How to Defend and Stand up for Your Spouse

husband comforts and defends upset wife
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Will Smith’s desire to stand up for his wife raises the question: What’s the best way to defend your spouse?

In the aftermath of Will Smith’s unscripted slap of Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, the social media world weighed in on his actions.  

Some people admired Smith for defending his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Others tweeted that there’s no excuse for violence — even following a joke that poked fun at his wife’s hairstyle, which is the result of alopecia, a disorder that leads to hair loss.

“While I like Will Smith’s desire to stand up for his wife, it raises the question: What’s the best way to defend your spouse?” says Greg Smalley, vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

Stand up for your spouse

To “stand up” for your spouse is to “protect or defend” them, to challenge someone who is hurting or disrespecting them.

“Always be your spouse’s ‘wingman,’ ” Smalley says. “Be your spouse’s ally, shield and advocate. You are each other’s ‘helpmate.’ ” (Genesis 2:18)

Will Smith demonstrated protective behavior, but Smalley suggests a different response that would be a more appropriate way to “stand up” for his wife. “I agree with his heart, but I disagree with his choice to hit a man — even for a really insensitive public joke. I would rather have seen him talk to Chris Rock privately and then allowed Chris to publicly apologize to Jada.”

Stand by your spouse

Smalley says it’s also important for spouses to “stand by” each other. 

To “stand by” your spouse means to support or be loyal to them. Does your spouse know that you will be there when it matters? Spouses need to know they have each other’s backs, that they’ll support each other through “good times and bad times,” Smalley says. 

“My wife, Erin, is my teammate and I will always support her,” Smalley says. “We may have a difference of opinion about things from time to time, but we would choose to discuss those differences in private.”

Tips for defending your spouse

Smalley suggests several ways to “stand by” and “stand up” for your spouse:

  • Set boundaries with people who constantly disparage, hurt or disrespect your spouse. Don’t allow your children or extended family members to repeatedly hurt your spouse. You can’t control people, but you can remove yourself and your spouse from the relationship. “I once had to set a boundary with a family member who was repeatedly lying about my wife,” Smalley says.
  • Err on the side of standing up for your spouse and having their back. After God, your spouse is your first priority — not your boss, your siblings, your parents or your children. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9).
  • Defend your spouse in public; correct your spouse in private.
  • Display a united front with children, extended family members, friends and others. “People, kids especially, are great at finding cracks to divide you and your spouse,” Smalley says. “Remember, Mark 3:25 tells us that a house divided against itself will not be able to stand.”
  • Have a conversation with your spouse about this topic. Ask, “How would you want me to “stand up” for you and “stand by” you?” 
  • Review your wedding vows. Talk about what “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part” mean. 

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