One of the most important roles a husband has is that of a leader.
John Maxwell has said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Slanting that quote toward the family, “The family rises and falls on a man’s leadership”.
A marriage and family have the best possible chance of thriving in an environment where a husband is lovingly and sacrificially leading. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. In families where the husband doesn’t lead, or worse, where he is absent, everyone struggles.
What’s a wife to do when her husband isn’t leading? Here’s a few thoughts:
Active Vs Absent
I know you’re tired, tried different things, and you might even be tempted to give up. But, please…don’t quit. God desires you to be active, not absent in your husband’s struggle. I know it’s not your responsibility to lead and I also know it isn’t your fault that your husband isn’t leading. But, you do have a role to play. Even if you’ve tried everything below, continue to persevere. You never know when your husband is about to have a breakthrough.
Accept vs Adopt
Your husband was created to lead, but he was also created uniquely. There are principles of leadership that apply to all men, but your husband might live out those principles in a way that doesn’t look like other men. Said another way, there are several acceptable leadership styles, but only 1 set of acceptable leadership principles. Good leadership doesn’t necessarily look like having a type A, gregarious personality. There are some very effective leaders that excel with this style, but it isn’t the only style. Accept your husband’s unique leadership style, and be careful not to adopt and compare his to someone else’s.
Pray vs Push
I know your first response to your husband’s passive behavior might be to push him to “Step Up” or, “Man Up,” but I want to suggest you start somewhere else. Don’t push him to change before you pray that God would change him. Remember, God is ultimately in charge of changing your husband. Not you. Instead of starting with pushing him to lead you should pray that God would convict his lack of leadership, clarify what leadership looks like, and motivate and empower him to start leading.
“Pray that your husband would follow the right Man more than becoming the right man.” Brian Goins
Ask vs Assume
I’m not doubting your husband is falling short in leadership, but have you ever considered how you might be contributing to his struggles? I’m not blaming you. Please know that. But are you creating the best possible environment for him to thrive as a leader? Before you start confronting, consider how you might be influencing his struggle. Don’t assume you are free and clear of fault, but ask your husband if there’s anything you can do to create a better environment for him to lead.
Desire vs Demand
After you accept your husband, pray for your husband, and ask him how you might be contributing to his lack of leadership, you are in a position to start speaking the truth in love to him. He needs to hear your desire for him to lead (in general) and how his lack of leadership impacts you (insecure, pressure, etc…). The goal is to speak the truth, but also to speak it in love. This conversation doesn’t look like putting your foot down and demanding things be different, but rather expressing your desire for your husband to grow in this area. Talk together and agree on some practical, realistic, small steps of change you both can take in the days to come.
Brag vs Belittle
I know you want your husband to start leading overnight, but it likely won’t happen that way. Change (in any area) is often slow and messy. Each day isn’t necessarily better than the day before. Change doesn’t typically happen in a few big moments, but rather in the small moments of everyday life. The goal is not for your husband to change right away, but to take the right steps every day. If you expect change to happen any other way, it will lead you to have unrealistic expectations and possibly even a spirit of criticism. Criticism, in and of itself, is an enemy of change. There is a time for constructive criticism, but not before praising your husband for the steps he’s taken. Don’t belittle him for how he’s failed, but rather brag about what he’s done right. Better yet, brag to others (as appropriate). Celebrate a trajectory of good leadership steps and be careful not to demand the final destination happen right away.
“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Step down vs Step Up
Here’s where things start to get tough. If your husband struggles with leadership, chances are you don’t. When you see something that needs to be done, or a decision that needs to be made, you take care of business. But before you step up and take control, I want to suggest you step down and give your husband room to take action. If you and your husband have defined an area that he is in charge of, let him have it. Let him own it. I know you might be tempted to bail him out, but your rescue attempts might rob him of having to take responsibility. In some cases, it might even be appropriate to let him fail. Failure can be a tool allowed and used by God to jump start change in your husband.
“Don’t let your leadership rob your husband of opportunities to lead.”
Receive vs Resist
When your husband leads, look for every way possible to receive his leadership. One of the greatest things you can do to spur your husband on to greater leadership is to follow him in the areas he is starting to lead. If you resist his leadership, he will be more tempted to resist leading. When he makes decisions that you disagree with, or without consulting your opinion, ask if he’d be willing to consider another way. Don’t do this with a spirit of rebellion, but rather with a spirit of respect.
Wait vs Worry
As much as you want your husband to start leading, God wants it more. God is more committed, more persistent, and more capable to grow your husband in the area of leadership than you will ever be. His process is perfect. He wants you to trust it. You have a role to play, but it is a supporting role, not the lead. Accept your husband, pray for him, ask how you can help him, speak the truth in love, be his greatest cheerleader, don’t rob him of opportunities to lead, and maybe most importantly, TRUST that God has everything under control. Don’t worry, but wait on God’s timing to change your husband. He can do it!
Need more help?
Reach out to one of our counselors to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific situation.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.