Many couples I have dealt with in counseling fall in the “aggressive wife and passive husband” category. Through this article, we’ll examine and suggest ways for couples who fall into this category to get along using biblical principles.
Aggressive vs. Passive Personalities
Aggressive people are usually “in your face”, they follow you around when there are arguments at home. They want issues resolved immediately even when both of you are angry (not a good idea). They might be generous people but are usually self-centered (what they want supersedes everything else). They’ll do anything to get what they want; I know aggressive women who use tears and sulking until the husband concedes. They usually would explode, sometimes causing damage to properties in the home, and occasionally physical harm to their spouse. The aim of the aggressive person is to intimidate the other person to submission and get what he or she wants.
Passive people on the other hand are mellow people, who usually would not have much of an opinion on anything. They will more than likely defer to an aggressive person on issues because they don’t want to argue, even if they have dissenting opinion. They usually implode (keep what is hurting them inside without talking), but are known to explode when the inside is full and they can’t take the emotional strain anymore. Passive people (men) are also procrastinators; they don’t see anything in life that cannot wait (while aggressive people don’t think anything should wait if you can get it done immediately). Passive people hardly pay more for something that would have cost them half of what they eventually paid because they take their time in making decisions.
These personality traits are more genetic than environmental (environmental-behavioral issues are noticeable with family of origin problems). In my extended family of 9, my dad is passive-aggressive while my mom is aggressive. Then among us children are 4 aggressive (3 girls, 1 guy), 2 passive-aggressive (2 boys) and 1 passive girl. In my nuclear family, I’m passive-aggressive. My wife, Ola, is aggressive, our older boy is passive-aggressive, and younger boy aggressive.
Please note that one personality trait is not better than the other one – in other words being passive is not better than being aggressive or being passive-aggressive is not worse than being aggressive. Recognize your personality and expressing yourself in light of the love of God.
It has been my observation that many aggressive female gravitate toward or prefer passive men during the courtship process for the following reasons.
1. During courtship the female gets whatever she wants with very little challenge from the man because he doesn’t really care, and she sees it as a positive thing at this time.
2. The man’s demeanor of “why worry” is very attractive to the female, because she wishes to be like him and appreciates the calmness to him.
3. The passive man also like a woman who takes charge (because he won’t – except for things he strongly believes in) – in the courtship process, he lets her take over planning or running things. Most aggressive women notice this passive behavior but they are too happy to be getting married and calling the shots anyway to object, they usually would think they’ll change him after marriage.
4. She tells hers friends that “he is such a wonderful man, he lets me do what I want” he is a modern or twentieth century man, because she is enjoying being in charge.
Things take a different turn in marriage when the woman runs the show for a while and soon gets tired of doing it. She complains that I’m the only one doing everything, if you ask him, he’ll never do it or he’ll do it when it is too late. In essence what was cute in courtship now becomes a liability.
One of the important things most women want in a marriage is “security” and the definition of security varies from woman to woman. To some security is a lot of money, to another it might be a loving husband. To most aggressive women it is planning the future, they want things planned ahead which for those married to passive men, is asking for too much from him. Yet, some women find security in soothing and affirming words from their husband.
Depending on the family of origin of an aggressive woman, her method of displaying her frustration with a passive husband is most of the time the problem. Many of them keep talking down at the man. I’ve heard some horrible statements like “You are just a big liar”, “You are pulling me back from where I should be”, “You are so useless”, “You are the worst thing that has happened to me”. What these words do is kill a self-esteem that might be shaky to start with, not make him what she wants (the good thing is that most passive men are able to dismiss things but when a statement is repeated many times it starts to take root).
Many aggressive women also resort to crying or other methods that gets the man’s sympathy. Let’s assume the woman wants to buy something and the husband says, we can’t afford that right now, an aggressive woman, might resort to bringing the issue up many times within a short time and more than likely do it in ways the he’ll say – “just go do whatever you want”
In 1 Peter 3: 1-6, Apostle Peter clearly states that women would not change their spouse with words from their mouth, but with gentle spirit and character which is their inner beauty.
