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A Husband Answers – “Why Won’t My Husband Lead?”

Today’s post is a guest post by a Christian husband – answering a wife’s question.  This wife has been working on respect and biblical submission for about 6 months, and doesn’t understand why sometimes her husband tells her that he doesn’t want to lead in their marriage.
(PS – just so everyone is aware – if I ever receive any email messages from men, my husband reads them and I copy my husband on all emails to any men every single time without exception.  That is my personal conviction – to keep from even the appearance of evil.  I don’t always mention it in every post, but that is my strict policy, for those who are interested or concerned.)
If the relationship has been going on for awhile where the wife is controlling men tend to learn early on that there are only a few ways to do things. The right way (as defined by the person in control) or the wrong way. So yes, the wife may want to stop being controlling but the husband already has learned that if he steps up to do something and it’s not done her way he will hear about it in arguements, hear about it when it fails, hear about it if it’s not perfect in the eyes of his wife (and no one wants to let his wife down). Even if the issue is resolved if it’s not done her way – it’s not correct.
As an example paying the bills. People can argue one way or another on who should be responsible for the bills and who is better with math, etc. All that aside men and women prioritize different things more and it shows when they pay bills. For a period of time when I was paying bills I always made sure that food was paid first and then bills and cars and house and then all the extra things like gas card, or jcpenny’s card for clothes, etc. When times are tight many of those cards would call because they didn’t get a payment. This got on my wife’s nerves so much that she would yell at me constantly that I was bad at paying bills or tell me that if I couldn’t get this resolved she would just take it over and make sure it was done right.
Once she took over paying the bills, because her priorities were a bit different, things go paid in a different order. She wanted security and debtors to quit calling so paid house and cars and misc bills first. So the phone calls stopped to a point but we still were behind so they didn’t completely vanish. However the thing that was last on her list was food and gas. I stopped eating breakfast because that’s another bowl of cereal the kids could have, and there were weeks were I only ate lunch 1 or 2 days out of 5 because there wasn’t enough bread to make a sandwich for myself and still have food for the kids the rest of the week until I got paid on Friday. My wife also told me recently that during that time there were times she would be at the grocery store and just cry because she knew we didn’t have bread at home she only had $45 for the grocery store so if she bought bread then something would bounce and we would get a fee charged on something else.
Neither way is right or wrong they both accomplish the same end goal but it’s hard to be the leader when your told your way is wrong and you can’t argue based on an opinion for a topic that can have many correct and valid answers.
Over time as husbands learn this some will just give up and go with the flow so they stop leading because it leads to less arguements, and less of being told how they are wrong or why they failed, etc. The trust that your wife will be okay with your solution is hard to regain. So when a wife decides to submit and let the husband lead it’s still very much a learning process. The husband may take some time (days, weeks, months, years) to start trusting again that his wife is on his side and if he steps up to lead something and fails that she will be there to support and encourage him and not give him the I Told You So look.
The best way to get it started is by supporting and encouraging in anything small that he does. I’ve not met many men in this world that don’t lead at anything. Even if they lead nothing at home they might be a leader at church or at work or something. Men are born to lead and when they find the environment that supports that they will step up to it. So as a wife find where your husband is leading and encourange and support him in that. When he see’s and feels that happening over time he will realize that leading in other areas might be worth a try.
It’s going to be small things though. Maybe he goes out and mows the lawn without it being mentioned, or goes and hangs up christmas lights, or stops on the way home from work and buys some pencils and paper because the kids are all out and need some for school. The wife that wants her husband to lead after she’s working on being less in control needs to find all the little things and encourage and support him in doing those. And some of that means not pointing out all the little things that need to be done. So don’t say,  “Wow, the lawn really needs to be mowed” as that’s just another way of saying he hasn’t lived up to your expectactions yet. You as the wife have to be okay with the lawn not getting mowed and maybe your house won’t look perfect but just let it go until he does it and then praise him and thank him for stepping up and getting it done.

For many men taking responsibility for something and being the leader after hearing for a period of time how they were bad at it or not doing it right is a very hard idea to swallow.

Most men will turn down the chance to lead because they know that it will just be another instance to point out where they failed so they need to feel secure in the fact that it won’t be used against them before they try something.

