Bully or Wimp—Striking the Husbandly Balance

October 4, 2023

Ever feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place, forced to decide between the lesser of two evils, or damned if you do and damned if you don’t? At these moments the thing to remember is this: you haven’t considered all of your options. This bit of wisdom can be applied to almost all situations in your life, especially with your responsibilities as a husband.

When we’re pressured, feeling anxious, or worried about pleasing, we tend to tighten up physically, restricting the blood flow to our challenged brains, causing us to make less than ideal choices. This is the place many husbands find themselves when a conflict develops, or when they’re feeling powerless, frustrated, or angry with their wives.

It’s while in this debilitating state that men believe their only options are to either bully—and get what they want despite the collateral damage—or wimp out—walk away with their tail between their legs and their resentment intact.

We don’t need to make that poor choice. We should never have to choose between being a bully or a wimp. The trick is to learn how to be a confident and caring husband in every moment.

You may not want to admit that you’re a bully. But you are being a bully when you’re relentless, coercive, needing to be right, having to change her mind, threatening, withholding, badgering, intimidating, yelling, manipulating, and, of course, being physical in any way.

You’re a wimp when you’re afraid of disapproval, conflict, difference of opinion, or of her tone or expression. You’re being a wimp when you’re not in your power, not confident, not compassionate, not loving, not clear about what’s right and wrong, and not willing to take a stand for you or for those you love.

Let me tell you about Ben, a man who was in one of the men’s groups I led. Ben thought he had a great marriage. His wife Lisa, of five years, felt differently. She wanted me to know what had been going on in their house, perhaps information Ben wasn’t revealing to the men in his group. They came in for some couples work.

Ben’s got a big personality, very opinionated, A-type sort of guy. Lisa is smart and confident, but quiet. The louder he gets, the softer she gets. When he has a point to make, he won’t quit until she “agrees.” Lisa will acquiesce because she knows Ben won’t quit. At these moments Lisa doesn’t feel heard, loved, or secure. She feels bullied. She’s tried to tell him, but he couldn’t hear it from her. He heard it from me, and it started to sink in. Ben was just doing what he had seen his dad do to his mom, though he had vowed to never be like his dad!

George, another man in group, is not an A-type personality. He’s an engineer. He’s brilliant, and emotionally disconnected. Like so many men, he lives in his head and would have a difficult time recognizing an emotion. He’s afraid of his wife and of intimacy. He’s so afraid of the possibility of her rejection, he hasn’t brought romance to his marriage in years. Sex? Fugetaboutit.

This had been going on for so long, he had convinced himself first, that she just wasn’t interested in him romantically. And then he went on to convince himself that an affair would be the most logical way to proceed. This is the kind of dialogue that takes place in the heads of these “smart guys.” Although it took quite some time, the men in his group enlightened him. Eventually, he got out of his own way and brought sex and romance back into his marriage.

Because of his fear, neither he nor his wife had been getting what they needed from their relationship. Though George’s behavior was primarily in reaction to childhood experiences and lessons, for our story, you could say that George was the wimp.

You’re only a bully or wimp when you’re afraid. But when you’re in your power, when you are coming from a confident and loving place, you’ll always find there’s a better option. Perhaps you won’t be able to resolve the issue in the moment. But you’ll know that you are capable of addressing the issue later, when you’ve had a chance to think about it, calm down, or ask for help.

Because of fear, neither Ben nor George had ever truly considered their options. They couldn’t. All they knew was what they had seen in their parents’ marriages. All they could do was to continue to come from the fear they had held inside.

The good news was that they had both sought out help. With the support of the men in their groups, they could safely confront themselves, their pain and their past. Once they did that, their present was much easier to deal with. And then they were able to make some serious and wonderful changes to become better husbands, and better examples for their kids.

At the end of the day, it’s not about striking a balance between being the bully or the wimp. It’s about being the man you want to be, period. Ask yourself this question in every challenging moment: If I was the man I wanted to be right now, what would I do? If you take a moment to ask yourself this important question, you’ll begin to realize the power you have to be confident, loving, fearless, and compassionate with your wife.

If this is still a challenge for you, and you ask yourself the important question above, wouldn’t the answer be, ask for help?