That’s what I used to think. I am “helping” him! That sounds noble and godly, right? That is what I told myself. Many women believe their husbands couldn’t survive in the world without them doing things for him and telling him what to do and critiquing him constantly and keeping a running account of all of the things he does “wrong” and constantly throwing his failures up in his face. It’s super common these days for wives to tell their husbands how to run their business situations, to constantly give him helpful “advice” about decisions he needs to make and to tell him that she knows better than he does about parenting. These women are sadly underestimating their men and are actually making the situation even worse by demoralizing their husbands and making him feel like a failure when they could be building up their men and creating a more wonderful atmosphere for the whole family. Our culture and media constantly tell us that a wife being “smarter” and a better leader than her husband is normal now in marriage. Or at the very least – men and women are “equal” now. They can share leadership in marriage, right? Split everything right down the middle- chores, childcare, working outside the home, finances, leadership- and it will be great! … Or, that is what we hear. It didn’t work out that way in my experience or in the marriages of other women I have seen try to take control over their husbands.
Men and women ARE of equal value before God. His Word about husbands being the head of the wife is NOT the statement of a woman-hater. God is the designer of men and women, He loves us more than we can imagine! He created masculinity and femininity and He knows what we as men and women need and what we are designed to do. He knows the damage that will happen to marriages when the wives take over and the husbands unplug and things are all topsy-turvy. He wants to spare us the pain of attempting to run a marriage into a ditch in a way that is contrary to His wise and beautiful design.
Almost all women, before they decide to really look at the issue of God giving leadership and authority in marriage to the husband think to themselves something like – “Ummm…. THAT wouldn’t work in MY situation! You don’t understand MY husband. He isn’t a leader. He won’t do anything around the house.” “I’m the only mature one around here, if it is going to get done, I’m the only one who can do it.” “I have to talk to him like he’s an idiot or he won’t do anything right. He’s stupid.” (Yes, I am actually quoting an ex-wife verbatim for that last one). “My husband isn’t spiritually/emotionally mature or responsible enough to lead our family.” “I can’t trust my husband’s decisions. He’s too selfish.” “My husband isn’t a Christian, so I don’t have to follow him.” “My husband doesn’t read his Bible and I don’t see him praying, so that excuses me from God’s commands to wives.” “My situation is unique and I am exempt from obeying God” – is basically what almost every wife thinks when confronted with God’s Word about how He designed marriage. As Dr. Phil would say, “Well, how’s THAT workin’ for ya?” Not too well, in my case! That’s for sure!
I didn’t recognize myself as controlling for a REALLY long time. I’m sure other people could immediately see it but I just thought I was “helping” people by trying to get them to do what I thought was best for them. “If only everyone would do as I say- they would be so much better off!” Right? Some other “recovering control freaks” and I were laughing about this today at church. When you see the whole controlling issue in someone else’s life- IT LOOKS AWFUL! Then when it dawned on me that I was being controlling- I was absolutely mortified. Laura Doyle (author of “The Surrendered Wife”) says that unfortunately what wives view as “helping” comes across as “controlling” to their husbands- and it offends them deeply. My controlling behavior – telling my husband what to do and how to do it and when – implied loudly to him that I didn’t trust him to handle things and I didn’t think he was capable. What a TERRIBLE message to send to my man! A wise wife sends messages to her husband that make him WANT to be with her and make him feel like he is a wonderful success, not a catastrophic failure as a man. A husband is designed by God to need his wife’s affirmation, faith, respect and admiration to build him up to be the leader God designed him to be. For me to deny him respect and to refuse to follow his leadership kept my husband from being able to lead properly and kept him demoralized, discouraged, and unplugged from me. And I got what I wanted – I had just about all the weight of the family on my shoulders (or at least, it felt like it!), and I stumbled beneath the pressure and the load. I wasn’t designed to take on that weight- my husband was. God didn’t give me the job of leading in my marriage, he gave it squarely to my husband. That leadership position is not transferable to a wife. God says, “The husband IS the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church.” (Ephesians 5). It doesn’t say the husband SHOULD be the head of the wife or COULD be. He IS. It wasn’t until I was willing to surrender control to God and to my husband that I began to experience REAL PEACE. Now I am at peace almost all the time every day. That’s God’s gift for my obedience to His Word. It is the most wonderful feeling EVER!
