Do You Really Want Your Husband to Lead?

I received an interesting question from a reader the other day.

He was pondering on whether men who are not more assertive in their spiritual leadership role are more likely to have sexless marriages?

I have to admit that his question got me thinking.

What it initially piqued in me is how sometimes a wife will say she wants her husband to be the spiritual leader in the home — but then she wants to be the one to qualify what leadership really means.

Be the spiritual leader…. but don’t discipline the kids unless it’s how I would do it.

Be the spiritual leader… but don’t try to discuss my spending habits.

Be the spiritual leader… but don’t dare tell me that you desire more sex.

Be the spiritual leader… but don’t talk to me about my mother being too involved in our lives.

You get the point.  I kind of addressed this same concept the other day in my post Is Marriage More Than Sex.

In that post, I touched upon the tendency of some women to romantically gush over the idea of one-flesh, but when it comes down to actually living it literally and figuratively… well, they lose all interest.  Because, honestly, that requires maturity, self-sacrifice and a willingness to look at hard issues when they arise.

My reader’s question is one worth digging into.

Have some husbands, even under the best of intentions, gone too far to keep peace? And by doing so, have they enabled their wives to walk in the sin of withholding their body from their husband?

If that question right there is making you feel a wee bit jittery, it could be because you see that dynamic playing out in your marriage.

You as a wife call all the shots.

You hold all the keys to when sex happens — or even if it does happen.

You (maybe even righteously) bank on the fact that “he won’t ever leave me” because “he is a Christian.”

Now, just to be clear here, my reader wasn’t saying (nor am I) that a husband should be able to demand sex at any time…or that he should lord scripture over his wife.  BUT… and this is a crucial but… he indeed should be able to lovingly, yet firmly, call his wife on the carpet about her careless disregard of 1 Corinthians 7.

In general, the Christian community would not fault a husband if he walked in his leadership role in other areas, right?

We would see it as wise Christian stewardship if he confronted his wife about her careless financial habits.

Or if he expressed his concerns about his wife compromising his authority in front of their children.

Or if he pointed out that her inordinate amount of loyalty to her extended family was chipping away at the foundation of the marriage.

But when it comes to sex?

If he steps up and gets firm about his frustration with the lack of sex… or about sexual intimacy struggles going unaddressed… well then, sadly in some Christian circles, he is painted out to be nothing more than a selfish pig who needs to control his desires.

I’m sorry if I’m sounding harsh.  I don’t mean to.

And I do know that all of the above scenario can be flipped as well… a husband sometimes is the one sinning in those various areas and he is the one who needs to be held accountable.

But for right now, I simply encourage you to look closely at this question with regard to your position as a wife in a Christian marriage…

Do you really want your husband to lead?

If you do and he has been trying to, then encourage him in that leadership.  Receive it more than you fight it.

If he has not been trying to, then foster his courage to step more into that role.  Intentionally shed light on the matter. Be willing to study scripture together so you both can better understand what it looks like for each of you to walk the path God has shared in His Word.

Do you really want your husband to lead you sexually?

That is an important part of the equation.  Together you can figure out and enjoy what spiritual leadership means to your sexual intimacy.   I can guarantee this… it is drenched in love and God’s Word, not in demands and division.

It may take courage to do this, but if you know there are loose threads of this dynamic causing pain and discord, possibly use this blog post as a springboard to a deeper conversation…

…about spiritual leadership.

…about marriage.

…about sex.

Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

11 thoughts on “Do You Really Want Your Husband to Lead?

  1. landschooner says:

    I think there is definitely a point here. Leaders must lead or they won’t be followed. i think I have been guilty of a lack of leadership I traded for “keeping the peace.” It took me 17 years to consistently confront the sexlessness in our marriage. Had I done it earlier, perhaps things would have gotten better much sooner. But then again, maybe not. The thing is, we all grow, or SHOULD be growing. I was learning to be loving and leading and she was learning to be submissive and supportive and loving etc
    ……….and then there’s the whole mater of approach. For a LONG LONG time, I thought I just needed to woo her better. I thought the next change in our lives that would reduce her work load or stress would be the answer. I thought THAT was the problem. Its learning to wade through and analyze all of that. eventually I realized that nothing would ever change unless I addressed it and didn’t let it go. I’m still addressing it. Frankly, I don’t let a week go by without us being sexual. “We need to be having sex.” etc.

