5 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:

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).

2. She won't let go of past mistakes. 
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.

3. She sets crazy-high expectations. 
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? 

4. She makes excuses to avoid S*x. 
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).

5. 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).

[written by Molly Parker]