The Quarrelsome Wife

By December 28, 20105 Comments

Every time I read through Proverbs there are a few select proverbs that, as a wife, I read with fear and trembling. Proverbs 27:15-16 is one of them:

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

Doesn’t that description sound awful? I never want to be the kind of wife who can only be described as a continual “dripping!” What woman would??

I’ve read those verses for years as a cautionary tale, but this week I read them from a slightly different perspective: one of empathy. No woman WANTS to be a nagging wife, but it happens to most of us at one time or another. Which begs the question: How did the woman of this proverb become such a quarrelsome wife? What can I learn from her?

As I thought about this question, I remembered a blog I wrote last summer called Why It’s Hard to End an Argument. In it I shared the following research about how women respond to conflict biologically:

When you get into a fight, your heart starts pounding and your stomach clenches, thereby sending signals to the brain that say, “You are angry! Get angry!” For both men and women, it takes about 2 seconds for this system to kick in. We are able to engage at about the same speed.

However, it takes longer for women to turn that system off. As the argument winds down, a man’s body will slowly relax, signaling to his brain that all is well again and he can go to sleep in peace. A woman’s body, on the other hand, remains upset longer. Her body is still tense and her heart is still racing, so her brain thinks, “I must still be upset.”

As a result of this biological wiring, it’s harder for women to simply let an argument go. The fight might be over, but our bodies are telling our brains, “You’re still upset about something! Stay mad! Don’t let him off the hook.” We may even find things to get upset about, dragging the argument out even further.

It’s funny how you can write something and then completely forget about it a few months later, because this info would have come in REALLY handy a couple days ago. I was upset with my husband about something and I could NOT let it go! I was so hurt and frustrated that I kept bringing the issue up over and over again, beating the horse long after it was dead.

But when reading Proverbs 27:15-16 in conjunction with the above research, it’s easy to see how women can easily become “quarrelsome.” When we are upset about something, it takes awhile for our bodies to physically calm down, which makes us very difficult to “restrain.” That reality also led me to reinterpret the second half of the proverb. I had always read it as a warning to men, but it could easily be directed at women. When I get upset, it is VERY difficult to restrain myself, even when I know that I need to calm down.

So rather than read Proverbs 27:15-16 from a position of judgment, this proverb is a fantastic window into the mind and heart of a woman. Women aren’t quarrelsome because we have nothing better to do than nag our husbands and be controlling. Sometimes we are quarrelsome because it is physically difficult to rein in our emotions. Our argumentativeness is often the result of not knowing how to properly process how we’re feeling. And while that hard-wiring does not free me to indulge my feelings and sin in my anger, my knowledge of it does set me free from being ruled by those feelings.


  • Carol says:

    Good, thoughtful article. As with most issues that are gender-related we still have to realize that there is a wide span of variation in individuals. In our marriage of 32 years we have found that I generally am the one who can walk away after an argument and my husband is more prone to hang on to the negative emotions.

  • Emily Gidcumb says:

    Good post, but this is unrelated. Call me when you are in town, I forgot your schedule but I would like to get coffee or something 🙂

  • Ashleigh says:

    I read this on my Blackberry months ago and meant to leave a comment but decided it was too dificult then lol. Anyways, I love your blog and appreciate your insight!

    Everytime I’ve read that verse I always think of an old Disney short I saw as a child called “Drip Dippy Donald”


    Poor Donald comes home from a long day needing sleep badly, only to have a faucet that drips, drips, drips … It keeps him awake until it drives him crazy. He then receives a phonecall saying, “Mr. Duck, you haven’t paid your water bill so we have to cut it off.” He bursts into excited laughter.

    Everytime I read that verse I think of that. When I nag and quarrel with my husband I am hurting him. It may seem silly but I always see Donald, crazed look in his eye, rejoicing when they finally cut the water off. I’d rather not have water than deal with this constant dripping!
    I don’t want to be like that with my husband!

    Anways thanks again for this thoughtful post! 🙂

  • Interesting point.

    As I understand it, the proverbs regarding quarrelsome wives are addressing those that are habitually so and quite often completely unaware they are so perceived and even unwilling to consider they might be so. In extreme cases they might not care. Consider Proverbs 14:1’s description of someone whose perceptions are seriously out of touch with most other folks. Habitually quarrelsome wives are like that. Their husbands get to demonstrate how Believers respond when they get sickness, poorer, and/or worse.

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