    Here’s my word of caution. I have a friend who often cites lack of leadership as the probable cause of marital issues. And he may even be right much of the time. But I like to remind that a bunch of disciples stopped following Jesus when He had hard lessons for them to hear. He is our model of the perfect Leader. But many left Him. They refused to follow His perfect leadership.
    So while leaders will have to work on their leadership skills, followers need to work on their following skills. Is the leading the problem or the following?

    65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    ** 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:65-69 (English Standard Version) **

  2. Doris says:

    I married my beloved hubby for three main reasons.

    1. I saw a leader in him.

    2. I noticed how good a listener he can be.

    3. I saw a great giver and dedicated provider in him.

    My leader must first provide, then listen to what I have to say, then make me follow him wherever he goes. And the way he does all these made our love flourish with every day.

    He lectures me from the Scriptures, every morning after breakfast, to make sure that I get His nourishment. He seldom goes to the catholic church where I take the kids every Sunday. He’s more of a Book-man than a community blender. He says that human-invented rituals have twisted the Word over time. But he won’t stop me from going there, nor the kids from ministering, because he believes that everyone is having his own way of dialog with God, and that’s sacred (the intimate way, not the public cults).

    As about our sex life, he didn’t have to push me much in that direction — maybe few times when we were very young and misunderstood each other. But that’s water under the bridge. And do you know why I (almost) never resisted him sexually? Because he knew how to find pleasure in GIVING ME MORE pleasure. If your man blows your mind up in waving orgasms, why on earth should you resist his advances?

    Sometimes I get the feeling that he’s doing everything. And when I tell him this, then he replies that he could do nothing without me, that my presence and voice and looks are the sparks that give him the joy of life. He won’t say that he leads me, but that I inspire him, that I’m his muse, that I’m the “cause” of what he does, or doesn’t.

    To sum it up: it takes two for a good leadership, and roles twist more often than we can imagine.

    Excellent post, Julie, I always love reading your blog, finding new think-alike ideas from you. Thank you so much!

  3. Beth says:

    Interesting thoughts here, Julie. Thanks for bringing the subject up. I’ll have to mull this one over for a while. 🙂

  4. MH says:

    This is a very poignant piece for me. I have struggled to provide (always meet the bills on time, by God’s gracious provision, just not much cash left for other stuff). My wife just isn’t satisfied. She demands a plan for the future, which is within her rights to demand. I just get a little overwhelmed with that task because it would have to be done on top of my long hours (overtime is a part of God’s gracious provision, I’m convinced), cooking dinner every night, washing dishes, doing laundry, and spending time with her.

    The end of my rope is in sight. I hate to complain, but her most vocal demand is for me to spiritually lead the family, which she sees as a long-term plan. And I only mention my little sob-story because I can confirm the thesis of this piece with it.

    She refuses to have sex. If I can’t lead the family (no kids yet) spiritually (ie long-term plan), she’s not interested in anything else. So her own view of what a husband/leader is remains unfulfilled by me. And I remain unfulfilled, rejected, and usually feeling too strung-out from other responsibilities and lack of intimacy with my bride to give her what she needs. Catch 22.

  5. Doris says:

    To MH,

    I think your wife makes a point, and a truly romantic one. The long-term plan is your pledge to lead her to the stars, to make her dreams happen (could be a charity action if nothing too spectacular).

    While courting me, hubby mentioned (more than once) that he will take me to the stars — and many more promises that, honestly, I forgot. But what I see in him is that he ALWAYS has a plan, and when that breaks (for some reason) then he comes up with another.

    When I see a situation in which hubby has no plan, then I instinctively feel that something is missing, I feel at lost. I need him to have a plan!

    After 25 years, we’re still struggling to pay bills and help “launch” all of the children in life, but his old and new plans are always here. I debate them with him and he adjusts and conforms whenever the case. I give him ideas and his plans give me confidence and trust in the morrow. A woman needs to see this in her man.

    I hear about wives complaining about their lives in a boring marriage, this may possibly be caused by the “missing plan.”

