why men are afraid of their wives

My supervisor says that all men are afraid of their wives. When I first heard this, I cringed. I immediately wanted to argue such a bold and blanket statement: I found it to be depressing and sad. And yet…the more I process and observe, the more I know that it is truth, even if it doesn’t apply to 100% of husbands. Most men are, indeed, afraid of their wives. Have you ever seen a man cringe in fear from a look? Just a look. Have you ever heard a husband say, “my wife is not going to like this.”  as if the thought of her displeasure makes him feel very, very afraid? Or for a husband to quickly say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” before one word even escapes his wife’s lips. An argument with a wife or girlfriend is worse than being  punched in the face for most men. Just the slightest hint of an ensuing argument makes even the manliest of men run, hide, or become defensive.

Studies by the Gottman Institute have given us some insight into why arguing is so much more unpleasant for men: it affects them more physically. A man’s blood pressure and heart rate show much more significant signs of elevation during an argument than his female counterparts. Why? My guess is that us ladies are just used to fluctuating emotions and can physically go back to “normal” more quickly. Of course, our normal is usually a higher level of stress, so there’s that. But, I think it’s also because usually men can’t “win” fights with us (winning an argument isn’t really winning anyway since winning requires putting a person beneath you. It often includes a separation of intimacy and trust…thus winning actually isn’t winning when we consider the big picture). Sometimes men can’t process emotions and words as quickly as we can, especially when caught off guard. We have the power to make them feel like total idiots/jerks/losers in 2.5 seconds. It’s important to remember the power that our words have and use them for good (to encourage, support, and appreciate) and not evil (to tear down, humiliate,  or criticize).

Another nugget from Gottman’s studies: Men who allow their wives to influence them are more likely to be happily married. With this in mind, it needs to be done delicately. Men are sensitive and have feelings, too!

Ladies, here are some tips:

  1. Treat your husband like an intelligent adult. One that you respect and give the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Do not reprimand him around other people, even your children.* In fact, try not to reprimand him at all.
    1. If he does something you do not like, try to wait until you are alone and say something like, “Honey, I know you didn’t realize, but it really bothers me when you tease our daughter like that. It hurt me a lot when my dad did that growing up and I know you don’t want her to feel hurt.”
  3. Help him to become a better man; don’t try to force him to blindly follow your will without explaining your reasoning and heart.
  4. Appreciate him. Mentally remind yourself of all the good he does and why you love him. Then tell him. Often.
  5. Listen to him. Offer understanding. You don’t have to agree with each other on everything. People (and husbands!) are most influenced by the behavior we model and the love we offer.

If you’d like help improving your conflict resolution, emotional and physical intimacy, or communication in your marriage, I’d be happy to help. If I’m not a good fit for you, I will make sure you find one! Please feel free to contact me with questions.

* Except in cases of abuse. Do what you need to do to protect yourself and your children.

**Men, if you suspect you are being emotionally abused by your girlfriend or wife, please check out this helpful article to further guide you.


4 thoughts on “why men are afraid of their wives

  1. Ms. Dack,

    Does it strike you as odd your advice boils down to “Treat your husband, the person you supposedly care about, with the same common courtesy you should show a complete stranger” ?

    Consider the question before you answer. Then ponder this: if that actually NEEDS to be said, rather than being a given – what does that say about the nature of women? I dare say, if women treated their co-workers with the same egregious disregard with which they commonly treat their husbands: they’d be fired for creating a hostile work environment. Am I wrong in that?

    I would suggest: this is why the divorce rate is over 50%, this is why unmarried adults have become over 50% of the population for the first time in this country’s 238 years and this is why fewer and fewer men (according to pew research) are interested in being married. I’d also suggest this is why so many western men are seeking to marry women from other cultures.

    Simply stated: women in the western world more often than not treat their male companions horribly. If women literally need to be told to treat their own husbands with the courtesy and dignity deserving of any human being: quite clearly something is drastically wrong. Since these same women *SUPPOSEDLY* love these individuals.

    There aren’t that many psychological conditions which allow person A to lack empathy over maltreatment by their own actions inflicted upon person B . Which one do you think is at work in this situation?

    Marshall A. Rottman

    • Mr. Rottman,

      This kind of thing is so better suited to an in person conversation, but I did want to acknowledge your email. It will be briefer than I’d like due to time constraints, but I do hope you’ll appreciate the effort.

      There are many ways to respond to what you’ve said, but to sum it up: I called out women in that blog, but from my experience we all need to be called out for our bad behavior regarding the people we are closest to. This is human nature, not simply the nature of women.

      I’ve found bad behavior is often rooted in feeling unloved, or insecure, or lonely, or sad, or hurt, anxious, or overwhelmed among other things. The psychological conditions (namely, the personality disorder called “Antisocial” or more commonly known as sociopath) to which you are referring to certainly exist, but are rare and are the exception, not the rule.

      Change occurs best in relationships when we all shelve our pride and take responsibility for our part.


  2. Ms. Dack,

    Mr. Rottman’s comments, while broad, reflect the conclusions of at least 80% of men that I know. I believe it has mostly to do with the legal ramifications to men of “losing” to women, which in many cases also means losing their children or any degree of societal moral support. Western society has spent the last generation bravely supporting women’s advancement, which was long overdue, however we have failed to consider or address the implications for men in this transition. If we want a truly equal society, we cannot support a court system and media apparatus that mostly portrays men, overtly or otherwise, as either oppressors or village idiots. This is surely a tough subject but I fear that if it continues to go unaddressed we will ultimately see pressure for a more extreme societal reaction, which might make a 50% unmarried population pale in comparison.


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