I imagine it’s the same for women, if you are told over and over that you are doing something wrong and have failed at it over time you just give up any desire to do that activity and let someone else do it. If you put on makeup every day and every day the most popular girl in school says “Ugh what’s with your makeup you can’t do anything right here wipe that all off …” pretty soon you feel that you can’t do it right, so why bother. Maybe you have your mom do it or an older sister or maybe you just give up because “what’s the point?”   It’s not until many years later that you realize it’s not about trying to impress other people it’s about making you feel special about yourself or maybe you put that touch of red on your lips to make that special guy you like know that you think he’s special to.
The thing is 99% of this world fail at something the first time they try it. There is also the person that just naturally find what they are great at and do awesome the first time, but for all the rest of us in this world we have to try something sometimes many times to get it right and feel like we are successful at it. We need someone in our court that says, “Yeah, you didn’t succeed this time but let’s get ourselves up and do it again and again until we can get there and get it done.” When you know someone is there for you over and over – you have no issues stepping up to lead. When you get knocked down everytime you fail, there is no reason to get up and lead. When that dynamic changes and there used to be no reason to lead and you are being asked to lead it sometimes feels like they are just trying to set you up to fail. That’s something the guy has to deal with and overcome, but if the woman is pushing you to lead that only makes it worse.  She has to let it happen and try to support everything he does.

36 thoughts on “A Husband Answers – “Why Won’t My Husband Lead?”

  1. Love this article. Full of information and wisdom that we wives need for our husbands. Lord, help us all to be the proverbs 31 wife, to encourage and lift our husbands up at all times. To make him the priority above ourselves in every situation. Our husbands are a gift from you, teach us to love, respect, and honor the gift you have given us. And as we do this we are doing it unto you. Amen

  2. This was super helpful! What’s great is you can apply the same principles to other relationships as well. The more we look for good the more we find it.

  3. Realize that your husbands leadership is going to get called into question from the outside as well so you need to be prepared to tell those voices to sit down and pardon the French, “shut up.” Men need to know that women will stand by them especially when other women criticize a man taking a leadership role. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen leave their husband hanging just to fit in with the girls. Who do you love more? Your husband that’s ready to die for you or your friends that have nothing but criticism to offer?

  4. Thanks for this, April. I think I learn the most on this blog from reading the specific examples of submission that you post, and from reading the husbands’ perspectives such as this one.

    I try not to push my husband to take the lead, or to needle him with a lot of questions but I do ask him for his opinion more and more. He often says he “doesn’t know,” or tells me something I suspect is what he thinks I want to hear. At first this was really frustrating to me. But I’ve realized it’s unfair to expect him to take charge after years of me trying to be in control and always get my way. If he tells me what he thinks I want to hear it’s probably because he’s trying to avoid drama, which I can’t blame him for. I know it’s on me to build that trust with him and prove that I really will respect his honest opinion if he shares it. And he probably needs to figure out WHAT his opinions are about a lot of things. I know you’ve said before that your husband has said he felt like he didn’t know his own mind (or something along those lines – sorry if I got it wrong) because he was so used to just going along with you. It makes sense – why form opinions if no one ever asks or cares what you think, anyway? Why take the initiative if you’re only going to be told you did it wrong?

    1. Liz,

      Yes, my husband was unsure of himself at first. In fact, he truly didn’t even know what he thought was respectful or disrespectful at first. He had never thought about it. And I was completely clueless. That is one of the reasons I write this blog. I needed a Respect 101 or Biblical Submission 101 class. I had NO CLUE what was or wasn’t respectful. I hadn’t ever purposely been disrespectful. Yet, I had caused so much damage and had deeply wounded my husband – even though he never mentioned it those 14.5 years!?!!

      This is why I love hearing from husbands. There are some husbands who are able to very clearly articulate their feelings, desires, needs and issues – and many of us have or had husbands who weren’t able to verbalize these things. It is helpful for wives whose husbands can’t or don’t verbalize their masculine perspective to hear from men who are able to clearly articulate their feelings and ideas. It helps us to get in the general ballpark.

      It definitely took my husband time to begin to lead and to know his mind. And I gave him ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. I didn’t push him. I didn’t get exasperated any more with him. I just told him what I wanted and then left things with him. If he didn’t make a decision, OH WELL! I didn’t pick it up again.

