This is, admittedly, a very tough dynamic sometimes. It feels “backwards” to many couples, even those who are not believers in Christ. Yes, even in our modern era. The challenges can be surprising. We think we are “past” all of the old traditional marriage dynamics because we are so hip and progressive in our culture. But the truth is that when a husband earns less than his wife or especially when he doesn’t earn any income (whether he lost his job, he is disabled, or he and his wife choose for him to be a stay-at-home dad while the wife works), both spouses often struggle greatly.
Greg and I were in this boat for the first 17 years of our marriage with me being the primary breadwinner. So – we know many of the challenges first hand and I hurt deeply with those of you who are hurting in these situations.
NOTE – if you are a wife who is a primary breadwinner and you and your husband are doing WELL and you have godly wisdom to share, please, please feel welcome to share in the comments! I know your words will be such an encouragement to those who are having a hard time.
The problem with the wife earning more than the husband is that it makes it tends to make it more difficult for spouses to give each other the things they need the most.
Husbands need to know their wives genuinely respect them, that they will cooperate with them and not be an adversary. Wives need to know their husbands genuinely love them, that they are secure in the relationship, and that they have a voice and influence.
Generally, these are the kinds of pitfalls that tend to happen when the wife out-earns her husband (I can give sources to those who would like them for more info):
- The wife tends to lose respect for her husband even more than normal in our culture.
- The wife tends to believe she deserves more control or even all of the control because of her financial contributions.
- When a wife feels more like a mother who is supporting her child than a wife who is married to an equal, sexual relationships tend to suffer.
- Husbands tend to feel emasculated because they tend to feel like failures for not being able to provide more financially even though their worth is not measurable in dollar amounts.
- Sometimes husbands feel emasculated by comments their wives make, too, that compound the sense of shame many men feel in a situation like this, especially if they are bringing in no income. Even if it was by choice for both spouses to go down this road.
- Wives tend to continue doing most of the housework and childcare when they are home, often because they feel their husbands don’t do things “right.”
- Then the wives feel that they are doing “everything” and resentment builds against their husbands even more as the wives become more and more stressed and exhausted.
- The couple doesn’t have quality time together to focus on the marriage.
- Wives don’t have the time they need with God – which causes them to go into “flesh” mode instead of “Spirit-filled mode.”
- Husbands tend to withdraw from the contempt and disrespect and become more and more passive and shut down.
- Wives lose more respect and husbands feel more depressed.
- Wives tend to want to think about divorce even when there are no biblical reasons.
- Wives may start to view their husbands as dependents instead of as equals.
- Husbands long to be treated as equals with respect, honor, and dignity.
- Husbands are often more tempted in such situations into an affair with a woman who will respect them.
- Wives can more tempted in such situations into an affair with a man they feel more admiration for.
If a believing wife is in such a situation, what can she do? None of us want any of these situations in our marriages! We don’t have to become statistics even if we can’t always immediately change our circumstances.
Thankfully, we don’t have to be able to change the circumstances, if we are willing to let God change US. There is every reason for hope in Jesus Christ!
God can meet our deepest needs even when our spouses or circumstances may be failing us. Let’s set our eyes on Him and on what He calls us to do.
It will be vital that a wife take certain steps to avoid heading down the destructive road of disrespecting her husband – your willingness to avoid disrespect is KEY:
- Acknowledge that God’s design for marriage is the ultimate authority, not your feelings or the situation at this time.
- Acknowledge that God’s commands for you as a wife involve that you respect your husband regardless of your income level or his income level. The command is an unconditional command, “The wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33). That command is just as unconditional as God’s command that the “husband must love his wife” (Eph. 5:33). It does not say, “respect your husband IF…” It is simply our job to respect our husbands.
- Learn all you can about respect and do all that you can to figure out what this means because this is very key to your marriage thriving.
- Consciously write down all of your husband’s strengths and good qualities and focus on them.
- Cultivate a grateful heart toward God and toward your husband.
- Pray for God to intervene and to bring about His will for her career and your husband’s career and to change the situation if that is better in His sight. He is sovereign, after all, and this is not too hard for Him to do.
- Consciously avoid associating respect with dollars. In God’s economy respect is not about money.
- Be sure not to act like “the boss” around your husband. Consciously take off your “work mentality” and be sure you are thinking in a godly “feminine mindset.”
- Focus on not being controlling about the house.
- Praise your husband for whatever he does right.
- Thank him for taking care of the kids even though he is not you and he does things differently.
- Remember that different doesn’t necessarily mean “wrong.”
- Let him dream and pray about what God may desire him to do even if it means that things would need to dramatically change.
- Be flexible with God and your husband.