    Now, I don’t tell you to lie to her and invent whatever plan just for the sake of it. Don’t do that because she will know immediately that it’s a fake plan. Instead start dreaming and share your dreams with her.

    Then write back to let us know if she feels grateful enough to give you the sex that you wish.

    Love and praying for your plan!

  6. peacefulwife says:

    This is REALLY, REALLY good stuff. We as wives often sabotage our marriages and our husband’s love for us when we balk and refuse to cooperate with their God-given leadership. We think we know best. I know I used to think I knew better than my husband, and really, that I knew better than God. THAT DID NOT WORK! And my husband DEFINITELY didn’t want sex as much when I was controlling, bossy, critical and totally undermined his authority. My behavior and sinful pride was a HUGE turn off. God healed our marriage – and it started with me humbly seeing my mountains of sin and allowing God to change ME instead of pointing my finger at my husband like I had been doing for 15 years.
    I LOVE this post! I beleive every wife needs to see it! Great job!

  7. Tabitha says:

    I am struggling with so many areas right now that it’s hard to narrow anything down but what if the wife is the one wanting sex and the husband practically refuses to work on it? We have only been married 5 months and I feel like I have to practically beg for it.

  8. Jk says:

    Great post(& thanks to KC for linking it) but I think you stepped over a crucial responsibility; what about SPIRITUAL leadership aka, studying the bible?

    We think about confronting a spouse over 1 Cor 7 yet have never or haven’t consistently studied scripture together in the home as husband, wife & family with the husband taking responsibility for his position of headship.

    Not to lay this just at the feet of men:
    Be the spiritual leader…..but I will not encourage him nor join him but will make it exceedingly difficult for him to lead me in the study of Gods Word.

    “I provide & ensure a budget is established & maintained. I help out around the house & insist and assist in ensuring the kids are trained to be good helpers as well. I give regular foot rubs & insist she get some down time & girlfriend time. I……….”

    When was the last time as you were studying say Gen 2:25, TOGETHER, & you discussed the fact that you routinely hide vulnerable things about yourself from your wife; that you aren’t naked & struggle with shame? Then as a Servant Leader commit to seeking & submitting to Christ in that area?

    While the wife admits that she expects her husband to pursue her (& appreciates it) yet she struggles with being ‘caught’ as she see’s it as giving up some control. or that she would be willing (want’s to) make love more if she were confident that the challenges (whatever they may be) would still be a priority rather than using sex as leverage (reward) to maintain the priority. That she too is not naked & struggles with shame & as a comparable helpmate will come alongside her husband as they seek & submit to Christ.

    Doris chose the word “lecture” to describe their interaction over scripture & I admit I bristle a little over that word, none the less she states they engage over scripture intentionally & she appears appreciative.

    Rules without relationship breeds resentment.
    Attempting to “enforce” scripture without building a relationship around scripture, I believe, will result in the same dynamic.

  9. David J. says:

    Julie: Your question, and your examples of how a wife might seek to control and define what constitutes spiritual leadership, really resonates with me. My ex-wife complained about my lack of spiritual leadership and we had a nearly sexless marriage (about once a month on average, for years). But her definition of spiritual leadership was confined to two things: praying with her and having family devotions. Nothing else counted — consistent church attendance; Christian music at home and in the car; mealtime prayers; teachable moment conversations about God, faith, theology, morality in music, movies, TV, etc.; teaching Sunday School; being a deacon; personal devotions; personal theological study; etc. I do wish that I had done a better job of praying with her and having family devotions, but I truly believe that there was a lot of spiritual leadership that she just refused to acknowledge.

    Ironically, after 29 years of marriage — the last 15-18 years filled with disrespect and sexual refusal — she divorced me without a biblical basis and contrary to pastoral and counselor advice, in part because I was such a poor spiritual leader (in her eyes). I am still at a loss to understand her reasoning — in spite of the unbiblical divorce, she still considers herself to be the spiritually superior one. And now, less than a year later, she is already engaged to another man who, despite his own two previous divorces, has somehow persuaded her (or she has persuaded herself) that he is the spiritual leader she has been looking for. A Christian wife can be very confusing.

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