It is a VERY tough position to be in to want to be close to God, to want to obey God and to feel like you can’t follow your husband. You may long for him to lead a family devotion time, or prayer time. You may want him to be the one to tell the children why it’s important to go to church or to plan out character lessons to teach each child. You may want him to work with the kids on memory verses. You may wish that your husband spent more time with the family and not so much time at work. You may feel like you HAVE to take over the leadership role because it doesn’t seem like he wants it. You might be praying every single day for God to change your husband and cause him to be more like Christ. You may feel like your husband isn’t as close to God as he should be. Maybe you don’t see him praying. Maybe you are in charge of the finances and working full time and keeping the house and taking care of the children and it seems like an unfair majority of the burden is on your shoulders. Maybe you ask your husband to help you, but he just ignores you and keeps watching tv. Maybe you tell him how unhappy you are and what you need and it feels like you are talking to a wall. Or maybe you try to draw near to him and tell him about your pain so he will see how much you hurt and fix it, and he gets REALLY angry and lashes out at you and begins talking about your faults. Maybe you ask for your husband’s input or decision-making and he just never answers or says the dreaded, “I don’t know” phrase or he ignores you, or just tells you to do whatever you want and you feel like he doesn’t care and isn’t plugged in to the family and the marriage.
If these things sound familiar to you – you are not alone! Many wives feel like this and struggle daily with these same issues. Yes, this situation is extremely discouraging and may begin to make you think that your husband just doesn’t love you anymore or that following your husband’s leadership just isn’t possible in your case. You might think he can’t lead the family. You might just write him off as not being able to ever “man-up” and take care of family responsibilities. You might be wondering why God isn’t answering your prayers? Why isn’t your husband changing? You are praying clearly for God’s will – a godly husband who is a strong, Christ-like leader for your family. Why on earth have your prayers gone unanswered for months or years or decades? Why doesn’t God hear?
Precious, beautiful wife, I obviously don’t know your situation. But God does! There is GREAT HOPE in Christ!!!! I am EXTREMELY far from being perfect. I have a very long way to go to be what God desires me to be. But God has brought me such a long way from where I was – and I thank and praise Him daily for that! He gets ALL the credit for anything good in me. And I get ALL the credit for anything ungodly in my life. I don’t deserve His grace, forgiveness and mercy. But I NEED HIM DESPERATELY!
I know the pain of thinking that my husband wasn’t leading me and our family. I know the burden of believing that I had to carry all that weight myself and it was too heavy for me! Maybe something about my journey can shed new light on your marriage, too? I pray that God will use my journey into being a respectful, submissive, joyful, peaceful, strong wife to teach other women and to bless other marriages.
There are several very central, CRITICAL truths I have learned as a Christian and as a wife that have changed my life and my marriage that I want to share (with my husband’s whole-hearted approval) with wives who might be in a similar place to where I was years ago:
- GOD IS SOVEREIGN – EVEN OVER MY MARRIAGE, EVEN OVER MY HUSBAND, AND OVER MY LIFE.
- I CANNOT CHANGE MY HUSBAND AND MAKE HIM MORE LIKE CHRIST. I can aggravate him, push him away from God, make him want to be far away from me and make us both miserable by trying to change him, make him dread being in the same room with me, but I cannot change him – not for the better! I am not the Holy Spirit!
- GOD IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN CHANGE MY HUSBAND – HIS WAY AND HIS TIMING IS BEST.
- MY JOB IS TO OBEY GOD ON MY END AND NOT WORRY ABOUT MY HUSBAND’S SIDE OF THE EQUATION, BUT TRUST GOD AND DO MY PART.
- WHEN I DO OBEY GOD AS A WIFE, I OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF THE POWERS OF HEAVEN TO WORK IN MYSELF, MY MARRIAGE, MY HUSBAND AND OUR CHILDREN.
- MY OBEDIENCE CAN REALLY SPEED UP THE PROCESS FOR GOD TO CHANGE MY HUSBAND.
