Failure is not usually fun. Failure to complete a task, arrive at a certain destination on time, or meet expectations are just some of the ways guys can feel like a failure. Many women claim to want a man who leads and takes charge but too often the husband is made to feel like he’s a failure when he does attempt to lead. Take this scenario for example:
Mark and Michelle have been married for 10 years. They have 4 kids and live a pretty “normal” lifestyle. Both work outside the home and both are committed to being together for the long haul. Molly’s biggest complaint is that Mark doesn’t take the initiative enough when they are together as a family. She wants him to plan events as a family, be involved with playing more with the kids, opening doors for her, and being assertive in social situations by introducing her and taking the lead. She also wants him to lead their family devotions and surprise her with special gifts and dates. All of her needs are considered to be reasonable and “good” so what is the problem? Is it safe to assume Mark is just lazy and doesn’t want to rise to the occasion and pick those things up? Can we assume Mark is “checked-out” when it comes to household chores and family responsibilities?
Before we jump to conclusions on Mark’s attitude and ability we need to see the bigger picture. Since they’ve been married Michelle has always taken care of the kids, played with them, organized their sports and activities. She has been the one calling babysitters and planning dates with her husband. Michelle didn’t always take those roles on because Mark did many of those things very well before they were married through the time their first child was born. At that point many of the new roles and responsibilities were taken by Michelle because she was home more in the beginning, she seemed to have a desire to do those things, and Mark was more or less indifferent to who took charge in regard to those tasks.
The problem arrises for men when their wives ask them to take charge and initiative but are constantly being evaluated and compared to how their spouse used to do it. For example, if Michelle has been doing the budgeting and finances for a long time she may have some very helpful and useful tips for Mark on how to manage some aspects of their finances. Conflict comes when Michelle can’t let go of “her way” and be okay with “his way” even if it is NOT working at the moment! At that point there is usually a conversation or argument about how he’s “not doing it right” and the person who was supposed to be in charge is being diminished and reduced in size by the one who declared their desire to no longer be in control of the finances. So, the husband is left standing there with his head cut off because he is being told he failed and isn’t capable of “doing anything right!” (according to his wife). Think about it, why would any logical, smart, and sensible man want to put himself in that position?
The challenge becomes one of grace and encouragement for the wife. If your husband had acted the way you responded when you had initially taken over the finances (or what ever it may be) would you have had a desire to serve him by continuing to lead in that area? The answer is probably “No” because we all want grace and mercy shown to us but we don’t always show it to other. So the question can be appropriately asked “How long do I need to be gracious and patient!? I only have so much patience and energy each day!”. The answer is “As long as it takes.” We all know we grow faster when we are encouraged and given the ability to fail without feeling like we are a failure personally. Failure in life is a guarantee. What you do after you fail or someone around you fails is more important. Show grace, patience, and be okay with things not being done the way you would have done them. He had to adjust to your style, now its your turn to adjust to his style (even if its stinks at first! He will get better with time). Let him know your needs and how he can best accomplish those needs without telling him what to do or how to do it “your way”. He will be more empowered and confident which will lead to more courage in other areas of leadership and initiative.
You don’t want a headless husband who is stumbling around trying to find your lead and react to you. Allow him to graciously mess it up and continue to improve. Only then will you have what you originally wanted; a leader who is focused on your needs and takes the initiative in your relationship.