What Headship is Not

What Headship is not:  Nice Guy, Dictator, and Manipulator

A Men Only Monday post

 

As I explained last week, the biblical model for marriage Paul gives us in Ephesians 5 is that, as a husband, you have the role of head, “as Christ is head of the church.” Being head is not a role you earn. Regardless of whether you embrace it or not, it is your God-given responsibility. I don’t know why, but that’s how God set it up.

Remember, the clear implication of Ephesians 5 passage on headship is that being “head” means being like Jesus.  It does not mean being boss. Jesus’ kind of headship means displaying Christlike strength and goodness. Your headship as a husband is founded in being both a good leader and a generous lover.

I don’t normally like writing posts about what you should NOT do. But when either strength or goodness are missing from the way you walk out headship, it can do damage to your marriage.  This can be clearly seen in the top search terms that bring wives to my blog.  The first is something like “my husband refuses to lead.” The second, following closely behind in the number of hits, is “my husband acts like a dictator” or similar terms.

I shared a chart last week to illustrate what Christlike headship should look like. Below, I’ve updated the chart to label the three ways in which your headship can fall short.

weak and bad chart

The Nice Guy

There are many wives longing for their husbands to stand up and take their leadership role seriously. Like I said, wives come here for that reason more than any other.

I’m not making excuses, but the widespread pushback against biblical headship, even within the church, has many men reluctant to lead their marriages. Some of these genuinely kind men are afraid of being labeled misogynists or worse. Some have bought into the lie that there should be no distinction in the roles of men and women in marriage. Some have wives who contend for authority, even wives who claim to want their husbands to step up and lead! These men who are hesitant to take their leadership role seriously are what I call “Nice Guys.” They are good but weak.

Society and the church have given rise to the Nice Guy syndrome. These men are pleasers who tend to avoid conflict. These are the men who leave most or all the decisions to their wives, either because they are totally disengaged or because their wives argue and put them down for every idea and hold past decisions over them indefinitely. Nice Guys often just give up, rather than rocking the boat by trying to lead.

Whatever the reason for their refusal to lead, these men often don’t realize that their weakness makes them unattractive to their wives over time. Worse, their resulting disengagement leaves their wives feeling unloved and alone. It’s not a formula for a passionate, intimate or lasting marriage. Many Nice Guys also end up feeling unfullfilled, because I believe there is a God-given desire in most men to prove themselves strong and capable of leading their wives and families.

It’s Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today because their error is much more subtle and socially acceptable than the next group.

The Dictator

In days gone by, maybe 50 years ago, this was the number one problem with husbands in marriage. This kind of brutish, self-serving husband led to feminism and the desire for egalitarian marriage. Dictators are the reason the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, giving rise to so many Nice Guys.

Unloving husbands who use their authority to control or coerce their wives are very bad news. These are the men who are abusive and flaunt scriptures at their wives about being submissive, all the while ignoring the scriptural mandate for them to love their wives unconditionally and sacrificially.

Selfish, controlling husbands give biblical headship a bad rap.

The Manipulator

The husband who is both weak and unloving is double trouble.

This husband is self-centered but lacks the guts to act on it openly. He doesn’t care about what his wife needs or wants from him. He is only concerned for himself.  He will manipulate and deceive in order to get his way but is not willing to confront issues head on.

The manipulator refuses to take responsibility for his actions and shifts blame onto his wife. He plays games to get his way. He is often controlled by fear, and his buried frustrations may bubble up to the surface as angry outbursts.

The manipulator doesn’t refuse to lead because he is incapable, he refuses to lead because he doesn’t care.

Grace Abounds

I have described the Nice Guy, Dictator, and Manipulator in pretty strong terms. There are, of course, many less severe ways to screw up headship.  I know because I’ve done them all from time to time.

