Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 21:19
"It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman"
Many people have seen this proverb as directed at women, but the verse is really directed at the husband. Do not create a contentious and vexing woman is what the proverb is saying. Now it is true that ladies have choices and should choose to develop a godly soul that is not bitter and vengeful; but it is also true – more than most husbands want to realize – that they create the climate they come home to every day.
Nobody chooses to marry a contentious and vexing person. That would be insanity. But contentious and vexing people can be created through neglect, selfishness, abuse, and lack of love.
This is the Hebrew word maddilah, which means to drive or push something away. The root meaning is pictured as an ax being swung into something, driving it away or pushing it away yourself. The translators used the word contentiousto try and carry the meaning of this impelling and driving-away energy.
The word contentiousmeans that your wife has a point of view of which she will not let go. You would be wise to listen to her point of view and realize that there must be truth to what she is saying because she is not letting go of it. What is she contending about? This does not mean that you need to do it her way to keep her from being contentious; but it means that her ideas, points, reasoning, and perspective must be treated as valid and a part of the decision-making or you will create a miserable home life.
In modern American culture this principle also now works for women creating contentious husbands. Many women are driving their husbands away by believing the cultural nonsense that men have little value beyond paychecks and occasional romance. So they disregard their decisions and ignore their advice and ridicule their interests and opinions.
Think about the fact that every marriage in the time leading up to the altar starts with cooperation, respect, and care. Yet in our culture that is replaced in 50% of the cases in just a few short years with vehement contentions and hatred of each other. In other words, the truth of this verse has been lived out. Contentious and vexing men and women have been created out of loving, caring, and respectful people.
Ask yourself the question: Are you right now enhancing the love, respect, and care that you started with in your marriage; or are you pushing down the road to creating a contentious and vexing spouse? It is your choice.
The picture that Solomon is painting is that of barren wilderness, filled with nothing. He is painting this picture for a reason. He is trying to give us insight into how a vexing and contentious spouse is created.
Solomon regularly speaks in hyperbole in these comparison proverbs so that we can see the point. In this case he is saying that a barren place with none of the things that you would like to have but with a calm, caring, respectful, and loving spouse is better than a contentious, vexing spouse with all the creature comforts that you think you need and deserve. Do you see the picture? Barrenness with a wonderful relationship is better than lots of stuff and a terrible relationship. What is Solomon saying? It is the clamor of the stuff that you have to have; the friends you hang on to over your spouse’s objection; the recreational pursuits your spouse hates; the money you shouldn't spend on stuff you don't need that you spend anyway; the hundreds of hours of work you put in neglecting spouse and family to "provide" for them while really doing what you want and like. All of this is what turns your spouse from the loving person you married into the contentious and vexing person you are now married to. You got the stuff you wanted, but you created a monster. Stop and reverse the process. To have a great relationship means that your spouse must be more important than the stuff you are trying to fill your life with.
Marriage is a negotiation; a series of compromises; listening to other perspectives; valuing another person above your own selfish pursuits. If you win all the time in your marriage, then you are most likely losing in the larger picture of creating an enjoyable marriage.
This is the Hebrew word kaas, which means vex, agitate, stir up, even provoke. The idea is clearly that the other person pushes your buttons. They know how to get you all riled up. I am amazed at the number of marriages that I see where both parties have become experts at stirring up their spouse. If they are losing an argument and their spouse might be right, they will change the subject rather than concede and change and stir up their spouse with some off-the-wall comment or subject sure to derail the present argument. Vexing means getting to the place where if your spouse says black, you immediately say white. If they say they want X, you will automatically be for something else. Vexing means that you have become an expert at how to get your spouse all spun up and hot under the collar, often so you can have justification for why you don't have to listen to what your spouse says.
Marriage partners should be experts at how to calm their spouses down. Marriages should be the place where there is always time to listen to the other person even if you don't share their point of view. Marriage should be where all the options are always welcome so that the best decision can be uncovered. Marriage is the place where the relational bond comes before anything either party may want.
Realize that you can change the climate of your marriage by focusing more value on the relational bond than the stuff you want.
Thankfully I married a wonderful woman, Dana, who understands the importance of peace, calm, compromise, and love. I am continually thankful for her willingness to sacrifice, bend, and work for the good of our relationship.