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The Invisible Wife

A few subtle adjustments can make a big difference.
The Invisible Wife
Image: PHOTO BY JOSHUA SWANNER

I remember watching Wonder Woman as a girl. An invisible jet was her ultra-cool way of escaping danger or coming to the rescue. Although being invisible is an asset when you’re a superhero, it’s not very empowering as a wife.

Maybe you know how it feels to be invisible. Maybe you put on a pretty dress, but your husband doesn’t comment on it. Maybe after work your husband is more interested in the nightly news than you, or he plays video games while you wait for him in bed. Maybe you’re co-existing at home, no longer catching eyes or capturing each other’s attention. You’re doing your best to get his attention . . . but it’s just not working.

A few years ago when we had a baby, a toddler, and a kindergartner, it was my husband who felt invisible while I was preoccupied with the kids. Before dinner one evening, I told everyone to dress up crazy. The theme was “everything in the wrong place.” I figured this would buy me some time to cook. My son came to dinner with (clean) underwear on his head. My daughter was wearing socks on her hands, and to my surprise, my husband, James, dressed up too. He came to the table wearing shorts . . . and diapers. He stuck a diaper over his shorts, and more diapers were strewn across his chest diagonally like Rambo with his ammunition. Is this what a grown man has to do to get some attention around here?! I thought.

Sometimes it takes a shock treatment like the Rambo diapers to be seen by your spouse. However, a subtle adjustment may be all you need to make a big difference.

Ask Better Questions

You may be asking yourself, Why doesn’t my husband talk to me? Doesn’t he care about me? Why does it feel like everything, including incoming texts, are more important than I am? Is he still attracted to me?

Dwelling on these types of questions can take you to the dark side, creating a self-inflicted sense that you’re a victim to be pitied. But feeling invisible can often be shifted by just changing your perspective.

Instead, for one week, ask yourself questions like these: Is my husband experiencing any unusual stress or depression right now? Is there something I can do when my husband comes home to make him feel welcome? Do I believe my husband and I are on the same side? Do we need to get professional help for an underlying issue?

It’s easy to get trapped in negative thinking. If you regularly think, My husband doesn’t notice me. It’s as if I’m invisible, your brain will keep looking for behaviors that reinforce that damaging message.

Find the Redemptive Storyline

Instead of allowing negative thinking about your spouse to fill your mind, focus on positive thoughts. Paul instructs us in 2 Corinthians to “take every thought captive.” And in Colossians, he also instructs how to relationally interact with those around you, including your spouse:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (3:12–13)

Paul wrote those words with the knowledge that we will have grievances against one another. It’s impossible to go through marriage without hurting one another’s feelings. So when your spouse doesn’t give you the attention you need at a specific moment—which is bound to happen—you are called to forgive him. But that doesn’t mean you just quietly move on.

Speaking Up

If you have an emotional need that your husband is not meeting, then speak up. It’s important to tell your spouse what you need. Speak with him calmly and kindly about the things that are bothering you, and then put the steps below into action.

Stop nagging. Men (like women) need to feel successful at work, in life, and at home. If your husband feels that you’re regularly “nagging” about what he isn’t doing, he will tune out. He might even conclude that since he’s not successful in communicating to you, he shouldn’t even bother. As a result, he could withdraw even further, making you feel more isolated than ever. Nagging is almost never effective.

State your needs simply and specifically. Figure out what needs to happen in your marriage for you and your husband to thrive. Don’t make vague or abstract statements like, “I need you to notice me.” Your husband probably doesn’t know what to do with that. What you can say instead is, “Honey, you’ve been working so hard, and I appreciate that, but I need more ‘us’ time. Can we go on a dinner date twice a month?” Now that’s something your husband can do. If he says, “I’m sorry, I’m just too busy for that,” that’s a signal to get some outside help (perhaps counseling or having dinner with another couple who can keep you both accountable). The point is not to shame, embarrass, or blame your husband for everything that’s wrong. The point is to demonstrate tough love to get your marriage back on track.

Have a positive connecting ritual. At the end of each day, James and I have this quirky habit: I tickle his feet while we talk about the day. It’s our way of connecting. The door is closed, the kids are in bed, and we can say whatever is on our minds. It’s hard to feel invisible if you have a daily time of connecting with your spouse. Maybe after work, you both sit on the couch for five minutes. Begin with a kiss and then give a quick debrief on the day so far. Those daily five minutes of having your husband’s full and undivided attention may be the difference between feeling ignored and feeling loved.

Be consistent and don’t blame yourself. You may be doing everything in your power to improve your marriage yet your spouse still doesn’t respond to you. If that is the case, don’t heap on guilt or berate yourself. Keep on treating your husband with kindness and supporting him even when it’s challenging. Remember, God immediately notices you and is always watching; he sees your efforts. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to seek outside help if you’re concerned that there’s a larger underlying issue taking place.

Growing Together

So what’s the opposite of being an invisible wife? Being seen, cherished, and championed. Remember when my husband wore diapers to dinner to get some attention? Your husband may feel invisible too. Set your sights on championing and cherishing your man more; chances are, he’ll do the same for you. It’s time to park the invisible jet in the hangar—for good.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Arlene Pellicane

Arlene Pellicane is a TCW regular contributor and the author of several books, including 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. Arlene lives in Southern California with her husband James and their three children. You can connect with Arlene at @ArlenePellicane and on ArlenePellicane.com.

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Husbands; Loneliness; Marriage; Marriage Struggles; Spouse; Wives
Today's Christian Woman, December 9, 2015
Posted December 9, 2015

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