There is good news for us who mess up in our quest for biblical headship. It’s called grace!  God is for you and for your marriage. His desire is to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the skill to lead well and for a revelation of Jesus’s love and strength. Pray for your understanding of the love of Jesus to grow deeper, so you can love your wife in the same way. Note the prayer Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians 3, leading up to the chapter on marriage.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

 Ephesians 3:17-18

This is a prayer God is eager to answer! 

Be diligent. Vigorously pursue the kind of headship Jesus displays to us, his bride. When you slip into actions or words that are weak or unloving, admit your blunder and ask your wife to forgive you. She will admire you for it.

My point in stating what headship isn’t, is to get you to be watchful over your role as husband and to strive diligently to be both strong and good. Your wife deserves that from you, and God is calling you to it. Christ lives in you; you just need to learn to let him out!

 


A cautionary note to wives reading this post: it is not your job to browbeat, manipulate or judge your husband if he happens to fall into one of the non-Christlike quadrants, even occasionally. It is not your job to correct or coerce him. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Don’t even think of forwarding this to your husband, and do not even think of using my labels for name-calling! Your job is to concentrate on your role in your marriage.

Husbands: Strong and Good

Strength and goodness are both essential parts of a husband’s biblical leadership.

A Men Only Monday Post

Strong and Good

In the early days of my former blog, I wrote extensively about biblical instructions for husbands and wives. In the process of moving posts here to my new home, I came across a few I thought worth updating and re-posting for my newer readers. This week and next I’ll be updating and reposting four related posts on the important topic of biblical roles.

As many of you know, the clearest biblical instructions for husbands and wives are found in Ephesians 5:21-33. Today we are looking at instructions for you as a husband, so I’ll  quote the relevant verses from the Amplified Bible.

{21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  22 Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.  23 For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body.}*

 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, 27 That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless]. 28 Even so, husbands should love their wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 Because we are members (parts) of His body.

*{ } bracketed verses added for context. This is not specifically part of the husband’s instructions.

What is Real Headship?

In teaching husbands about these verses, I always emphasize two important points:

  1. You should only read the instructions that pertain to you.
  2. Your only reference model should be Christ and the church.

I’m not going to spend any time in this post revisiting the arguments over the Greek lexicon or whether kephale actually means head. I’ve read and researched this extensively and can only interpret Ephesians 5 to mean the husband is intended by God to have a kind of authority in marriage.  The reason I don’t want to trifle over the exact translation (authority, leadership, headship) because whatever term you choose, the context makes it clear that Jesus should be your only definition of headship.

Charting Biblical Headship

What does Jesus’s headship look like? In looking at how Jesus uses his authority, I choose the key attributes of strength and goodness in framing a husband’s role.

It’s important to understand that these two attributes are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you must realize that BOTH are necessary if you are to walk out your headship in a biblical, Christlike manner. To illustrate, I created the chart at the top of this post.  It clearly depicts that there is only one quadrant that fits the biblical description of your God-given authority: both strength and goodness.

A Strong Husband

The strength axis is a measure of your degree of leadership and engagement in your marriage (and family). Rather than being measured by how many decisions you make or rules you set forth,  as it is popularly explained, it’s measured by your degree of emotional and physical presence. Yes, decisiveness is necessary and often helpful, but it’s not the primary measure of godly leadership.

Demonstrate your leadership strength through your engagement with and involvement in the day to day life of your home and family. Be vigilantly aware of what’s going on and how what’s going on affects your wife (and family). Be a proactive leader by stepping in and taking action when things start to go off track before crisis sets in. Be a rock of stability for your wife.

Remember, you are not the captain of the ship to your first mate wife or the pilot to your copilot wife. You are to be as Jesus is to his bride. It’s the only biblical model. Therefore, Christlike leadership also looks like:

  • reliable provision 
  • consistent protection
  • clear direction
  • unwavering trustworthiness

A Good Husband

Goodness in a husband, to me, relates most directly to how he loves, nurtures and selflessly serves his wife.

The tricky part of goodness is that “goodness” looks different for different women. Do you know what words and actions best say “I love you” to your wife? Do you do them on a consistent (daily) basis?

