How to Handle My Disrespectful Wife?

28 May, 2020
Q Salamu alaykum. How should a husband react if his wife always exhibits an act of disrespect towards her mother-in-law and her husband' siblings and she might have been cautioned several times?


In this counseling answer:

“I would kindly suggest that the husband sits down with the wife in a non-threatening manner and ask her why she is so angry towards him and his family. Finding out the “why” of a behavior is part of finding a solution. While it does not excuse the disrespectful behavior, it may help by knowing what is causing it.”

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum,

Thank you for writing to us with your most important question. I am not an Islamic scholar, therefore, I will address your question from a humanistic perspective which values the treatment of others with honor and respect.

It appears that the wife is unable to control her disrespectful behavior towards her husband, mother-in-law, and her husband’s siblings. This inability to control her impulses for negative behaviors and words may stem from several things.

This could include a sincere disregard for their feelings as well as the feeling animosity towards them. The question would be why? Why does she feel this way? Did something happen to her that caused her to feel this way?

I would kindly suggest that the husband sit down with the wife in a non-threatening manner and ask her why she is so angry towards him and his family. Finding out the “why” of a behavior is part of finding a solution. While it does not excuse the disrespectful behavior, it may help by knowing what is causing it.

Other issues related to disrespect can stem from trauma, depression, self-esteem issues, past or current abuse, or mental health issues. While the wife may not mean to be disrespectful, but because of her pain and/or anger, she is unable to control her internal impulses to lash out.

Cultural issues can also play a part.  What I mean by cultural issues is that what is sometimes seen as disrespectful in some cultures such as direct eye contact, speaking before being spoken to, disagreeing with an opinion may not be seen as disrespectful in another culture.   Therefore, it is advisable insha’Allah to determine if there are cultural issues to understand as well.

As the wife has been addressed several times already, she either does not understand what is disrespectful (if she is in a new culture), or she cares but due to her own issues she cannot control it, or, she just doesn’t care. In any case, I would kindly suggest trying to find out why she is disrespectful (in a kind way) as well as explaining to her how it makes (the husband) feel when she is disrespectful.

Often times, to actually hear how actions make another feel (hurt, betrayed, etc.) may make the person stop and think before they speak.  If possible, explain to the wife that being disrespectful is not a good reflection of her own self-esteem and offer to go to counseling with her to help get to the root of her issues that are causing her to act out in this way.

Of course, if it is due to cultural differences, you may want to work with her on understanding different customs and ways of responding to others. For instance, in an ESL class, I was teaching a young man who always appeared to be upset when he was with his classmates in a group setting. By talking to him about his feelings, I learned that he felt disrespected because his classmates had a habit of talking rather loudly to him (and others) during word games. In his culture, this was a sign of deep disrespect. However, in the country he was living, it was a sign of excitement and enthusiasm.

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Lastly, until the cause of the disrespect is sorted out, insha’Allah the husband can reach an agreement with his wife that certain things which are offensive won’t be said. He should insha’Allah convey the families’ love for her as well as their hurt and sadness when she says things which are disrespectful. Perhaps insha’Allah this will help her to think and reflect before she speaks.

If she refuses to comply or refuses counseling, the husband may need to disengage her from family functions until a resolution is reached. The husband should not allow the mother or other family members to be disrespected, just as he should not tolerate the wife being disrespected.

At this point, counseling should be utilized as a condition to save the marriage, for one who is constantly disrespectful will surely tear a home apart. Insha’Allah, it will not come to that.

You are in our prayers,


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.