Greg and April – April 2013 at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC
Some of you know exactly what I am going to describe here.
- You ask your husband an important question. You want to be sure you are doing what he wants. You need his input. You don’t want to take over and steamroll and usurp his position of God-given authority. But he says nothing. He seems to ignore you. Maybe for 15 minutes, or hours, or days or much longer.
This can be extremely frustrating – especially for a recovering type A, dominant, controlling wife who wants to make decisions RIGHT NOW. If you have a husband who tends to be passive – and he tends not to answer you – and you step down and begin to try to follow his leadership, it can take some time for the whole thing to work well.
It will require MUCH PATIENCE from you as you stop leading and begin to encourage your husband to lead.
Some of you have husbands that give answers right away or who will say, “I need time to think, let me get back with you tomorrow night” and then will get back with you. That is awesome if your husband is able to articulate his feelings and thoughts right away. I wish all husbands were able to give some verbal acknowledgement right away. But some of them do not do this – and we need to decide how we can respond in a godly way if this is our situation.
This post is for those wives whose husbands have not done much leading, or not had the opportunity to lead much, who are hesitant to lead and tend to be shut down and a bit verbally unresponsive at this time. (If you have severe issues in the marriage, infidelity, active addictions, uncontrolled mental health disorders, actual abuse, please don’t read my blog but seek godly, experienced help ASAP!)
- I don’t know what is best in every possible situation. I trust God to be able to impart the wisdom each wife needs specifically to her unique scenario. So please listen to God’s Spirit above all!
I’m going to share some things I learned and how things worked for me and some things I have seen work with some other wives. Maybe some of these ideas will help you. Maybe they won’t. That will be up to you to hear God’s voice about what He desires you to do.
My husband, Greg, tends to need a lot of time to process his thoughts about big decisions.
Sometimes, he even needs a lot of time to process ideas about smaller decisions, too. I’m actually very thankful for his slower approach now – because he carefully and meticulously researches and thinks through every possible outcome before making a decision instead of just rushing into a decision we might regret. Now, I am able to see that his careful, responsible, thoughtful way of making decisions is godly leadership.
When we were first married, I didn’t understand this. I assumed he made decisions just like I did – in a few seconds – and when he wouldn’t answer me for several minutes (or longer) I got REALLY angry and would try to force him to answer my question. I do wish he had been able to say to me, “I need some time to think about it” – that would have been super helpful! He never did that. So after 15-30 minutes of me waiting impatiently and trying to pressure him every 30 seconds – I would conclude that he was just being hateful and unloving and I would tell him I would just make the decision myself since “he obviously wouldn’t/couldn’t make a decision and wouldn’t lead” and I would storm off in a huff. Yikes. How I sabotaged myself back then! All that pressure and the things I said to him were SO DISRESPECTFUL. The more I pressured him, the more he shut down.
How I wish I had patiently given him more time! He IS able to lead. He just needs a lot more time than I used to give him. He is not me. And that is ok.
As I stepped down from leading in the family and marriage, I began leaving decisions for Greg to make – I didn’t snatch them from him anymore. I had been making almost all the decisions for over 14 years. Suddenly, I was “giving him” (from my perspective at the time) a lot of decisions to make. He didn’t like it at first. He often said nothing, exactly like he had the first 14.5 years of our marriage. But, once I began to step down and leave room for him to lead – I would just share decisions with him that needed to be made and share what I wanted to do (sometimes I wouldn’t tell him my opinion at all that first year or so, just so the poor man would have a chance to think for himself without my opinion for once!). And I would leave it with him. If he didn’t make a decision, oh well! We didn’t get to do whatever it was. (You can read about his thoughts during this time here.)
Sometimes he wouldn’t make a decision. I learned to accept that. If he didn’t make a decision or didn’t say anything eventually, then the answer was, “no.” I began to trust that God could lead me through Greg and that God was sovereign enough to change Greg’s heart and mind and I was NOT going to run ahead of Greg or God anymore. I would just wait. A LOT.
It took time for him to feel confident and safe enough to begin making decisions. He was afraid that I would jump in or criticize him or pile contempt on him if I didn’t agree with him. But when he saw eventually that I was seriously trusting everything to him and supportive of his decisions, even when I didn’t agree (which took a LONG time), he began to take over little by little. I praised him whenever he did make a decision. I thanked him for his leadership multiple times before he even began to lead. I accepted that he might not do what I wanted and that some less important things might not get done and I trusted it all to God.
It was the scariest thing I ever did in my life – letting go of control like that! Not because Greg was incompetent, but because I had to learn to trust God instead of myself.
Sometimes there are decisions that have to be made – that have time limits. What is a wife to do in such a situation?
Here are a few of my suggestions for whatever they are worth:
- If there is some significant decision that you must make about a job, adopting a child, spending a lot of money, who will care for the children or something major – I suggest laying the decision on your husband’s plate casually, with a pleasant tone of voice without pressure. Give him all the time you can to allow him to make the decision without pushing or rushing him. Preferably, share the decision with him some time when he is in a good mood and not busy with something that is important to him and when he is able to give you his attention.