For many wives, love needs to be expressed in the form of feeling emotionally connected and knowing that her needs are important . She wants to feel fully known and understood by you and to be valued and cherished for who she is. It requires a significant degree of communication through conversation with your wife, not something all men are skilled at or comfortable with. Then it requires that you act in a manner consistent with your understanding of who she is and what she needs.

Goodness means expressing your leadership with the heart of a servant. Self-serving leadership is what gives biblical marriage a bad rap, and it will cause your wife to resist your leadership and withhold her submission. Selfless leadership is what Jesus models for us. Learn from His example.

What do you think of the way I’ve charted biblical headship? Did I miss anything significant in the chart above? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Be sure to stop back by for next week’s Men only Monday post: What Headship is Not

She Really Does Desire You

Your wife does desire you. It’s just that her kind of desire looks and works very differently than yours.

A Men Only Monday post

She does desire you

If you are like many husbands, you probably frequently feel undesirable to your wife, especially when she doesn’t seem interested in sex. In most cases, however, that actually isn’t true.

Her Desire Is Different Than Yours

Dr. Douglas Rosenau, in his book Celebration of Sex, explains that what we often attribute to lack of desire, actually comes from differences in the nature of desire as typically found in men and women.

Sometimes the problem is not inhibited or blocked desire, but actually understanding various types of desire with their gender differences. Assertive desire is more typical of male desire, while receptive desire is more typical of female desire. Often couples believe both partners should crave and seek out sex with their partner (assertive desire). An interesting observation on assertive desire is that the partner may have already been thinking about sex and often comes to the lovemaking ready to go. This type of desire initiates and seeks out sexual adventure and connection with more of a physical drive.

Attraction, Desire and Arousal

For you, as a guy, attraction equals desire. If you have one, you have the other. For the 75-80% of wives who have a lower desire level than their husbands, however, it isn’t necessarily so.

Your wife may admire you, respect you, appreciate you as a husband and father and even think you are hot. All these give her reasons to be attracted to you, but they don’t necessarily trigger physical desire. For most women, despite what  you see in the movies, attraction does not equate to desire – at least not the kind of assertive desire you typically feel. Receptive desire doesn’t work that way. Rosenau says,

Many wives are relieved to find out that being open to sex, enjoying the closeness it can bring, and getting involved after initiation (receptive desire) is more typical of women. Sexual thoughts and arousal may come to the wife [while] engaging in lovemaking, with an internal response of ‘I wasn’t thinking of sex tonight but, wow, this was a good idea.’

It Doesn’t Mean What You Think

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the lack of expressed desire from your wife means that you just aren’t attractive enough. In For Men Only, author Jeff Feldhahn, puts it this way:

I know we guys think that if we were desirable enough, sex would be spontaneous because your wife couldn’t keep her hands off you. No such luck. If she is like most women and wired for receptive desire, even with the wonderful dinner date you planned, the flowers you brought home, or your thoughtfulness in doing the dishes so she could get to bed earlier – all that by itself doesn’t mean she’s thinking about sex.

Maybe you saw the Mr. Clean ad during Super Bowl LI yesterday.

If you can’t see the video, here is the YouTube link.

Despite the message from the advertiser, “You gotta love a guy who cleans,” it’s just not true that your wife will jump you if you clean something. It’s not even true that if you are as buff as the cartoon figure in the ad that you’ll instantly trigger a desire for sex in your wife. The actual truth in the message of the ad, as my wife had to point out to me because I’m a guy, is that a woman with receptive desire will respond to a guy who is flirty, playful and confident enough to be a little forward without being crass.

How Can You Help Her?

In a survey they did for the For Men Only book, Feldhahn found that 82% of wives would prefer to have a sex drive that matched their husband’s drive. So in most cases, your wife wants to want to. But unlike how it is for you, there are dozens of interfering forces, any one of which can derail her desire for sex. Things like too much unfinished laundry, her mother’s health, the kids’ lunches needing to be packed, her boss getting mad at her that day, her menstrual cycle, or just being tired will put the brakes on desire.

