Christian Living

TheRelationshipCafe 03/04/08

Arrogance Destroys a Relationship

There is nothing quite as attractive as self-confidence. On the other hand, there is little quite as ugly as arrogance.

Self-confident people tell you how they feel and what they think, while respecting your point of view. They never coerce you into thinking the way they think, or feeling the way they feel. Self-confident people have good boundaries, understanding we are all different.

However, often times self confidence is confused with arrogance. Arrogance goes beyond healthy self confidence, with characteristics that destroy relationships. In the name of self-confidence they push their opinions on others, can be very manipulative, are often deceptive, and believe their way of doing things is the only way.

A recent email from a distraught woman makes a clear case for the destructive impact of arrogance and importance of mutual respect in marriage.

Dear Dr. David. I have been married for ten years to a man who always has to be right. He thinks his way is the only way. If I disagree with him, he gets angry. In fact, when I disagree he calls me ‘argumentative,’ when it is actually he that becomes argumentative.

I’m not sure how to handle someone with such strong opinions. He acts very self-confident, but I wonder if he is really insecure beneath his arrogance attitude. He is pushy with his friends, but then they are pushy also. They treat women with disrespect and it is hurting our marriage. When I try to voice my opinion, my husband finds fault in it. I’m not sure he really cares anymore what I think and feel.

Am I supposed to be quiet and let him run over me, or is there a way to fight back? I don’t want to cause unnecessary problems in our marriage, but then again he is the one ruining it. I want him to respect me. Is this too much to ask? Please help.

No, expecting respect in marriage is not too much to ask. In fact, it sounds as though your husband has been neglecting his responsibility to love and respect you for some time. In the name of self-confidence, and believing his opinions to be “right,” he has disrespected your opinions.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5: 21) Your husband is also to love you “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5: 25) There are many other examples in Scripture of the importance of mutual respect and honor.

Obviously these are critical elements missing in your marriage. A marriage is a sacred covenant to love and honor one another. You are no longer two separate people, but one. You must look out for each other’s interests. You must sacrificially seek your mate’s welfare. Again, it seems that your husband doesn’t understand these principles.

I am also very concerned about his anger, which he obviously uses to control you. He appears to have little ability to tolerate differences of opinion, or to have his point of view questioned. This is a self-centered, immature character trait.

What can you do about this? I don’t encourage you to “fight back.” This will only add insult to injury. Don’t defend yourself or debate with him. Don’t get caught up in bickering with him. This only creates more animosity and arguing. Don’t get “hooked” into battling with him. You’ll lose and feel worse in the end. You don’t need to win arguments—you need to state what you think and feel. I discuss this in further detail in my book,
Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life.

This is only a beginning step. Beyond this you need to set boundaries with your husband. It sounds as if you’ve tolerated his coercion for too long, teaching him that it’s okay to treat you this way, when it’s not. You’ve probably given in to his anger, which only reinforces it. In a loving way, with a firm, strong voice, you need to repeatedly tell him you don’t appreciate being told that you’re wrong. Assert yourself, stating your opinion while not engaging in fruitless arguing. Tell him you will talk to him when he is calm and respectful. Let him know that you hear and understand his point of view, if you do, but make it clear that you see things differently.

Finally, seek counseling. It is very unlikely that your husband will change without professional intervention. It is likely that he doesn’t see or understand what he is doing. Hopefully, if you are clear, concise and consistent with him, letting him know that there must be change in your marriage, he will agree to counsel with you.

What do others think this woman should do? How have you dealt with someone who is arrogant and pushy with their opinions? We appreciate your responses or other questions.

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