10 Ways a Wife Makes Her Husband Feel Like a Failure

10 Ways a Wife Makes Her Husband Feel Like a Failure

When I asked the married men in my life, “In what way does your wife make you feel like a failure?” I was met with a slew of responses. Some guys pushed-up their sleeves, like they couldn’t wait to tackle the issue. Others introspectively rubbed their scruffy chins and cleared their throats, pausing a good long while before raising a finger—“I got one.”

Feeling like a failure is complex. Sure there are times a man feels disrespected by his wife or, at the very least, a little sad when she uses the last of the A1 sauce. But when she makes her husband feel like a failure—intentionally or not—well, that’s different. Unlike failing, where a man is able to pick himself up by the bootstraps and try again, being a failure has a lastingness to it—and can become a label, a tag, an identity.

But here’s the good news: No woman can tell her husband who he is as a man. She does not pronounce the verdict on him. Only God can do that. And when a man feels anything but the leader of his tribe, he must turn to his Creator for validation, the One who “has crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5b).

And now, in no particular order and in no way comprehensive, here are 10 ways a wife makes her husband feel like a failure:

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  • 1. She's not satisfied with their income.

    When it comes to money, my husband and I are like most people: We always want more of it—maybe not to buy boats and hold season tickets, but to pay the electric bill, get our teeth cleaned, and eke out a vacation. And on days we skip the two dollar upcharge for avocado, it’s okay—we still carry on! 

    But lately I’ve been dangling my wish list over his head, telling him about my friends who get cleaning ladies and about the dream home I drove by twice that day. This can’t be good for our marriage. I mean, if I’m tempted to feel like a failure—not having these things—how is it making him feel, the one who’d give me the world if he could? 

    So instead of counting on money, a woman should count on her ability to be, according to a 17th century quote, “her husband’s best companion in prosperity and in adversity the surest friend.” But above all, she must count on the One who meets their needs “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

     

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  • 2. She won't let go of past failures.

    Bringing up past failures works double-duty on the heart of a man. It’s already enough that he’s dealing with the inadequacies of today, let alone his wife swooping in to remind him of unrelated failures from yesterday. Besides, the past does a pretty good job of rearing its ugly head all on its own—without the help of a wife.

    But for every woman who champions for her husband’s future, forgetting “those things which are behind” and reaching “forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13), there’s a woman who won’t let her hubby of the hook. Such a woman might not fully understand the depths of God’s grace. Only then will she be able to extend grace in return. 

     

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  • 3. She sets crazy-high expectations for the holidays.

    When a woman expects her husband to turn into Prince Charming every holiday, she’s setting him up for failure. It’s one thing to want a hot stone massage on her birthday, but a hot stone massage year after year—in Hawaii—might be asking too much. 

    Lame gifts aren’t the only things women worry about. I once set unrealistic expectations regarding my husband’s level of participation on Christmas Eve. Last year he fell asleep before the kids, and fantasies of sipping hot cocoa together while placing the gifts “just so” under the tree were dashed. And I became the opposite of “slow to get angry” (James 1:19). 

    Yes, he should have stepped up his game. But within the context of our 22-year marriage, a marriage he’s shown himself to be a good man, why make him feel as if he’s failed me now—and on Christmas? 

     

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  • 4. She makes excuses to avoid intimacy.

    There are all sorts of reasons a woman makes excuses to avoid intimacy, some extremely valid and even biblical, others not so much. (“Sorry, ate too much cheese tonight” is always a popular one.) And when excuses pile-up for no apparent reason, a man might think he’s failed somehow: I used to drive her crazy! Why are my needs not a priority to her? 

    And if a woman avoids intimacy because she thinks it’s better to resolve marital issues before having sex, the experts disagree. In fact, the likelihood of settling issues is much higher when sex comes first. Clearly intimacy works: “Let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Mark 10:9).

     

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  • 5. She reminds him he's supposed to be the spiritual leader.