So as a husband of a receptive desire wife, your job is to figure out what will help get her foot off the brake and on the accelerator of sexual interest and desire. Ask, “What can I do that would help get you in a more sexual frame of mind?” Or maybe, “How can I make it easier for you and me to enjoy a sexual connection later?”

In asking such questions, make sure you convey that your motivation isn’t simply to get more sex, though that may be a byproduct. Your motivation is a stronger relationship built on the deep and unique kind of intimacy found in your sexual connection with each other.

It’s important to understand that your wife’s sexual desire works very differently than your own. Just because her desire is different than yours, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Work together to learn the intricacies of her sexual wiring, and discover together how to foster a deeper sexual connection. For the sake of your marriage, it’s well worth the effort!

 

3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually

Leading your wife spiritually is not as hard as you might think.

 

Lead Her Spiritually

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Men-Only-Monday post. As the moniker implies, these posts are intended for husbands. Wives, can check out my Wives Only Wednesday post for your side of the equation on this topic.

Are you among the many men who feel unqualified to lead their wives and family spiritually? Do you feel like your wife has more knowledge, more insight, and more sensitivity concerning spiritual matters? If you are like most men, you aren’t going to attempt things you don’t feel you can excel at, which means that you might hold back from even trying to be the spiritual head of your family.

You don’t need a theology degree or years of biblical study to spiritually lead your wife. Don’t disqualify yourself for this important role that God has assigned you to. The way the Bible describes spiritual headship, as with other dimensions of headship, has nothing to do with being the “spiritual boss” or being in any way spiritually superior to your wife. It doesn’t mean you need years of spiritual wisdom under your belt before you start leading.

Leading your wife spiritually is not nearly as hard as you might think it is. For the most part, it just means consistently pointing your wife to Jesus and inviting his covering over your family.

If the idea of spiritual leadership is new to you, here are three simple, easy ways to begin stepping into your God-ordained role.

1. Pray

Maybe you aren’t that comfortable praying out loud in front of others, maybe even with your wife. If that’s the case, just ask your wife what you can pray for her about. A simple “How can I pray for you today?” text message will work great! Then do actually pray for her and let her know you did. Even this simple little step will bless her more than you know.

If you can muster your prayer courage, I would urge you to actually pray together. Prayer builds spiritual intimacy like few other things can. If that seems too difficult for you, start just by praying together silently. Maybe conclude with the Lord’s prayer, if spontaneous prayer doesn’t come easily for you. You can also pray the “Apostolic prayers” right out of the Bible . A few examples are Ephesians 1:17-23, Ephesians 3:16-21, Colossians 1:9-14, Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 15:13. These are great prayers for when you don’t know what to pray.

2. Read, Learn & Share

Pick a book on a spiritual topic that interests you. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is something that speaks life to you or challenges you in some way. Devotional books can be good, because they tend to be short easily digestible. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a regular devotional reader, because I prefer books that drill a little deeper into a topic, but that’s just me.

I also encourage you to read the Bible regularly. If you don’t know where to start, you might consider a topical Study Bible. If you are looking for a life-giving translation, I suggest the Passion Translation Series. If you are new to Bible study, start off with the Gospels. If you feel you have a hard time understanding what you read in the Bible, pray for revelation and understanding. The Bible says the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and He is eager to do it (Luke 11:11). Just ask.

A few times a week, as you come upon something that gives you a new insight or seems helpful to you, or when the Lord gives you a particular revelation, share it with your wife.

Your wife will feel safe and protected when she knows you are pressing into a deeper understanding of God. This is one dimension of God’s instruction to husbands to wash your wife with the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26).

3. Invite Her In

As I said, headship does not imply superiority. I describe the relationship between husband and wife as described in the Bible as an ordered partnership, where husband and wife are of equal value but willingly take on different roles to support and honor each other.