- MY DISOBEDIENCE CAN KEEP MY HUSBAND FROM HEARING GOD’S VOICE AND CAN PUSH MY HUSBAND AWAY FROM ME AND FROM GOD.
- I HAVE A FOREST OF TREES IN MY OWN EYE THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BEFORE I COMPLAIN ABOUT THE SPECK IN MY HUSBAND’S EYE.
- I CAN DO NOTHING GOOD APART FROM CHRIST AND HIS POWER WORKING IN ME.
- I AM UTTERLY SINFUL AND WRETCHED ON MY OWN.
- I NEED TO LIVE IN HUMILITY WITH A VERY REAL AWARENESS OF THE MAGNITUDE OF MY OWN FAULTS AND HOW SMALL AND IMPOTENT I AM AND HOW HUGE, POWERFUL, SOVEREIGN, ALL-KNOWING, WISE, LOVING, MERCIFUL, FORGIVING AND HOLY GOD IS!
Whew! This stuff is ugly. I don’t really enjoy this part, but unless we open up our own souls and allow God’s Word to shine in there to the darkest corners, we can’t move on to the great stuff. I would like for you to consider some things and whether or not these may be possibilities in your heart and in your marriage as we think about the issue of your husband’s leadership in your home. We are only going to look at ourselves as wives in this exercise and how we may be contributing to the success or failure of our husband’s leadership in our marriages. Please stop and pray and ask God to give you insight and wisdom into your own heart and life, as well as conviction wherever it is needed from His perspective. Please meditate and pray about how many of the following may apply to you and your marriage – many applied in mine, but not all - (if you are dealing with an active addict, someone chronically unfaithful, a hardened criminal, or someone with an uncontrolled mental health disorder – please get godly, experienced help ASAP! Following a husband in these cases could be very dangerous. Safety for you and your children is the priority if you are in a physically abusive situation!!):
- If I ask my husband to make a decision, and he doesn’t give me a “real” answer within 5-30 minutes, I get angry.
- I yell at my husband, throw things at him, and call him horrible names.
- I attack my husband’s character when we argue.
- If my husband asks me to do something I don’t like or don’t agree with, I refuse to go along with him. I will only follow if he leads where I want to go.
- If my husband comes up with an idea or plan, I find fault with his thinking and his solutions and tell him that his way won’t work, only my way will.
- I criticize my husband’s opinions, preferences, tastes, wardrobe, hair style, hobbies, thoughts, suggestions, and plans.
- I react negatively when my husband tries to help me. He just doesn’t load the dishwasher right, or change the baby’s diaper right, or fold the laundry right. He never hears me praise him and say, “Thank you SO much for the help!” He only hears me say, “I’m going to have to redo it all the RIGHT way!” Or “Why can’t you ever get it right?” or “That is C+ work, not A material.” Or “You’re not doing it right!”
- If my husband tries to please me, what he does is never enough, I always want more than what he delivered.
- I frown at my husband a lot.
- I sound angry, frustrated, impatient, and like I am reprimanding and scolding a naughty little boy many times when I speak to my husband.
- My facial expressions, my tone of voice, my words sound condemning of my husband often.
- I act disrespectfully towards my husband to show him that he needs to pull his weight more and love me more and to show him how unhappy I am.
- I withhold physical intimacy with my husband to punish him.
- My husband often rejects me physically – it feels like I am pursuing him and it seems like he has lost his attraction for me.
- My husband tends to ignore me a lot.
- I feel very lonely, like the whole weight of the entire marriage and family is on my shoulders alone. I feel overwhelmed by all that has to be done.
- I have to take over leadership because my husband won’t lead.
- I have very specific ideas about what a husband’s leadership should be and my husband is not meeting my standards.
- I am always “right” and I make sure my husband knows that he is always wrong. My way is best. I know best what our family and marriage needs.
- I don’t trust my husband’s ideas.
- If I let my husband be in charge he’d destroy our lives.
- I think my husband’s ideas are ridiculous.
