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Monday, July 2, 2012

Today I’m addressing husbands as part of my occasional Man-Up Monday feature. (Ladies, you can eavesdrop, but this is NOT a weapon for you to use against your husband.  Stop back on Wednesday for your half of the “leaning” equation.)

Listen up guys! I’m challenging you to do a bit of serious self-reflection today about your level of engagement in your marriage. Before you jump to your default defense, “I do plenty for my wife and kids,” please read and consider this post in its entirety.

Leaning In or Leaning Back

Here’s the deal: Way too many husbands these day are leaning back when it comes to their marriages. For a whole host of reasons, they have opted not to engage the leadership capacity they have been blessed with. When they forsake their roles, they leave their wives to bear the brunt of family and marital responsibility.

Leaning into your marriage means lowering your shoulder and doing the heavy lifting in your home. I’m not talking about moving furniture, though that may be required occasionally. What I’m referring to is making your marriage a high priority, being willing to do the daily work of making your marriage great by completely engaging with your wife and by being the kind of loving leader she wants and needs.

Below I offer up a few stereotypical examples of husbands who are leaning back. Though they are somewhat overstated and oversimplified, look for signs of these gentlemen in your own life and marriage:

Absent Andy – Andy is an absentee father and husband.  He’s constantly traveling on business, working late hours, and when he is home he disrupts family time with business calls and is chained to his Blackberry 24/7. His career is his highest priority, though he tries to convince himself that he is doing it all in order to provide for the family. Andy completely misses the fact that his wife would much rather trade her Lexus for a Chevy and have more time with her husband.

Paycheck Paul – Paul is a close cousin to Andy.  He sees his family responsibilities ending once his paycheck is deposited in the bank. Despite being driven by the almighty dollar, he often leaves the burden of actually managing the finances to his wife, though he is quick to criticize her decisions from the back seat. Paul and his wife are little more than a roommates, married in name only.

Distant Dan – Dan is leaning way back, completely disengaged from his wife and family. He has decided that he has no authority or is afraid to exercise it.  He doesn’t take responsibility for much of anything and declines to make decisions.  He may claim the excuse that his wife is just going to criticize him anyway, so he doesn’t even try. He has given up on leading his family, but his wife receives his indifference as a lack of love for her.

Sporty Steve – Steve is completely preoccupied by sports (insert the name of your outside interests here). He pours all his mental and emotional energy into watching sports on TV or attending sporting events.  He lives and breathes sports but does little to share his passion for sports with his wife and family. He shows no interest in the things she cares about, claiming he has no time.  He doesn’t see that his actions make her a practical widow.

Heavy-Handed Harry – Harry has the opposite problem of the other guys, but I'm including him here as a reminder that you can err on the other side. He’s a bit of a thug in his own home. Instead of leaning back and disengaging, he abuses his authority and oppressively leans on his wife in a demanding and demeaning way. He can be pushy and overbearing, treating his wife as if she is there to do his bidding. He doesn’t see that he is driving her away, possibly into the arms of another man who will treat her better.

Man Up and Lean In

It’s probably true that none of these guys describes you exactly, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of neglect in your marriage; areas where you could engage more fully; areas where you could lean in just a bit more.

I encourage you to look through this list of areas where you might consider leaning in a bit more and making sure you are engaging on a level  that is appropriate – a level that says “I love you” to your wife:
  • Financially – budgeting, planning, managing money, setting goals
  • Spiritually – praying with and for your wife and family, attending church together, talking about what God is doing
  • Sexually – yes there are men that need to hear this
  • Parentally – guiding and instructing the kids, discipline, spending time with them, giving your wife time off
  • Practically – helping out with the house, yard, dishes, cooking, laundry
  • Recreationally – planning vacations, fun activities with the family, movies, sports
  • Emotionally – being available and interested in your wife’s life, emotionally supportive, being a friend
  • Romantically – non-sexual touch, sweet notes and love letters, hold hands, date nights
Maybe you think I’m asking you to be superman with this list. I’m not saying you need to do all these things all the time.  I’m saying you need to lean into them. Talk the list over with your wife and find out what things are most important to her.  Ask her for her input, and prioritize accordingly. 

I’ve discovered that wives everywhere are longing for their husbands to lean in a little more, take a bit more responsibility and engage more fully.  Doubt me?  I dare you to ask your wife.

photo credit: Flicker


Bill Standish said...

With Christ being my first priority for life and then my dear bride being second most important I cannot help but think that I need to continue to ask God to give me a heart that will serve her more. Though on the side I will benefit somehow, I am not the focus. Supporting my beloved for the sake of blessing Christ and her is what it is all about. Sometimes this will mean offering to be there in a specific instance while accepting that she may need space and involvement from another. My security is not tied into me being the hero and having to force myself into every situation. Even in the realm of supporting my wife while she tends to the well being of her mother who tends to not like me. Now my dear bride appreciates the dynamics of this difficult in-law relationship so she does not have unrealistic expectations. We mutually minister grace and patience in our opportunities God places us in. So leaning in can involve holding back when it would serve my wife best. This still requires humility on my part, but that is reality. In the Grip of Christ's Grace!

Scott said...

Good point, Bill. Leaning in doesn't mean forcing your way in where it isn't helpful. It does mean listening and being discerning to where she needs and wants your involvement, where you might not otherwise do so.

Chronic Marriage said...

Terrific post and a good reminder that women need to articulate in a clear and courageous manner what it is they need from their husbands!

Scott said...

Thanks CM. Yes, if wives would understand that their husbands are not mind readers it would help a lot. Most good-willed husbands really do want to do the right thing, they just need a little help knowing what that is. And it's also important to remember that what she needs today may not be at all what she needs tomorrow!

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