Good leaders invite the full participation of those they lead and encourage them to employ all of their talents and capabilities. So invite your wife into partnership with you as together you discover God’s heart and plans for your marriage and your family. Lean on her spiritual discernment and sensitivity to the things of the Spirit. Invite her to bring her spiritual gifting to your partnership.

Intimacy comes from being fully known and knowing you are completely loved. Spiritual intimacy is no exception. Be real, honest and willing to be vulnerable with your wife about your life in God. Invite her to do the same. It’s not a competition to see who is more spiritual. It’s about encouraging each other to walk in your God-given destinies and to grow in the knowledge of who God is. 

If you are the stronger one, spiritually, never use your position to browbeat or speak harsh judgment to your wife. Rather, speak grace and truth and encourage her toward who God says she is.

Now it’s your turn. What simple tips do you have for husbands who want to take a more active role in leading their wives spiritually? Leave a comment.


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A Husband’s Sexual Surrender

Nurture your wife’s sexuality in a loving and patient way that cooperates with rather than punishes her for the way she is wired.

Nurture her Nature

Today is a Men Only Monday post.  I am addressing husbands on the topic of sexual surrender. I’ll be addressing wives in my next post.

[Note: this post is written for the 75-80% majority case in which you, as husband, have the higher sex drive. Many of the steps toward sexual surrender below can still provide helpful insight, but you may also want to read my post for wives.]

For you as a husband, sexual surrender starts with the understanding that for your wife, sexual oneness flows best out of emotional oneness. I’m not suggesting you hide or deny your sexual desires or your sexual nature – these are God-inspired and God-given. What I am suggesting is that you must acknowledge that you are joined to a woman who doesn’t work the same as you do when it comes to sex. Your sexual surrender means understanding and cooperating with rather than working against your wife’s sexual nature.

Toward Sexual Surrender

  • Don’t accuse her of being sexually cold just because she isn’t constantly after your body the way you are after hers. That’s generally an unrealistic expectation.
  • Develop or enhance your romantic nature in order to satisfy your wife’s desire for emotional intimacy. It’s not acceptable to simply say “I’m not the romantic type.” Find your own way of romantic expression and emotional connection, but find it just the same. She needs this from you.
  • Scripturally, the “rights” to your wife’s body belong to you Likewise, she has the rights to yours. (1 Cor 7:3-4). For me these verses speak more to mutual sexual fulfillment than to simply to the act of sex. Viewing these verses through the lens of surrender implies that you must focus more on fulfilling her desires than on demanding that yours be met.
  • Sexual surrender implies cherishing and nurturing your wife’s sexuality as your own. “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” (Eph 5:28-29) Make sure you are feeding and caring for your wife’s sexual nature, not crushing and reshaping it for your own self-satisfaction.
  • Part of your sexual surrender includes loving your wife “as if.” What I mean is that even though your nature is to require sexual satisfaction in order to feel and act emotionally connected to your wife, I challenge you to give yourself emotionally and romantically to your wife “as if” you are already completely satisfied sexually. In other words, you go first in surrendering.

Surrender in the sexual arena can be among the more difficult aspects of your Journey to Surrender. Sex is not only an emotionally charged topic that comes with all kinds of historical baggage, but dealing with it requires vulnerability and trust. Regardless, I encourage you to face your sexual surrender head on, with confidence, love and grace, no matter where you are in your sexual relationship. There is always room for more sexual intimacy in your marriage.

Your Goal: Christ-like Love

As husband, you have the chance to demonstrate Christ-like loving leadership of your marriage through your sexual surrender. Rather than pushing your wife for the sexual satisfaction you desire, pull her into deeper sexual intimacy by meeting her need for emotional connection and romantic encounters. Nurture her sexuality in a loving and patient way that cooperates with rather than punishes her for her nature.

If you want to deepen sexual intimacy in your marriage, you must lead the way.