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Friday, June 18, 2010
Whether from ignorance, neglect or insecurity, a husband who doesn’t see it as his responsibility to lead his wife and family typically defers to his wife in most matters, pushing responsibility her way and minimizing his own role in the marriage. He may even think that his duties end when he brings home a paycheck. Perhaps he’s simply bought into the common (though inaccurate) societal norm that says husbands have no special authority in “modern” marriage, or maybe even that it would be wrong to think so.
A wife who finds herself in such a marriage may feel neglected, unloved, overwhelmed, resentful, frustrated or some combination of these. What can she do?
Before I discuss some specific ways you can help move your marriage forward, first a word of caution. In all you do and say, be aware of and preserve his need to feel respected, trusted and admired. As a woman you may not see the importance of these things to your husband, because these are not necessarily important to you. But let me assure you that they are important to your husband. So let love prevail, but let it be expressed in ways a man needs it expressed.
Second, remember my admonition to pull instead of push. Create an atmosphere that invites his leadership rather than trying to directly push him into it with complaints or guilt Despite the title of this post, remember to stay focused on what you can do to improve your relationship instead of on what your husband is or isn't doing. If you want your husband to step forward in godly authority and Christ-like leadership, work to keep yourself in "church-like" submission to him.
Share what you understand about the bridal paradigm in a respectful, loving way. Don't come at it like you have all the answers and he needs to get a clue. Explain what you've learned about how headship and submission go hand in hand to build a great marriage. Invite him to join you on this journey toward understanding what it means to have a surrendered marriage. Explore what The Bible says about marriage together, and discuss what you think it means and how it might apply to your relationship. If you find my writing on this helpful, point him to stuff I’ve written here.
2. Motivation and Inspiration
Make it clear that you are not trying to just manipulate him into doing more. If you are, then deal with that issue in yourself before you begin this discussion! Tell him that your motivation is in a better, stronger marriage and deeper bond of intimacy between you. (If you are feeling particularly bold, you could also mention that this includes sexual intimacy.)
Express your needs in non-demanding and non-threatening terms. A shout of “I need you to get off that couch and take out the trash” might get the trash taken out, but probably won’t affect any lasting change in your relationship, at least not for the better. “I’m feeling overwhelmed with my responsibilities right now and would really appreciate your help. Do you think you could take the trash out for me tonight?” would be a better approach. Let him know how much you need him.
Make sure to express how much you appreciate each small step he takes toward leading. My silly little example of taking out the trash is not much of a step toward assuming more leadership responsibility toward you and the family, but if you respond with appreciation and affection, he will begin to see your need for him and will likely be more responsive next time. You might be asking, “Why should I make a fuss when he’s just doing something he should be doing in the first place?” The answer is, “Because you want him to do more of it.”
Whenever he acts in a way that is consistent with the role The Bible defines for husbands, reinforce it. Each time he takes a step of self-sacrifice, of showing affection, protection, or concern, whenever he takes responsibility or initiative to lead, let him hear your thanks.
- When he comes home early from work because you aren't feeling well, say, “It makes me feel so good when you take care of me this way.”
- When he agrees to sit down and work up a family budget with you, say, “Thank you so much for helping set our spending priorities. I really appreciate the hard work you do every day to provide for us. Thank you for doing this budget for our financial well-being.”
- When he decides where to go on a date and makes the reservation, say, “I appreciate you making our date night arrangements. It really tells me I am a priority to you.”
- When he pays you a compliment about a new outfit/hair cut/lingerie, say, “Thank you. I love knowing that you find me beautiful/attractive/sexy/desirable.”
Even if his attitude or actions fall short of wholehearted leadership, let your words affirm every step in the right direction. This is what I call speaking to what you want to see rise up. Even if my examples seem a bit contrived, hopefully they convey the idea that appreciation can work wonders.
Keep in mind the general pointers from yesterday’s what-if post about the power of prayer, the importance of keeping your heart in the right place, and the fact that a healthy dose of grace is essential. Don’t expect too much too soon. Treasure the small steps forward and don’t fret too much over backward stumbles on this fascinating journey to surrender.
Next time: What if... My Husband Acts Like A Dictator
Related: How Would You Respond if your wife asked you to step up and lead?
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