Husbands Who Abdicate Leadership

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (NASB)

One of the more difficult issues to face in a discipleship situation is women married to men who have abdicated their responsibility to lead in the marriage and in the home.

Most but not all Christian women desire to be led by their husbands. It is a love-hate thing for us. There is that part of a woman that wants that leadership and oversight and direction, and honestly the other part that wants to self-rule and to rule over him!

Rebellion to authority is our curse to bear (Gen. 3) and it is not God's desire or plan that we rule in the home. He has designed women to need leadership and headship, but sometimes appointed leaders don’t want to lead.

Remember that Eve was seduced by the serpent into believing lies about what God truly did say regarding that tree and the fruit. Scripture informs us that Eve was not alone with the serpent as she was tempted. Genesis 3:6 tells us that Adam was there as the serpent twisted God’s Words, and interacted with Eve. There is no record that Adam attempted to correct the serpent’s lies or to drag Eve away from the situation. He was right there listening and did not refute the lies or distortions. Eve was deceived and ultimately disobeyed her husband (who had told her about the prohibition) and God and ate of the tree. Her act was not one of flaunting rebellion; she was seduced by the great Deceiver! Her protector, Adam, was not protecting. Her leader, Adam, was not leading. In fact, Adam followed his wife into sin and ate the fruit she gave him.

Adam abdicated his position of authority as Eve’s headship, and his leadership over his wife. When Adam was called to account by God, he blamed God for giving him Eve as though it were her fault he disobeyed. He knew the truth for God had told him personally. He also blamed God for his own sin claiming God had erred in giving him this particular woman.  Adam abdicated his leadership position and failed to protect his wife from sinning. I often wonder about the post-fall conversations Eve had with Adam about that event…

I usually get one of two scenarios in a couple’s session: A woman who is willing to follow a man who won’t lead, or a woman who frustrates her husband’s leadership to the point he gives up.

When woman understands the biblical model of headship and leadership and is willing and wanting to follow but the husband won’t lead the marriage is often full of discord. A man who will not lead is often considered weak and lazy by his wife. She resents his unwillingness to step up and "be a man."

If your husband is not a leader you ought to understand that over the past 40 years men have been conditioned by culture to be conciliatory and to not lead their wives and families.  Biblical male leadership was most likely not taught in his home or his church.  My experience in biblically counseling couples reveals that the far majorities of men have no clue how to lead and are very afraid to be put in the position to lead.

If you are a woman who is married to a man who will not lead, you have to realize you will not change him, you cannot change him. Only the Lord can do those changes in his life, because they begin in his heart. The Lord has to convict him, and change that selfish part of him that desires the ease and comfort he has in being a passenger in his home.

The other scenario comes to light when a wife complains to me that her husband won't make a decision or take a leadership role so she “has” to do it. While this may be the way it is now, he may have attempted leadership in the past but was overrun by his wife. She (you?) was critical of his decisions or belittled him when things didn’t turn out well.  Some husbands quit even attempting leadership because their wives contradict them constantly.  This sets up a ungodly paradigm in marriage and creates bitterness in both husband and wife.

The wife’s complaint is her husband won’t lead. My question is, why would he lead when he doesn't have to? If you are doing his job what reason does he have to fight you for it? Many times, it is a fight too. You don't want to give up that control or power and it is evident as you criticize the decisions he does make! You tell him to lead, and then refuse in practice to get out of the way!

If this resonates with you then you need to consider if the first problem in this equation is you. If you conclude this is the case, begin by confessing the sin of your heart to God. I would suggest beginning with the sin of pride as you have believed in your heart that you believe your way is better than God's way. Then re-read key passages of Scripture about your role in the home, Proverbs 31, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 just for starters.

Pray and ask God's help in changing your heart toward submission and leadership. Find a Godly woman in your church who can help you to learn these principles and then begin to build them into your life. Be aware of the times you respond sinfully to your husband, and confess to him that you have become aware of your usurping his authority in the home and ask his forgiveness.

Give him the grace and the space to be the leader. Stop making decisions, stop doing his job and put him back in the place to succeed. This is going to be a process but with a humble heart and a submissive spirit you will see rapid positive changes.