I asked my husband lately if he was able to identify my behavior and my attitudes earlier in our marriage as disrespect at the time. He said he never really thought of it in those terms. But what he did recognize was that I was arrogant. I thought I knew best. I was always “right.” And I really believed I was. I can’t argue with his perspective of me back then at all. He knew that I saw things in such an extreme black and white way and that my mind was so made up and I was so stubborn that many times it didn’t seem worth it to him to try to express his opinion or attempt to lead me. Yikes! My wise husband says, “It’s impossible to lead a woman who knows she is RIGHT all the time and who doesn’t want to be led.” A lot of husbands will just back off in a situation like that and disengage and not even try to lead the family. The ones who don’t back off and try to escape through hobbies/tv/sports become very angry or even depressed generally. God did designate husbands to lead, but if a wife won’t follow and give the gift of her own submission and surrender to her husband, a husband is largely paralyzed from being able to do what God has called him to do in his marriage and family. A wife has THAT much destructive power in a marriage! She can put a stop to what God and her husband want to do. Or she can be a LIFE-GIVING force to encourage and empower her husband and have faith in God and her husband that they have things under control and she can be a huge channel of blessing to her husband, her children and even to herself.
What blessings did I miss out on for around 15 years in my marriage, in my Christian walk, in my parenting and in my level of joy and peace because I so stubbornly believed I knew better than my husband or anyone else? What intimacy did I lose because of my prideful arrogance? What sweet romantic moments could we have shared if I had clothed myself with humility and really sat with my husband and listened to his perspective and appreciated the wisdom and insights that he has that I don’t have? How many nights could I have been laughing and enjoying our marriage and our relationship instead of feeling lonely and afraid? Where could I be spiritually NOW if I had begun this journey into humility and learning to follow my husband and giving him respect 18 years ago? Where would my husband be now if I hadn’t been standing in God’s way for so long and insisting on MY WAY and allowing my voice to be so strong in our marriage that my husband could barely hear his own thoughts or God’s still, soft voice for all my constant talking and controlling?
It makes me pretty sad to think of all of the blessings of God that I caused us to miss out on. But I am trusting that God will use my mistakes and what He is teaching me to encourage other wives to find Him and find His path that leads to life so that other marriages will be strengthened and wives, husbands and children blessed. Even my failures and mistakes are not wasted in God’s economy! I THANK GOD FOR THAT! So I am not ashamed to share where I have come from and where God has brought me and pray that something in my story might click with you and bring conviction to your heart if you are in a similar mindset to the one I clung to for so long.
I pray that you, precious wife, might be able to have the scales of disrespect fall off of your eyes like I did and see God’s perspective and your husband’s perspective clearly for the first time if you haven’t before. I pray that you might be able to find the courage and faith to shovel out the mountains of pride that might be overflowing from your heart like God helped me to do. I remember being astonished at how much pride there was in my life and how much confessing I had to do. I felt like I needed multiple commercial dump trucks every day just to haul out all of my sinfulness, arrogance, pride, unforgiveness, resentfulness, and bitterness that I had been so blind to before. It was overwhelming at first. It was very humiliating and humbling. The temptation for me was to go into such a deep grief that I wanted to just stay in bed and not talk to anyone at first. I had messed things up SO much! But only Satan would want me to stay down and wallow in self-pity. God had amazing things for me to learn and incredible truths He wanted to teach me. And I was so hungry for Him and His truth, I just drank it all in as much as I could each day.
I studied God’s Word a LOT. I prayed and prayed. I prayed mostly about my own sins and about God helping me to obey His commands for me. I thanked God for my husband. I listed my husband’s strengths. I thanked God that my husband wouldn’t change for me the way I had wanted him to before. I studied every book I could get my hands on about respect and biblical submission. God had to clean out almost everything that had been in my heart and completely rebuild a lot from the foundation up about my understanding of being a godly woman, being a godly wife, being a godly mom, about what it meant to be feminine in God’s design, God’s design for marriage, God’s design for masculinity, God’s design for authority over me…
Now I understand that I am designed by God to be my husband’s helpmeet. But my husband actually feels like I help him now. He shares his heart with me. He smiles at me. He asks me to do things and I gladly help him and cooperate with him. He has ideas and I listen to them and get excited with him about them. We are a team now. But I am the follower – and he is such a wise, loving, humble, wonderful leader. I strive to be as gracious and encouraging as possible to him and to make his load easier by not arguing and complaining and questioning him all the time. God fills my heart with peace and joy every day and every day feels like such an amazing adventure with surprises right around the corner. I can’t wait to see all that my husband and God have in store!
Help each wife here find Your design for her as a wife and Your design for her marriage. Help her find her way, even if it is scary and painful at first, to the joy, peace and blessings that await her when she obeys Your Word and understands how You designed masculinity and femininity to bring glory to Yourself and to be a living parable of Christ and His Church for the world and our children to witness. Let us shine brightly for You, Jesus!