    What’s more annoying than a husband who reminds his wife she’s supposed to submit him? A wife who reminds her husband he’s supposed to be the spiritual leader of the home... and a servant leader at that. It’s patronizing, preachy, and condescending—especially if a “tone” is added for effect.

    But a woman who is kind, humble, and wise has the power to win her husband over without saying a word (1 Peter 3:1). And when prayers for her husband replace the sassy comments that point out his failings, she is much more likely to see him turn into the man of her dreams.

     

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  • 6. She questions the way he fathers their children.

    Whenever our kids act-up, we often joke, “They obviously got that from your side of the family.” And since we have wonderful family on both sides, it stays in the joke zone. But not all comments stay there—especially coming from me. 

    I am extremely guilty of correcting, speaking-over, and undermining my husband’s ability to father our children. I shoot him down with my nitpicking, “You were too hard on her… too easy on him... now go give her a hug,” which is ridiculous because he’s an incredible dad—he even does science project duty!

    When a man fails at being a father, he’ll carry it his entire life. But if he succeeds, well, there’s no greater measure of success! So it’s imperative a woman comes alongside her husband (Genesis 2:18) as they together tackle the hardest job on earth—raising kids to become nice adults. 

     

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  • 7. She compares him to other men.

    This is a biggie for men. Starting in grade school, they had to find their way on the playground, positioning for their spot in the order of things. Fast-forward to today and not much has changed. But alas, there’s home! A place he can go, free from the comparison trap... or is it?

    Nothing makes a guy feel like a failure more than when his wife says, “I wonder how much money Joel makes?”—“Did you see how Matt opened the door for her?”—“Why aren’t you more adventurous like Andrew?” Turns out she’s more interested in molding her husband into her ideal image, not God’s. 

    But what if change is in order? Then she must give God margin to work in his life. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight. Even Jesus himself, though perfect, matured over time, growing “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). 

     

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  • 8. She's not proud of what he does.

    For every woman who isn’t proud of her proctologist husband, there’s a woman who couldn’t be more proud. For every woman who loathes her husband’s vintage Corvette, there’s a woman who thinks it’s hot. And for every woman annoyed by her man’s fascination with the stock market, there’s a woman who joins right in.

    It doesn’t matter if a man is a professional auctioneer, an Olympic swimmer, or a coin collector. If his wife doesn’t respect, admire, and support his career, hobbies, and interests, he’s sure to feel like a failure. And should she sense he has taken his passions too far, she can pray Proverbs 3:6 over her man: “Remember the Lord in all you do, and he will give you success.”

     

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  • 9. She finds little joy in their life together.

    Twelve years into our marriage, we moved from California to Alabama. Although I loved our amazing neighbors and the seasonal weather, I couldn’t kick my feelings of despair—and there was nothing my husband could do to fix it. He felt hopeless and discouraged, as if he failed at providing a joyous life for me.

    There are millions of reasons why a woman might struggle to find joy. It could be because of her husband, or it could have nothing to do with him—either way, a joyless wife makes a man feel like a failure. The important thing is to keep the line of communication open, for it’s helpful to “carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

     

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  • 10. She corrects him in public.

    When we first got married, we were friends with a certain husband and wife duo. More like husband and wife duel, for the wife constantly reprimanded her guy in front of us. She even talked about the “chore chart” she had made to keep him in line! It would’ve been less painful—for all of us—if she stamped “BIG FAIL” on his forehead and have that be the end of it.

    Nothing sucks the life out of a man more than a wife who belittles him in public, and sometimes it’s just a roll of the eyes. Even if he deserves it, a wife will get more respect—from him and her friends—if she quiets herself in this regard and chooses to love her husband deeply, for “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

     

    Molly Parker cherishes her role as contributor and editor for Anchored Press Devotional Planners and for Sacred Holidays Bible studies. When Molly's not French-braiding hair or scolding her basset hound, she's eating cake, baking a cake, or thinking about cake, which is surprising considering she's worked in the fitness industry 25 years. Molly lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.

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