10 Reasons a Husband May Decide Not to Lead

We wives sometimes get upset with our husbands because they won’t “step up” and lead in our marriages and with our children. I felt that way for over 14 years in our marriage.

About 12 years ago, I discovered some important information about husbands that I didn’t understand before. Maybe this info could be a blessing to you, too.

Reasons a Husband Might Decide Not to Lead in His Family:

1. When he has tried to lead in the past, his wife argued, complained, criticized, or was unwilling to cooperate.

2. He may have learned in his family growing up (or from our culture) that the wife is supposed to be in charge.

3. He may not feel confident to lead.

4. He may be afraid there would be no grace for him if he made a mistake.

5. He may believe the culture’s lie that for a husband/father to lead is oppressive to his family.

6. He may not know he is called by God to lead selflessly, humbly, and lovingly—following the example of Christ.

7. He may want peace so much that it seems better just to let his wife do whatever she wants to do and go along with her, even if he doesn’t always agree.

8. He may feel so disrespected he has given up.

9. He may not feel emotionally, spiritually, or physically safe with his wife.

10. He may feel like it’s easier to let his wife lead if she wants the job because then it will be her fault when things go wrong.

God’s Design Is for the Husband to Lead

The truth is, God has placed husbands in the driver’s seat in marriage to lead their families. Not to be selfish tyrants. Not to treat their wives like slaves. Not because they are perfect or better than women, but because this is God’s design to showcase the gospel in marriage.

“The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Cor. 11:3

These reasons for not leading will not hold water with the Lord. It is still his God-given responsibility. Adam didn’t lead well when he could have refused to cooperate with Eve’s sin. He caved to her ungodly influence and God held him accountable.Each of us will be accountable to obey God’s Word and to honor His design for marriage—husbands and wives.

Marriage Is to Be a Living Picture of the Gospel

The husband is to represent Christ and the way He relates to the church He loves. He is to be gentle with her—never harsh—loving her with the agape love of God, and being selfless, humble, and fully yielded to the Lordship of Christ, himself. He treats her well out of reverence for Christ, knowing if he mistreats her, God will not listen to his prayers.

The wife is to represent the church and the way she cooperates and honors Jesus. She is to treat her husband with respect out of reverence for Christ. She has a cooperative spirit with his leadership but her ultimate submission is to Jesus. Her husband may never ask her to do anything that would cause her to go against the Lord and His Word.

In God’s economy, we all have equal value in Christ (Gal. 3:28) but we have different roles in marriage and in the Body of Christ. It is our differences that allow us to function as one. We have different strengths and weaknesses, different assignments, but the same goal of building each other up, blessing others, and glorifying God.

Marriage Is Like a Long Road Trip

God has said He wants my husband to be in the driver’s seat.

I may be an excellent driver, but no one is a great driver from the passenger’s seat. Yes, if there are emergencies (my husband has a heart attack, he is unconscious, he is suddenly not aware of reality and having hallucinations) where I may need to grab the wheel and try to get us safely to the side of the road. Then I may need to get him into the passenger’s seat or the back seat and drive us to the hospital.

But generally, it is my husband’s responsibility before God to make the final decisions for our family and our marriage. He will answer to God. And I will answer for my willingness to honor God’s design and cooperate with my husband’s leading (if he is not asking me to sin).

I do have a voice. I can share my perspective, opinions, concerns, ideas, and feelings respectfully with my husband. I can speak up about sin, as I honor God’s Word and His instructions (Matt. 7:3-5, Matt. 18:15-17, Gal. 6:1). I can also pray for God’s wisdom for us both and especially for God to help my husband see the way He wants him to go. I can be a godly influence and example. I can inspire my husband and encourage him with my godly femininity through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me.

I am not a weak, wimpy doormat. I am not a slave. I am not a “second class citizen.” I am my husband’s helpmeet and my role is vital to bless my husband and children and to help portray the gospel and draw people into the kingdom of Christ.

As I refrain from a spirit of criticism, a spirit of offense, disrespect, and trying to control my husband, I make it much easier for him to hear God’s voice. God’s voice is like a GPS giving us instructions. If I am yelling and screaming and arguing, how will my husband hear what God is trying to tell him? How will I hear what He is trying to speak to me, either?


For wives in extreme situations where a husband is not in his right mind, is actively addicted to drugs/alcohol, is breaking the marriage covenant by committing adultery, is abusing his wife/children, etc… I encourage these wives to reach out for trusted, experienced, godly help from a Bible-believing counselor, a trusted pastor, a doctor (if needed), or even the police if people are in danger.

There are times when a husband shouldn’t lead until he is thinking clearly (ie: if he is high, drunk, recovering from anesthesia, is manic, or psychotic). Or he may not be able to lead until he is willing to repent from significant sin and rebuild trust over time (ie: if he is committing adultery, or trying to harm or kill his wife/children).


What are you thoughts on this topic? Is it review? Is it new and crazy sounding?

What have you learned in your own marriage about reasons husbands may not want to lead and how to encourage them to lead?

