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Christian Living

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The Games Women Play

Are you playing games in your marriage? Authors Shannon and Greg Ethridge believe that many married women may have fallen into roles that are damaging their marriages, but most of them do not even know they are doing it.

In their book, Every Woman’s Marriage, the Ethridges discuss common problems that couples face in marriage. They draw on their personal experiences to share solutions that they have found to be successful in their own relationship.

Often when it seems like love has “grown cold” in a marriage, there are factors other than a lack of loving feelings that are contributing to the problem. Believing that women share part of the blame when their husbands pull away from them emotionally, the Ethridges encourage women to ask themselves how they are treating their spouses.

Sometimes, the authors say, wives will find that they have been placing unfair expectations on their husbands. When he can’t meet their demands, he shuts down emotionally.

In other cases, it could be that women have fallen into the trap of playing games in the marriage. The authors identify four of the most common games that women play.

Game #1: The Holy Spirit/Wretched Sinner Game

“One of the most common games, I think, is the Holy Spirit/Wretched Sinner game where ‘I’ve heard from God and He tells me that you’re not doing this right,’” Shannon says.  

Sometimes women feel that their husbands are not as capable of hearing from God as they are.

“We have to recognize that God established men as the spiritual leaders in the home,” Shannon says. “And I feel as if, yes, God can certainly speak to women, but He’s not going to speak to the wife and not to the husband.  We need to give Him more credit than that.”

Game #2: The Mother/Child Game

Another common game that women play is the Mother/Child Game. “This is where the wife is talking to the husband and trying to give him instructions like she would a child,” Greg says.

For example, when a wife coaches her husband on how he should dress she is falling into this mother role. The authors say that conversation about subjects like this is fine, but wives should be careful not to let their suggestions get to the point where they are telling their husbands what to do.

“It’s when wives give instruction in areas where we don’t really need instruction,” Greg says. “We’re adults. When a wife talks to a husband like that it doesn’t show respect.”

Game #3: The Spoiled Child/Sugar Daddy Game

For most couples, money is a common point of tension in marriage. Conflict over money increases when women fall into the role of seeing themselves as a spoiled child whose husband should provide all the material things that she desires.

“This is where she expects that she can spend all that she wants and that his job is to make more,” Shannon says. “I know that for me, there were several years in our marriage where I wanted new furniture and all these things, yet I would complain about how much time Greg was spending at the office.”

This is particularly difficult for men because most husbands truly want their wives to be happy, and they are willing to make the sacrifices needed to make it happen.

The problem is that material things rarely keep people happy.

“We might get the new furniture, but that doesn’t quite do it,” Greg says. “There’s something else.  It’s like this constant desire to get those things your wife says she needs to be really happy, but none of them really ever work.”

And too often, the cost of having these things has a huge impact on the marriage. While a husband spends more time at work to make more money, the relationship suffers because the couple has less time to spend together.

“We had to realize what was more important, our relationship or these things,” Shannon says. “And with many couples, they don’t come to that realization until they’re ankle deep in debt.”

Game #4: The Patient/Psycho-Therapist Game

In many marriages, women expect their husbands to also function as their personal therapist.

“I know for years I had that expectation of Greg,” Shannon says. “If I just tell you what all is in my past, how my father treated me, how many people abused me, and so on, then you should fix me. But he didn’t know what to do. He’s an accountant, not a therapist.”

Rather than try to fix her, her husband encouraged her to go to counseling. She says it was the best decision she could have made for their marriage. The professional therapist that she met with helped her understand her emotional needs and take that burden off of her husband.

“When I realized that okay, my husband can’t fix me and I’ve got to work on fixing myself and letting God heal these wounds in my heart, that’s when things really started getting so much better between the two of us.”

If you’ve identified yourself in any of these roles, don’t be discouraged. The authors say that their book is not meant to make wives feel guilty. They simply want to share what they have learned from their own marriage to help couples experience joy in their relationships.

Ultimately, the Ethridges say, the key to having a great marriage lies in how spouses treat each other. When both spouses are seeking to love each other the way they would want to be loved, and are treating each other in emotionally uplifting ways, they will be well on their way to marital bliss.

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