01 May 2012

Who Takes the Lead in the Change of Marriage Leadership

The evidence presented in the previous post suggests that someone should be in charge of the marriage, if the couple wants that marriage to work. For Christians, there is no guessing who this "someone" is. The Bible provides that information: the leader must be the husband. What now? If you are Christian and want to obey God's Word, you might find yourself in a difficult situation. If you are the husband and not the clear leader in your marriage, how do you change this? If you are a Christian wife trespassing on your husband's territory, how do you relinquish control to your spouse without inviting chaos into your home? 

Imagine a couple that may have been married for weeks, years, or perhaps even decades before they realize that they want a better marriage and are ready to try the *traditional Christian model of marriage (*the husband is the head of the home and the wife submits to his authority). During their marriage, the strong-willed wife may have positioned herself as the head of the home. The husband, for a variety of reasons, may not have resisted this and accepted his wife as the head. However, as time passed, the husband AND wife find themselves becoming more dissatisfied with their marriage. The marriage doesn't seem as fulfilling as they once believed it could be. Each begins to resent his/her partner. She thinks thoughts like "why can't he be more decisive?", while he thinks, "why can't she show me respect?" The wife's longing for a husband that will take a stronger leadership role in the home and family grows. The husband's desire for a wife who will take less of a pronounced leadership role increases. If left unchecked, their disappointment in a partner who does not meet the standard they have in their minds may actually drive them so far apart that they begin to seek these qualities in potential partners outside of the marriage. But imagine that this couple realizes their marriage is in trouble and they decide to give a traditional marriage a try.

That returns us to the questions we started with. If you are the husband and not the clear leader in your marriage, how do you change this? If you are a wife trespassing on your husband's territory, how do you relinquish control to your spouse without total chaos threatening your home?

I believe that it falls on the shoulders of the husband to make the first move. After all, he is the emerging leader and needs to demonstrate his commitment to his new role. If the husband leads the change in the family, the change occurs more naturally than if the wife pushes it to happen. Yes, a wife can initiate the change, but she runs the risk of appearing to tell her husband what to do. If the husband accepts that he needs to initiate the change, is there a strategy he can adopt? What is his game plan? Surely he can't wake up one morning and announce to his wife that he's the boss and she better obey him. Or can he?

The uncertainty of how to change the marriage leadership keeps many couples from choosing a traditional marriage. Husbands may want to take the lead, but have little idea of how to accomplish this. The husband may try taking a strong lead once or twice, and it may not be met with a positive response from the wife. These husbands then find themselves driven back into a state of submission to their wives, with their confidence shaken and carrying a heavy sense of failure. Wives may try to take the journey into submission to their husbands, but be deterred by their husband's reluctance to step up as the person in charge. The wives, too, may eventually quit trying to submit as their husbands shy away from their own authority. Is there something practical the husband can do to lead the change in his marriage?


  1. If a wife thinks she can "inspire" her husband to take the lead by telling him what to do, she is wrong. The best way the wife can initiate a change in their marriage is for her to be proactive in her submission. Submission in the wife inspires leadership in the husband.

    But you are right. It is better if the husband acts first.

    1. Thanks for your valuable comment, Tina. I agree with you. When the wife offers her husband her submission to him, she is offering him a precious gift. What I have noticed, though, is that many wives who take this route end up very frustrated and disappointed. Their husbands have grown complacent with the wives leading, and when they are given the space to lead they recognize it will some effort (or perhaps they just don't know what to do) and they do nothing.

  2. I agree that it makes things run more smoothly if the husband takes the lead, but its not that easy to get started (speaking from a husband's point of view). I have a supportive, submissive wife so it was easier for us. I have seen some wives who would make it extremely difficult for their husbands to step up to the plate.