Let’s talk about it together!


What Is Respect in Marriage?

Ways Husbands Lead Wives Often Don’t Recognize

What Is Biblical Submission?

Christian Submission: Is It Only for Women?

Biblical Submission Is Not Passivity

What Do Headship/Biblical Submission Look Like at Our House?

Could God Be Trying to Lead You Through Your Husband Right Now?

Check out the categories on my blog for many more posts on respect, biblical submission, control, disrespect, and so many more related topics.

If you need help with a specific concept, please let me know, I will get you any resources I can to help point you to Jesus, His Word, and His healing.

You can also find several chapters devoted to these critical concepts in my book, “The Peaceful Wife.”


  1. My husband is not the leader of our family!

    45 years ago, when we got married my husband told me —not in these exact words— that God, not he, was the leader of our family. That my relationship with God was God’s and my responsibility, not his–that he trusted that God had given me a good mind and ability to make my own decisions for my life without having to ask him permission for every little thing…any major stuff we would discuss and pray for guidance.

    But I was so ready to be that submissive wife after hearing preacher’s preach ( as in Bill Gothard’s teachings)
    the scriptures that say how women must submit (which i have since found out is not exactly what that verse means) — I felt like i had been thrown over a cliff…

    Truth is I wanted him to make decisions for us, to lead us, to do the hard work in the marriage…but found out many many years later that he was right….The fact that he suffered and still has many health issues have added to why in many cases I had to be the decision maker .

    Eve was called “ezer kenegdo”–equal power….that the curse was a result of sin but not the original intention of how God meant man and woman to function. And that we have been redeemed so we do not have to live in that fallen state, even though under patriarchy that women are kept in a fallen state (not overtly) and have to “earn” their salvation through following the mistranslation of those verses .

    It would have been so easy for me to let my hubby do all the leading, make all the decisions, i could have coasted through life…but God’s plan for my life was for me to grow in the Lord on a personal basis, not be spiritually lazy, not to depend on anyone else for the holy spirit leading me.

    I hope I explained this so you can understand what I am trying to say.

    1. Susan’s Saddle Stands,

      Good afternoon!

      I do agree that the Bible says that God is the head of every believer and of our families. I Corinthians 11:3 defines the authority structure.

      – God is the head of Christ.
      – Christ is the head of the husband. (Of course, Christ is the ultimate spiritual head of every believer.)
      – The husband is the head of the wife.

      I know you have had some difficulties in the past with some spiritual teachers/churches who taught more of a legalistic master/slave type of relationship in marriage. That is so heartbreaking.

      Each couple must decide how they want to live out God’s design for Christian marriage. It sounds like the discussion you and your husband had 45 years ago actually was him leading in your marriage.
      Greg and I have had discussions about how we want to apply 1 Cor. 13:3 and other passages in our own marriage and what respect, submission, honor, and love mean.

      I know in your particular situation, you and your husband have some unique ways of doing things, especially with all the health issues y’all have faced. There are times when a husband is deployed, is sick, is severely injured, or has other issues, things may not look the same. We are not all cookie cutters.

      Thankfully, even when the husband does acknowledge he is to lead, it doesn’t mean he makes all the decisions and the wife never thinks and never shares any input. Leadership/headship is not tyranny. In our marriage, we discuss most things together and both share our ideas, perspectives, concerns, etc… Sometimes over the course of days, weeks, or months. But I know that if we can’t agree, I will concede to him to make the final decision and I will trust God to lead me through Greg. And He has time and time again.

      We are each accountable to grow in Christ, to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” None of us are called by God to spiritual laziness, mindlessness, passivity, or being a wallflower.

      You and I have had numerous conversations on the subject of submission, which I won’t try to rehash here. (But if other ladies have questions, please let me know and we can discuss specific issues further.)

      My greatest concerns for each of us are these:
      – That we seek to understand God’s Word and handle it rightly and wisely in His eyes.
      – That we seek to honor and obey Him, yielding ourselves fully to His Lordship and acting in our new nature and the power of His Spirit.
      – That we depend on God’s wisdom not our own understanding.
      – That we seek to be the woman, wives, and moms (if that is our situation) that He calls us to be.
      – That we love Him with all our hearts and love others with His love.
      – That we shine for Him in this world.
      – That we point others to Christ and to obedience out of love and gratitude, never out of legalism.
      – That our marriages portray the gospel and draw people to Jesus.

      Thanks for sharing.
      Much love! <3

      1. I think it is also important to note that if God gives someone a position of delegated authority, that person is accountable to Him for how he/she uses it. They will answer to Him. And we will answer for our own lives to the Lord, as well, and for any positions of authority we have, as well as how we relate to and honor those who are in positions of delegated authority by the Lord.

        For more information:

        Spiritual Authority
        A Husband’s and a Wife’s Authority in Marriage
        What Headship and Biblical Submission Look Like at Our House

  2. Thank you again for such timely messages to me! I really enjoy your ministry and have for years!

Comments are closed.