– “So, Honey, I have something I want to check with you about. I would really love to see if there is some way I could be home more with the baby if possible. Or maybe we could think about a nanny or my mom taking care of the baby. I don’t like having him at daycare for the following reasons… Please let me know when a good time to talk about this might be and what you think. Thanks!”
Then, if he decides he want to keep the baby in daycare, consider saying something like, “I really don’t want to leave the baby there. I feel really nervous and upset about doing that because of X, Y and Z. But if you think that is what is best for him and for us, then I will trust you and support you with whatever you believe is the best choice.”
– “I really want to adopt a baby.” or “I would love to think about adopting a child.” Sometimes, all we really need to do is just say what we want and leave it with our husbands and let them marinate on it for a long time. God can use just that simple, calm, sincere, respectful statement of our desires to work in our husband’s heart. We don’t have to have a 30 minute speech prepared. Sometimes less is more! If I share my heart like this, my husband will think about it, and he will answer to God for his decision. When he is ready, if he believes this is of God, he will bring it up again. If he doesn’t bring it up – I can still be content in Christ.
– “I want to go to X church and here are the reasons why. But I trust you to make the best decision for our family and I will support whatever decision you believe is best for us.” But then, please allow him to choose the church and go with him unless he wants you to go to a cult.
– If your husband won’t go to church, but you want to go (and he is not angry about you going to church), you can say earlier in the week, “I’d love to go to church this Sunday. Let me know if that is NOT ok with you, please.” Then he will have to speak up if he doesn’t want you to go. If he says nothing, he is tacitly agreeing that he is fine with you going.
- If he hasn’t said anything about an important decision and the deadline is a few days away, you can say something (in a pleasant, respectful tone of voice with a friendly expression on your face) like, “Jane needs an answer from me by Thursday about the job. My preference is that I would like to do X. But if I don’t hear from you by Thursday morning at 9:00am about what you would like for me to do, I will call to let her know I can’t take the job.”
This way, if he DOESN’T want you to do something, he will have to take positive action by a certain time. Otherwise, he is tacitly agreeing to whatever you tell him you are planning to do.
You probably only need to say this once (unless your husband has A.D.D. or has asked you for more reminders for things like this), and in a pleasant tone of voice and with a smile. Of course, you will need to be sure that he definitely heard you. We don’t want any miscommunication if possible.
This gives him the chance to speak up and veto something or stand up and make a decision, without you taking that weight on yourself and it allows you to have an answer within the time constraints you have.
If your husband DOES generally answer you in a timely fashion, you won’t need to use this method. That might feel disrespectful to him if he was planning to answer right away. If your man is good at giving answers in a reasonable time frame, you can probably just ask the question and leave it with him or wait until he responds. There is not a one size fits all here with respect on every issue.
- If it is not an emergency kind of decision, you may just leave it with him and not bring it up again, trusting him to bring it up if he thinks it is a good idea, and trusting that if he doesn’t, it’s ok. For instance, “I’d love to send Johnny to camp this summer. Here are the brochures for the camps that look interesting to me. I’m good with whatever you think is best. If you need me to mail off the forms and a check, please let me know.” Then you can just leave it in his court. If he wants to send your son to camp, he will check out the options or maybe even some other options. If he doesn’t think that the family budget can handle camp this summer, maybe he won’t decide to send him.
You can trust God to lead you through your husband because of His amazing sovereignty. All the weight is off of you when you honor and submit to your husband’s leadership. The weight is fully on God and your husband. If you get to do what you wanted to do – great! If you don’t – maybe God is directing your husband another way for His purposes that you are not aware of. You can trust that God is able to use all things for your ultimate good and His glory because you love Him with all your heart and are fully submitted to Him, walking in obedience and seeking His will above your own. The only exception to this would be if your husband is asking you to condone or participate in blatant sin. Please check out “Spiritual Authority” for more on this issue.
Many times, as husbands grow in their leadership over the years, they will begin to give answers more quickly or tell their wives they will get back with them at a certain time. There is learning and growth that our husbands must struggle through, too. They won’t be perfect leaders the first day we step down, especially if we have been leading for years or decades. That has to be ok.
I would like to see us have plenty of grace, mercy, support, encouragement and genuine respect ready for them as we focus on their strengths and seek to build them up and bless them.
There is nothing more beautiful than the opportunity to watch God begin to mold your husband into a strong, godly man and leader. It is breathtaking to see the steps our men take and the way they stand taller and how they become less selfish and begin to desire to hear God more because they feel the weight of leadership and responsibility on their shoulders.
I can’t wait to see all that God has in store for each of you and your husbands and families!
I’d love to hear other wives’ stories about this issue! And, husbands, we could use some masculine perspective here, too, please.
When She Surrendered – by my husband, Greg