was struck dead (Acts 5:1-11) apparently for obeying her husband while Abigail was rewarded for disobeying her husband (1 Samuel 25)

Where the issue does have eternal consequences, then you will need to seek counselling for the specific matter. Maybe he is not prepared to listen to you but will listen to someone he respects or someone in spiritual authority over him.

Being a godly wife is hard work, but as always...the Lord is your strengt