      Husbands need a LOT of encouragement, praise, admiration and support to begin to lead after they have been reprimanded, rejected, dismissed, criticized, belittled…. etc. for a long time.

      For me, stopping all of the negative comments was the first step. I stopped all the lectures, criticism, preaching, nagging, complaining, judging him… Then I began to add the positives, praise, admiration, encouragement, respect, etc.

      It does take time for a husband to learn to lead and it does take time for a wife to learn to follow, respect and honor. BUT WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

  5. i’m thankful for this post because it helps me see how i can help my husband choose to lead.. and also how my actions can make him run away from leading. these things really matter in marriage.. thank you for the insight!!

    1. Sarah,

      I KNOW! How I WISH I had understood these things 19 years ago. This is powerful stuff! Thanks for the comment! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you. 🙂

  6. I agree with Liz – specific examples are the most helpful. I am a detail person! I think the hardest part about surrendering is patience. My husband lapses and I get discouraged. Because he is not “leading” me, I forget to ask for it and start doing my own thing and we start drifting apart again. After I get frustrated at his lack of involvement, I start looking to God and He always reminds me that there is something I can, and should, do. I make a concentrated effort to start asking for my husband’s opinion and noticing the things he does – and then thanking him for it. It is so hard to remember that to get what I want out of my marriage (in a Biblical way) I have to kind of make up for the ten years I “trained” him to not have an opinion and not lead – and that takes time.
    Articles like this help me see what may be going on inside his head and get a better perspective. Then I can stand back and remember my role and make sure I am doing my part first before I analyze his role. Thanks!

    1. Holly,
      I definitely struggled with patience, too. I still battle it with my children when they don’t listen!!!! But with my husband, I was so used to trying to control things and dictate things and force my way, it was REALLY, REALLY weird to just be still and wait. I had to be one of the most impatient wives ever. So it is totally a God thing that now He gives me the power to wait with peace and joy.

      I’m glad that you let your frustration signal you to look to God. THAT IS AWESOME!

      I love that you are asking for your husband’s opinion and showing appreciation! WOOOHOOOO!!!!!!

      And yes – you did train him not to lead, so now, in an indirect way, you will be training him again. But this time, you are training him that it is safe for him to lead, that he has your support, faith, trust and admiration.

      I totally agree – hearing a husband explain things like this makes it MUCH easier for wives who are beginning this journey. I’m so thankful for the husbands who are willing to share their perspective here.

      I can’t wait to see what God does in your heart and your marriage and your husband’s life! 🙂 THANK YOU for sharing!

  7. I really want to say THANKYOU for this piece. I was really struggling with my relationship in the area of getting frustrated at my boyfriend when he didn’t do things right, or couldn’t do something and I would get so frustrated that he wasn’t doing it right that I would just do it myself. This has really helped, thank you

  8. Hi April,

    I recently stumbled onto your webpage after having a really bad fallout with my husband. We had recently opened a business (one of his dreams) but he ended up deciding to close it after only 4 months because he said things between us had gotten so bad that it was either the business or our marriage (not because the business was doing badly). I am so glad he chose our marriage, but I can’t help but feel so guilty over the fact that if I had learned about this respect thing before his decision to close the business, things would be so different. He blames me for “once again” not supporting him. He says this one really hurts because it was his lifelong dream to open a business and I “ruined that and took it away”. I realize now how controlling and disrespectful I was to him. Ever since we were dating, everything was always my way, never his, only me, never him…basically when I hear you describe yourself, I see myself in the old you. The difference here is that my husband constantly told me what he needed…that I didn’t respect him, that I was rude, selfish, negative, never put him first, didn’t support him…he even went as far as to ask me (and answer himself) that if he had done even a fraction of what I had done to him, I would have left him in a second. I always thought everything I was doing was for our future, thinking of us…I tried not to disrespect him because I knew what he needed, but I didn’t know how to show respect…

