30 August 2012
Husbands who do not lead at home have one thing in common. They lack confidence. That may be hard to believe. These same men may have a truckload of confidence outside the marriage and the home. Their job titles tell the story. They are presidents of companies, politicians who speak on live television, doctors who make life and death decisions, store managers who command a big staff, owners of their own businesses, pastors, lawyers, and more. Yet, at home, they are whipped puppy dogs, afraid of their wives, and dominated by their kids.
The coin-flip mentality of a husband’s confidence may surprise most wives. They don’t see the lack of confidence in their men. What they see is an overwhelming sense of laziness. The men come home from work and put their feet up in front of the television, or slouch down at the computer. They don’t invest in helping their children with the homework, in exercise, in helping prepare supper, or in simple spousal conversation that will enrich their relationship. No, these husbands just don’t care about their families. They shut their wives and children out and slip into some virtual world of their own, the place their mothers-in-law call “Lazy Man’s Land”.
So can you blame the average wife for being surprised to learn that her husband lacks the confidence to lead at home? It is news to the wife to discover that at home her husband feels empty, useless, unworthy of the title of the “head of the household”. The image of a man is one of strength - discovering that your husband is actually quite fragile in terms of self-worth may take some getting used to. A husband that feels he cannot do anything right, anything that will be good enough for his wife, gives up trying. He shuts her out so he can protect himself from feeling even more of a failure today than he felt yesterday.
Is there anything a wife can do to remedy this situation? Is there anything she can do to help her husband grow his sense of worth at home? Can a wife say anything that will stop a man from hitting the “I Quit” button every time he is presented with the opportunity to take charge of his family?
One of a wife’s prime responsibilities is to create a safe, nurturing environment in which her husband will flourish, not just as a man, but as a leader. If he fears her judgment and grows to expect her condemnation for all he does and says, he will flee from leading her.
It starts with a simple choice. The husband, weary of his miserable home life, decides to man up to the challenge. He wants a satisfying marriage, a happy family life, a stable home for his children, so he decides that is exactly what he is going to have. He swings his feet off the couch, switches off the television, shakes the crumbs off his shirt, and sits up straight. Yes, he wants something better. He knows that deep down he isn’t useless or pathetic as his wife keeps telling him he is. He knows he can do better. He knows he wants to do better.
He looks around the room. Perhaps something will trigger an idea? He notices the picture on the wall is skew, so he gets up and straightens it. Nice. He sees his pile of unopened mail on the coffee table, so he sits down and opens the top three envelopes. Junk mail. He pushes the remaining, unopened envelopes aside. Too boring. He wants something exciting to do - something that will go well with his new commitment to be the head of his home. Lucky for him, he doesn’t have long to wait. He hears his wife’s car in the driveway. He sits down, impatient for her to enter the room, eager to share his new-found enthusiasm with her.
His wife enters the room, and he greets her with a very warm, “Hi, sweetie. How was...” Before he can finish the question, she lashes out verbally. “Do you know what I had to spend the last two hours doing? Fixing the mess you made. Again.” The husband is clueless, and looks quizzically at his wife. “The utilities bills you insisted on paying? Remember? The very same bills you failed to pay three months running, and which I reminded you over and over again to pay each time we received a reminder call. The same bills I offered four times to handle for you? Do you remember now? I don’t know why I let you do anything around the house. You are always forgetting. Sometimes you act like a little child.”
The husband sinks back into the couch, wishing it could swallow him. He remembers now. He did promise to pay those bills. He did forget a few times. His wife did remind him. Then he wasn’t sure what happened. Somehow it all got away from him. Work kept him busy and... Yes, he forgot again. He feels stupid. His wife is probably right about him being too immature to handle a few bills. What made him think he could be the head of his home? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Yes, a husband can make the simple decision to be the head of his home. It only takes a second to choose that. But what if you as the husband don’t feel like you have what it takes? How do you keep heading in the right direction when everything points to you being inadequate as the leader of the home? Shouldn’t you just gracefully step down and let your brilliant, sexy, articulate wife (who seems more than qualified to lead) just keep doing what she was doing all along?
29 August 2012
Perhaps the answer lies in what the family and home mean to the man. Both these elements represent a place of safe retreat for the husband. In his home, with his family, the husband can unveil his inner man - he can expose his vulnerability, especially to his soul mate, his wife. His wife already knows about his weaknesses and shortcomings. If anything, being a leader to her should present no threat simply because the man can be himself - his spouse already knows his secrets. He doesn’t have to pretend or cover up his inadequacies. Yet, knowing she won’t be surprised if he doesn’t measure up or if he makes mistakes doesn’t seem to reduce the pressure that the husband feels. Instead, it seems to intimidate him more than the challenge of being the leader before strangers in the work place.
Before those who he cares most about, the husband appears most afraid to fail. He is afraid to take chances and tread on issues he isn’t guaranteed to have the skills to handle. It doesn’t help to know that his family don’t expect perfection. He demands perfection of himself, and knowing he cannot deliver it, he avoids the challenge. He knows he cannot fake it until he makes it, because his wife will know when he is faking confidence in his role. So what does the husband do? He pegs the leadership responsibilities as too overwhelming to deal with, and gives in to the fear of failure. He allows his fear of what might go wrong to keep him from leading his family into the kind of relationship everyone dreams of having. And each time he submits to this fear, it becomes increasing more difficult to step up to the challenge of leadership. Before too long, he dreads coming home, because home and family remind him that he hasn’t measured up to being the perfect husband and father.
Is there nothing left for such a husband? Should he give up on having a satisfying marriage, a happy family life, a stable home? Is he really doomed to be the useless couch potato he is sure his wife thinks he is? A husband’s comeback isn’t easy, but it is possible. He can choose to live with his fear of failure and an unhappy marriage, or he can choose to become the leader he was born to be. It starts with a choice.