The passive man is also guilty in this process. While courting her, he loves her take charge attitude, perhaps because that is what Mom did for him and here is a woman stepping right into that position. He most of the time enjoy his aggressive wife doing the entire dirty job he doesn’t want to do.
Making things work
The aggressive woman and the passive woman both need to understand that it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to transform a human being. As I study the Bible, what I see is God using people’s personality to achieve his purpose (He did not change them – even though He can). Peter and Paul were aggressive and God used that, Barnabas was passive-aggressive – John Mark benefited from that.
The aggressive wife need to understand the personality or the traits of a passive husband, and realize that yelling and other means she is using now would not work, rather it will drive him more into his shell and he won’t talk. The passive man also needs to know that aggressive women are high achievers (doctors, lawyers, head of whatever they do), and they want to be in charge. They want life planned out till the day they die (and feel insecure if things aren’t in order).
Both people need to recognize each other’s strength and weakness and start to appreciate that. Most leadership teachers agree that rather than develop someone’s weakness it pays to develop that person’s strength. Aggressive people keep the house on its toes while the passive people slows things down, while aggressive people don’t wait to smell the coffee, the passive person smells too much coffee.
Passive husbands in my opinion are good fit for aggressive women. Most aggressive women are usually driven by something, some experience from growing up, influenced to be a woman who is the first to achieve something; many of them can be tough with co-workers or their staff. It takes a cool and collected husband to slow things down and put it in perspective for such a wife.
The aggressive wife should accept the passive husband for who he is and adopt the following strategy of dealing with him, rather than be frustrated at him, see him as an asset, when you ask him to do something, always give a timeline and let him be the one that decides what happens if he does not do it by the time he gave (if he has a legitimate reason give him some grace). If he is not taking charge, decide on some things at home that he’ll do and don’t touch it (as long as it is not life threatening) – if his kids miss school or are late because of his procrastination, hopefully he’ll sit up the next time.
Another thing that works with passive men is to encourage him on the positive things he’s done instead of hammering on the mistakes he’s made. When he misses doing something he promised thank him for one good thing he did that week, before bringing up the one he missed, and let him know you still trust he’ll it do as soon as he can. Like in any marriage communication, negative issues should always be brought up with love, and at the appropriate time.
When talking to your passive husband, don’t give him just one option and dig your heels in with that option (he’ll see you as a mother), suggest three things and allow him to pick one. This way he’ll feel he’s part of the decision making.
The passive husband needs to thank God for his aggressive wife (I’m not passive, but I have an aggressive wife). They constantly challenge you and keep you above mediocrity. See their nature as a gift and dwell on the good side of it. It is very important that you never say yes to something you hate because she keeps hounding you. It has been my observation that passive men say yes to “whatever” just to get the wife out of their face, then they hate her for always getting her way – just say NO. If she does what you prohibited then she is not under your covering as a husband (the spiritually matured woman would understand the implication of that). There are times also, that you agree to things not because you want it but because it is really important to her. However never agree to something and then blame her later.
Accepting your short-coming is very important. Procrastination is not a good thing and you need the help of God to overcome it. Buy yourself a calendar (electronic or paper) and ask your wife to help you change. Give her the conditions for her help, for example, tell her not to yell or say terrible things. Schedule things, have a to-do list and work accordingly. Getting up to do things is not going to come naturally to you, that is where your “will” and the Holy Spirit comes in. I promise you that with time things will get better (they did with Apostles Peter and Paul, with Moses etc). Your aggressive wife likes things planned (God also want things planned – Luke 14, Habakkuk 2: 2, Proverb 6: 6), so your calendar would come in handy, when you miss the target, get up and try again (don’t give up, in-fact NEVER give up), keep setting the goals until it becomes part of you.
Giving up on your marriage, yelling at your husband, getting into your shell and giving up on life, calling your wife Jezebel won’t change the situation. Accepting responsibility, knowing what you can and cannot change, and giving the Holy Spirit room to work in your relationship would make your marriage what God wants it to be.
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This article is used by permission from Christian Couples Fellowship International