    After we closed the business, he went with his family for a month, leaving me to deal with all the aftermath of closing the business. He spent money that at this time was not the most intelligent thing to do (in my mind). I forgot to mention, that I realize now, that money and self were my idols. In this month that we were apart, I found your webpage and the first thing I decided was to release the finances which were having a control on me…I wanted to give my husband the chance to lead us…I want to submit to him, to let him take on the leadership role that I had not let him have. So when he came back and we were looking at the finances, I told him. I told him I couldn’t do the finances…that I wanted him to do them. I told him about having my self and money as an idol and realizing I wasn’t fully trusting God. That I had learned all this while he was gone. That I was controlling and wanted to stop and this was a means to do it. He said he couldn’t believe that I was blaming money and finances as to why I was disrespectful to him for 8 years, why I was rude and selfish and negative. I tried to explain to him what I had learned, but I don’t feel he understood. He said he had taken this time away from me to find out what makes him happy, things that he had stopped doing that he was now going to do. That he had realized his mistakes were letting me do what I wanted all the time, spoiling me, giving in to me all the time- because(at the time) he loved me. He said I had the control because he had allowed it and not to worry about not wanting to have the control- that he was going to take it from me. He’s very distant and disconnected from me. He won’t say I love you back when I say it to him. It’s hard and hurts so much.

    He told me I was going to keep doing the finances because I knew how to do them. I asked him if he can do this or can do that and he got a bit frustrated, saying that if I was going to take control of the finances then I should do it for other aspects. I told him I didn’t want to have control of them or be the “boss” and I wanted to hand stuff over to him. And he said that, with all due respect, he didn’t care what I wanted. I feel confused because I’m trying to give up my control and let him lead and I feel he doesn’t want it. Yet he told me not to worry that he would take the control from me. Was my approach to this wrong? Did I disrespect him by telling him I didn’t want this anymore and he took it as me deciding (again) what we were going to do and took the lead? I know he’s so hurt, and probably doesn’t believe this change and this is the result of all of my disrespect- him shutting down.

    1. Mrs. R.,

      Oh goodness, my precious sister!

      What a painful situation.

      I am so glad that God opened your eyes and that you see your sin and your idols. THAT IS AWESOME!!!

      But, your husband seems to have lost hope and may not be able to believe this change in you is real.

      That is pretty normal, unfortunately.

      I love what God is showing you. Your husband may not be able to hear you. But – he will be able to see the changes in you. Will he eventually soften and return to you wholeheartedly? I don’t know. If he does, it will be because you are obeying God and becoming the wife and woman God desires you to be. I hope you will check out my post today.

      I’m glad you repented to him. That is good. A this point, I don’t think he can hear your words at all.

      You were not wrong to try to give him the finances. He may take them at some point. In the meantime, try to honor his leadership and what he asks you to do – if he is not asking you to clearly sin.

      I hope you will check out the posts at the top of my home page.

      And, I think these posts may also be helpful:

      “I Am Trying To Respect and Submit and My Husband Is Being More Unloving than Ever – What Is Going On?”

      Why Should I Change First?

      Why Doesn’t My Husband Support My Changes?

      And, please search my home page for:
      – idol
      – idolatry
      – lead
      – leader
      – interview (please read Nikka’s and my interviews)

      I don’t know what the end results will be. I believe you will have a long, long road ahead of you. That is ok. It may take years for your husband to feel safe with you again. It did for Greg. It took him 3.5 years to let all of his walls down and to feel safe with me from the time I started this journey.

      The good thing is, this will be a time of refining and purifying your motives – reminding you only to obey God because you love God, not to try to get your husband to love you again.

      I would suggest using no words about spiritual things. Maybe not even saying “I love you.” Your power is in I Peter 3:1-6. Your godly attitude, your genuine respect and honor and willingness to follow his leadership.

      It is going to take many months, most likely, maybe longer, for him to believe the changes in you are real. Don’t talk about what you are learning, just live it out.

      Much love to you!!!!!!!!!

      1. Thank you so much for your response and I thank God for having me stumble upon your website. I honestly believe it was God revealing himself to me when I started reading your story and identifying with a lot of the things you wrote. I look forward to the day where I can look back on this stage in our marriage and see the growth and how far we’ve both come. Thanks you so much. I will start reading the posts you suggested. I am taking this as a new adventure to just live it out as you say. I think you are right, at this point, my words don’t mean anything to my husbands, it is my actions that matter. One of the things he always says is that he doesn’t want me to love him more, he wants me to love him better. I am trying to do just that.

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