- I don’t think my husband can be an effective leader.
- I think my husband is an overgrown boy.
- I have to correct my husband when he is talking with other people or he gets things wrong.
- I have to tell my husband what to do or he does nothing.
- I’m very intelligent, strong-willed, perfectionistic, opinionated, and possibly some family members might say I could be “controlling.”
- Thinking of yielding my control makes me have a panic attack. THE WORLD WILL FALL APART IF I AM NOT IN CHARGE!
- I am exhausted from trying to take care of everything myself all the time. I don’t relax.
- I resent my husband for relaxing and taking time for himself to recharge.
- I cannot or will not forgive my husband for how he has hurt me in the past.
If some of these statements resonate with you – and you may or may not have been consciously aware that these are the things you have been thinking – I’d like for us to consider some things together. These may be kind of shocking to you. They may not all apply, but the ones that do apply to you definitely need to be dealt with between you and God.
- Many of these ideas have a VERY prideful origin. “I know best.” “I know better than he does.” And it might even be, “I know better than God does.” THAT IS HUGE PRIDE! This is some of the most repulsive, nasty, cancerous sin from God’s perspective. I had to confess DUMP TRUCK LOADS of my own pride to God for a long, long time to begin to get my perspective straightened out and really see what God saw in me.
- When the wife puts herself in charge (even if she thinks she “has” to – unless there is serious illness or an extended absence of the husband in the home), and takes over the husband’s God-given place of authority in the marriage, husbands usually either react with great anger or by unplugging completely and letting the wife be in control by herself. Husbands who feel steam-rolled by their wives are not going to sit there and take it. They go as far away physically and emotionally as they can or they fight and fight to the death for their honor.
- Most of the sentiments above contain a large dose of DISRESPECT for our husbands. Disrespect isn’t really talked about much in our culture anymore. God commands wives to respect their husbands (I Peter 3 and Ephesians 5:22-33) and we may think that we are doing fine with that verse and easily gloss over one of the most critical components of a successful marriage – genuine respect for our husbands. I read that verse plenty of times and checked off, “Yep! I’m doing that!” and moved on through the rest of the chapter. I had no idea that there was an entire world of respect that I was totally unaware of. I had no idea how many seemingly insignificant comments and remarks I made, and the tone of my voice conveyed an almost constant disrespect to my husband. I HAD NO IDEA THAT I WAS WOUNDING MY HUSBAND AND BRINGING MISERY ON BOTH OF US! I always thought HE needed to change. I didn’t have a clue that my disrespect and my controlling attitudes were destroying our marriage. THAT WAS A BLOW THAT TOOK MY BREATH AWAY. It sent me reeling for days at first. Then I decided that I was going to study respect and submission and become the best wife I could possibly be! I was so thankful there was something I COULD CONTROL and do to make things better!
- Is it possible that your husband may feel so beaten down, so criticized, so condemned, so hated and so much like a failure that he has given up even attempting to lead? Every time he tried to lead, my way was better. Whenever he suggested something, I had all the answers and he was wrong. When he had an idea, it wasn’t good enough. Eventually he realized that there was no point trying to lead someone who “is always right.” OUCH! He NEVER said anything. He never said he felt disrespected. He couldn’t verbalize the problem. I had a toxic, critical, judgmental, un-forgiving, ungodly, negative attitude that is poisoning our marriage.
- Especially Christian women tend to have very high expectations of husbands as leaders. We often expect them to lead Bible studies and prayer sessions out loud in our families. We expect them to know more of the Bible than we do. We expect them to talk about spiritual things a lot. We expect to see them studying their Bibles and praying on their own for hours every week. We want them to initiate prayer time with us every night. Unless your husband had a lot of experience praying out loud, he may not be comfortable praying out loud even in front of you – ESPECIALLY if you come across as being more spiritually mature than he is and as being better with words and knowing the Bible more than he does. He may be intimidated by you. He may feel like a spiritual failure compared to you. Maybe our expectations are unrealistic? Maybe our husbands lead in a lot of ways that we don’t acknowledge or even notice. It takes many years, even decades for a lot of men to learn to be strong spiritual leaders. We can be extremely impatient with our men and destroy their ability and desire to grow as leaders. If I really am more mature, I will be patient and not try to pressure or force things. I will remember I Peter 3:1 – Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.