- Be willing to let go of unrealistic expectations that may be creating tension.
- Focus on eternal things more than earthly things – like your attitude and how you treat your husband and children more than whether the house is as clean as you would like it to be every moment.
- See the good in your husband’s ideas and be cooperative.
- Smile at your man – your smile blesses him greatly.
- Use a friendly, positive tone of voice with him.
- Seek God’s will far above your own will. Submit to His Lordship and hold the things of this world loosely.
- Be willing to lay down your most precious dreams and all of your fears and entrust them to God.
- Don’t allow yourself to look down on your husband. You are not better than he is. We are all on level ground a the foot of the cross. Pride and self-righteousness are always tempting for everyone but they are even more tempting in this situation. Pride and self-righteousness on a wife’s part can absolutely destroy a marriage because pride is the root sin of every other sin.
- Don’t allow yourself to hold onto resentment or bitterness. Those things would also be able to destroy a marriage. Deal with your pain, hurt, unmet expectations, and anger before God. Hash through all of it with a godly mentoring wife, too, if needed. Don’t allow toxic thoughts to build up in your heart.
- Focus on taking your thoughts captive for Christ.
- Don’t listen to the enemy. He is the accuser. When you realize you are thinking lots of accusatory thoughts toward your husband, it is time to pour everything out before God and to let Him help you reject any sinful thoughts and build your life only on His truth. Satan would LOVE to destroy your marriage through your thought life.
- Carve out the time you need with God to be as close to Him as possible and as filled up with Him as possible. That is the only way to be a godly wife in any situation. But in more difficult circumstances, you will need Him all the more. You can’t be a godly wife if you starve yourself spiritually. This is not something any of us can afford to skimp.
- Pray against Satan’s plans to steal, kill, and destroy your marriage and family. Yield yourself fully to the Lordship of Christ and let Him lead you and your husband. (James 4:7) This is spiritual warfare!
- Clear your plate of everything that is unnecessary.
- Take care of your health, your diet, your exercise, and your soul. No one else can do those things for you. You will need to be filled up so that you have something to give to your husband and family.
- If you don’t have time for God and you don’t have time to take care of yourself and your children the way you want to – pray! Ask God to show you what He wants you to change so that you can make His priorities for you the most important priorities in your life.
- Talk with your husband about your concerns in a respectful way after much prayer and as the Spirit prompts you.
- Be a team and conquer things together.
- Think of your money as “our money” or even better, as “God’s money,” and remember that we are simply to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us for His glory. It is not about us.
- Let him know that you want to honor God’s design for the marriage no matter who earns more and that you are thankful for your husband and that God will lead you through him.
- Remember that your husband is not your enemy.
- Remember that our culture’s ideas have infected us all and that some of our ideas need to be questioned and rejected because they are not good for us. Be willing to question everything in light of God’s Word and be willing to change anything that is not working or that is leading to temptation.
- ENJOY your husband and children. Breathe. Relax. Slow down.
- Rest in God’s love, sovereignty, and peace. Let God restore your soul.
- Approach God with complete humility. Trusting that God’s ways are much higher than your own. Don’t lean on your understanding but completely depend on God’s Word and His wisdom.
- Approach your husband with great humility, knowing that you are both of equal worth in God’s sight.
- Seek God’s approval not the world’s approval. Ultimately, the only opinion that will matter is His when we stand before Him one day.
- Seek to become the woman God calls you to be.
- Appreciate your husband’s wisdom and intelligence.
- Be willing to honor his God-given leadership
- Commit to the marriage and don’t threaten divorce for unbiblical reasons. Let God help heal you, your husband, and your marriage. There are times separation may be necessary. But don’t leave just because you are not happy. Seek God and He can fill you up and heal your soul.
- If you don’t know Jesus as Your Savior and Lord, I invite you to come to Him.
Why Won’t My Husband Lead? (a husband shares his insights)
For those in very difficult marriages, I encourage you to check out Nina Roesner’s eCourse Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity. It is a private forum where women receive instruction in scriptural principles and learn to think rightly about themselves and heal in Christ so that they can have the spiritual strength they need to address the issues in the marriage properly.
BOOKS THAT MAY BE A BLESSING:
The Life Ready Woman – by Shaunti Feldhahn (How to strip away the things that don’t matter and focus on the priorities God calls us to that bring real peace and fulfillment.)
Radical Womanhood – by Carolyn McCulley (How we have all been impacted by feminism in good and bad ways, even in the church, and what godly femininity really means.)
The Peaceful Wife – Living in Submission to Christ As Lord – by April Cassidy 🙂
If you need more resources, let me know. I have lots more!