When I talk about esteeming your marriage, I’m really guiding you to esteem your wife. You can’t, with any integrity, say that you greatly value your marriage and simultaneously disrespect or mistreat your wife. And to just say, “I esteem my wife” is not good enough — you need to show it.

Let me give a few examples of things we should never do if we are to put our actions behind our words.

1. We should never, under any circumstances, be physically abusive to our wives. No sane man intentionally abuses his own body. Therefore, we should never abuse our wives. This should go without saying, but sadly, it needs to be reinforced. Over the years I have spoken to or been involved with counseling or helping Christian couples who were dealing with physical abuse. Men, this is absolutely unacceptable. Remember that your wife is not your property; she belongs to God and is yours to care for and nurture and protect. If you are the one she is needing protection from, then you must seek help immediately.

2. We should never emotionally abuse our wives. There is such a thing as emotional abuse. Maybe you’ve never lifted your hand to harm your wife but you abuse her with your behavior, attitudes, and words.

Do you play mind games with her? Are you passive-aggressive? You are demonstrating this if you act nonchalant about a situation or a decision and then make your wife pay for it by sulking, becoming angry about other things, or making degrading remarks about her or her role in the situation.

Did you know that by checking out or flirting with other women, you are causing your wife emotional harm? Some men engage in this behavior because they want their wife to know that there are plenty of other options if she doesn’t toe the line or treat him right. Whether this is your intention or not, you are presenting a threat to your wife and to your union when you do this. There isn’t anything fun about that.

Comments about another woman or sideways glances at a passing woman play on a wife’s insecurities and fears. Fears of not being good enough, fears of not being truly loved, fears of being set aside for someone prettier, younger, thinner, smarter. This kind of abuse is pure wickedness born out of a sick male ego, and it has no place in marriage. This is not only childish, it is downright sinful and absolutely wrong — and God who searches the heart knows what we are doing and will hold us accountable.

You might notice that the guys who do this the most seem to make light of feeling bad about their bad behavior by saying their wife is no fun. She just needs to lighten up when they lavish attention or compliments on another woman. If you have done this or are prone to do this, remember that your wife is hurt by this, and she is hurt directly by your behavior. You, her steward, are causing someone you love to doubt your love…and themselves.

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3. Never verbally abuse your wife. There’s no place in a Christian marriage for screaming at the top of our lungs, name-calling, or using vulgar or obscene language when speaking to our wives or to anyone. Do you flip a switch and turn on the anger when something doesn’t go your way? Or do you hold on to complaints and problems and let them fester until you explode? I’d say that many of us fall into one of those camps unless we get our emotions in check and our hearts in line with God’s peace.

We will have disagreements in marriage. But we don’t have to raise our voices or cross the line of decency by using destructive speech. God warns us against such language in His word: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

In all the arguments and shouting matches Cheryl and I have had over the years, I’ve never sworn at her or called her a vulgar or obscene name. That is a line you simply never cross as a Christian husband. I’m not saying that to sound “holier than thou” or to condemn someone who has done that. I’m saying it so you’ll know that God is able to give sufficient grace and power to overcome those kinds of things.

Before I was a Christian, my speech was belligerent, profane, and obscene most of the time. God took that kind of language away from me upon my conversion, and I believe He’ll do the same for anyone who desires Him to. I must admit I’ve been shocked at times to hear about some of the things guys have said to their wives. I have said to men I’ve counseled, “Don’t you realize that God is watching how you treat your wife? That God is listening to the way you’re talking to her? That God hears the things you’re saying?”

Men, this is where we need to remember the warning of Jesus that for every idle word men speak they will give an account of it in the Day of Judgment (Matthew 12:36). That is not just a threat — it’s an absolute promise. Verbal abuse can be just as destructive to a person’s soul and spirit as physical abuse can be to the body because, as Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I’ve sat in counseling sessions and listened to heart-wrenching stories from women about the abusive things their husbands have said to them. This should never be the case with Christian men. The man who truly esteems his marriage and cherishes his wife will never be verbally abusive.

Adapted from Growing Together as a Couple, by Brian and Cheryl Brodersen

Copyright © 2011 by Brian & Cheryl Brodersen, published by Harvest House Publishers, used with permission.