- Is it possible that my husband sees me as being “holier-than-thou?”
- Men need encouragement, praise, admiration, a cheerleader, someone to say when they are doing things right! THEN they will have the courage to forge ahead into the unknown and intimidating world of leadership and try new things and grow stronger. He has to know he has my unwavering support and faith. He has to know that if he makes a mistake, I am not going to make a big deal of it. He has to know I trust him. THEN he will grow and become so much more the godly man that God desires him to be.
- Sometimes husbands lead in subtle ways. They forgive easily. They don’t hold grudges. They are patient. They try to do what is best for the family. They continue to give of themselves even when their efforts are not appreciated. They have talks with the children about their attitudes and behavior. They try to help out when we are sick. They are generous. They are kind. They are faithful to us. They work hard to provide for the family financially – this is one of THE BIGGEST ways that most husbands try to show their love and leadership. They live with integrity. They try to do what is right. They show respect to others. I can learn to appreciate all that he does right and not try to put him in a little box of my specific expectations.
- Maybe he DOES try to lead – or maybe he used to try. But whenever he would lead in a way that you didn’t agree with, you wouldn’t follow. That’s what I did, too! After a few years of leading and no one following, understandably, a lot of men give up.
- If I am disrespecting the spiritual authority of my husband over me and trying to go around him to God to complain about my husband – God will not be pleased! My disobedience will grieve the heart of God more than my view on my husband’s lack of leadership abilities. My critical, judgmental, disrespectful attitude towards my husband means that I also have a critical, judgmental, disrespectful attitude towards the One that put my husband over our marriage. God does not hear my prayers when they are steeped in sin, pride, judgment and lack of respect for God-given authority!!!!
- My faith in God is small. My understanding of God and picture of Him is small.
- I am a pretty horrible follower and supporter!
- I may be committing idolatry by putting myself in God’s place and trying to be God in my life.
If your husband has given up trying to be the leader in the marriage – you can give him the beautiful gift of your submission to his leadership! You can make things right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here are a few things you may want to do to begin to get back on track (pray and see if these might apply to you or if God might show you other ideas that fit your situation and marriage):
- Confess to your husband what you did wrong and apologize. HUSBANDS ONLY REALLY NEED/WANT A SINCERE APOLOGY ONE TIME!!!!!!! “I realize now that I have taken over the leadership role of our marriage and I am WRONG for doing this! I have sinned against God and against you and our family. I apologize for not following your leadership. I’m so glad that God gave you the position of authority over me and over our family. I am stepping down and I want to support your decisions and trust you to do what is best for us from now on.”
- Accept your husband for the man he is right now today even if he NEVER changes!!!
- I am responsible to God for my own sanctification, growing in Christ. I don’t have to wait on my husband to help me grow or wait for him to “catch up.” If I am really growing in my relationship with Christ, I will be humble towards my husband and towards God and let them work out my husband’s spiritual growth. I will concentrate only on my own spiritual maturity and I WILL BE PRETTY QUIET ABOUT SPIRITUAL THINGS if this is a difficult area for my husband. I will let my husband see my joy in Christ, my humility before my husband, my respectful attitude and willingness to follow where he leads… THAT is what will help make my husband hunger for God!
- Make decisions for yourself about things you are doing, eating, wearing, how you spend your time, but let him make his own decisions for himself and let him make decisions for the family.
- Uphold his decisions in front of the children.
- Speak and act respectfully towards him. Ask if you are in doubt, “Is this respectful?” “Was I just disrespectful?”
- Listen when he talks to you – put down what you are doing and listen like you are interested.
