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Monday, March 5, 2012
This is a follow up to last week’s Man-up Monday post to husbands about what I sense is the perhaps the most pressing problem for marriages in the church today: husbands afraid to stand up and lead. Today’s post is intended to help you avoid a few disasters as you step forward to lead your wife.
This post was inspired by something Sheila Gregiore wrote as part of her 29 Days to Great Sex series. (Concluding post of this great series is here, and has a complete list of all the posts). In the post in question, she describes how withholding sex from your partner or demanding certain things does great damage to a couple’s sex life.
I want to extrapolate that idea and apply it more generally to a husband’s leadership role. From my observations, withholding and demanding are two of the biggest leadership mistakes a husband can make.
Intentionally or not, we’ve all done it. We’ve all held back something we know our wife needs or wants in retribution for not getting what we want or feel we deserve.
Have you ever withheld affection when she’s refused or rebuffed your sexual advances? Have you ever backed off on communication with her when you feel she has acted disrespectfully toward you? Have you ever intentionally broadly withheld your input or guidance in response to feeling challenged about a decision you made? Have you ever backed off leading because you don’t like how she pushes you to lead more?
Here’s the deal when it comes to withholding: it doesn’t work. In fact it actually works against you. Sure it’s natural and easy to respond against our wives when we feel neglected, offended or challenged, but holding back from meeting her needs is only going to make the “problem” worse.
This may sound harsh, but withholding is basically an act of selfishness. It is, in effect, saying to your wife, “You aren’t giving me what I want, so I’m not going to give you what you want either.” What that does is perpetuate a cycle of selfishness in both of you. As each of you become reactive to not getting your needs met, you withdraw and withhold from each other further. It's a death spiral. When you refuse to love her, cherish her, connect with her, or lead her, she will tend to respond by becoming less interested in sex, less respectful, more confrontational and pushy.
You end up getting more of what you don’t want.
The other common leadership error husbands make in response to not getting what they want is to demand it. You probably already know what I’m going to say. Demanding doesn’t work any better than withholding.
Now it may be possible for you to initially get more of what you want by demanding it. Your wife may bow to your anger and frustration for a season, especially if she is afraid of you or fearful that your marriage is threatened. But it’s NEVER sustainable. It will damage your relationship and eventually things will crash and burn around you.
If you think to yourself, “I’m in charge, and I have a right to demand things from my wife,” you are not leading her; you are attempting to enslave her. Sorry if that seems harsh, but I’m just calling it like I see it.
Whether you are demanding her submission, her silent acquiescence to your decisions, her sexual availability, or her obedience, you are doing significant damage to your relationship. Eventually, she will flee your domination. She will eventually refuse your demands (typically in an emotional explosion), seek someone else who will treat her better, or worse yet, decide to abandon your marriage altogether.
Leading with Love
I want to remind you that you can be both strong and good in your leadership. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Jesus is your role model for leadership, and he was definitely very strong and bold, yet totally good and loving.
Don’t think I’m asking you to lead weakly by never asking for what you want. I am however, asking you to put your wife first, to be willing to lay down selfish demands and to stop withholding as way of manipulating her into giving to you. I am asking you to love her selflessly, regardless of how she responds. I am asking you to make your needs and wants know in a loving and non-demanding way. I am asking you to delight your wife with your love and to lead her in a way that adds joy to her life.
I’m asking you to love her like Jesus loves you.
You’ll be surprised that when you start loving your wife lavishly, giving to her according to her needs, without pre-condition or expectations, you will find that she will respond in kind. It may not be immediate or in the exact way you expect it, but when you pursue her unrelentingly with love, she cannot help but respond.
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