Session 3 – Question #9 (Workbook pg. 51)

A powerful factor that can keep the Crazy Cycle spinning is the male fear of criticism, and especially contempt. Men may look powerful and impervious to their wives’ words, but underneath they are very vulnerable. The male species is often labeled as the one that likes to get into fights, and as Emerson pointed out, it is the male who primarily responds to the call to war, to protect home and family. Nonetheless, males do not handle conflict with their wives well at all when they feel disrespected.

Emerson writes: “Men know deep down that their wives love them, but they are not at all sure that their wives respect them.”

Are men being overly sensitive or perhaps a bit arrogant by being so concerned about being respected?

Write down what you honestly think.


Share what you wrote with each other. Among men there is an “honor code” — from boyhood men learn there are certain things men just don’t say to one another. A woman will talk to a husband in the home in a way that a man would never talk to him. “He can’t believe she can be so belligerent, so disrespectful.”

Does your experience as a husband bear this out? As a wife, do you think you ever talk to your husband in a “belligerent” manner?

Session 3 – Question #10 (Workbook pg. 52)

According to John Gottman’s extensive research, 85 percent of husbands eventually stonewall their wives during conflict. For a man, tension builds faster because his blood pressure and heart rate rise much higher and stay elevated much longer than his wife’s.

During tense exchanges, a wife’s negative criticism can overwhelm the husband and he has little appetite to deal with it. The wife sees such exchanges as potentially increasing love between them, and her heartbeats per minute (BPM) do not escalate. The husband, on the other hand, sees the exchange as an argument in which he is apt to lose respect, and this revs up his BPMs.

David’s wife asked for the Crazy Cycle when “she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16).

In an attempt to calm himself down, the husband will stonewall–become quiet, say nothing, or go off by himself. If asked why he has stonewalled, the husband will say something like, “I’m trying not to react.” The wife may see her husband’s stonewalling as unloving, but he does not. He is simply trying to do the honorable and respectable thing, but his wife thinks he’s rejecting her. How could he possibly want to withdraw and stonewall her when all she has done is given him a minor criticism or two?

Gottman states, “Such interactions can produce a vicious cycle, especially in marriage with high levels of conflict. The more wives complain and criticize, the more husbands withdraw and stonewall; the more husbands withdraw and stonewall, the more wives complain and criticize.” Gottman adds that if a wife becomes belligerent and contemptuous, the marriage is in serious danger. If this cycle isn’t broken, it will probably end in divorce.

Who is the criticizer and who is the stonewaller in your marriage? Why do men (as a rule) stonewall their wives?


This can be a delicate question for a husband and wife to discuss, so go easy on each other. Be sure you both define stonewalling the same way. Simply put, stonewalling is refusing to talk, period.

Session 3 – Question #11 (Workbook pg. 52-53)

In the majority of cases, a wife who is in love with her husband will move toward him when she feels unloved. For example, it’s the first year of marriage and he has been late to dinner two nights in a row without calling. She says to herself, “This is wrong. How can he be so insensitive? Am I last on

his priority list? This is so unloving.” Instinctively, she proceeds to say what she believes is the loving thing when he comes through the door: “We need to talk. We need to talk right now. Please sit down and talk to me!”

In approaching her husband in this fashion, the wife is using the same approach she would use with a best girlfriend. When women have conflicts with each other, they both usually verbalize their feelings. They share what is on their hearts because instinctively they know it will eventually lead to reconciliation. At some point, one of them will say, “Well, I was wrong.” Then the other will say, “No, I was wrong too. Will you forgive me?” And the other one says, “Yes, of course I’ll forgive you. I’m really sorry. Then they hug, shed a few tears, and pretty soon they’re laughing.

That’s what I call bringing things full circle. Unfortunately, women think this approach will work with their husbands just as well as it does with their best girlfriends. When a problem arises and something feels unloving, the wife instinctively moves toward her husband to share her feelings. Her eventual goal is that both of them will apologize and then embrace. This is the way she keeps her marriage up-to-date — a high value for her. Her heart longs to resolve things and reconcile. Her husband matters to her more than any other adult on earth. In truth, her confrontation is a compliment. She thinks, “Oh, that he could see my heart! Why does he close himself off from me?

What a wife usually fails to see is that a big difference exists between her best girlfriend and her husband. A wife will be more judgmental toward her husband than toward her best girlfriend. She feels free to do this because, as his loving helpmate, part of her mission, in her mind, is to “help” change him into a loving man. She knows that if she can just get her criticisms out on the table, he can change. And if he’ll change to be a bit more loving, she knows she will still outlove him.

Why do a wife’s complaints and criticisms, expressed during conflicts with her husband, seldom result in shared sorrow, hugs, and even laughter as often happens with a best girlfriend?

Choose from one of the ideas below, then add your own thoughts:

  1. Husbands are too proud to admit they are wrong.
  2. Husbands don’t see their wives’ deeper goal of reconciliation.
  3. Husbands clam up because ongoing criticism feels like contempt.
  4. Wives are more critical and judgmental of their husbands than of their girlfriends.
  5. I think…


Share your answers. How do your perceptions differ? Do you see examples of “pink” (her viewpoint) and “blue” (his viewpoint)? Why is it obviously not a good idea for a wife to deal with her husband in the same way she deals with a best girlfriend?

Session 3 – Question #14 (Workbook pg. 54)

To avoid sounding like she is scolding, which of the following questions is the best one for a wife to ask herself as she interacts with her husband?

  1. Is what I am about to say/do going to let him know that we are equals and he cannot treat me as “lesser than”?
  2. Is what I am about to say/do going to come across as loving or unloving?
  3. Is what I am about to say/do going to come across as respectful or disrespectful?


Talk about which response on the previous page is the best question for a wife to ask. Then identify the best question for a husband to ask himself before interacting with his wife.


Always ask yourself:

* Is what I am about to say or do going to feel unloving to her?

* Is what I am about to say or do going to feel disrespectful to him?


* Never tell a wife she must earn your love in order for you to love her inner spirit created in God’s image.

* Never tell a husband he must earn your respect in order for you to respect his inner spirit created in God’s image.

* Never say, “I won’t love that woman until she starts respecting me.’

* Never say, “I won’t respect that man until he starts loving me.

* Never say, “Nobody can love that woman!”

* Never say, “Nobody can respect that man!”

* Never blame your lack of love on her lack of respect. Your lack of love is disobedience to Ephesians 5:33a.

* Never blame your lack of respect on his lack of love. Your lack of respect is disobedience to Ephesians 5:33b.

Ephesians 5:33 (NLT) – So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.