- Be encouraging about his ideas. Try not to squash his creativity, plans and ideas. Let him have room to think, dream and plan.
- Don’t tell him what to do – if he asks, you can offer your perspective humbly.
- Praise him whenever he leads the family, even in the smallest of ways, and does a good job!!!! THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT! You will help him build confidence in his abilities. If he hasn’t ever been the leader, be patient, it will be baby-steps but that’s fine!
- If he makes a decision, back him (unless he’s asking you to sin) and support him graciously, joyfully, cheerfully. You may tell him your needs and desires and your feelings, but ultimately the decision is up to him. God gives him insight and wisdom he doesn’t give to you. This is about trusting God to lead you through your husband – it is about your faith in God!!!
- Get rid of negativity!!!
- Ideally, give him the finances. It often works SO much better when I am not telling him what to do and how to spend money.
- If he decides to give you something, take you out to eat, go on a spontaneous vacation, SMILE, accept graciously and don’t question if he should or should not give wonderful things to you. Say, “Thank you! You are SO generous! You’re such a wonderful husband!”
- Even if you feel like he is “leading you nowhere” – that is ok! At one point, I prayed, “God, I am willing to sit RIGHT HERE spiritually and geographically and never move another inch if this is where you want me. I trust You to lead me through my husband. I am NOT going to run ahead anymore. I will patiently wait on You if I sit here until I am 80!” It’s funny, it wasn’t long after I adopted that attitude that things began to go full-throttle!
- Thank God for your husband’s leadership and spiritual authority over you daily.
- Thank your husband for his leadership and spiritual authority over you – even if he is not a believer! Even if he is an immature Christian! God said the husband IS the head of the wife in Ephesians 5:22 – take God at His Word and thank God for His provision for you. God can and will use even a non-believer or a very immature husband to lead a believing wife who trusts in Him!
- Have a willing spirit to be led by your husband and by God.
Maybe none of these things apply to your marriage, if so, I pray that God will direct you to the resources you need to apply to your situation. But if some of these things have been eye-opening for you, I’d encourage you to repent and commit to seeking God’s face and His will in your life and your marriage starting today!
I believe it is God’s plan to teach husbands to be effective, humble, servant-leaders in the world by learning to be a leader at home first. I believe that God desires to use the respect, admiration and cooperation of godly wives to shape men and instruct them in leadership in marriage. God CAN use your willing spirit to help mold and influence your husband if your heart is right with God and you are respectful of the God-given position of authority God gave your husband. What a high calling! We will also be influencing our children and showing them how to have a godly marriage – AND our obedience to God will draw many others to Christ!!!!!! MUCH IS AT STAKE HERE! I pray we act wisely and in full obedience and surrender to God.
I know this is a very tough and very painful subject! You know how many tears I cried myself over these issues for so many years in my own marriage. My heart breaks with wives who are anxious, afraid, lonely, overwhelmed and scared to make these changes. I pray that You might show each wife how to take that step of faith and trust You to work through our husbands for our good and Your glory! Help us to see that You will catch us and that what seems so terrifying is actually a gateway to peace and the life we have always longed for. Give us girlfriends to encourage and sustain us! Give us prayer partners to pray with us. Help us desire to obey You even when we don’t completely want to and don’t understand Your wisdom. Help us trust You with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength! Open the floodgates of heaven on the women who have the courage to obey You in this area of following their husbands’ leadership! Let them see Your miracles! Let them find the beautiful place that this painful path brings us to – a place of joy, love, peace, hope, deep intimacy with You and with our husbands and abundant life! Don’t let Satan retain a stronghold in our hearts any longer! Let us sincerely repent of our sin! Let us turn to Your ways and begin the adventure of following You each day, anticipating all the wonderful things You will do to provide for us, protect us, and guide us through our husbands. Thank You for Your design for marriage! Help us to embrace Your wisdom and learn it and live it and then teach it to other wives! Use us to greatly bless our husbands, marriages and children. And use us to greatly bless the world with the fragrance, salt and light of Christ!