Pastor: Does Your Wife Have Husband Deficit Disorder?
- Thursday, June 02, 2005
While there is no "Dr." designation before my name, I observe and listen carefully. The "patients" who most burden my heart are preachers' wives. In constant contact with them across America, I cannot miss the fact that many (if not most) of them are suffering from HADD-Husband Attention Deficit Disorder. The illness, though dire, has little to do with their public role and everything to do with their private existence.
A preacher's wife doesn't live for and is not motivated or fulfilled by the spotlight; she operates, rather, on heart light-the light and warmth of her husband's love. The sad fact, however, is that gloom and coldness are more often her lot. In most cases, the deficit is not an intended thing at all, but the result of carelessness.
In writing that last phrase, I am reminded of a statement I read years ago and have seen lived out since then: "The opposite of love is not hate, but carelessness." Whether she has ever read or heard that statement, any wife's emotional radar screen spots its actuality!
Because I've been asked to write to men, I'm going to avoid quoting Scripture, lest there be accusations of my "preaching." Instead, I'll simply speak honestly on behalf of ministry wives.
Statistics reveal that the two professions most plagued by infidelity and divorce are medicine and ministry. There must, therefore, be inherent dangers worth noting.
Plants and human beings thrive in sunlight and wither in its lack. Emotional sunlight for a wife flows from her husband. Yet in ministry the husband's attention, concentration, and interest can easily focus almost entirely outside the home. Whereas he recognizes early on that his effectiveness can be crowned or crippled by the wife he chooses, the years following the marriage ceremony may blunt that perception. His wife's worth to him, to the family, and to the congregation fade into insignificance in his mind. After all, she's only doing what she's supposed to do, right? That dismissive attitude casts shadows into a wife's heart.
Kindness and gentleness, according to the Bible, are hallmarks of genuine Christianity. But while those virtues may shine out from a preacher with nearly blinding clarity in his contacts with parishioners and the public, that light is too often absent or greatly diminished within the walls of his home. Blunt, short-tempered, and unmannerly behavior and speech reveal a public prince to be in truth a frog. Pity the deeply chilled wife!
Spotlights are difficult to survive. Their intense focus can do strange things. In particular, spotlights threaten to distort one's sense of importance. While phoniness and pride are easily seen in actors, sports figures, etc., a ministerial disguise-sanctified language and a self-effacing manner-may convince onlookers of his humility. His inner reality, however, will inevitably declare itself within the demanding, intimate relationship of marriage.
For instance, his word takes on increasing importance in his own estimation; he pontificates rather than lovingly leads. As his self-focus grows, his regard for his wife's interests and input wanes. In his supposed exaltation, he will more and more expect to be cared for and catered to rather than demonstrate Christlike compassion and sacrificial love. His engorged self-reliance may move him to pray at his wife and children rather than for them.
Such a bloated internal bulk will eventually put his wife's emotional center in deep freeze. The darkness of loneliness will assail her as she is more and more marginalized. Such blighting of spirit is inevitable because her husband, in the human sense, is central to a married woman's life and being.
Feminine dedication and endurance are so enormous as to be legendary. They can operate, however, from a core of emptiness. If a woman is made to feel valueless in the very role for which she was created, her ice-shrunken heart can lie inert all the while her external self continues in its expected functioning. That emptiness is one result of HADD.
Another is vulnerability. A wife's shadowed heart is susceptible to the smallest flickers of warmth. Knowing that, Satan will see to it that some alternate source of warmth stands ready. It may be escape through fiction, or food, or ... it may be a man who offers what her husband has failed to supply: interest and appreciation.
Gentlemen, have I overstated the case? Is the seriousness of the warning exaggerated? No to both questions! Could your wife be suffering the first, or advancing, or even the final stages of HADD? Absolutely! Now come questions only you can answer: Do you care? Do you care enough to counteract the deadly illness?
The treatment for HADD is neither complicated nor expensive. The prescription comes in tiny, elementary grains:
Stop. Take a serious mini-sabbatical from your routine, oblivious days-not to refresh yourself, but to renew or rescue your wife. Chronic HADD can ultimately destroy everything you hold dear.
Look. See the state of your marriage for what it really is, not as what you assume it to be. See your wife with fresh eyes. Has her spirit lost sparkle? What does her facial expression reveal in unguarded moments? What does her posture and/or her personal appearance tell you about her emotional condition? Notice the details of her inner and outer self that made you fall in love with her, but which you lately have taken for granted. See her numberless contributions to your daily life, to your home, to your ministry success, to you. Give heart honor for what you see.
Listen. Her daily life is small in comparison to yours, but it's all she has, and she needs to know you care enough to hear about it. Tune in to who she really is-a woman unique from every other woman on earth. She's one of a kind in her personality, her gifts, her fears, her dreams, and her needs. If you hear something that disappoints you, don't sermonize! Preachers are for pulpits; husbands are for homes.
The precious one-flesh relationship you have with your wife by right can be lost by wrong. The greatest wrong I see active in today's ministry marriages is the husband's taking his wife for granted.
The medicinal grains of Stop, Look, and Listen must be wisely and consistently administered. They should be put into a special, effective capsule: your arms around her. In order to keep the plaguing malady forever at bay, the godly husband will take his cue from the first two letters of the word "woman." He'll add another "o" (the "oh" of comprehension), and he'll daily woo his wife. Believe me, she'll be impervious to the vicious, ministry-battering virus of HADD.
Beneth Peters Jones is the wife of Dr. Bob Jones, III, president of Bob Jones University. The author of several books for Christian women, including Ribbing Him Rightly, Talk to Me, Lady!, With Heart and Hand, and Beauty and the Best, Mrs. Jones speaks regularly at women's conferences around the country.
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