What if He Won’t Take the Lead?

You may be completely frustrated by your husband’s lack of leadership (as I once was) but let me challenge you with this question:

What if the man you are repulsed by—is a man of your own making?

I’m not blaming you for your husband’s lack of leadership . . . really, I’m not. I’m just wondering whether your husband may be functioning in a way that’s common for a lot of men. (Not that I’m excusing his reaction.)

Maybe your husband entered marriage thinking it would be easy. Maybe he’d never seen a man who modeled leadership. Some men start off the marriage thinking if they hold down a job and make the car payments—that should be all a wife would ever want! From his perspective he’s a great guy . . . but then he gets hit with the news you need him to be more—to be some kind of “spiritual leader” fulfilling expectations he’s never seen modeled or even considered . . . and the pressure to perform in a role he’s clueless about has totally shut him down.

Maybe you’ve felt forced to step into the role of leader because of his passivity or irresponsibility. I encourage you to ask his forgiveness for stepping in to lead, and communicate to him your desire for him to fill that role. If you’re willing to do that, here are a few suggestions as you take a stand as his most important encourager:

Serve as Iron Sharpening Iron

Appeal to his God-given desire to serve as your protector.

Encourage him through communicating your confidence in his abilities (even if that confidence is at an all time-low). If you have no confidence at all, recall an example from the past when he’s demonstrated leadership, and affirm him for it.

Speak words that will inspire him to develop his manhood through stepping up to the plate: “I know you can do this!” “You are the best one for this job.” “Your ideas are so creative.” “Your leadership gives me security.”

Let him know how thankful you are for every tiny speck of godliness you see in him.

Make a Big Deal about “Baby Steps”

No matter how small the decision may be, commend your husband when he is decisive.

Some men carry a large load of responsibility and make multiple decisions throughout the day in their vocational role, but when entering the doors of their home feel inadequate and fearful to make the simplest choices. Look for opportunities to encourage your husband’s role as the leader by asking his opinion or choice and then affirming his decisions—even if it is different than what you would have chosen.

If you’ve asked him to make the restaurant choice for the evening, don’t complain when he takes you to a place you’d rather not eat—at least he was brave enough to choose! Your evening will be much more enjoyable when your eating preference gives way to the opportunity to encourage him.

I’ve found that when I encourage his leadership in the small things, he asks for my input in the big things.

Choose Your “Battles” Carefully

Most marital conflicts occur over issues much weightier than restaurant preferences, but some relationships are so fractured that daily trivialities become battlegrounds. I’m not saying we should never give input or share our thoughts.

I’m simply suggesting letting go of the little stuff. In the long run, your relationship will be better served if those trivial preferences can be left unvoiced.

If you allow your husband to lead and make multiple decisions without your criticism, you will build a platform to speak from—allowing you to offer input and even humbly disagree—when an issue arises of greater importance.

Try Closing your Mouth

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. (Proverbs 17:27)

Try holding your tongue and you might be surprised that your husband has a few good ideas of his own! You’ll discover there is greater benefit in allowing your husband to take the lead than in you voicing all your opinions.

If he messes up, trust the Lord to use the consequences as a form of instruction in his life. At least he’s starting to make choices!

Be Willing to Wait

If he doesn’t pick up the mantle of leadership—wait. Give him time to step into the role. But in order for him to lead, you will need to release control (and stop telling him what to do!). Often women lament the fact that they desire a spiritual leader; they long for their husband to lead—but he won’t.

It may not be that he won’t lead, but that he can’t—because the wife is in his way!

I can plead “Guilty!” to being the wife who robbed her husband’s leadership role in the past. But I can assure you, there is such freedom in operating God’s way.

How about it?

Will you join me in this battle as a soft warrior?

Will you serve as “iron sharpening iron” in your husband’s life?

Excerpt from Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior © 2012 • Kimberly Wagner • Moody Publishers


  • Kristina

    Thank you so very much for posting this, I needed this tonight. Praise for baby steps and keeping silent. I need to get your book out again. It has been used to literally change me and my marriage. The scales have begun falling off of my eyes, my heart has been softened as well as my husbands. This book has also helped me in relationships to my sons. I of pen say I need to sit down, be silentand get out out of the way so my husband can stand , speak and lead . This is exactly what he’s been doing and I’m so pleased with him. Mostly I’m so thankful for God to bring me the Truth he has thru His word! And to use resources such as book, true woman and revive our hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Kristina ~

    Let me pray for you now:

    “Father, would you encourage Kristina in your great love for her and remind her of the grace You will provide as she cries out to you in her time of need? Would you, Holy Spirit, remind her to pause when she needs to be silent, to praise her husband when he needs her affirmation, and to apply Your Word to every situation in her marriage? Allow Kristina to be the sweet fragrance of Christ in her husband’s life and to extend to him the same grace that she’s been shown by You. Please continue the work in their marriage that you’ve begun and provide them with a greater passion for you and deeper love for one another as they press onto spiritual maturity.”

    Thank you for taking the time to write a comment, dear friend, knowing God spoke to you through the post today was a precious encouragement for me.

    Blessings ~