Debbie L. Cherry, Ph.D
Author, The Strong-Willed Wife
“My husband is just not the leader type. It takes him forever to make a decision. If he won’t lead then I guess I have to.”
“I know my husband can lead because he’s great at it at work. But at home he just lets me do it all.”
“I wouldn’t mind letting my husband lead our family…as long as he does it the way I would.”
Have you ever found yourself making comments like those? If so, it’s very likely that you are a strong-willed wife. There are some amazingly wonderful things about being blessed with a strong-willed personality. And as long as those traits are controlled by the Holy Spirit we strong-willed wives can bring changes to the world around us and do amazing things for the kingdom of heaven. But those same traits can cause some serious difficulties as we are trying to have a marriage that follows God’s ordained authority structure in our marriages. As strong-willed women, we struggle to let go of control and really allow our husbands to take their God given role in our homes. But it is something that we really have to learn to do if we want a marriage that God continues to bless.
Strong willed women think fast, move fast and make decisions fast, and expect others to do the same. But when our husbands don’t meet these expectations we tend to step in and do it for them. What if your husband would be willing to make more decisions but you don’t allow him the time he needs to do so? And what if the decision he makes isn’t the same one you would have made? Would you still let his decision stand? Many husbands may be more cautious and slow in their decision making but that doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t lead. A husband who has never taken the lead may need to take on this responsibility in stages, just as you will likely need to release your responsibility and control in stages.
So if you are ready to start letting your strong willed personality work in your favor and really start using your personality to honor God and your husband, here’s some things to help get you started as you learn to let go of control and let your husband lead:
1. Talk openly with your husband about what you plan to work on: This will help your husband know where to join you in prayer about the changes you are going to be making. It will also help him be aware of the areas you are working on and be available to give praise and encouragement along the way. And finally, open communication is necessary so the two of you together can identify what areas you are going to start handing the reigns over to him in first. If you don’t discuss this and you just decide to release the reigns without him knowing it’s his turn to pick them up and lead, then the whole family could go running out of control with no one in the leadership role.
2. Stop doing everything: Once you and your husband have talked about the areas where you both want to start making changes, then it’s time to step back in those areas and give him the space and time he needs to take the lead. As you back off, remember that over time your husband has probably become dependent on you to do it all because you always have. So be patient and wait for him to do what he has said he will do. How far you have to back off will be different for every marriage. But I assure you it will be further than you are comfortable with.
3. Set realistic expectations for you and your husband: If you expect perfection (as most of us strong willed wives do) from either yourself or your husband then you are setting both of you up for disappointment. Not only will husband not be perfect as he tries to learn about godly headship, but you also won’t be perfect in your attempts to let go and let him lead. If you set realistic expectations you will be able to see your successes as steps forward and your failures as learning experiences.
4. Take ownership of your behaviors: This means that you will have to stop blaming others, stop denying the behaviors, and stop avoiding responsibility for your behaviors. All three of these are things that we strong-willed wives often do. We have to learn how to take ownership of our part of the problems that come up in our relationships and when we do we need to learn to apologize and seek forgiveness for them.
5. Stop criticizing: We strong-willed wives tend to focus on our way of doing things and saying things as the right way (and sometimes the only way). When people do it differently we feel it necessary to correct them. But learning to control our tongue will make a huge difference in our relationship with our husbands. The key to this step is to learn to accept your husband’s differences and to understand that different does NOT mean wrong. If you continue to criticize your husband or redo what he’s done, you undermine your attempts to let him lead.
6. Praise often: The other side of controlling your tongue is learning to give praise on a regular basis. You need to learn to look for the good in this man that God has blessed you with, and be open with your praise. Make a conscious effort to look for things that he does or traits that you see in him that are praiseworthy and shower him with these comments. Say things that let him know that you trust and respect him and his ability to lead your household. These statements will make him start to feel like the man of the house again and like the man God created him to be.
7. Strive toward unity: Biblical submission has as its ultimate goal a stronger and more intimate marital relationship. It’s about blending into one flesh and setting aside our selfish desires. We are on the same team and working toward the same goal. So when it comes to decisions within your home, the ultimate goal needs to be unity. To experience this unity you will need a plan of action that the two of you have agreed upon and that keeps you moving in the same direction. The plan can take several different forms as long as you come up with it together, both agree that it is a workable solution and then follow through with it.
Debbie L. Cherry, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the CEO of Today’s Family Treasures. http://www.tftreasures.org/
Article is adapted from her book: The Strong-Willed Wife: Using your personality to honor God and your husband. NavPress, 2007.